Exclusive: Hungry for climate justice

By Stephen Robert Morse
0 CommentsPrint E-mail China.org.cn, December 8, 2009
Adjust font size:

Thousands of activists, all hungry for climate justice, have swooped down on Copenhagen in the past 48 hours. However, seven individuals from Australia, France, Sweden and the US, are really, really, really hungry for climate justice – so hungry that they've been on a hunger strike in support of climate change, vowing not to eat until a comprehensive solution to climate change is reached.

Five of the seven long-term fasters began their strikes on November 6, one month prior to the start of the COP15, with two additional activists joining in on November 13 and November 22. They pledge not to break their fast until December 18, which is when the activists are hopeful that a legally binding climate resolution will be reached. More specifically, the strikers want to see the conference resolution that includes reducing atmospheric CO2 emissions levels to below 350 parts per million.


Daniel Lau, joined this fast since Nov.13 and won't eat until the end of COP15.[Felix Gaedtke]

Daniel Lau, joined this fast since Nov.13 and won't eat until Dec.18, the end of COP15.[Felix Gaedtke]

Whereas Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr. and other noble political activists have gone on hunger strikes to draw attention to their causes, the effort of the COP15 strike force should be classified as Hunger Strike 2.0, as these activists have taken to the web, using blogs, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other media outlets to spread their activist message.

It seems their efforts are working, as more than 100 people from 14 countries have joined in and started their own hunger strikes ranging from one day to three weeks long.


Ted Glick, a New Jersey policy director and Jen Rowe, a Vermont university student, began their fast across the street from the UN building in New York City, while Sandeep Srivastava, an MBA, is fasting with his organization in Lucknow, India. Oxford University graduate Dominic Rowland and project manager Howard Balmer will be fasting in London's Parliament Square while a Filipina International Youth Council Director, Esperenza Garcia, has embarked on a rolling fast.

The fasters' web site ClimateJusticeFast.com lists the rationale for the hunger strike as follows: "We are offering the strongest form of moral protest against climate inaction, and standing up for true climate justice. We call on both the global public and their political representatives to fulfill their moral responsibility to halt and reverse climate change, and to protect the world's most vulnerable people and our children from its effects."

Daniel Lau, a Hong Kong-born Australian studying in Denmark, joined the fast on November 13 and won't eat until the end of COP15. He has subsisted on water and salts for nearly a month. Though he is admittedly delirious at times, Lau still cooks for others and tries to maintain his high spirits. Lau doesn't consider himself an activist. On his blog, he wrote, "I am not an activist. So why am I on a hunger strike?" He answered the question quite simply, "Building a climate movement is a complicated process. But finding an opportunity for individual action and acting on it was surprisingly straightforward."


However, other members of the group take a more aggressive approach to combating the world's problems. "This is a political cop-out," 23-year-old Australian hunger-striker Anna Keenan said from Copenhagen. "The nations negotiating within the UN framework have been delaying real action on climate change for the last 15 years."

"Whether it's engaging in civil disobedience, joining our hunger strike, or something as simple as calling your political representatives, or writing letters, we need people to get active." said Keenan. "Every year of political delay brings scientific tipping points closer to home."

Fasting was used as a method of protesting injustice throughout early Irish and English history. It was a civilly proclaimed act of protest in colonial United States Virginia, and public fasts were common in 17th and 18th century US and England. In more recent times Nelson Mandela, Bobby Sands and Cesar Chavez also used hunger strikes to effect positive change.

Will this strike have any effect on the actions of politicians and negotiators in Copenhagen? Most likely, the answer is no. But has this strike caused worldwide media attention to be drawn to the activists' cause? Absolutely.

PrintE-mail Bookmark and Share


No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
Send your storiesGet more from China.org.cnMobileRSSNewsletter