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Jane Fonda advocates for climate-1st activism, encourages voters

Photo courtesy of Colorado State University

Highlighted in Colorado State University’s thematic Year of Democracy, Jane Fonda used her time onstage to address key issues of patriarchy and climate change with CSU students in her conversation with university President Amy Parsons Friday, Feb 2. 

“We were founded on the revolutionary idea of democratizing education,” Parsons said, introducing Fonda to the crowd. “We take our responsibility very seriously here, bringing in different perspectives in our thematic Year of Democracy and making sure that we are having engaged dialogues in productive ways and producing the next generation of leaders right here at CSU.”


Known for her activism, acting career and sense of humor, Fonda has dedicated the recent years to climate change and environmental activism. 

“We’re the first generation — all of us, us old folks and you young folks — we’re the first to experience the real effects of the climate crisis,” Fonda said. “And we’re the last to be able to do something about it. So your involvement, your votes, whoever we vote for when you go to the polls — have climate in your heart.”

Fonda discussed how democracy is at the heart of the climate crisis, telling those in attendance that all issues of social justice, such as sexism and racism, are tied to the climate crisis. Garnering laughs from the crowd at several points, Fonda drew connections between her life in activism and the issues the world currently faces. 

“We need to make oil companies persona non grata,” Fonda said. “Don’t sleep with anybody involved. Back in the ’60s during the Vietnam War, we used to say, ‘Girls say no to the boys who go.’ It was the wrong strategy, actually, because it wasn’t the boys’ fault. … You can sleep with the oil workers. It’s not their fault. Don’t sleep with the executives.” 

Oil companies and the fossil fuel industry don’t care about people, and communities are suffering because of their actions, Fonda said, referencing her time spent in Commerce City, Colorado, earlier that week. 

“We need to show up for people,” Fonda said. “You know what these kinds of places, what Commerce City, is called by the oil companies? It’s called a sacrifice zone.” 

Fonda’s description of sacrifice zones illustrated one of her main points: Fossil fuels are killing people, and the industry knows and doesn’t care. 

“It matters — we all have to be like psychiatrists when we go to the polls. Is this person going to be so worried about coming across as a manly man that he’s not going to do the human and sustainable thing that needs to happen?” – Jane Fonda, actor and activist

Fonda’s love of nature, along with inspiration from young people like Greta Thunberg, has led her to dedicate her life to the climate crisis. Even in her battle with cancer, she continued to draw attention to the environment. 

“This isn’t a partisan issue,” Fonda said. “This is a ‘Will we survive?’ issue, and you all can have a big impact. What got me to decide to commit my life to fighting against the climate crisis was people your age.” 


Fonda encouraged students to vote with climate in mind, even posing a question to the student body about why there isn’t a higher turnout for ASCSU elections and why there aren’t more women in student government.

Fonda also reminded students that change can happen at any point in your life. Fonda told students about how much she had changed her mind over the years, including on issues she is now known for supporting. Fonda said she was not born an activist; she became one as she was exposed to the world. 

“What I really like to do is listen,” Fonda said. “There’s listening, and there’s listening with your heart. So if you understand why people behave the way they do and then you find a few ways to talk differently, … you can talk to them (and see) where they’re coming from.” 

Fonda encouraged students to lean on each other and learn from each other, citing her friendships with women as a big part of why she is who she is. 

“Men’s friendships are sitting side by side, looking out,” Fonda said. “Usually cars or sports or women. Women’s friendships are face-to-face, eye-to-eye, and even if you haven’t seen each other for five years, you drill right down to soul level.”

Fonda said women also know how to ask for help. Not being able to ask for help is a patriarchal idea, and ultimately, it hurts us, Fonda said. She pointed to former President Lyndon B. Johnson as an example of this loss of connection between person and heart. 

“How many people died in Vietnam because he needed to keep his family man image?” Fonda said. “It matters — we all have to be like psychiatrists when we go to the polls. Is this person going to be so worried about coming across as a manly man that he’s not going to do the human and sustainable thing that needs to happen?”

Though Fonda touched on several serious issues, she maintained a sense of humor, having to break several times as the audience laughed at her well-placed jokes. Pulling people in with humor, she shared important perspectives on climate, feminism and activism with the CSU community. 

“I think it’s just really incredible that she was willing to take the time to talk to students about her long history of advocacy,” ASCSU President Nick DeSalvo said. “And, you know, she started this work when she was younger, too, and so she understands very deeply how important it is for the youth to be involved. And she purposefully highlighted a handful of times involvement in student government, and so I really appreciated hearing that from her.”

Fonda inspired many attendees of the event, encouraging many to do what they could where they could. 

“I think she did an amazing job of inspiring all the people there,” Larimer County Commissioner John Kefalas said. “Especially the students of why it’s important to be involved, why it’s important to vote as the default mechanism and find appropriate ways to engage in and try to help address the climate crisis, which is upon us.”

Reach Ivy Secrest at or on Twitter @IvySecrest.

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About the Contributor
Ivy Secrest
Ivy Secrest, Content Managing Editor
Ivy Secrest is The Collegian's content managing editor. Secrest uses she/her/hers pronouns and has worked for The Collegian previously as a reporter and as life and culture director for the 2022-23 academic year. As a senior in the journalism and media communications department, Secrest enjoys reporting on environmental and social issues with a special interest in science communication. She is president of the Science Communication Club and is pursuing a minor in global environmental sustainability with hopes of utilizing her education in her career. Growing up in Denver, Secrest developed a deep love for the outdoors. She could happily spend the rest of her life hiking alpine environments, jumping into lakes, taking photos of the wildflowers and listening to folk music. She's passionate about skiing, hiking, dancing, painting, writing poetry and camping. Secrest's passions spurred her career in journalism, helping her reach out to her community and get involved in topics that students and residents of Fort Collins truly care about. She has taken every opportunity to connect with the communities she has reported in and has written for several of the desks at The Collegian, including news, life and culture, cannabis, arts and entertainment and opinion. She uses her connections with the community to inform both managerial and editorial decisions with hopes that the publication serves as a true reflection of the student body's interests and concerns. Secrest is an advocate of community-centered journalism, believing in the importance of fostering meaningful dialogue between press and community.

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  • E

    ElizabethFeb 5, 2024 at 7:47 pm

    Did she talk about all the children in other countries mining for minerals for electric cars. The low income people that can’t afford electric cars. Did she let them know how much money she has. How many planes Greta has. I could go on.,

    • J

      Joe M.Feb 6, 2024 at 1:30 pm

      Please do go on! I’ll grab my popcorn