I’m in Warsaw, Poland right now for COP19, year 19 of the of UN climate talks. The talks started on Nov. 11 this year, immediately following the devastating landfall of super typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. On the first day of the talks, traditionally reserved for long thank you speeches, Philippine lead negotiator Yeb Saño begged those present to “stop this madness” and announced that he would fast “until a meaningful outcome is in sight.”
About 10,000 people were given credentials to COP19. This conference occurs on an inhuman scale – it’s beyond any one person’s ability to understand. I’m not convinced that any one of these ten thousand people understands everything that’s happening here. A rich nation’s negotiator admitted to my friend that no one person on their delegation understood everything that was happening, though all together they had a decent idea.
COP happens because we haven’t yet solved the problem of climate change. People are dying, and people are suffering because of that – most recently, in the Philippines because of super typhoon Haiyan. Every year we fail again to make meaningful change is a year where we let the storms get worse and the body counts climb. Climate change is a painfully human problem.
That’s easy to forget in Warsaw, at the conference’s stadium with ten thousand other people. According to the Executive Secretary, when we enter the stadium we enter “UN territory.” So here we are, 10,000 in international territory – whatever that means – trying address a human issue.
If the UN climate talks are a way to make the storms stop getting worse, to make sure that the next Haiyan or the next Sandy kill or displace as few people as possible, then they are one of the most important things in the world. Nobody could, in good conscience, oppose the progress of the talks because that would and does cause homes to get destroyed and lives to be changed or ended. But this conference happens on an inhuman scale. We drown in policies and acronyms and “solutions.” Here in international territory, it’s hard to remember the human consequences of our actions.
This is why Saño’s fast is so powerful. His fast reminds us of the people who don’t have food in the Philippines. His fast reminds us of the humanity of climate change. His fast reminds us at COP what’s at stake. I think a lot of people forget what’s at stake here, what’s at stake with climate. I’m fasting to make sure I remember. I’m fasting because I want to help other people remember. You can too; fast with us. Fast with us and tell your friends, your family to donate to the relief effort in the Philippines. Fast with us and remind them what’s at stake as our climate changes. Fast with us, what else is there to do in the face of this inhumanity? If you fast, please let us know – bit.ly/FastForTheClimate
To donate to relief efforts – tinyurl.com/unicefhaiyan