Actor Jane Fonda has been an outspoken advocate for many decades. She has protested war, violence, discrimination and now our collective inaction when it comes to saving planet Earth. Last month, Fonda launched her Fire Drill Friday campaign promising to protest in Swedish activist’s Greta Thunberg’s spirit each Friday – a move that has seen the 81-year-old arrested on many occasions.
Overnight, 16-year-old Thunberg received Glamour magazine’s Woman Of The Year Award for her climate activism work. (For the uninitiated Thunberg started striking from school once a week in a bid to get the grown-ups to do something, anything in fact.) Fonda presented the award to the teenager who was unable to attend – and I invite you all to take the time to read it.
Read it in the context of what is happening on our doorstep.
This week, as a scientifically-proven result of climate change, Australia faces its longest fire season – and it’s worst bushfires since Black Saturday in 2009. Three people are dead. 350 koalas are dead. Thousands have been evacuated.
Right at this second, our greatest fight is saving lives, our wildlife and our homes. It’s not about political point-scoring and it’s not about influencers posting selfies with flames. But when the dust has settled and we are standing in our own ashy ruins, we need to put pressure on our government to have that overdue conversation.
Yes, we’re on target to meet our emissions target set out in the Paris Agreement – but we need action of Jacinda Ardern speed. We cannot criticise the US for not banning guns – the Howard government did good in the wake of the Port Arthur Massacre – but let’s do it again. The Morrison government needs to galvanise a sad little burnt-out nation to bring about the sort of change to inspire the world. Because Australia is in the literal firing line to be hit the worst.
Change will be a slow-burn. But our response needn’t be, as reminded by Fonda today:
“I have not met Greta Thunberg, but Greta Thunberg has changed my life. I’d been feeling anxious and depressed, because I knew I wasn’t doing enough in the face of the catastrophe that is looming.
I drive an electric car. I’m stopping the use of single-use plastic in my home. I eat a lot less meat or fish. Yes, and fish, because fish stocks are plummeting because the ocean is becoming acidified and the climate is warming. These things are wonderful, they’re all very important, and we should all do them. But it’s a good place to start—it’s not a good place to stop. Because individual life choices like these can’t be scaled up in time to get us where we need to be.
But what do I do? I thought, I wondered, I asked myself in the comfort of my Beverly Hills home. And then I read about Greta.
I read that she’s on the spectrum. She has Asperger syndrome, and that means that unlike the rest of us, you see, people with Asperger see and learn things that are not clouded by the rationalisations and obfuscations of the rest of us. They don’t worry about being popular or fitting in. What they see, they see, pure and direct. And I knew that what Greta had seen was the truth.
When she realised what was happening and looked around and saw that no one was behaving like it was a crisis, it so traumatised her that she stopped speaking. When I read this, I decided that I needed to do something more than what I’d been doing.
Greta said, today we use 100 million barrels of oil every day. There are no politics to change that. There are no rules to keep the oil in the ground. And so we can’t save the world by playing by the rules, right? Right? Right? Greta knows that.
The rules have to be changed. Everything, everything needs to change and it has to start today.
So everyone out there, this is Greta speaking. It is now time for civil disobedience. It’s time to rebel. She urged us to get out of our comfort zone and stop behaving like business as usual, and that’s what inspired me to move to D.C. and join with students. And I thank you so much for the courage of what you are doing. We can’t leave it to young people. It wasn’t their fault. We have to stand alongside them.
And Greta said, “It’s okay if you refuse to listen to me. I am, after all, a 16-year-old schoolgirl from Sweden. But you cannot ignore the scientists or the science.” Well, last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the scientists, published its report, which stated in no uncertain terms that given the worsening disasters we’re already seeing, and the additional warming that’s already baked in because we didn’t act 30 years ago, we do not stand a chance of changing course in time without profound systemic, economic, and social change.
And they say we have at best 11 years to do it before the tipping point is reached, setting off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control. There’s no historical precedent for the scale of what we have to do. So let’s reward Greta beyond this wonderful award that she is receiving tonight, by all of us committing to get out of our comfort zone, stop business as usual, and become warriors for the climate.
And here’s what Greta said. These are her words of thanks. “Unfortunately, I cannot be with you tonight. I’m incredibly honoured to have received this award. And I’m very happy that it’s been given to a climate activist—that would probably not have happened two years ago. Something has happened. If a Swedish teenage science nerd who has shot star, refuses to fly, and who has never worn makeup or been to a hairdresser can be chosen a woman of the year by one of the biggest fashion magazines in the world. Then I think almost nothing is impossible.
That is hopeful because that is what we need right now to prevent a climate catastrophe. We must do the impossible. Thank you.”