“I will see you in the streets as we – together with the youth climate leaders showing us adults the way – build a climate movement too powerful for the next president to ignore.”
– Jane Fonda, December 20, 2019
I’ve written about how much I’ve learned from watching teenager Greta Thunberg become a fearless climate champion.
But Jane Fonda, who is old enough to be Greta’s great-grandmother, has inspired me just as much. Here’s what I’ve learned from the 82 year old who launched “Fire Drill Fridays” in Washington DC because a 17-year-old said, “We must act as if our house is on fire…because it is.”
- You’re Never Too Old!
When I imagine my life as an octogenarian, I don’t usually see myself storming the ramparts. But why shouldn’t I? In the days leading up to her 82nd birthday, she’s been arrested four times, held one climate change protest a week for the past ten weeks, organized ten online teach-ins and conducted numerous media interviews. She upended her life in California for four months and moved, not to a senior retirement community, but to the nation’s capital because she felt it was time to “step out of our comfort zone” and live her own personal motto: Vote. Speak. Act.As for getting arrested “at her age,” Jane actually thinks her years give her, and other women in her age group, an advantage. “Many of us, especially older women, feel more able to take the risk. It has not escaped notice that at least three quarters of Fire Drill Friday arrestees are older women.”As the saying goes, age is just a number.
- Think Big, And Look At The Whole Picture.
“We’re living in a generation where the decisions we make in the next 10 years can be the difference between 100 million people dying or 400 million people dying,” Jane says. “These are life-and-death decisions.” They’re also decisions that affect every aspect of our lives. That’s why the weekly Fire Drill Fridays and the Thursday night live teach-ins that precede them focus on so many ways the climate crisis is affecting us and the planet.Our health, the oceans, women, war and national security, environmental justice, forest health, water, food and agriculture, jobs and the economy, migration and human rights are all at stake because climate change has reached crisis proportions. They’re personal proportions, too. “I have a 4-month-old grandchild. I have two older grandchildren,” she said. “I love nature. I love birds. I love whales, dolphins. I love the ocean. To see these things disappear… I mean, that just breaks my heart.”
- Learn New Tricks.
There are times I feel like such an “old dog,” especially when it comes to new technology. Digital media tools are evolving so quickly and require so much flexibility that I’m often tempted to just turn off my computer rather than learn how to use one more streaming service or post: One. More. Tweet. Jane is 15 years older than I am, and she laughingly acknowledges, “We didn’t even have computers”— when she first started speaking out for justice. Yet she blogs and has embraced the use of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to spread the word and help build the climate change movement. In a recent post, she bragged about trying TikTok. Huh? What’s that? I better go find out. By the way, she didn’t let a 15-year career hiatus stop her from returning to her profession as an Oscar-winning, Emmy-winning, Golden Globe-winning and Tony-nominated actress. If you haven’t caught her galvanizing performances in Grace and Frankie and The Newsroom, put those shows in your queue – right after you protest climate change.
- Let Your Friends Have Your Back.
Every Friday, several of Jane’s celebrity gal pals show up to stand in solidarity with her and lend their own fame and credibility to her climate mission. Gloria Steinem, Diane Lane, Sally Field, Taylor Schilling (from Orange is the New Black), Kyra Sedgwick, and Mom’s own Dominique Browning have all gone to a Fire Drill to say no to climate change (Lily Tomlin will be there Dec. 27; I’m just waiting for Dolly Parton to show up!). So have Sam Waterston, Ted Danson, and the “real” Ben & Jerry of ice cream fame. When you’re doing something new or risky, you don’t need to do it alone. Let your friends help.
- Be Intentional So You Can Do What Gives Your Life Meaning.
Early in her career, Jane was a cover girl, starlet, sex symbol, model, and the daughter of Hollywood royalty. But she decided to live a life that had more depth and gave her more meaning. “If you don’t know that something is wrong, or that a problem exists, then you’re kind of forgiven because you’re innocent,” she said. However, “once you know, if you turn away and go appropriately, then you’re part of the problem. And I don’t want to die being part of the problem.”
Being part of the problem is not something Jane Fonda will be accused of, no matter what her age. And neither will you, if you take her words to heart.
- You’re Never Too Old!