Dec 4, 2023 - Energy & Environment

Exclusive: "Succession" star Jeremy Strong joins board of Climate Emergency Fund

Actor Jeremy Strong and Climate Emergency Fund executive director Margaret Klein Salamon at an anti-fossil fuels protest in New York.

Actor Jeremy Strong and Climate Emergency Fund executive director Margaret Klein Salamon at an anti-fossil fuels protest Sept. 17 in New York. Photo: B. Salamon

Actor Jeremy Strong is joining the board of the Climate Emergency Fund, which supports many of the more controversial and disruptive climate protests across the U.S. and in Europe.

Why it matters: The news indicates that CEF is continuing to deepen its roots in Hollywood, a key source of funding and inspiration for the direct actions it supports.

Zoom in: Strong is perhaps best known for playing Kendall Roy in the hit HBO series "Succession." He was also in "The Trial of the Chicago 7" and "The Big Short," among other films.

  • CEF is a behind-the-scenes force in Washington for funding the nascent climate protest group Climate Defiance, which has disrupted multiple events by Democratic lawmakers.
  • The group is organizing a series of direct actions to call attention to the potential climate consequences of the Biden administration's push to expand exports of liquified natural gas.

The intrigue: CEF's board includes several filmmakers, including Adam McKay, who directed the climate change film "Don't Look Up," and filmmaker Rory Kennedy.

  • Adding to the IMDB clout of the group is Shannon O'Leary Joy, who was an associate producer of "Chasing Coral," and the veteran filmmaker Geralyn Dreyfous.

By the numbers: According to CEF executive director Margaret Klein Salamon, the organization has made $8.9 million in grants since its founding in 2019.

  • In addition to Climate Defiance, recipients of its funding include Just Stop Oil, Scientist Rebellion, Extinction Rebellion and the A22 Network.

Between the lines: Salamon told Axios the ability to mobilize a mass movement to tackle the climate crisis depends on access to funds.

  • Traditional philanthropies, she said, don't tend to fund such groups.

Yes, but: The disruptive tactics employed by the kinds of activism CEF funds can be less than popular with the general public.

  • Images of blocked traffic, angry motorists and destroyed public property often go viral on social media, turning erstwhile supporters into fierce critics.

What they’re saying: "The climate movement is back, and it's bolder and braver than ever. But it’s still small, especially here in the U.S.," she told Axios via email.

  • ”We need a huge, disruptive movement demanding the end of the fossil fuel industry, or we will not succeed."
  • Strong’s addition to the board "adds legitimacy, gravitas, and interest to CEF and the disruptive climate movement."

In written responses to questions from Axios, Strong said McKay introduced him to the group, as he was feeling "a sense of despair and roving dread" about climate change after reading up on it.

  • He said he was attracted to the group's approach, modeled after previous social movements.
  • "It should be clear to any thinking person that gradualism has failed, that policymaking has essentially failed, that we have fallen catastrophically short of the Paris Agreement and other benchmarks, that it is too late for half measures and that we are out of time," Strong stated. "If this is a zero-sum game, we need catalytic, transformative action."
  • He acknowledged that some of the organizations funded by CEF employ "controversial and divisive" methods but said they are working.
  • "No one thinks that putting mashed potatoes on an artwork is going to lead in a direct way to legislation. But the act of *symbolically* desecrating something singularly beautiful and invaluable should speak volumes to us, as that is unequivocally what we are doing to our planet," he said.
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