Support for Yeb Sano's hunger strike snowballs

Posted at 11/20/2013 1:01 PM | Updated as of 11/20/2013 7:11 PM

WARSAW -- Support for Philippine climate negotiator Yeb Saño’s hunger strike has snowballed, with individuals and organizations joining him in his fast to push for a meaningful and just outcome at the United Nations climate talks in Warsaw.

Also on Tuesday, Sano posted an online petition at the website Avaaz to gather signatures from people around the world.

“So I’ve taken a rare step as a public servant -- I’ve gone beyond the usual conventions to start an Avaaz petition. I’m appealing to Avaaz members to stand in solidarity with the people of the Philippines and all victims of climate change worldwide. Together our voices can push the governments meeting at the UN climate summit happening now to ratchet up pollution controls and help poorer communities with funding,” Sano said.

The goal is to reach 1 million signatures that will be given to the negotiators at the international climate talks.

So far, Sano’s petition has gathered support from major environmental organizations such as MoveOn and Friends of the Earth. As of Tuesday evening, it has gathered 650,000 signatures.

Climate activists are pushing for greater reduction in carbon emissions, as well as funds for countries vulnerable to dangerous climate change impacts.

While Saño’s fast is a personal choice, it has become an act of civil disobedience from members of environmental organizations who have joined him.

Saño’s supporters hope that their civil disobedience would draw attention to the suffering of countries at the mercy of climate change.

An interfaith group in Warsaw composed of Methodists, Jewish Orthodox, Lutherans, Hindus, Buddhists and Muslim environmentalists also went on a fast with Saño, saying the act has a strong spiritual meaning for them as it brings them close to their God.

“As we engage in COP19, it reminds us to relate the negotiations with our responsibility as a believer. We cannot live in isolation, but we must care for each other. As a principle of equity, we fast and reduce because we can for others who can not,” the inter-religious group said in a statement.

American students from the Sierra Club, European activists and officials of major environmental groups like the Climate Action Network International have also joined Saño in solidarity.

Wael Hmaidan, president of Climate Action Network, a consortium of environmental organizations, joined Saño in his hunger strike, saying it should put pressure on politicians who negotiate toward the climate deal.

Anna Finke, a German student and an intern from the Center for International Forestry Research who joined the fast for four days, said Saño’s speech at the opening of the COP was deeply moving.

“I actually joined 24 hours later when I noticed that I wasn’t the only one playing with the thought of joining him to show my support,” she said.

Finke, who have made a Facebook page on the climate fasting with her friends, said the leaders at the COP should strive to find a solution to the climate crisis.

“I have to admit ever since RIO +20 I somewhat gave up on the hope of them finding a solution. But the point is: Can we give up? Can we condemn millions, even billions of people not even born to deal with stuff we caused? Is it a legitimate excuse to say 'I’m no policy maker' to not take action? I wanted to contribute to this matter in whatever way I can,” she added.

Sierra Club delegate Ashok Chandwaney said in the group’s blog: "Yeb Saño inspires us to act; we fast in solidarity with him, because that's what we can do. We ask those who make decisions about climate -- here at COP 19, back at the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), and around the world -- to listen to him, summon their courage, and dial up their ambition for the work we must do."