I have gone without food for nearly three weeks. I am putting my body on the line, outside in the cold every day. But in the eye of the climate and ecological catastrophe we are facing, this is nothing. Time is running out.
My hunger strike is an act of personal desperation, a last resort. As a lecturer, I am meant to prepare young people for the future, but what future can I prepare them for?
Part of the global hunger strike with Extinction Rebellion, we are outside UK political party headquarters in London demanding candidates and parties acknowledge the urgency of this crisis and commit to act now.
I stand in solidarity with the millions already suffering, who face hunger every day, and to remind us of just how vulnerable we all are to this crisis. If we don’t act now, billions will be at risk of starvation and death from climate and ecological collapse. The crisis will not wait.
In the opening ceremony of this year’s climate summit in Madrid, the UN secretary general said current human behaviour is a “war against nature” and warned that we are near to the point of no return. We need to remember that we are nature.
Scientists are warning that we have pushed our planet beyond several tipping points towards unstoppable destructive feedback loops. More than 11,000 scientists have declared a global climate emergency. Yet our government is still failing to react anywhere near fast enough.
We have asked to meet leaders of political parties and for them to support to the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill, known as The Three Demands Bill. The government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, act now to halt biodiversity loss and reach net-zero carbon by 2025, and establish and be led by a citizens’ assembly on climate and ecological justice.
Going on a hunger strike is a privilege. I choose not to eat, but 820 million people do not have this choice: they simply don’t have food. Temperature rises and extreme weather – already causing fires, droughts, floods and mass displacement – will cause global food shortages and instability. Some 45 million people in southern Africa face a food crisis in the next six months. It’s a reality we all face. Last year, UK farmers went to see the government about a once-in-a-generation drought. This year, they’re doing the same after flooding and heavy rains ruined crops. As a country that imports half of all its food, how will we survive?
I am aware that I am fortunate: right now I have access to food, I can choose to eat or not, I have a healthy and, usually strong, body, and a wide network of friends and family.
We all have a choice of how we use our privilege, whether for our own private benefit or to fight for change now to protect our world today and for future generations.
I now start the careful refeeding process, slowly eating again, with continued medical advice and check-ups. I am slower and feel weak, but strong in my head and heart. It has laid my emotions bare as I can’t swallow them down with food, or comfort myself to not feel emotions of fear and grief, but I also receive gifts of love and connection. I find comfort in friends and rich conversations with passers-by. We need to understand how vulnerable we are and how much we need each other in the web of life we are part of.
This crisis is not something in far away countries or in the distant future: the crisis is here, and it is affecting us now. The only practical way forward is to come together in humility, with all our differences, and build resilience. That goes for politicians too.
Some 60 election candidates support the Three Demands Bill, with numbers growing daily. Deputy leaders of Labour and the Liberal Democrats have spoken with us, and we had a one-hour meeting with the deputy leader and other senior members of the Green Party, but we are waiting to meet the party leaders. Plaid Cymru’s Adam Price is the first leader to have met with us to seriously discuss supporting the bill.
The Conservatives have not engaged at all during the 21 days we’ve been outside their headquarters. Grandfathers Peter, 76, and Marko, 67, are continuing their hunger strike into the fourth week and until the election outside Tory party headquarters and continue to invite Boris Johnson to come and speak to them.
Urgent action is needed now.
We are voting this week and we desperately need politicians to use the power they hold to mitigate against the worst crisis humanity has ever faced, right now. This is not just another election. It is THE climate election.
Petra Metzger is an Extinction Rebellion activist and a lecturer in art and design at Central St Martins