I’ve done a lot of fasting since my first long one in 1971, 34 days on liquids while in federal prison for draft resistance to the Vietnam war. My latest, 14 days concluded last week on November 21st, was on water only, with salt, potassium and vitamin C to decrease my chances of getting sick or dehydrated.
Like the one prior to this month’s, an 18 day fast on water only in the early fall of 2015, I was outside for much of it, on every work day. In 2015 it was in front of FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, in Washington, DC. This year it was in front of the State House and Governor’s office in Trenton, NJ.
I lost 25 pounds on this fast. It wasn’t easy; I was weak from day two and had to be very conscious about how I was feeling, if I was getting light-headed, or if I needed to stop and sit down to regain some strength. My mouth often felt dry, I had digestive discomfort a lot of the time after the first week, and it became harder and harder to drink water; it just didn’t taste good, so it became more like grudgingly-taken medicine than the life-giver that it is.
Being outside made it harder, but it also made it more interesting and likely more effective. We gave out over 2,000 leaflets over the 10 days in Trenton and talked with hundreds of people, most of whom were supportive. This ranged from young, unemployed black men to state police to men-in-suits to young students to government employees to many, many more.
It was good to have that direct, face-to-face connection to this cross-section of the NJ population.
We would often reference the fast when trying to get people to take our leaflet: “We’re on day (whatever) of a two week fast, would you like to know why?” It didn’t always work, but often it did, and you could see in people’s eyes a “you’re doing what?” look.
A sister fast on the same issue, the climate crisis, was also concluded on November 21st, in Asheville, NC.
For me, as an activist, an organizer, a believer in nonviolence, and a person who takes the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and many other principled revolutionaries down through history seriously, I’ve believed for a long time that fasting, and civil disobedience, are tactics particularly appropriate to the climate crisis issue. It’s an urgent issue that is getting more urgent with every year that passes. I wish, I deeply wish, I pray that these tactics will grow and spread like wildfire very, very soon.
One of the best days during the fast was the Sunrise group-organized, November 13th civil disobedience of young people in and outside of Nancy Pelosi’s office in DC, calling for a Green New Deal. 200 took part, and over 50 were arrested. It was the right action at the right time on the right issue.
That’s how we saw the fast in New Jersey. Over the past year and a half or so, since Trump took office, there have been a proliferation of applications to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection for new gas pipelines, compressor stations and power plants, a dozen of them and counting. Over the past 4-5 months grassroots and grasstops leaders fighting them have begun to put out a call for Governor Phil Murphy, a newly-elected Democrat who has said good things and done some good things as far as renewable energy, to declare a moratorium on any new fossil fuel infrastructure being approved or built in the state.
Our reasoning is simple. When you’re in a deep hole (the climate crisis), the first rule if you want to get out of it is to stop digging. It is unconscionable, not to mention impossible, for the Governor to have a publicly-stated goal of fighting climate change and achieving 100% renewable energy in the state within 32 years (not fast enough but the right direction) at the same time as expanding new fossil fuel infrastructure, which could last for 40 years or more. This is a contradiction that cannot be accepted.
We are glad that, during the fast, I was able to talk with the Governor for a minute, or more like 50 seconds, through a screen of security men as he walked from his car into a building at Princeton University to give a speech. We are glad that a Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor has met with us and has indicated she will organize a meeting between top leaders of our moratorium movement and top staff within state government. We hope that soon this process will lead to results; e.g. the Department of Environmental Protection no longer issuing permits for new pipelines, compressors and/or power plants.
There is no question, none at all, that this action was worth it. It was the right action at the right time on the right issue. There is no issue more important, none at all, than the deepening civilizational crisis of climate change, climate disruption. All of us need to do whatever we can, speak out whenever we can and then challenge ourselves to do even more. Our children and future descendants are counting on us!
Ted Glick has been a progressive activist, organizer and writer since 1968. Past writings and other information can be found at https://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on twitter at https://twitter.com/jtglick.