Hunger Strikers in “Moral Call to Climate Action”

Posted on 04 December 2009 by editor

By Liza Jansen

Anna Keenan, one of the hunger strikers,  has a tattoo on her neck that reads "climate  justice". Credit: Robert van Woorden

Anna Keenan, one of the hunger strikers, has a tattoo on her neck that reads "climate justice". Credit: Robert van Woorden

UNITED NATIONS (IPS/TerraViva) Hoping to emotionally engage world leaders and ordinary citizens, hundreds of people from around the globe have entered their fourth week of fasting in the run-up to the Copenhagen Climate Conference.

“I am doing the Climate Justice Fast (CJF) because all the other forms of activism – while very necessary – are clearly not working fast enough,” Anna Keenan, one of the organisers of the fast, told IPS.

The CJF is an international hunger strike to call for immediate action to cut greenhouse gas emissions and address the climate crisis. Participants have pledged to go hungry until at least the end of the Copenhagen climate summit on Dec. 18 – a total of more than 40 days.

“The fact that they are doing this is symptomatic of a huge public frustration. I understand and respect it, but I’m asking them not to put their personal health at risk,” Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is organising the Copenhagen conference, told TerraViva.

Seven climate justice activists have committed themselves to a water-only hunger strike, and have gone totally without food since Nov. 6, joined by hundreds of solidarity fasters from 22 countries.

“I feel that hunger striking is the only action I can take that truly reflects the depth of my emotions and convictions about this issue. Climate change is a great injustice and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to stop it,” said Keenan.

Keenan, a 25-year-old Danish citizen, studied with former U.S. vice president and environmentalist Al Gore in 2006 and has now fully immersed herself in advocacy for climate justice.

“The situation is absolutely desperate, and we’re seeing buck passing and delaying tactics from the leaders of developed countries rather than the real, necessary action to avert catastrophe,” CJF founder Paul Connor said in Canberra at the beginning of the hunger strike.

Members of the CJF say that both world leaders and the global public must use the much-anticipated summit as an opportunity “to shift away from business-as-usual and start addressing the root causes of the climate crisis – fossil fuels, overconsumption, and a socio-economic paradigm that rewards abuse and exploitation of people and the planet”.

“This is a global emergency driving us towards an almost unimaginable catastrophe, and our governments’ inaction is set to make them complicit in the greatest crime against humanity in history. We’re already seeing the world’s most vulnerable people suffering the consequences of a problem they did not cause,” Connor said.

CJF started in Australia, and now includes people from all ages and walks of life in the United States, Britain, India, France, Germany, Canada, South Africa, Belgium, Honduras, Bhutan, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

Hunger striking is a non-violent form of resistance that has been successfully used throughout history to capture attention or achieve a specific goal. “Under certain circumstances, fasting is the one weapon God has given us for use in times of utter helplessness,” Mahatma Gandhi once wrote.

CJF advocates that developed countries reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 350 parts per million or less and commit to spend at least 160 billion dollars a year to help developing countries deal with the impacts of global warming and help them shift to clean energy sources.

“In order to solve the climate crisis, we must challenge the assumptions that fossil fuels are ‘cheap’ forms of energy, that infinite economic expansion on a finite planet is possible, and that people and places are expendable commodities,” Keenan said.

“We could change all the light bulbs in the world, we could install solar cookers in every village in Kenya, but unless global public and political consciousness wakes up, stops burning coal, and stops over-consuming, climate justice cannot be achieved,” she told TerraViva.

The hunger strikers say they are well aware of the medical dangers a water-only fast entails. After three weeks, the body enters starvation mode, at which it “mines” the muscles and vital organs for energy, and loss of bone marrow becomes life-threatening.

Still, “People believe that this is something worth taking a risk for since we’re talking about the future of humanity,” Ted Glick, one of the U.S. fasters, told TerraViva.

The activists show no sign of abandoning their fasts or easing their moral call for immediate, effective action on climate change. A number of them will be present inside the building where the Dec. 7-18 U.N. climate summit will be held.


5 Comments For This Post

  1. Jeandetaca Says:

    These CJF people are fantastic and evry one should support them.

  2. Jackie Says:

    fantastic job! You have inspired me and I will be following you all closely. Please be careful.
    Edinburgh, Scotland

  3. cez edwards Says:

    hi to all who are fighting to get awareness out there about our planets situation. i am trying to get more people on board, by providing local food produce.yesterday, on our community land, which we have recently aquired, we planted 150 new trees, this is in a village where over farming is everywhere and planet awareness is practically nowhere.i am only fasting one day a week but it is helping me reflect on the sacrifice that the long term fasters are going through, and i end up talking about the issues with people who need to know good luck and take care, cez xxxxxxx

  4. Peter Says:

    Good jobs. We must change from a foclear (fossil fuel + nuclear) system to a renewable-energy society (I don´ t like the concept of “clean energy” because it includes “clean coal”). And the alternative system is not fear, it include unenvironmental nuclear energy (nuclear electric utilities tries to include nuclear energy in the “clean” development mechanisms and stop renewable energies; really, K hate the word clean and prefer renewables). Alsobycicles and promotion of electric vehicles are not included yet in the Copenhagen negotiaing texts. Regards.

  5. Peter Says:

    Now Zapatero is promoting, in a similar way to Bush, coal in Spain to generate electricity. He is going to destroy renewable electricity and feed-in tariffs. Climate Justice in Spain now!.

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