One year of Fire Drill Fridays
Last fall, I decided to drop everything and dedicate my life to taking action to stop the climate crisis; and what an incredible year it's been.
by Jane Fonda
October 9, 2020
Last fall, I decided to drop everything and dedicate my life to taking action to stop the climate crisis.
Inspired by Greta Thunberg’s call to act like “our house is on fire” and guided by Naomi Klein’s Green New Deal advocacy, I reached out to Annie Leonard and other trusted leaders to say that I was ready to do whatever it would take to combat the climate crisis. Starting in October, I dropped all of my commitments and moved to DC so that — together with Greenpeace and other movement allies — I could launch “Fire Drill Fridays,” which would bring weekly protests in Washington DC to demand Congress pass the Green New Deal.
Though it shouldn’t have been a surprise, it was a bit of a shock that the campaign became instantly iconic. In two short months, the D.C. protests reached hundreds of thousands of people through the media, social channels and what became in-person capital E “events” on Capitol Hill.
Each week, the rallies included different speakers — celebrities, youth, Indigenous leaders, representatives from impacted and underrepresented communities, as well as movement and thought leaders — all demanding our leaders end fossil fuel expansion, pass a Green New Deal, and implement a plan for a responsible just transition to renewable energy as rapidly as possible. The goal for this initial phase wasn’t mass turnout, but a diverse and high profile group of participants who could raise awareness and exert public pressure. Even still, there were more and more people each week, all wondering what would happen next. Hundreds of activists joined me in the courageous act of civil disobedience and chose to get arrested each week. I was arrested five times in DC, and six times I was waiting for the arrestees when they were released to hug and thank them.
As well as being a community of activists, Fire Drill Fridays is a place for learning more about climate issues. When I was in D.C., we hosted weekly teach-ins, which are all available on FireDrillFridays.com.
So in just two months at the end of 2019, Fire Drill Fridays both ignited and tapped into the growing sense of urgency that something must be done to stop the climate crisis — and that we can’t wait for anyone else to do it. We’ve seen thousands of people join with us who agree that it’s time for bold, broad, and courageous direct action.
In the beginning of 2020, myself, Greenpeace, and dozens of other organizational partners and allies wanted to continue our work in this new growing distribution that will help us build power in communities across the country, as well as increase the pressure on elected officials and corporations. So on the first Friday in February, we moved to California and held a rally in Los Angeles, (and in Wilmington in March) where we demanded that Governor Gavin Newsom and City Councils and mayors in California stop any new fossil fuel drilling, begin to plan a phase out that includes a Just Transition for fossil fuel workers and communities hit the hardest, and institute a 2,500 ft Health and Safety buffer zone between oil refineries and where people live, work, and play.
California held some of our largest and most successful rallies ever, and we couldn’t wait to build up the momentum around the country. But then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and changed everything. So to prioritize the health and well being of the Fire Drill Fridays community, we shifted from in-person rallies to online ones! I have been able to connect with movement leaders, organizers, friends, and activists every Friday on Zoom as we continue to build a mass movement demanding climate justice.
Since going virtual over the past 7 months, we’ve reached over 6 million people with more than 1 million views per month. We’ve also signed up over 15,000 people to do volunteer work: registering people to vote, re-registering people who have been purged from the polls, sending postcards, texting, and calling — especially Spanish-speaking people who are working to get out the vote in Latinx communities.
Reflecting on this past year just recounts how last fall I had an epiphany about the state of our planet that sent me to Washington DC and changed my life. I didn’t think that could happen—at my age—but it did and I’m not looking back. Everything I learned and what you need to know about the climate crisis is here from the mouths of experts and the too often unheard voices at the frontlines of the crisis, with stories and ideas that will change the way you think. I truly believe that Fire Drill Friday has changed the conversation on climate action. Taking its inspiration from the youth climate movement, it has shown that courage is contagious — that millions of people of all ages, from all walks of life, are joining in and willing to sacrifice for a livable climate. It changed me.
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