Students fast in solidarity with typhoon victims

In the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, a group of students has decided to fast in solidarity with Filipinos suffering from the storm and to raise awareness about climate change.

The idea originated at the United Nations conference on climate change, which took place in Warsaw, Poland and began the day before Hayian made landfall. It was brought to campus on Sunday by Laura Rigell ’15.

“The lead negotiator for the Philippines, on the first day of the conference, committed to fast for the entire two weeks of the conference, pleading for a more ambitious climate agreement,” said Rigell. “Soon after, about fifty people in the conference, young people, people with NGOs observing the process, started fasting in solidarity with him.”

Since then, many more, including students at roughly seventy other colleges and universities in the United States, have joined. At Swarthmore, Rigell estimates that approximately twenty students have committed to participate in the fast in some form.

In addition, the group, which has been sitting in Sharples during mealtimes with empty plates, invited faculty members and administrators to participate. Thus far, Karlene Burrell-McRae, the assistant dean and director of the black cultural center, has accepted.

Some students, including Rigell, are fasting through Friday. Others are partaking for shorter periods of time (some for a single meal). All have the common goal of raising awareness and inspiring action.

“I think it is important to demonstrate to Swarthmore College that students really, really care about this and that we are part of an international movement of people who are incredibly concerned about climate change,” said Sara Blazevic ’15, who is also participating.

More broadly, Rigell said that those fasting within the United States are collectively asking Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, that the EPA implement a more rigorous regulation of CO2, and that the United States to commit to the global climate fund.

Blazevic agreed that while the action was sparked by the typhoon and meant to show solidarity, its objectives were domestic in nature.

“People who are starving for lack of food and resources in the Philippines are not going to be impressed by a show of solidarity,” she said. “They want us to push our government to take action because the U.S. has incredible amounts of power that it’s not wielding.”