Jane Fonda was walking through Saks Fifth Avenue’s flagship New York Tuesday night trying her best not to let any shiny clothes, shoes or jewelry catch her eye.
That’s because the two-time Academy Award-winning actress and social activist has stopped buying clothes, with her last purchase being the wide-lapeled red coat she wears when she gets arrested each Friday in Washington, D.C.
“It’s the last piece of clothing I’ll ever buy. I’m sorry Saks, but we’ve got to cut back on consumerism. This is a terrible place to say that,” she quipped at the department store’s ski lodge-esque Le Chalet bar.
“It was so weird walking through Saks getting here, but I can’t come in here and buy anything because people will know I said this and they’ll call me a hypocrite,” she added.
With shopping out of the question, Fonda was at Saks for another reason — to record Harper Bazaar’s “Dare I Say” Podcast with Peggy Shepard, cofounder and executive director of We Act for Environmental Justice, in order to encourage people to join her in urging action on the harmful effects of climate change.
Fonda has garnered headlines since September when she moved to the nation’s capital with the aim of getting arrested to bring more urgent attention to climate change as part of so-called Fire Drill Fridays.
So far, she’s achieved her goal — ending up in handcuffs the past four Fridays, always in her trusty red coat, which can be viewed as a symbol of power and has also doubled up as a mattress for when she’s had to spend the night in jail. She’ll keep doing this until the filming of her Netflix show “Grace and Frankie” resumes in mid-January.
And she hasn’t been alone. At her most recent arrest, she was joined by some famous friends — actresses Catherine Keener and Rosanna Arquette. In the previous weeks, her companions have included Ted Danson and “Grace and Frankie” costar Sam Waterston. “Lots of my friends are coming in. They’ve never been arrested before,” she said.
Despite being involved in social activism her whole adult life and earning herself the nickname “Hanoi Jane,” Fonda has found herself in jail only once before — in Cleveland during the Seventies while protesting the Vietnam War. So why at age 81 has she stepped up her protesting game so much?
The reason, she explained to the audience at the live recording, is that she has had an awakening thanks to teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg and Naomi Klein’s new book “On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal.”
Both made her realize that everything that has been done in the past, including personal environmental improvements such as shorter showers and switching to electric cars, is nowhere near enough and that the situation has become dire.
“We have spent more than 40 years writing speeches and books and getting the word out about the science and we’ve marched and we’ve rallied and we’ve played nice and it hasn’t worked enough and we only have 11 years left so we have to up the stakes,” she said, referring to the time some scientists have warned that there is to try to stop all the fossil fuel development.
“I think we have to mobilize and go into the streets and put our bodies on the line and engage in civil disobedience and risk getting arrested. I don’t want to be arrested, but you have to be willing to risk in it in bigger and larger numbers….Nothing good ever happened anywhere in any country without people creating a raucous.”
She acknowledged that while the worsening environment won’t impact her too much, she can’t let younger generations shoulder the burden alone so its “grannies unite.”
“I just read the other day that if we do everything right maybe they’ll be 150 million climate refugees looking for a place to live and if we don’t it will be like 450 million people.…This is what we’re looking at. It’s happening right now. This is real,” she cautioned. “I’ll be dead. It doesn’t matter to me. We have nothing to lose so we have to be brave as we can possibly be so when we die we’ll know that we did everything we could…so come down to D.C.”
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