The woman who earned the wrath of conservatives during the Vietnam War flies north to Vancouver to speak out against big oil
VANCOUVER — Call her Jericho Jane. After a long hiatus from globe-trotting activism, Jane Fonda picked up the gauntlet and challenged big oil to get on the “right side of history” as she addressed a group of star-struck onlookers at Jericho Beach Park Saturday.
The two-time Oscar winner was part of the programming for Toast the Coast, an event staged by Greenpeace to raise awareness about the dangers of proposed pipelines and liquified natural gas development in B.C. waters.
“This part of the world means a lot to me. I was first arrested, not 20 years ago… but in 1970 marching with First Nations in Tacoma, and again with Salish Kootenay protesting clearcutting that was endangering the salmon spawning area,” said Fonda to a chorus of cheers from a few hundred selfie-snappers soaking up the sun.
“And I have fished for salmon in Campbell River. I am aware of the unbelievable beauty of this pristine coast and I stand here with you and the unbelievably brave First Nations people who are trying to stop big oil from spoiling the coastline,” she said.
“I have been an activist for 45 years but to tell you the truth, it’s been many decades since I’ve been to the barricades and I am here now because I believe the world is at an existential crossroads. We are facing a terrible terrible challenge,” said Fonda, looking every bit as fit as ever in a Toast the Coast T-shirt and a straw hat.
“I am 77 years old and I thought I was getting too tired to go to the barricades. But that’s a bunch of shit. This is too important and it’s a very simple issue: People vs. oil. Life vs. oil.”
“I am 77 years old and I thought I was getting too tired to go to the barricades,” said the woman once referred to as “Hanoi Jane” for her activism against the Vietnam war.
“But that’s a bunch of shit. This is too important and it’s a very simple issue: People vs. oil. Life vs. oil.”
Speaking into the solar-powered public address system, Fonda said big oil companies do not have the best interests of humanity at their core, but a need for bigger profits. “What it means is that a very tiny group of people get richer and richer, and the vast majority get hotter and sicker.”
One of her biggest concerns is Shell Oil’s plan to drill in the arctic. “Certain oil reserves in the world must stay in the ground!” she said, her voice peaking with emotion. “It is a major migratory corridor for polar bears, whales, walruses, fish, caribou, birds and home to four million people. And did you know it’s also the world’s air conditioner – bouncing the sun’s heat back into space? The arctic protects us. And we need to protect the arctic.”
Species extinction, the disappearance of entire island nations and unstoppable global warming will be the legacy of Shell’s drilling if it goes ahead as planned, she said. “And that’s if things go right and Shell does not spill the oil. If there is a spill, an entire way of life will be destroyed. Species will be threatened with extinction and there is no going back. The nearest deep water seaport is a thousand miles away…. And let’s not fool ourselves about the probability of a spill: If it moves, it spills. You’ve all learned that,” she said, referring to a recent bunker fuel spill in English Bay, Vancouver’s central body of water that laps up against Jericho Beach.
“The U.S. Department of the Interior has said there is a 75 per cent chance of a spill. A 75 per cent chance? That’s not chance. That’s a probability!”
Fonda said if we go along with big oil’s agenda, “we will be abandoning not only our own principles but the people of the world…. We will be admitting that we live in a post-democratic era where profit is more important than freedom and justice, and more important than life.”
She appealed directly to Shell Oil, Kinder-Morgan and Enbridge to become part of the solution. “You could be heroic instead of spending the billions you plan on spending to drill the arctic and expand the tar sands. You could invest that money in renewable energy to create a sustainable world: For every dollar invested in renewable energy, you create more jobs than in the extractive industry, and they are clean jobs.
“But oil companies and the politicians they buy off and the right wing media would have you believe that alternatives are not real, and that it’s pie in the sky for some future time. But all you have to do is look at the Netherlands, Norway and Germany, where 25 per cent of Germany’s energy is alternative. It’s happening everywhere, in Sacramento, Austin, Boulder, it’s even happening in Alberta, where First Nations are creating solar jobs. It is possible,” she said, as the crowd hooted in unison.
“Enough is such a critical word right now, isn’t it? It’s a word that the oil company executives don’t know. These men who make hundreds of thousands of dollars a minute, they don’t know what enough means. They assume our natural resources are limitless, and they have a right to plunder them even if it means leaving our communities riddled with cancer.”
Fonda said Vancouver is at the forefront of the fight for the future, and that together, people had to mobilize for change.
“Thirty years from now, I want my grandchildren to look back and say ‘Grandma was on the right side of history,’ so thank you… thank you for your bravery here in Vancouver. Thank you for welcoming me.”
– Ex-Press Skeletal Staff
Last updated: 12:15 pm 6/15/15