On Saturday, January 31st, I participated in my first ever day-long fast as part of the international interfaith movement, Fast for the Climate.
The movement started in December in anticipation of the COP 21 in Paris during December 2015. Every day leading up to that conference, one organization from an international network of participating interfaith organizations will fast. The Joining Hands Network Peru selected the last two days of January.
Like most short-term disciplinary challenges, I wish I could say fasting was far easy than it was. Of course, that would be dishonest. From 9 p.m. the night of the 30th to midnight of the 31st I grew increasingly irritable, headachy and tired.
I pushed myself to stay up until midnight so that I could reward myself with a fried egg and rice, only to find out on Monday that the daily fasts end at 6:00 p.m.! That is to say, I go the distance.
I also took some time to reflect on what the point of fasting is, keeping in mind that my decision to fast has an unobservable and likely negligible effect on climate change.
Is it to reduce consumption, which will in turn reduce the overall contribution to greenhouse gases? I mean that is technically true, but it seems bold and ignorant to use that as a central defense.
Perhaps the meditative quality of fasting will help folks deepen their resolve to end climate change. Of course, we are well passed the time for creating resolve. We need action.
Could fasting help people think of bold new actions to fight climate change? Perhaps. Of course, that doesn’t seem like it would pull so many folks together in solidarity.
I tend toward the argument that the fast is meant to draw attention to the issue of climate change and work through international solidarity that we want to see binding action taken against climate change in 2015.
Fast for the Climate is building on the history of fasting as a means of calling attention to invisible or unrecognized issues, which was most popularly used by Gandhi. Of course, this fast is nowhere near as challenging as those taken on by the popular founder of nonviolent protest. Instead, it reflects the unity that disparate and oft at-odds international organizations find in their shared resolve that climate change must be stopped.
What’s more, these organizations united to participate in something with negligible effect on climate change. In my opinion, negligibility only emboldens the choice to fast. Every day, someone, somewhere in the world is fasting for the climate. That steadfastness reflects an unprecedented shared resolve that climate change must be stopped through actions at the local, national, and international level.
Hopefully, the leaders of COP 21 will take the time to listen and pay attention.