On her first visit to New Mexico since selling her 2,300-acre ranch on the outskirts of Rowe seven years ago, Oscar-winning actress Jane Fonda described her return to the Land of Enchantment this week as sweet -bitter.
“Do you know how depressed I am? the 84-year-old asked at the start of a nearly 45-minute interview with The New Mexican at La Fonda on the Plaza.
“I haven’t been back since I sold my ranch, and I miss it so much,” Fonda said.
She returned to New Mexico not to look for a house or play tourist, but as part of her lifelong activism.
Fonda is squarely focused on the plight of the planet in the face of the lingering threat of global warming and working to get the people she calls “climate champions” elected.
“Climate change is not something in the future – it’s happening right now,” she said. “It’s in front of us right now, and we have eight years to avoid the tipping point, and that’s why time is running out. The window is closing.”
Fonda, which launched a political action committee this year with a mission to “defeat fossil fuel proponents and elect climate champions at all levels of government,” campaigned for incumbent Democrat Stephanie Garcia Richard in the race for the position of commissioner of state lands.
“We visited his office [Wednesday], and she took us to the basement,” Fonda said. “There’s this hallway that has all these pictures of former land commissioners, and there were all these white men, and then suddenly there’s Stephanie. She is the first woman, the first Latina and the first educator to be a land commissioner. But it is also starting the construction of the largest wind farm in the western hemisphere. What I love is that potentially, and she’s working on it, New Mexico can become the first line of renewable energy for other states.”
Fonda listed several other accomplishments during Garcia Richard’s tenure at the State Land Office.
When she heard about Garcia Richard and his reputation for being “very progressive and very good on environmental issues”, Fonda signed up for a fundraiser the Lands Commissioner was hosting on Zoom.
“She was really surprised when I showed up, and it turned out my stepdaughter, Ted Turner’s daughter, Laura, was on the phone,” Fonda said, adding that her ex-husband, a mogul media, is a large New Mexico landowner.
Fonda joked that she cared about New Mexico before Turner.
“Before we even started dating seriously, he came with me to Santa Fe because I was in the process of setting up an escrow on a property on Tano Road,” she said. “I was so proud of it. It was 70 acres, and I remember standing on a hill overlooking that property, and he was like, ‘What could you be doing there? And I said, ‘Live.’ But then I married him and realized, you know, he had ranches. He has a ranch in northern New Mexico that’s 650,000 acres.
Later she joked, “No, I didn’t marry him for his ranch.”
Fonda, who was recently diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, said she was having chemotherapy treatments and was “a little dizzy”.
Although she lost her train of thought a few times, Fonda was calm throughout the interview, frequently displaying her quick wit and sense of humor.
“I feel like this is the most important thing I will do with my life,” she said, referring to her efforts to fight climate change, “and I will do it until when I die, which doesn’t mean much because my age.”
When asked if there was a turning point that prompted her to launch the Jane Fonda Climate PAC, Fonda explained a series of events that led to its creation.
“It was early 2019, and I was really depressed because I was a climate activist, and I was doing what I could, but I knew it wasn’t enough considering I’m a fame and that I have a platform,” Fonda said. .
She read a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations body tasked with assessing the science related to climate change.
“What they said was so clear: we need to halve emissions by 2030,” she said.
Fonda then began to read the writings of Greta Thunberg, a young environmental activist from Sweden.
“This child who was like a scientist in science understood, and she said: ‘If our house is on fire, we must behave as if it was a real crisis.’ And it did for me,” she said.
Fonda said she then called Annie Leonard, co-executive director of Greenpeace USA, and told her she wanted to go to Washington, DC, “and do something that people will notice.”
She wanted to spend a year protesting in the nation’s capital but couldn’t terminate her contract for the Netflix comedy Grace and Frankie, which also stars Lily Tomlin. Fonda said the Netflix executive laughed when asked if the subscription streaming service and production company could postpone the show’s next season by a year.
“So I went [to Washington, D.C.] for four months,” she said. “We decided that every Friday we would hold a rally and then engage in civil disobedience and risk being arrested.
The risk has become reality. Fonda has been arrested five times for protesting what she called government inaction on climate change.
“I had 82 years in prison,” she said.
Fonda said the purpose of his so-called Fire Drill Fridays, a weekly demonstration centered on civil disobedience to draw attention to the government’s refusal to pass laws to fight global warming, was to mobilize the public .
“I wanted to move them from concern to action, and they came from all over the country,” she said.
After the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the protests took place virtually.
“We always do it virtually,” Fonda said. “We had our 10 millionth viewer last week, and they’re becoming activists. That’s great. However, in the meantime, what we’ve started to realize is that good climate legislation doesn’t didn’t pass.”
This awareness initiated the start of the political action committee.
“I sold a lot of stocks [to get the PAC off the ground], and my CFO freaked out. He said, ‘No, you can’t do that. It will become several million dollars. I said, ‘Well, what’s the point of having a big wallet if there’s no planet?’ recalls Fonda.
Fonda, who has often been reviled for her activism, from protesting the Vietnam War to her war on climate change, said she was not calling for an immediate end to fossil fuels.
“We have to phase out, but we have to do it gradually, gradually,” she said, adding that new drilling had to stop in order to meet the goal of halving emissions in eight years.
“Part of that progressive has to be what we call a just transition,” Fonda said. “Fossil fuel industry workers are well paid and unionized. They can afford to send their children to school and buy a house. And they are not responsible for the climate crisis. ensure that during the transition, these workers are not left out.”
While the future of the planet had her down, Fonda said she remains optimistic.
“Activism is the best way to deal with depression,” she said. “The loss of hope will disappear when you start doing something. As long as I do everything I can, I can keep hope alive.”