Contributed by Kris Parsons, Gaby Deimeke, Jon Strauser and Katie Maxwell
Thousands of people are dead and more are suffering in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan. Our friends from University of Missouri-Columbia and Washington University are in Poland, representing U.S. youth at the United Nations. And here at Webster, we are fasting.
We are fasting for a week in solidarity with the people of the Philippines, and with Naderev ‘Yeb’ Saño, lead negotiator of the Philippine delegation to the United Nations Climate Change Conference. We do not accept the lack of action from world leaders on this issue, and we are fasting for a real, effective agreement to fight climate change.
A red dot is a symbol of a person fasting in solidarity. We choose to wear the red dot not to attract attention to ourselves, but to draw a direct line between world leaders lack of action at COP19 — the U.N. Conference on Climate, and the devastation in the Philippines among other places.
As of Monday morning, the Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported 3,976 have been confirmed dead, 1,598 are missing and 18,175 have been injured. Aid groups are struggling to reach affected communities, and many of the survivors are suffering because they lack food, water and medical attention. What can the Webster University community do right now? We can donate, petition, fast in solidarity and educate ourselves.
First and foremost, please donate to organizations like the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders. If you don’t have $10 or $20 to spare, we ask that you join us in a 24-hour solidarity fast this Friday and donate the money you would have otherwise spent on meals. Webster Students for Environmental Sustainability will also be taking orders for Solidarity with the Philippines t-shirts. All proceeds will go to the Red Cross.
We also ask that you take the time to make your voice heard. Yeb Saño has created a petition on Avaaz.org titled “Stand With the Philippines” asking for a real climate agreement and he will deliver the signatures directly to U.N. delegates. We also recognize the United States is one of the biggest polluters and so we demand the Environmental Protection Agency #ActOnClimate and approve stricter carbon emission regulations. The petition is on the Sierra Club website and is titled “Fight back against climate-destroying pollution.”
Finally, we ask that you educate yourself on global climate change and environmental justice. Please join us on Friday from 12 p.m. – 1 p.m. in Sunnen Lounge for peer-to-peer education on Typhoon Haiyan, climate change and what we can do together.
Typhoon Haiyan was one of the most intense storms in recorded history. The connection? Typhoons are strengthened by the difference in temperature between warm seas and cool air. Carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels have warmed the seas and our planet. October marked the 344th consecutive month the Earth had an above-average global temperature, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Warmer temperatures lead to stronger, more intense super storms.
The stories of loss and the scenes of absolute destruction are heartbreaking and, unfortunately, becoming too common. When our friends, fellow college climate activists, representing U.S. youth at the U.N. conference in Poland, alerted us to Saño’s speech and his call for action, we wanted nothing more than to support him and the Filipino people in confronting this disaster. And more than that, we want a world without super storms. To get there, we need a real climate agreement, including funds for disaster relief, ambitious reduction of carbon emissions and other commitments as articulated by Yeb Sano in his speech to the U.N. This is COP19 — the 19th time countries have met to attempt to respond to climate change — and we are still waiting for our leaders to have the political will to take action.
Typhoon Haiyan was not a “natural” disaster. Super storms like this are strengthened by our collective inaction. Why do we continue on this path? It is incredibly saddening to know that people are dying and nations could do something to make a difference, but simply aren’t. Why aren’t we all banging down doors of the White House, telling our President enough people have died?
As historian Howard Zinn said, “You can’t be neutral on a moving train.” It’s hard to look at the situation and not feel a level of complicity, a level of responsibility. The cars, clothes, computers, phones, food and other things that make up our lifestyles in the industrialized world all contribute to climate change.
We have a choice to make: we can continue to live our lives without paying attention to the suffering of others, or we can summon the strength to act.
We can educate ourselves, get inspired, raise awareness, change our habits, elect politicians who will #ActOnClimate, and work in solidarity with others to create real and lasting change.
Or we can do nothing and wait until the storms, the droughts, the fires and the floods come to us.