Why I’m Fasting for Climate at COP19.

I took the red dot. That was the moment when I made the decision to fast in solidarity at COP19. When I took the red cloth dot and pinned it to my shirt. I was aware of the commitment I was making, and I still am. I don’t take it lightly, but with every passing hour I become more aware of the importance of this solidarity action. What is happening in the Philippines and around the world is unacceptable and can be changed. I’m determined to be a part of making that happen.

241 Photo Credit: Ashok Chandwaney

A little bit of background for those that need it…

Monday was the opening plenary of the 19th Annual Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Climate Change Conference. It was during this plenary that I witnessed head Filipino negotiator Nadarev Yeb Saño deliver an incredibly powerful narrative on the truth of climate change. A narrative that brought many to tears and drove many more to desperately crave a break in the monotony of the negotiation process. Saño spoke of the devastation left in his country after Typhoon Haiyan and how his people are affected by climate change. He voiced the need for drastic action and ambitious policy to put a stop to climate change and the extreme weather that accompanies it.

Saño announced that he would “fast for climate action.”

“In solidarity with my countrymen who are struggling to find food back home and with my brother who has not had food for the last three days, in all due respect Mr. President, and I mean no disrespect for your kind hospitality, I will now commence a voluntary fasting for the climate. This means I will voluntarily refrain from eating food during this COP until a meaningful outcome is in sight.”

                       Read more about Saño’s speech here!

                       And look up and watch the entire speech online!

242 Image Credit: Kelsey Wingo

The next day, youth and members of other civil society groups showed that they would fast in solidarity with Saño. We wore the red cloth dots and stood behind Saño as he told his story to a crowd of people in front of the stadium cafeteria. It was a powerful moment, and one that carries strong demands of negotiators in the conference. As youth, we may not be able to directly negotiate policy, but we can make demands and hold the negotiating parties accountable. We are demanding that they listen to Saño. We are demanding that they hear the stories of those whom they traditionally ignore. We are demanding ambition, commitment and action.

There’s more. I’m from the United States. I realize that the government of my home country is a big part of the problem. My government refuses to step up in these negotiations and accept responsibility for their contributions to the progression of climate change. It continuously blocks ambitious policy and regulation that disproportionately impacts vulnerable countries and populations. I’m calling on the United States to stop inhibiting and become a committed advocate of climate justice.

This isn’t about me. It’s not about the fact that I’m fasting. It’s not about the quantity of people fasting. It’s about the action of solidarity itself and the narrative being told by those who most need to be heard. It’s about the fact that continuous political inaction, lack of ambitious climate policy and refusal of responsibility by decision makers are coming at the cost of human lives.

Inaction is unacceptable.

That is why I’m fasting at COP19.


Stand with Yeb Saño and the Philipinnes by signing this petition!