Fasting in response to climate change

Today, I am participating in a 24-hour fast in response to climate change. My primary motivation is to gain a more immediate understanding of what climate change is likely to mean for many people: namely, difficulty in securing adequate supplies of food.

International and intergenerational justice are the most difficult elements of the climate change problem to address. While the moral requirements involved are generally fairly clear, the motivation to sacrifice is nearly always absent. Perhaps re-framing the issue can help, to some extent. For instance:

Even in an emergency one pawns the jewelery before selling the blankets. . . . Whatever justice may positively require, it does not permit that poor nations be told to sell their blankets [compromise their development strategies] in order that the rich nations keep their jewelery [continue their unsustainable lifestyles]. (Shue 1992, p. 397; quoted by Grubb 1995, p. 478)

If such arguments become commonly accepted, perhaps the moral unacceptability of inaction – and of recalcitrant and half-hearted action – will become more widely acted upon.

I don’t think I have ever gone 24 hours without eating before, so wish me luck.

[Update: noon] The easy half is done: six hours of sleep and a missed breakfast. This would normally be my lunch break. Now, I have five more hours to get through at work, followed by seven more at home.

[Update: midnight] Based on my original criteria, this has not been terribly successful. It was unpleasant to not eat for 24 hours, but it wasn’t enlightening in any way. I don’t think I am any more or less compelled to help address the problem of climate change than I was before. Hopefully, some kind of deeper memory formed about the connection between abstract causes and concrete consequences.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

13 thoughts on “Fasting in response to climate change”

  1. what climate change is likely to mean for many people: namely, difficulty in securing adequate supplies of food.

    Some ‘solutions’ make it even worse.

    “Our current ethanol production represents only 3.5 percent of our gasoline consumption — yet it consumes twenty percent of the entire U.S. corn crop, causing the price of corn to double in the last two years and raising the threat of hunger in the Third World. And the increasing acreage devoted to corn for ethanol means less land for other staple crops, giving farmers in South America an incentive to carve fields out of tropical forests that help to cool the planet and stave off global warming.”


  2. “[T]he biggest problem with ethanol is that it steals vast swaths of land that might be better used for growing food. In a recent article in Foreign Affairs titled “How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor,” University of Minnesota economists C. Ford Runge and Benjamin Senauer point out that filling the gas tank of an SUV with pure ethanol requires more than 450 pounds of corn — roughly enough calories to feed one person for a year.”

  3. “By 2025, according to Runge and Senauer, rising food prices caused by the demand for ethanol and other biofuels could cause as many as 600 million more people to go hungry worldwide.”

  4. it’s surprisingly easy to go twenty-four hours without food. i did it the other day quite easily…without even intending to do it.

  5. it’s surprisingly easy to go twenty-four hours without food. i did it the other day quite easily…without even intending to do it.

    I doubt that this is the case for Milan, given how seriously he seems to be treating this fast.

  6. Mike,

    This definitely isn’t something I would have done by accident or without noticing.

    You are the second person who has made that kind of claim to me and I can only conclude that we have rather different physiologies.

  7. One reason why biofuels don’t seem intuitively wrong is that people have no fucking clue just how fantastically energy dense gasoline is. I did some rough calculations, and it seems that assuming your car can hold around 65 liters gasoline, that gasoline contains 500 000 Calories worth of energy. Assuming that this is roughly the caloric content of corn used to make the same volume of ethanol, that would mean that the better part of a years worth of food went into that gas tank. I don’t think anyone would consider that a wise use of resources, unless of course, they happen to be someone who directly benefits from the production of corn ethanol.

  8. I think fasts are generally most successful when combined with volleyball and mango slices.

  9. I think fasts are generally most successful when combined with volleyball and mango slices.

    I think our understandings of the word ‘fast’ differ.

  10. Dear Milan,

    I’m writing on the ninth day of my water-only fast. I’m feeling OK physically but very good spiritually and emotionally. The Climate Emergency Fast was and is an important action!

    I know of about a dozen people, perhaps more, who are continuing to fast around the country. Other people have told me that they are fasting one day per week. USCEC is appreciative of all of those who did and are doing what they can, for however long, as part of this action. And I’m pleased to announce that people keep joining the fast, which you can read about on our blog.

    As the fast goes on, USCEC continues to look ahead to the busy fall season and I wanted to let you know about an extremely meaningful event coming up this month. On September 27th, join me at a large rally outside the State Department where Bush is holding a conference of the world’s top polluters. In a clearly manipulative move, George Bush is inviting top leaders from around the world to Washington, D.C. to officially convey his “deep concern” about global warming. His proposed fix: more useless “voluntary” measures and huge subsidies for “clean coal” and nuclear energy. The event is clearly meant to undermine real international efforts now underway to achieve mandatory greenhouse gas cuts under the Kyoto process.

    I plan to be on the 24th day of my fast and will be speaking at the event. I hope others who fasted will join me in loudly proclaiming our own message: George Bush doesn’t speak for us! We want real climate action now!.

    You can register for the rally here. Please forward the notice below to your friends and family.

    Hope to see you there!

    Ted Glick

    Coordinator, U.S. Climate Emergency Council

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