THOUGHTS AS I APPROACH MY 82ND BIRTHDAY

WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 13: (L_R) Sally Field and Jane Fonda demonstrate on Capitol Hill during “Fire Drill Friday” climate change protest on December 13, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)

I’ve been blogging now for almost 12 years, if I’m not mistaken. I started doing it when I was 70 and performing “33 Variations” on Broadway. Everyday I would blog about what happened that day. It had been 60 years since my last Broadway play, and I wanted to see if, all these years later, I could have a joyous experience being in front of a live audience every night in a good play as my father had. It turned out to be quite joyous and I’m glad I chronicled it daily. That was all I was doing then, and it was easy.

I never would have expected my life to get so much fuller and, in some ways, more meaningful as I moved into my 8th decade. It’s harder now to find the time to blog regularly. Please forgive me.

But I’ve heeded the call of Greta Thunberg, who was just named Time’s person of the year, left my comfort zone, and moved to DC to carry out weekly climate actions called Fire Drill Fridays. When I started, I didn’t know if the actions and the teach-ins that precede them would gain traction. It’s clear to me now that they have. They’ve tapped into a need that many people besides me appear to feel: take the next step beyond individual actions to reduce our carbon footprint (important as those are), not wait for the next climate march or protest and step out of our comfort zone as Greta as called upon us to do.

My team here in DC who make the actions happen have been receiving questions from people all over the country about starting Fire Drill Fridays in their town or city and elsewhere. Greenpeace and I are going to help make this happen! Senators on the Senate Climate Change Task Force told me when we met that they like Fire Drill Fridays. “You’re building an army,” Senator Ed Markey said, “We need it to be big.” People inside the halls of Congress have to feel pressure from outside. Nothing important has ever happened without it.

Not everyone who has come to join me over the last months has been prepared to engage in non-violent civil disobedience and risk arrest. That isn’t a requirement. They are here to learn from the speakers and support those who do choose to get arrested. I’ve been arrested 4 times and 6 times I’ve been waiting, instead, for the arrestees when they are released to hug them and ask how it felt.

Not everyone can risk being held for longer. Not everyone has a boss who would give them the day off or be sympathetic if they found out. I understand and totally support people of color who choose to not risk arrest. For many, being arrested both poses immediate risk and carries the historical reality of racial violence that I who benefit from white privilege have not experienced.

Fire Drill Fridays, with its weekly civil disobedience and arrests does not want to glamorize arrests. We are fully aware of the racial and class disparities inherent in our criminal justice system—as well as in broader society. We recognize the yawning gap between our fairly routine arrests here in DC (which wasn’t always the case and mistreatment still happens, but fortunately local public interest lawyers have forced improvements in how peaceful protestors are treated in our nation’s Capitol) and what happened to the young African Americans in Mississippi who engaged in lunch counter sit-ins in the 60’s; of the violence attending the acts of non-violence civil disobedience that M.L. King engaged in. But it was those brave actions that increased awareness of the cruelty of the Southern Jim Crow system and the federal government being compelled to pass the Civil Rights Act.

For 40 years, climate activists have used every lever of Democracy available to us. We’ve shared the science, written letters, petitioned, marched and protested and we weren’t heard. That is why we now have to step it up. Non-violent civil disobedience has a long and noble history as a tool to advance good – in the U.S and around the world. Given the crisis we face with the climate emergency (that 97% of climate scientists are in agreement about), it’s going to take civil disobedience and risking arrest becoming the new norm.

In stepping up this way, we need to understand and respect why some of us will hesitate. Many of us, especially older women, feel more able to take the risk. It has not escaped notice that at least 3/4th of Fire Drill Friday arrestees are older women. I have studied why women tend to get braver with age and men don’t, but that’s for another time.

On January 11th I will return home to California – a state in the throes of climate change impacts. It will be bittersweet because I’ve grown close to the community we’ve built in DC and my Fire Drill Friday team: Ira, Samantha, Carla, Firas, Maddy, Felicia, Jack, Peter, Greg, Vy, Mara and Annie.

I’ll be getting ready for the 7th and final season of “Grace & Frankie”. I can’t promise I’ll have more time to blog cause I’ll also be helping to build out a national Fire Drill Friday army. But my younger digital friends tell me I need to do more Instagram so that’s what I’ll do…and last Thursday I actually went on Tik Tok!!!

Please stay in touch with me and Fire Drill Fridays over social media, and 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.

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17 Comments
  1. Hi Jane, I hear you. I’ll stay in touch the old old fashioned way, this and letters or cards that you don’t have to answer. I had to take a loan out to buy a small trailer with an “Arizona room.” Getting the Washington home sold and moved hopefully in the next three-four months is my priority. Then, I’ll join your army where ever it is. This is a major downsizing and smaller footprint whose time is now. After I’m there I’ll have more money to be a part of your army. XX Dona

  2. shamba shamba al makmomma

  3. Hi Jane,

    My new theatre company, Couch Theatre, has become an official V-Day 2020 participant.

    Our one-off charity event on 29th February is in aid of a women’s shelter in Hamburg. All proceeds will go to the women’s shelter- the 5th Hamburger Frauenhaus e.V. They will be present with an info table and will give a short talk after the performance about their work.

    I wish I could send you our wonderful poster, but it’s not possible here. Sadly.

    I have 10 wonderful actresses taking part in this production. Such a wonderful event. I’m very happy and excited.

    Love
    Jason xx

    • Happy Birthday to you. Wishing you health, happiness, a lot of love and that you get all the support and encouragement you can in order to change politicians’ minds and heal our world forever.
      Much love,
      Jason

      • “To think is easy. To act is hard. But the hardest thing in the world is to act in accordance with your thinking.” – Johann von Goethe

  4. Wow! I have been reading your blogs since the start. 12 years? Time sure flies by. Thank you, through those years, for allowing us to get to know you a little bit better. 12 years of gaining more and more respect for you. 12 years of learning so much from you. And now I have been able to learn even more from you as I have followed your Teach-Ins and Fire Drill Fridays. What an awesome idea! It is amazing to see your drive, as well as others, to educate on this important issue. I think it has made quite an impact. It is interesting that those arrested tended to be older ladies. Way to go! I can’t wait to see what takes place in 2020. How many more Fire Drill Fridays are you planning? I thought I had read somewhere that this Friday would be the last? As a teacher, it is difficult to find time to take off to join these weekday activities, but with a break now coming up, it is possible to join you folks. Though taking off time from work is still a possibility in the future. Of course, local Fire Drill Fridays would be great, but weekend activities would even be better. I realize that congress does not work on the weekends, but they would certainly hear our voices no matter what.
    I also wanted to wish you a wonderful birthday. 82? No way!?! I had the honor of seeing both you and Lily here in Detroit. Your energy level and demeanor certainly didn’t seem like someone in their 80s, but now that I think of it, I am not sure what one in their 80s would act like! After seeing you, I am thinking 80s are still considered young!!!

  5. “I have studied why women tend to get braver with age and men don’t, but that’s for another time.” Would be very interesting to hear more, Jane.
    I remember some Indian guru saying that old men get more feminine because earlier in life that side of men was socially repressed, so those reserves well up in old age, when they are relieved of social pressure to uphold a stereotype.
    And he said older women get more masculine for that reason. The guru in question was questionable, as are all gurus, and himself seemed more aggressive in old age. Still, maybe his generalization was onto something?

  6. Dear Jane, I sincerely wish you all the best and happy birthday 🍀 Feel warmly hugged ♥ ️ Greetings Barbara xxx

  7. Dear Jane! I just want to wish you a very Happy 82nd Birthday! I’m so grateful to you for your Fire Drill Fridays. Your movement is bringing so much needed attention to the cause! I’m so sorry I couldn’t physically be with all of you in D.C. today (I became a monthly donor to Greenpeace today to try to make up for it.), but I watched your rally, march and arrests, and I was moved to tears. It was truly beautiful to watch. What an incredible way to ring in your birthday! Seeing you, Gloria Steinem and so many others willingly get arrested for the cause (even on your birthday!) is so inspiring. I’ve never been arrested before, but you’ve got me seriously thinking about getting involved in Civil Disobedience. I’m beginning to fully understand just how important it is. I’m really excited that Fire Drill Fridays will be going nationwide in 2020. I cannot wait to get more involved here in Chicago or even somewhere in a neighboring state. Thank you for all that you do, especially for teaching generations how to resist and become activists. I wish you all that is good in life in the upcoming year. God bless you!
    Jenny xoxo P.S. It was so great to meet you after your talk in Morristown, NJ two weeks ago. (I was the person who gave you the wooden nesting doll with your images painted on them. 😉) I had wanted to meet you for a long time so you made me very happy! 😊

  8. Hello Jane, I wish you and your family a blessed Christmas and a happy new year and all the luck in the world above all health 🍀 ♥ ️
    Greetings Barbara xxx

  9. I am proud of how you are attacking the climate emergency. I would like to recommend a new book called Blowout by Rachel Maddow and is all about the history of the oil,gas & fossil fuel industries and how this dependence now has to end.

    I am 78 yrs. old with rheumatoid arthritis which restricts my movements & prevents me from actively picketing with you. How can I be of help? I am an artist and perhaps could be of use.

    I applaud your activism. Barbara

  10. Hi, Jane!
    I was listening to one of your recent interviews and one phrase you said got stuck into my mind: Now I’m old so I feel even more capable of standing up.” It’s something I also wish to feel when I’ll be your age.
    And I wonder: Getting older makes us braver and more willing to speak up? Because I see a lot of elders around me that are feeling really cozy in their comfort zone and are afraid of stepping out of it for many reasons.
    Happy and healthy birthday, amazing WOMAN!
    And do not stop! Keep on “MOVING”!!!
    love you,
    Nicole

  11. Hello Jane, I had mail from them in my mailbox today. I am overwhelmed. Thank you very much. You made me the happiest person! Even if I will never meet her personally. Thank you very much ♥ ️
    Greetings Barbara

  12. Jane happy New Year, I wish you a next year full of love and health thank you for everything you give to those of us who love you, your example and advice means a lot to me.💕💕💕

  13. You are such an inspiration ❤️ Love you dearly

  14. Hi Jane
    I am so happy you are still working for the betterment of the country. I hope you will see this post and know it was your strength, dedication to causes, and the grace you exude daily. I was hooked on opioids, it was watching you speak, act, and your heart felt dedication that lead me to become sober on my own and hope no one else has to suffer the problems this epidemic caused in my life. My only regret was being sick last year and not getting to hear you speak. My hopes is I will get to hear you speak live very soon!

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