Today, January 9, 2014, I am “fasting for the climate.”
This ongoing fast seeks to send a message to governments that people from all walks of life, from all corners of the globe, expect climate action. Already, millions of people have lost their homes and livelihoods as a result of climate change. Yet government action remains profoundly inadequate towards a safe and just future for people and the planet.
I dedicate this day to reflection, prayer, writing, and giving thanks for creation. I believe the Holy Spirit of God is working something new and transformative, and I hope to be one of the many who will listen and be changed.
Fasting is hard, strange, beautiful. Below are some of my thoughts, recorded in real time throughout the day.
10:33am– First real sense of hunger
1:47pm– The habit of eating, the desire for food, fuel, consumption, is constantly present. If I can abstain from eating today, what else can I go without in my daily life? Are there other hard choices I need to make, things to say “no” to in my regular routine?
1:57pm– I didn’t go off to some remote location for this day of fasting. I’m here in my usual habitat, with a well-stocked kitchen right down the hall. Every impulse is to reach out and consume. It would be so easy, and there’s nothing stopping me but the power of my own will. But this exercise in self control is teaching me somehow, deeply, that “responsible consumerism” must often mean choosing not to consume. My kitchen calls to my grumbling stomach with its appealing items. Tomorrow I will eat again, but I pray the Spirit will guide me with wisdom to know when to refrain from other forms of consumption and consumerism.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this. —Galatians 5:22-23
2:42pm– I set today aside to fast from eating. But what about energy consumption? I have air conditioning to make my apartment more comfortable. My work sends me out on buses and airplanes on a regular basis. What personal choices do I need to make to bring my own daily life into greater harmony with the world I inhabit?
3:10pm– I found drinking tea all day more comforting when I lived in chilly La Paz than I do today in Barranquilla. Conscious of the privilege of having clean water to drink and a refrigerator to freeze it in–it’s time to switch to iced.
4:12pm– Hungry. Why am I doing this again? Discipline is valuable. Felt hunger increases my awareness of the urgency. As another faster puts it, “to bring climate change under control we need to exercise self-control, we need to act together, fasting enhances our focus and determination.”
5:31pm– Headed out to enjoy the sunset.
6:15pm– There’s an element to this public act of fasting that gives me pause. “When you pray, go to your room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you. . . . And when you fast, don’t put on a sad face like the hypocrites. They distort their faces so people will know they are fasting. I assure you that they have their reward.” (Matthew 6:6, 16). Most of my day has been spent in solitude, prayer, and reflection. I accepted this call to fasting with joy and gratitude, and no desire to be praised for my piety nor pitied for the minor hunger pangs I have felt. Perhaps it would have been best to take this on quietly, and avoid drawing attention to it. But fasting–at least for spiritual purposes, as opposed to medical requirement or a health-seeker’s cleanse–is a foreign thing to the life of most members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and somehow it feels right to share publicly both a commitment to fasting and my personal experience of engaging in it. I hope that isn’t hubris talking.
8:57pm– Now it is dark, and the day is nearly over. I wait for the time to be ripe, to break the fast. But what will I do to recommit myself to the fast of God’s choosing? What action shall I take, or encourage my government or church or family to take, that will show real love and solidarity with God’s good creation?
9:42pm– Connecting with hunger today has heightened my awareness of my physical presence and needs in this world, and the impact my lifestyle makes. I am grateful, and weary, and eager to take up the dance again. As my friend Rebecca writes in a beautiful blog entry about our time in Peru last month:
We profess to believe in a material, physical love, a God who took on flesh. Climate justice work must do no less. . . .
Conscious of our kinship with all of life, let us claim our place in God’s earthy, material world.
Let us embrace all of our senses and all ways of knowing so that we might more deeply transform ourselves and in the end, hopefully, the world.
If you would like to join the fast, please visit fastfortheclimate.org