Jane Fonda visits Denver’s most polluted neighborhood as part of her climate activism

Jane Fonda, renowned for her acting career, fitness expertise, and involvement in controversial Vietnam protests, has shifted her attention towards environmental issues. This newfound focus led her to visit Denver and Commerce City, a location notorious for being home to one of the most polluted zip codes in the United States.

Jane Fonda joined local politicians, community activists, and current and former Colorado officials on Thursday at the Green House Connection Center, an environmental activist hub in the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood.

After three weeks of traveling through the Gulf states of Texas and Louisiana to film a documentary about the oil and gas industry, she has now arrived in Colorado for a visit.

Jane Fonda, a long-time climate activist, had a change of focus when she became aware of the impact of fracking on communities. She shifted her attention from the climate to the well-being of people, acknowledging the significant effects it had on their health.

According to Fonda, the fossil fuel industry is not only responsible for the climate crisis, but it also has detrimental effects on various aspects of our lives, including democracy, access to food, and clean air. Additionally, Fonda emphasizes that the industry’s actions have resulted in loss of life.

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Many of the Coloradans who had the opportunity to meet with Fonda share her concerns.

According to former Colorado State Senator Mike Foote, who played a role in passing a 2019 law, Colorado has been in need of reforms as it is one of the leading producers of oil and gas in the country. The law has brought about changes to the state’s top agency responsible for overseeing the industry. Renamed as the Energy and Carbon Management Commission, its new mission is to prioritize the evaluation of community impacts before granting approval for new operations.

According to Foote, the industry has predictably faced a lot of resistance. He emphasizes that passing the bill and implementing the policy is merely the initial phase.

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Jessica Campbell-Swanson, who was recently elected to the Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners, highlights how local officials like herself are using the law to implement additional environmental safeguards that go beyond the state-mandated requirements.

Campbell-Swanson emphasized the importance of political will in achieving solutions, stating, “When there is political will, there is a way.” She expressed that while the state has a responsibility to look out for the entire state, it is also crucial for individuals to advocate for their own communities.

According to Commerce City Mayor Steve Douglas, the Suncor Oil Refinery and other polluters have significantly deteriorated the air quality, failing to meet federal standards. Douglas is determined to hold these industries accountable and ensure that they cease polluting and endangering the health of the community.

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Local officials are playing a more significant role in climate activism, and Jane Fonda is actively supporting this movement. Through her Jane Fonda Climate PAC, which she established two years ago, she is providing financial assistance to political campaigns in local races. For instance, Shontel Lewis, who was recently elected to the Denver City Council, received support from Fonda’s political action committee.

Fonda urged the group of politicians to take a stand and fight for what they believe in.

As the group engaged in conversation, they couldn’t help but notice the distinct odor emanating from the nearby Purina plant. The noise of a train passing by added to the ambiance, further highlighting the prevalence of industrial pollution in the surrounding area.

Fonda also received feedback from community activists like Harmony Cummings, who previously worked in the oil and gas industry and now champions environmental justice. Cummings shared with Fonda the initiatives undertaken by grassroots organizations such as Save the Aurora Reservoir and the Globeville and Elyria Swansea Coalition.

Jane Fonda expressed her emotions as tears welled up in her eyes, stating, “Your spirit is truly inspiring.” She emphasized the significance of acknowledging the presence of a warrior within every community.

Fonda hopped on a bus to embark on a driving tour of the Suncor Oil Refinery. The refinery is situated in neighborhoods predominantly inhabited by Latinos and low-income individuals, who are unfortunately exposed to levels of air and water pollution that surpass the average.

Lucy Molina, who resides in close proximity, refers to Suncor as her “perilous neighbor.” Molina’s family has experienced recurring episodes of nosebleeds, and her grandmother tragically succumbed to leukemia, which she firmly believes is linked to the pollution caused by Suncor.

Since December, the Suncor Refinery has experienced over a dozen malfunctions resulting in the contamination of the air beyond the limits established by the federal government.

According to Molina, our community is considered a sacrifice zone.

Fonda expressed her surprise at the level of pollution in Denver, despite having family in the area and visiting it multiple times over the years. She admitted that she was unaware of the extent of the pollution and how hazardous it could be.

Jane Fonda expressed her concern about the impact that certain corporations have on families in Colorado. She emphasized the importance of elected officials serving the people who elected them, rather than prioritizing the interests of these corporations.

According to Fonda, after years of being involved in activism, she has come to understand that the fight for change is a lengthy process. She emphasizes the importance of persistence and staying committed to the cause, while also highlighting the significance of mobilizing communities.

Jane Fonda is drawn to Denver’s most polluted neighborhood in her pursuit of climate activism.

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