Jane Fonda: The Founder of Fire Drill Fridays
Take it to the polls! Take it to the streets! Tell me what democracy looks like!
This is what democracy looks like!
The seas are rising and so are we!
While many know her for her illustrious career as a beloved Hollywood actress, or maybe even for her multi-million dollar fitness and aerobics empire, Jane Fonda has done far more in her 83 years than just lighting up our screens. Since the 1960s, Jane has been a fierce political activist for a wide range of social justice issues. From advocating for the human rights violations of the Vietnam War to fundraising for the Black Panthers to writing a widely published op-ed on the Dakota Access Pipeline, Jane’s entrance into the realm of climate change activism was no surprise. Angered by our nation’s inability to enact effective climate policies, Jane felt helpless to the reality of our dying planet and the disastrous effects on its current inhabitants and those yet to come. However, Jane was not entirely hopeless, as she began drawing inspiration from youth activists like Greta Thunberg. She soon became fascinated with the policies of the Green New Deal after reading Naomi Klein’s book and realized it was her turn to raise her voice on climate change.
In 2019, Jane made the drastic decision to uproot her life in Santa Monica, California and move to Washington DC where she would lead weekly climate change demonstrations on Capitol Hill. Keeping true to this plan, Jane launched Firedrill Fridays on October 11 of that year. She decided that, every Friday at 11:00 am, she would be joined by fellow climate activists in raising awareness on the climate crisis and the multifaceted nature of its effects. While initial attendance to the event was slim, its strong media presence, attracted by Jane’s fame, allowed Firedrill Fridays soon reached hundreds of thousands of people within its first two months. On that first Friday, Jane, wearing her now iconic red coat, marched from the United Methodist building to Capitol Hill alongside climate activists young and old, each with the plan to risk arrest and put their bodies on the line for the sake of climate change awareness. Their demands for Congress consisted of various ways to take true climate action, including passing the Green New Deal, stopping fossil fuel expansion immediately, phasing out fossil fuels as soon as possible but at least within the next thirty years, creating fair deal policy for workers and communities impacted by the transition to clean energy, and more.
However, education remains at the heart of Firedrill Fridays, as Jane shares the platform with youth activists, climate scientists, advocates of environmental injustice, celebrities, politicians, and more. Each speaker focuses on a different sector of intersectional environmentalism, including environmental justice, water, migration, human rights, and more. The first Fire Drill Friday opened with youth indigenous activist Jansikwe Medina-Tayac of Piscataway Indian Nation, who sought to remind her audience that Native Americans are the original climate activists and protectors of the environment, explaining that “indigenous people have been fighting for this earth since the early 1600s.” Soon after, eighteen-year-old climate activist and current member of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council Jerome Foster spoke on the unity needed for the success of the climate movement, stressing that “Change can only happen with unity.” One that same day, many of the attendees were arrested and cuffed with white plastic zip ties, including Jane. Now having been arrested five times outside the Capitol, Jane feels that Firedrill Fridays have and will continue to meet its purpose.
From Hollywood to Washington DC, Jane Fonda has truly left her mark from coast to coast, helping to protect people and the planet from the cruel grasps of the climate crisis. Firedrill Fridays continue weekly but have moved to an online platform. To learn more about Fire Drill Fridays, Jane Fonda’s journey to activism, and her advice for aspiring climate activists, check out her new book What Can I Do? My Path from Climate Despair to Action.