Jane Fonda ready to 'kick ass' on climate crisis

23 Jun 2023 09:44am
US actress and activist Jane Fonda speaks at the Hollywood Climate Summit at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California, on June 22, 2023. (Photo by Robyn BECK / AFP)
US actress and activist Jane Fonda speaks at the Hollywood Climate Summit at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California, on June 22, 2023. (Photo by Robyn BECK / AFP)

BEVERLY HILLS, US - She is 85, has a glittering film career behind her, and recently battled cancer, but Jane Fonda doesn't intend to slow down her activism on climate change - the "greatest crisis ever to confront humanity" - anytime soon.

"My cancer is in remission. I've got a lot of energy. I'm ready to kick some more ass," she told AFP on Thursday, backstage at the ongoing Hollywood Climate Summit.

"I'm part of the Hollywood community. I don't think the Hollywood community has done enough to confront this crisis. So I'm here to encourage that," said the double Oscar-winning actor.

The summit brings filmmakers together with scientists and activists, in a bid to change the industry's culture and encourage better climate messaging to global audiences.

Taking place at the Oscar-bestowing Academy's headquarters in Los Angeles, it has featured speakers such as "Everything Everywhere All At Once" directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, and "Abbott Elementary" star Quinta Brunson.

Fonda led a panel named "Hollywood Takes on Big Oil and Gas," calling for the entertainment industry to scrap all fossil fuel investments and to reduce its carbon footprint.

She discussed a California law banning new oil wells within 3,200 feet (975 meters) of homes, schools and parks.

After years of campaigning, the bill was finally signed by Governor Gavin Newsom last year - only for energy firms to garner enough petition signatures to freeze the measure, and require a statewide referendum next year.

"People are getting cancer, heart disease, lung disease, asthma - kids missing school, children born with defects because they live next to fossil fuel infrastructures," said Fonda.

If the oil companies succeed in opposing the bill "in a blue, environmental state like California, this is going to become a precedent in other states around the country," she said.

"It has to be stopped. This is all-hands-on-deck." Fonda first shot to fame in the 1960s with roles such as "Barbarella," which made her an international sex symbol, before garnering critical acclaim and two Academy Awards in the following decade for "Klute" and "Coming Home." Over the same period, she launched into activism.

Most controversially, Fonda became the first Hollywood celebrity to visit Hanoi to protest the Vietnam war, earning the nickname "Hanoi Jane." But environmentalism has long been a priority for Fonda, who has become one of America's leading political activists.

In recent years alone, she has spoken on ocean biodiversity at the United Nations, protested a proposed oil pipeline in Minnesota, and been arrested on a weekly basis for climate demonstrations outside the US Capitol in Washington.

"If I'm not doing the things that you just mentioned, I get so depressed I can't sleep," said Fonda.

"But I'm not depressed, because I'm doing all I can... We all have to do all we can, before it's too late." Admittedly, speaking out on green issues comes with risks for celebrities. Critics are invariably quick to accuse famous stars of enjoying glamorous lifestyles while preaching austerity.

But Fonda believes those jibes are often simply a sign that the message is working.

"They do that when we're effective," she said.

"The right-wing segments of our society don't like it when famous people speak out, because people will listen to us.

"And so they say, 'What does she know? She's just an actor.'" Fonda has also enjoyed a flurry of acting projects in recent years, such as films "80 for Brady" and "Book Club: The Next Chapter," as well as the popular Netflix series "Grace and Frankie." But last September, she revealed she had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, and had begun chemotherapy.

Just three months later, Fonda - who previously overcame breast and skin cancer scares - announced the disease was in remission, and that she was no longer in treatment.

While a writer's strike has currently brought many Hollywood productions to a halt, Fonda intends to refocus her energies entirely on activism in the build-up to next year's US elections.

"I don't intend to even try to work for the next year-and-a-half, because I want to focus on this," she said. "The next election is really crucial." Fonda added: "When you're famous and you have a platform, people listen, people pay attention." "And so use it! For a crisis that is the greatest crisis ever to confront humanity." - AFP