As Barack Obama said that time had run out to secure a legally binding climate deal at the Copenhagen summit in December, hunger strikers around the world reached the tenth day of a fast to 'wake the world up to reality'.
In what has been described as 'a moral response to an immoral situation', members and supporters of the hunger strike - called 'Climate Justice Fast!' - organised the strike in order to 'emotionally engage' both world leaders and ordinary citizens around the world with the climate change issue, provoking them into taking the action that they say is needed.
The hunger strike aims to send a powerful message to members of the public who are as yet unaware of the urgency of climate action, as well as inspiring those who are already aware of climate change to become more politically active. It is hoped it will also serve as a powerful reminder to world leaders of the importance and moral consequences of their decisions on climate change.
Throughout history, hunger strikes have been successfully used to create awareness and to mobilise the public behind social causes. Mahatma Gandhi wrote that "under certain circumstances, fasting is the one weapon God has given us for use in times of utter helplessness.” In the twentieth century, hunger strikes were also used effectively b British suffragettes in their campaign to earn women the right to vote.
“The situation is absolutely desperate, and we’re seeing buck passing and delaying tactics from the leaders of developed countries rather than the real, necessary action to avert catastrophe,” CJF founder Paul Connor said from the Australian capital of Canberra, where he and others began their strike on the lawn of Parliament House.
Fellow activist and CJF organiser Anna Keenan, said: “We must use Copenhagen to rise above the petty politics of climate change, to instead recognise it as a clearly moral issue, with a clear choice between what is right and what is morally wrong. World leaders have been making the morally wrong decisions - delay and inaction - for too long, and right now is the time for change.”
“We’re facing an emergency, and can no longer simply sit by, waiting to see what they have in store for us. We must let them know that they work for us, the people, not for special interests and we expect responsible, moral action.”
She said people the world over were frustrated by the lack of progress in tackling climate change and pointed to the recent walk-out in the Barcelona climate talks by 50 African nations in response to developed countries’ refusal to offer effective emissions targets.
During the walk-out, the African leaders argued that the richer nations had been producing excessive greenhouse gases for decades and are the only ones with the financial resources to
address the problem.