Recently,  I have been sensing from my peers through conversations that climate change and climate activism has started to feel like  “old news” to them. Being an active member in the climate space, I agree. 

When we read climate news, it can often seem like overstating the same information. Environmental organizations seem to be getting smaller as more pressing issues such as war in the Middle East come to the table. And it makes sense –– it is becoming harder to pay active attention to a decades-long problem when the last four years have been consumed by pandemics and a series of political and economic tensions across the world. In our current state of the world, keeping climate change “trendy” and “fresh” is necessary to remind people that things have not yet been solved. 

As part of my Earth Month itinerary, I attended the Climate Center’s Temperature Check event featuring actress and climate activist Jane Fonda who was in conversation with USC Annenberg’s Dean Willow Bay. As a member of Gen-Z, I did not initially recall her name when I first heard of the event, but immediately recognized her face once I searched her up. I was impressed by her history of being arrested for participating in protests related to the Vietnam War and, more recently, the climate crisis. 

Now, at the age of 86, Jane Fonda continues to advocate for climate justice and unapologetically shares with the audience her political beliefs and action agenda. More importantly, she has made some of the most “fresh” statements I have heard about the issue in a while.

She told her own story of how she became a climate activist, when she first noticed differences in her home in Southern California. She recalled the “red-brown” skies she saw one morning after numerous wildfires ravaged the landscape. She talked about the pain she felt when she heard that birds were dying because of these fires. 

She said this experience was strongly related to her mental health because of how easy it is for her to fall into a dark spiral of depression. That motivated her to rally other people around this issue because the problem of climate change is too hard and complex to fight alone. One of her turning moments came after reading On Fire by Naomi Klein, Fonda said, when she realized that “the homework is very clear.” The science all points at the same conclusion: climate change is a big problem that we have limited time to fix. This book and her personal experiences drove Jane Fonda to create the movement Fire Drill Fridays that grew to include thousands of people around the country. 

Her stories and takeaways were so familiar, yet felt refreshing coming from someone who is truly committed to taking action and has created real change. But my biggest takeaway was her demand that we all work together. She quoted her friend Annie: “If you wanna go fast, go alone. If you wanna go far, go together.”

Natalie Lopez is a research assistant for the Center for Climate Journalism and Communication and associate producer for Electric Futures podcast.