An Open Letter: Why We are Fasting this Week

Dear Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern and State Department negotiator Trigg Talley,

We write to you as US college students, desperately pleading for meaningful carbon emissions reductions at the ongoing COP 19 conference in Poland.

As you have certainly heard, Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms in recorded history, struck the Philippines Friday, Nov. 8th. This catastrophic storm has left thousands dead and hundreds of thousands more homeless, destitute, and with no idea when or from where they will get their next meal.

While the Philippines struggle to recover from this great tragedy, you are meeting with government delegations from around the world to decide the future of the many communities threatened by storms and other climate disasters like Haiyan. This year’s Conference of the Parties in Warsaw, Poland is the 19th since 1995, but as Nadarev Saño, head of the delegation from the Philippines, said in a powerful, emotional statement on the first day of the conference, “we might as well stop counting.”

We “might as well stop counting” because these conferences, despite their potential, have failed to produce anything more than empty words. And if we wait much longer, any action we do take will have come too late. “The climate crisis is madness,” Mr. Saño said, and in the face of that madness, the leaders of the world – and especially of the United States – have failed to take action.

Typhoon Haiyan was not a natural disaster. It was a direct result of a climate changed by the industrialized world’s decisions to value profit over people’s lives. Superstorms like Haiyan will only become more common if we continue to recklessly burn fossil fuels. Worse, the people of the Philippines have contributed next to nothing to global climate change. These countries, the least responsible and least equipped to deal with these climate disasters, are being hit first and hit hardest. At the same time, in a shameful obstruction of democracy, the American corporations profiting from the carbon pollution that causes climate change are misleading the public and preventing government bodies from passing legislation to cut carbon pollution.

2020 is too late. 2015 is too late. You have the power right now to, in Mr. Saño’s words, “prevent a future where super typhoons are a way of life.” These words must be heeded by the leaders of the United States, a nation with immense diplomatic strength and potential. Our political and moral failures translate directly into destruction and human death abroad and on our own shores: the flooded cities of Tacloban and New Orleans, the drought-stricken Sahel and Southwest U.S. states, and too many more.

For these reasons, this week, until the end of the talks in Warsaw, we are fasting in solidarity with Mr. Saño, with the hundreds of thousands of Filipinos whose lives have been upended by Typhoon Haiyan, and with the victims beyond number that the climate crisis will create if you continue to allow these countless COPs to go on with no solution.

Serious greenhouse gas reductions are needed now. We demand the U.S. take three immediate steps to lead on climate change. First, President Obama must deny the Keystone XL pipeline’s permit. Second, the E.P.A. must issue aggressive emissions regulations for existing-source power plants. Third, we stand with Yeb Saño in asking the U.S. to lead wealthy nations in making a substantive commitment to the Green Climate Fund.

We ask this with hope and demand it out of desperation.

We watch, hungry not for sustenance, but for  justice. The world watches. It is your turn: stop the madness, now.


a collection of students fasting this week for climate action

Students at the following schools are fasting

  1. University of Alabama, Alabama, US

  2. Boston College, Massachusetts, US

  3. Boston University School of Theology, Massachusetts, US

  4. Boston University, Massachusetts, US

  5. Bowdoin College, Maine, US

  6. Brandeis University, Massachusetts, US

  7. Brown University, Rhode Island, US

  8. Butte Community College, California, US

  9. California State University Chico, California, US

  10. Carleton College, Minnesota, US

  11. Case Western Reserve University, Ohio, US

  12. Clark University, Massachusetts, US

  13. Coastal Studies for Girls, Maine, US

  14. Colby College, Maine, US

  15. College of the Atlantic, Maine, US

  16. Columbia University, New York, US

  17. Cornell College, Iowa, US

  18. Cornell University, New York, US

  19. University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

  20. Franklin & Marshall College, Pennsylvania, US

  21. Goshen College, Indiana, US

  22. Gustavus Adolphus College, Minnesota, US

  23. Harvard University, Massachusetts, US

  24. Humboldt State University, California, US

  25. University of Illinois: Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, US

  26. KM Global, Wisconsin, US

  27. Lehman Alternative Community School, New York, US

  28. Luther Seminary, Minnesota, US

  29. Macalester College, Minnesota, US

  30. Michigan State University, Michigan, US

  31. Middlebury College, Vermont, US

  32. Morris College, South Carolina, US

  33. Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts, US

  34. Nathan Hale High School, Wisconsin, US

  35. New York University, New York, US

  36. Northeastern University, Massachusetts, US

  37. Oberlin College, Ohio, US

  38. Saint Michael’s College, Vermont, US

  39. University of San Francisco, California, US

  40. Smith College, Massachusetts, US

  41. Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Illinois, US

  42. St. Louis University, Missouri, US

  43. St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Maryland, US

  44. St. Norbert College, Wisconsin, US

  45. Stanford University, California, US

  46. Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania, US

  47. Tufts University, Massachusetts, US

  48. Tulane University, Louisiana, US

  49. UC Berkeley, California, US

  50. UC Davis, California, US

  51. University of Maryland, Maryland, US

  52. University of Michigan, Michigan, US

  53. University of Minnesota Duluth, Minnesota, US

  54. University of Minnesota: Twin Cities, Minnesota, US

  55. University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS

  56. University of Missouri, Missouri, US

  57. University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US

  58. University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island, US

  59. University College Utrecht, the Netherlands

  60. University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont, US

  61. Viterbo University, Wisconsin, US

  62. Warren Wilson College, North Carolina, US

  63. Watertown High School, Wisconsin, US

  64. Webster University, Missouri, US

  65. Wellesley College, Massachusetts, US

  66. University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, Wisconsin, US

  67. University of Wisconsin  – Madison, Wisconsin, US

  68. University of Wisconsin  – Milwaukee, Wisconsin, US

  69. University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, Wisconsin, US

  70. Pitzer College, California, US

  71. Pomona College, California, US

  72. Scripps College, California, US

  73. Harvey Mudd College, California, US

  74. Claremont McKenna College, California, US
  75. University of Massachusetts Amherst, Massachusetts, US
  76. City University of New York, New York, US (CUNY)
  77. Haverford College, Pennsylvania, US
  78. Concordia College, Minnesota, US
  79.  Antioch College, Ohio, US