Fasting for Climate Change

There is a scientific consensus that climate change is indeed happening and that humans are undeniably the cause. With the effects of climate change noticeably increasing, many people associate the change with more destructive natural disasters based on higher sea levels, warmer ocean temperatures and changes in the atmosphere. One of those people is Yeb Sano, UN Climate Delegate for the Philippines.

During the UN Climate Change Conference on November 11, 2013 in Warsaw, Poland, Sano gave a heart-wrenching speech focused on what he calls the “unprecedented, unthinkable, and horrific” destruction wrought by Super Typhoon Haiyan. During the speech, he broke down in tears, heartbroken at the rate of human loss, which is numbered in the tens of thousands of people dead and/or missing. Voice thick with emotion, Sanyo told the board of the Climate Change Conference, “I speak for the countless people who will no longer be able to speak for themselves.”

With a lack of options for aggressive action against global climate change, Sano made a choice that harkens back to colonial India and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, more commonly known as Mahatma Gandhi. Sano clarified he meant no disrespect to the board, as he boldly stated, “In solidarity with my countrymen who are struggling to find food back home… I will now commence a voluntary fasting for the climate.” Gandhi undertook a number of fasts as a means of reflection and prayer in order to meet resistance with non-violence during the nearly 30-year struggle for India’s independence from Britain. Most fasts did not last past 21 days, except for two when he was resolved to fast unto death unless terms were met. Sano has committed to the fast during the 11-day Conference of Parties unless a “meaningful outcome is in sight” first. Sano said he wants to “see real ambition on stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations” and “concrete pledges … to ensure mobilization of resources for the Green Climate Fund.”

While a hunger strike may seem too passive of a move during such times of crisis as revolution or catastrophic natural disaster, it is the essence that is important more than the act. Since his proclamation on the 11th of November, a number of groups have joined his fast in support of the devastation in the Philippines and against climate change as a whole. It inspires a movement, and with the technology available, it has the capability to go viral in record time.

There are those who do not take the annual UN Climate Conference seriously, and Sano himself acknowledges that “this process has been called a farce…[but] it has also been called saving tomorrow today. We can fix this. We can stop this madness.” With a world ripe for change, the driving force of millions of voices calling for reduced greenhouse gas emissions, the end of fossil fuels, and the embracing of new ideas and innovation that breaks away from the unsustainable lifestyle of the past, Yeb Sano may have picked the perfect time and the perfect place to make his plea.


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