Book Review: What Can I Do by Jane Fonda

New York: Penguin Press, 2020

Reviewed by Brenda Brown

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Jane Fonda hopes her book will educate people about climate change and provide guidance on what each of us can do to help. Sierra Club members will want to know whether or not she adequately answers her title question.

 

The answer is yes.  With the support of Greenpeace, Jane held 14 climate change demonstrations in Washington DC from Oct. 11, 2019 through Jan. 10, 2020. The events were called, “Fire Drill Fridays.” Every Friday, Jane and the other participants would hold a rally, engage in civil disobedience, and get arrested. Each week’s theme was presented at a teach-in on Thursday night. Some examples of themes are: “Oceans and Climate Change,” “Women and Climate Change” and “War, the Military and Climate Change.” There is one chapter in the book for each of the 14 weekends. Each chapter is entitled after the weekend's theme and includes informative excerpts from the teach-ins and speeches. By the end of the book, the reader has been given a good grounding on the extent of the existential threat we are experiencing and the current views of experts on how it can be addressed.

 

So what are some of her answers? Jane stresses the necessity to vote for leaders who support a Green New Deal and to press our representatives in government to prioritize environmental issues. She provides a long list of organizations (including the Sierra Club) to join and support. She lists banks and companies to avoid and ways to make our money “fossil free,” but she also discusses in depth the effect transitioning to a clean economy will have on labor and the necessity to address the concerns of labor unions. She includes advice about saving endangered species by not including them in our diet. She also points out the connection between climate change and immigration and the need to support humane immigration policies.  

 

Jane frequently expresses her awareness of her many privileges. She is using her name to draw greater attention to the problems we all face, including systemic racism. She always made sure that speakers of color were leading the marches with her. Groups that have been disproportionately affected by the climate crisis such as African Americans and Native Americans were well represented.

 

While Sierra Club publications and other books may cover the same topics in greater depth, this book is a great overview. It is an easy read and a great book to recommend to others. Due to Jane Fonda’s celebrity status, people who ordinarily would not bother to read a book about climate change may read the book because they admire Jane Fonda and be inspired to join our cause. 

Brenda Brown is a Sierra Club member.