February 24th, 2016
Walking past the government buildings over the election period can be quite a nervy experience. Hardly an hour goes by without the bustle of a party’s photoshoot on Kildare Street, or a hushed press launch across the road in Buswell’s hotel. This week, however, there is also a calm, reflective presence outside the gates of Dáil Eireann, where Phil Kearney and Nils Sundermann are undertaking a 5-day fast to highlight the need for action on climate change in the context of the election.
While there was a question on Climate Change in the final leader’s debate on Tuesday night, the issue has largely been ignored throughout the campaign. “If we wait another electoral cycle, we could cross tipping points which will lead to serious climate catastrophe”, said Kearney, whose last politically motivated fast was protesting the Reagan administration’s South American policy during his visit to Ireland in the 1980’s. Commenting on the revival of this form of protest, Sundermann offered: “we are trying to find different ways of communicating the urgency of acting upon climate change. The letter writing and the marches are not working, and the media aren’t playing their part”. “We need more people willing to put themselves on the line to get the message out. This is just the beginning of what I believe will be a much wider movement”, agreed Kearney. The campaign, which has a buzzing social media presence thanks to the dedication of Holly McGowan, has already attracted some international attention in the form of encouragement from leading glaciologist and climate scientist, Jason Box.
Passers-by are also keen to support the action and pose for pictures holding the ‘I am hungry for Climate Action’ placard.
While both men have affiliations with environmental organisations, this fast is primarily a personal statement. “We decided that there was no point recruiting more people through our organisations, as bureaucracy would have stalled the process”, said Sundermann, who has sat on numerous committees and been involved in activism for a number of years. “We needed to set a precedent, because when people see that two people can do this, you’re more likely to get 50 people involved next time”, added Kearney.
The call for a more dramatic civil response to our government’s and institution’s failure to act on climate change follows on from December’s U.N. conference in Paris, about which the Dáil fasters have doubts and reservations as to whether or not it will deliver. “The warming from the combined emissions targets of all parties at COP21 adds up to a lot more than 2 degrees”, sighed Kearney. One positive that they claim did come out of Paris, however, is the “ready-made network of people in Ireland who want to do something about Climate Change”. Phil was one of a group of 35 activists that travelled to Paris on a coach, and Nils was part of a smaller convoy that cycled. Many connections and collaborations were formed in Paris, and these activists believe that they can go on to make waves on the ground in Ireland. “We would like to see more of these forms of committed protests coinciding with environmentally significant treaties and events”, reflected Kearney. “If the track record of the last Irish government is anything to go by, the citizen’s need to ratchet it up to stop Climate Change themselves.”Click here to visit the ‘Hungry for Climate Action’ Website