Oscar-winning actor Jane Fonda electrified a crowd at Jericho Beach with a hard-hitting 12-minute speech condemning oil executives and calling for far greater emphasis on renewable energy.
The star of such films as On Golden Pond and Klute said that she came to speak in Vancouver because she believes that the world is at an "existential crossroads" because of climate change.
"I’m 77 and I thought I was getting too tired to go to the barricades, but that’s a bunch of B.S.," Fonda said to cheers from people attending the Toast the Coast Before the Coast is Toast celebration.
"This issue is too important and it’s a very simple issue," she continued. "People versus oil. Life versus oil."
She explained that down one road, Shell Oil will drill in the Arctic, which is the world's largest untapped oil reserve, simply to make a profit. And she expressed exasperation over the U.S. government giving permission to the oil giant to do this.
“What it means is that a very tiny group of people get richer and richer," Fonda said. "And the vast majority get hotter and sicker. Richer and richer. Hotter and sicker. Richer and richer. Hotter and sicker.”
She then pointed to another road in which the future could be honoured, bringing about clean jobs, democracy, and better lives for children, grandchildren, and precious animals.
"Down that road, people take a stand a stand against Shell Oil, Enbridge, Kinder Morgan, and all the other corporations masquerading as citizens," Fonda declared.
Moments later, she said there's been "enough profit, enough plundering through extractivism".
That's when Fonda teed off on oil executives.
"These men who make hundreds of thousands of dollars a minute, they don’t know what enough means," she claimed. "They assume that our natural resources are limitless and that they have a right to plunder them, even if it means leaving our communities riddled with cancer and birth defects and asthma. Even when it means killing off entire species. Even when it means killing us. This is not just irresponsible. This is abuse of power and abuse of human rights."
She said it doesn't require a PhD to understand what's happening. And she insisted that certain oil reserves must remain in the ground if the world will remain within two degrees Celsius of average warming since the industrial revolution began.
"It will never happen if we drill in the Arctic and expand the Alberta tarsands," Fonda stated. "The principal reserve that has to stay in the ground is the Arctic."
Not only is the Arctic home to caribou, whales, polar bears, walruses, fish, whales, and four million people, but Fonda also said that it's the world's "air conditioner".
"That ice bounces the sun's heat back into space," she maintained. "The Arctic helps protect us. We need to protect the Arctic. If Arctic oil is pumped and burned, the ice will melt faster and as that ice melts, the climate heat is turned up. The glaciers melt. The seas rise, wiping out entire island nations and coastal communities. If that ice melts, the entire world is in much graver danger."
She pointed to a different path, citing how more jobs are created for every dollar invested in renewable energy than for the same amount put into extractive industries.
She cited several European countries and U.S. cities where there's been an increase in renewable energy use.
"And they’re clean jobs. And they’re jobs with dignity," Fonda said. "Now the oil companies and the politicians they buy off and the right-wing media would have us believe that the alternatives aren’t real, that they’re not ready, that it’s pie in the sky for some future time. All you have to look at is Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Germany."
Fonda opened her speech by letting the audience know that she was first arrested in 1970 while marching with First Nations in Tacoma and for protesting the impact of clear-cutting on spawning salmon.
"I have fished for salmon in the Campbell River," Fonda said. "So I, in my own way, am aware of the unbelievable beauty of this pristine coast. And I stand here with you and with the unbelievably brave First Nations people who are trying to stop Big Oil from destroying the coastline."