On Friday 11 December I stopped eating. At 10 o’clock that morning I took the number 2 bus to sit outside Hove town hall with a placard saying ‘Hungry for Action Fast: Day One’. I came home, had no dinner, went to bed and at 10 o’clock on Saturday returned to the town hall to sit with my placard, changed to read ‘Hungry for Action Fast: Day Two’.
I hope to get to the end of day seven before I break my fast. This will be the day of the next full Brighton and Hove City Council (BHCC) meeting, where I will make a short speech on behalf of my Extinction Rebellion affinity group, calling on the council to tell the truth about the climate crisis.
Two years ago, on 13 December 2018, the then Labour-led council unanimously declared a climate and biodiversity emergency. At the time it felt like a huge victory in the fight to avert the threat of climatic apocalypse that had been haunting me since I’d heard about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report in 2018. I found the word ‘declaration’ in itself inspiring, like a shout from the rooftops or nailing a notice to the door. But I waited, and nothing much seemed to change. The council website tucked climate change at the bottom of the page, under parking and council tax.
Hunger striking is a traditional form of protest that highlights an injustice or profoundly important issue. The Suffragettes used it, as did Mahatma Gandhi and, in more recent memory, Bobby Sands. To refuse sustenance is a visceral, personal and non-violent protest of last resort.
My fast is a hunger strike ‘lite’ in that I’ve committed to do it for a fixed period, not until the wrongs have been righted. Perhaps one day I’ll find the courage of desperation to do a real hunger strike. For now, this will have to do as an attempt to mark this issue as the pre-eminent one of our time, arguably of all human time.
My fast symbolises the future we are headed for. A future of a four-degree world where hunger will be a reality for millions, as climate instability and soil degradation lead to an increasing likelihood of crop failures. Conflict is sure to follow.
I also hope it will stand as an act of solidarity with those already suffering the impacts of climate breakdown. Across the world, people have already died, been made homeless and lost their livelihoods by increasingly frequent and more extreme forest fires, floods and droughts.
I expect that many people will just walk on by as I sit outside the town hall. However, I hope some will stop and talk to me about why I’m fasting and consider what they can do to change where we’re headed. For although the climate catastrophe might seem a long way off to many, in reality it is already looming over all our lives. This isn’t a problem that can be solved by the people of the future; it is the responsibility of all of us – the people of the present – here and now.
Venetia will be writing a daily blog during her fast. She is also asking people to sign a petition to Brighton and Hove City Council which, if it receives enough signatures, will trigger a full council debate.