Why Jane Fonda Felt Hopeful While Turning 82 in Jail After Being Arrested for Protesting Climate Change

Actress and activist Jane Fonda reflected on 2019’s “Fire Drill Friday” climate change protests at a TIME100 Summit event

<p>Craig Barritt/Getty</p> Jane Fonda

Craig Barritt/Getty

Jane Fonda

Jane Fonda is remembering her 82nd birthday — which she spent in jail.

At a TIME100 Summit event at New York City's Frederick P. Rose Hall on Thursday, April 24, the Oscar-winning star, now 86, recalled the “Fire Drill Fridays” climate change protests she helped Greenpeace USA organize in Washington D.C. in 2019.

“For five months,” Fonda told moderator Samuel Jacobs, editor-in-chief of Time magazine, “everyone engaged in civil disobedience and risked getting arrested. Because we knew the majority of Americans were really concerned about climate. 30 percent of them said they would be willing to engage in civil disobedience and when asked why they hadn't, they said, ‘Because nobody asked me.’”

Related: Jane Fonda and Ted Danson Arrested Near Capitol in Climate Change Protest

The weekly events, which resulted in multiple arrests for Fonda — and fellow famous actors Ted Danson, Sam Waterston, Catherine Keener and Rosanna Arquette — were “aiming at the great unasked,” continued Fonda. 

London Entertainment /Arlo Hemphill via MoPho / Splash Jane Fonda in 2019
London Entertainment /Arlo Hemphill via MoPho / Splash Jane Fonda in 2019

“I turned 82 in jail there,” she said. “And I figured, if I do this a whole bunch of people will go, ‘God, if she can do it, I guess I can.’”

The Grace & Frankie actress has been an activist for as long as she’s been a screen star, speaking out about feminism, racism and more for decades. “I've been an environmentalist all my life,” she said when asked about choosing to address the climate crisis.

“I have a platform and I wasn't really using it full out,” recalled Fonda of the moment she reached out to nonprofit Greenpeace. “I went down a rabbit hole. I knew I wasn't doing enough… I said, ‘I'm gonna put myself on the line. I'm gonna leave my comfort zone and raise a ruckus.’ This is the smartest thing I ever did.”

Related: Jane Fonda Says She Planned to Camp Out at White House Before Deciding on Climate Change Protests

She added that activism for her in the past has addressed “patriarchy, what it's done to women, what women should be able to do. It's been the history of what we did to Indigenous people in this country.”

Climate change, said Fonda, “is like Russian nesting dolls. You open it up and everything else is in it. There would be no climate crisis if there was no racism. There would be no climate crisis if there was no patriarchy. It's a mindset. When we address the climate crisis we have to also address the way we feel about all kinds of other things.”

Jane Fonda in 2019
Jane Fonda in 2019

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Turning 82 in jail, she continued, meant a chance to inspire others to address those issues too. “A lot of women said, 'Well, I can do that too.' And that's why so many gray-haired ladies showed up in Washington.”

The 80 for Brady star added, “You do tend to get braver when you're older. Well, women do. What the hell do we have to lose?”

Asked what encouragement she would give her 1970-era self, Fonda replied, "Keep going. It's going to get better. Don't give up.”

Additional reporting by Tabi Parent.

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