In solidarity with Filipinos, why we fast
“We have entered a new era that demands global solidarity in order to fight climate change and ensure that pursuit of sustainable human development remains at the fore of the global community’s efforts.”
- Yeb Sano, Lead Negotiator for the Philippines at the UNFCCC
This year’s international UN climate negotiation started off with an extraordinary personal and heroic action. The lead climate negotiator for the Philippines declared a fast for the duration of the two-week COP19. The fast is a symbolic display of empathy for the thousands of Filipinos struggling to survive in the deadly aftermath of Typhoon Hyain, the thousands who did not survive, and the future generations who will suffer the consequences of our failure to act.
The decision to fast makes this issue personal. Fasting is an act of protest that forces a connection between the body and the mind and has been used across cultures and religions as a form of non-violent resistance. In fasting, our energy is diverted from the processing of food to the process of reflection — allowing us to be present to make thoughtful and meaningful decisions. Fasting is a physical reminder of why we devote our time, money, and energy towards making progress on climate change.
This action gives voice to people who are not at the negotiating table and yet are most impacted by climate change. As students at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, we are supporting this movement by pledging to undertake a fast on Monday November 18th in solidarity with the negotiators and observers at COP 19, and in symbolic solidarity with victims of this crisis in the Philippines.
Many have been quick to point to the uncertainty of science in explaining how climate change directly influenced the unusual path and unprecedented strength of this storm. While it is reasonable to question the direct link between climate change and this typhoon, science from the PNAS journal, Nature Geoscience, and the latest IPCC report all predict with some certainty that climate change will increase storm intensity in the future.
Some may criticize the action as an attention-grabbing stunt to draw in media and make headlines. Some may say that the opening plenaries are not the place for sensational statements. Some may say that this action will draw focus away from negotiating the technical points of a successful agreement. It is difficult to say how exactly this action might distract or influence the negotiation process, but we do know that the trajectory was not promising.
Something had to change the status quo. To make people sit up, take notice, and take a risk. We hope progress will be made in Warsaw.