Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.
W.H. Auden wrote that, sitting in a dive on 52nd Street nearly three-quarters of a century ago, as the world plunged into darkness on September 1, 1939. I’ve been thinking of those words a lot lately. Because it feels to me, and many others I know, like we’re poised at the edge of another darkness.
It’s a darkness already visible, right now, in the Philippines, where thousands are dead and many hundreds of thousands made refugees by the force of a storm like none had ever seen.
And it’s a darkness visible in the bright corporate halls of a conference center in Warsaw, where delegates to the nineteenth annual U.N. negotiations on climate change are divided and dithering, even as the window to prevent civilizational catastrophe rapidly closes.
In those same bright halls last Monday, during the opening session, the Philippines’ lead negotiator, Naderev Yeb Saño, announced in a powerful and emotional speech that he would eat no food for the duration of the twelve-day conference, or until meaningful action was taken to address the global crisis, and sparked an international outpouring of solidarity.
It so happens that two young friends of mine, Adam Greenberg and Collin Rees, recent Boston-area college grads, are in Warsaw as youth delegates to the U.N. conference with SustainUS, and they and other young people there immediately joined Saño in his hunger strike—and have now been fasting for more than a week. (Adam and Collin are allowing themselves some liquid nutrients so they can keep up the grueling conference schedule.)
By coincidence, it also happens that I spent this past weekend with a core group of about fifty committed student climate organizers from Students For a Just and Stable Future (SJSF) at their fall convergence in Worcester, Massachusetts, as they spent two full days in trainings and strategy meetings to strengthen their network and support the fast-growing grassroots climate movement in New England and beyond. And yesterday, the SJSF groups at Tufts and Brandeis launched a weeklong fast in solidarity with Saño and the people of the Philippines (as well as their friends Adam and Collin), and held a candlelight vigil in Cambridge. (Update: See their "Open Letter: Why We Are Fasting This Week," signed by students at 74 campuses.) They’re joined by people throughout Boston and the region, and coordinated fasts and vigils are being planned around the U.S. and the world for Thursday and Friday, the final days of the Warsaw conference.