I’m no stranger to fasting since my daughter introduced me to The Master Cleanse years ago, and it still feels like a good way to balance the excesses of holiday celebrations. But this is the first time I’m fasting as an act of solidarity with climate activism, specifically with the massive international fast in conjunction with the Lima Climate Change Conference that opens today and runs until December 12. So, if you are just hearing about this for the first time (and I hope not), it’s not too late to shed a pound for a good cause. My tribe of activists just got bigger and more diverse as soon as I took the pledge and checked out the pages of http://fastfortheclimate.org/en/: bishops, CEOs of NGOs, activists, TV chefs, musicians, UN officials, and negotiators from around the world (though not to date Yeb Sano, the young Filipino diplomat whose emotional presentation at the 2013 Warsaw climate talks, and subsequent two week hunger strike, inspired this movement.)
Astonishingly, the comment section of fastfortheclimate.org has an outsized number of enraged comments from the denial crowd, most of which fall into the ‘protest too much’ category and lead me to hope that the evidence of climate change is beginning to hit home. I even got some flak from a foodie member of my family when I posted my intention for the day on social media. Eating is itself a political act no matter where you stand intellectually on climate science. Just ask anyone attempting to prepare a Thanksgiving meal that will please everyone. Free-range or tofurky? It seems that too many of us Americans hate and resist any suggestion that we must change our own habits. This made a best-seller of Who Moved My Cheese? and explains why diets usually fail, and more importantly, why we continue to live with the devils we know: money-corrupted politics and dysfunctional government (a topic I’ll be blogging about as soon as I finish reading Lesterland).
Well, as anyone who has tried fasting for any reason knows, as the first day of your fast wears on, you realize just how much time you are saving not preparing and consuming food, let alone thinking about it. This can feel almost liberating. Even if you are not taking solid food, you must keep yourself hydrated — lemon water and herbal teas for me — and you may actually start to enjoy the experience of some lightness of mind and body. Not to mention how ambrosial the first bite of solid food tastes! Fasting, like dieting, does interfere with the social aspect of eating, which is not a small thing in a household where a favorite word is ‘lunch.’ Of course, most of us climate fasters are doing this for one day, although some intend to extend it to the first day of every month (no promises). It is a far cry from famous individuals like Gandhi and Cesar Chavez who effectively used the extended hunger strike as a form of nonviolent activism and changed the course of history for the better. To them, and to my fellow December 1 fasters — may our numbers increase — I raise my cup of mint tea.