Q&A with actress and activist Jane Fonda: Environmental issues, her childhood and the best hikes in L.A.

USC Annenberg Dean Willow Bay joins actress and activist Jane Fonda at Temperature Check on April 11. (Photo by Alan Mittelstaedt)

Perhaps the ultimate multi-hyphenate, Jane Fonda has held Academy Award-winning acting roles, launched successful workout videos, and then pivoted to championing the climate crisis —spending her 82nd birthday in jail after being arrested at a climate change protest. In an exclusive with Annenberg Media, Fonda shared insights and advice from her six-decade-long career.

For many of us passionate about climate issues, this connection to nature and the Earth began during childhood. Have you always had a connection to the outdoors?

All my life. I grew up here in the 1930s, 40s and it wasn’t a happy time in my home. I took solace in nature so I was always outside. I got to know the nature of California on a first-name basis. In the summer I swam every day in the ocean. It made me happy. Walking in forests or climbing up 14,000 feet has always made me happy. Altitude is where I do best. I love to climb. I love to walk. I love to be in forests and high up in the mountains.

For many young people who care about environmental issues, but are not scientists or climate experts, there is a sense of helplessness. You are someone who’s shown the power of being a creative and being an activist. How would you recommend those starting their career to go about finding the connection between art and environmental justice?

It’s so important for artists to find a way to express their environmental angst and express the reality of what’s happening, whether that’s painting, sculpture, plays, movies, TV, music. It’s critical because people are moved and transformed, not by what you say to them, but how you make them feel. So, storytelling, images and things that surprise us when we don’t have our guard up can get through in a way that lecturing can’t always.

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