Take hunger strike climate activists seriously – The GW Hatchet

A group of five young hunger strikers supported by the Sunrise movement sat in wheelchairs outside the United States Capitol and the White House for two weeks, imploring President Joe Biden to take stronger climate action with the Build Back Better program. They officially ended their fast on November 3 as Biden pledged a 52% cut in emissions by 2030 at COP26, the United Nations climate conference currently taking place in Glasgow, Scotland. While in Washington, the hunger strikers were joined by protesters from Fridays for Future, Reverend Lennox Yearwood Jr., the chairman of Hip Hop Caucus, a nonprofit that promotes political activism for young voters, supporters and journalists for lively demonstrations and vigils at the national shopping center.

Attend the activists’ protest outside the White House on October 22 and follow their Twitter food made me see how they shed tears, chanted with passion, held posters and intensely confronted politicians like Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va. to defend the environment. These protests, no doubt, could have seemed dramatic and sensational to many. After all, even though several foreigners agreed with the cause and quickly joined the protests, many passers-by were reluctant to intervene, and some even went out of their way to insult the hunger strikers for their alleged hypocrisy. In fact, the practice of rejecting activism of this nature seems to be increasingly common, with far-right American political commentator Ben Shapiro openly mocking 18-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg on his YouTube channel and president. of the House of Representatives. Nancy Pelosi calling the Green New Deal “the green dream or whatever” is a prime example. The climate movement as a whole may seem theatrical, but the backgrounds of the people involved and the factors that elicit their emotional reactions demonstrate that their actions are entirely justifiable, and perhaps not dramatic at all.

To understand and rationalize the dramatic reactions of protesters, it is essential to be aware of the direct impact of climate change on them. If we don’t, it’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing them as privileged, protesting idealists fueled by a savior complex. This is especially true with the five Capitol Hill hunger strikers, given that they have a roof over their heads, access to private education and one of them even played in a Netflix show. It’s reasonable to find it odd that climate activists are crying because sea level has risen eight inches over the past century and the Earth’s surface temperature has risen 2.12 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880, or because 270 billion tonnes of ice melts every year – but when we understand what exactly these numbers mean and how they impact their daily lives, it all becomes clearer. While it can be argued that their privilege probably protected them from freezing during extreme winters or fainting under the excruciating sun, it is essential to remember that they live in the same world as everyone else. In fact, we should be inspired by how this group of protesters used their privilege to travel all the way to Washington and take specific actions others at home may never be able to take.

The significant personal investment of the strikers in the movement demonstrates their level of commitment to call on political leaders to take action. After all, the more a person gets involved in a cause, the more they will be moved by it. This is why I think the allegedly theatrical ways of the hunger strikers are not as dramatic as many might think. For example, one of them, Abby Leedy, 20 from Philadelphia, has been actively involved in the climate movement for over three years. In 2019, she addressed her city council representing the youth strike for the climate; in 2020, she raised awareness about climate change with her appearance on the TV show “Queer Eye” and she is currently taking a year off to work for the Sunrise movement. This level of commitment demonstrates how much movement means to her, thus explaining her sentimental attachment to the cause.

Of course, there will always be people in climate strikes who will only join in because they see them as opportunities to upload a story to Instagram and gain attention. I was mesmerized and slightly disturbed by the number of GW students I saw in the protest posing with posters and the White House in the background for their social media posts #onlyatgw, to leave the scene immediately after you finish taking pictures. GW students should consider the impact these actions may have on people’s perceptions of the climate movement, as they may ultimately discourage many from supporting the cause. Nonetheless, the reality is that there will always be ostentatious posers, which is why it is important not to be fooled by their presence and to remember that these strikers are simply pleading for a better future.

In the end, it all comes down to understanding that while climate strikes may seem dramatic, the passion displayed is simply a reaction to the looming climate catastrophe we are facing. Instead of judging and trying to guess at the intentions and genuineness of others, students should all work together to keep politicians at their word and ask them to act while we still have time.

Ken Baeza, a freshman majoring in finance, is an opinion writer.


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