Jane Fonda appeared on CNN Wednesday night for a wide-ranging interview with Don Lemon about her climate change protests, about racism, and about Donald Trump.
Fonda has earned a decades-long reputation as a defender of social justice, starting with protests against the Vietnam War in 1970. She’s stood for women’s equality, the return of stolen land to indigenous people, a two-state solution in the Middle East, and against the Iraq War.
It may be impossible to count the number of times Fonda has been a thorn in the side of authority over her life, but in just the last month, she’s been arrested four times for climate-change protests.
“I don’t want to get arrested,” she told Lemon,“but I’m willing to risk getting arrested by engaging in civil disobedience.”
Her first “fire-drill Friday” arrest was on October 11 — followed by the 18th, the 25th, and again last week on November 1.
Fonda noted that she is in a unique position to protest. “I’m famous and I’m white,” she noted. “In jail, they’re not going to treat me the way they would if I was an unknown black woman, and I’m very aware of that.”
Having engaged in protests for the last month, Fonda said she has witnessed the intersecting struggles for justice that are exacerbated by the prison-industrial complex.
“The saddest part of being in jail is seeing the extent to which this country doesn’t prioritize social safety nets and mental health services,” she said. “A lot of those people shouldn’t have been in. They should have been treated elsewhere.”
But for now, her focus is on climate change and particularly confronting those responsible.
“They knew, the scientists at Exxon, we now know because of leaked memos that they knew what they were doing,” she said. “They knew it was causing damage to the environment but because they lied. [...] We didn’t take action soon enough. Now we only have a limited amount of time. The science says 11 years, until we reach a point that we can’t control.”
She’s likely referring to memos unearthed by InsideClimate in a Pulitzer-winning investigation back in 2015. Those documents revealed that oil companies were aware of the risk of disastrous climate change nearly 40 years ago.
Earlier this week a group of 11,000 scientists issued a warning of “untold suffering due to the climate crisis” if immediate action is not taken. The letter, published in the journal BioScience, calls for an end to oil mining and deforestation, as well as cutbacks to destructive meat-based agriculture.
“We have to be out there, we have to be risking arrest, we have to engage in civil disobedience,” Fonda told Lemon. “We have very little time.”
When asked about President Donald Trump, Fonda was unequivocal about the need to remove him from office if we hope to address the myriad threats to the environment and the future of our planet.
“He is an oil president,” she said. “His cabinet is an oil cabinet. He is bought off by fossil fuels. And a lot of people in the Senate, a lot of Republican candidates are, too. We’re not going to solve the problems when we have elected officials who are paid by the fossil fuel industry.”
The Trump administration has rolled back environmental protections, eliminating safeguards that experts estimate will net billions of dollars for polluting industries. At a private event this year, oil industry leaders laughed about how easy it has become to influence the current administration.
For her part, Fonda is dedicated to continuing her protests for as long as it takes — or as long as she’s able.
“I’m almost 82, I’ve gotta do whatever I can,” she said. “Once you know something, you have to use whatever power you have.”