Today I fasted for the climate. I fasted in solidarity with people who are losing their lives and livelihoods to climate change, and with those who are dedicating every ounce of themselves to fighting it.
Climate change is going to bring hungry days to the world, more than we’re prepared to cope with. Most fundamentally, it will amplify food insecurity through desertification, sea level rise, and extreme weather. Food prices will rise, and people and families teetering on the edge of poverty will be pushed further from opportunity. And the same populations who already couldn’t afford food will disproportionately lose their livelihoods to the same disaster. People with resources put carbon into the air, and those without starve.
Yet I went 8,337 days in the world without knowing what 24 hours of hunger felt like. Many go their whole lives without knowing even that much.
Guilt is an easy emotion in this situation, easy enough to have been overused by a thousand campaigns, easy enough to have gone stale. Guilt is too draining to be spent on remote problems, and besides, it’s easy to think, what am I supposed to do, starve myself?
We’re born into a social system that was off running before humans were humans. Hard resets won’t work on such a beast, not when its inertia is so splintered and old. To alter such a system, we need to tweak that inertia wherever it lies, in countless human minds and centers of power.
So when you ask why fasting matters, how such a small and personal action could have any discernible effect on the world, there are two answers.
First, no offense, but you’re awfully small and indiscernible yourself. If you’re reading this, you almost definitely don’t wield a great deal of power. It’s very possible that no single decision you ever make will have a discernible effect on the world. And that doesn’t matter. The issue at hand is how you exist in the world, the effort you make to take the inertia of your upbringing and redirect it towards justice. Each decision is a fraction of a degree adjustment in our system’s inertia, but each fraction is a fraction more than none.
Second and always is solidarity. Fasting for a day will not tell you what it is like to weekly choose your family’s foodless days. It will pose the question, and as you process its effects, as you spread the idea, you’ll remember more often the humans it’s too easy to ignore.
Our inertia will change, and you won’t notice. No one will.
Not until years later.