Paul Connor

Paul Connor, hunger-striker Fasting for a fair go

Paul Connor, hunger-striker
Fasting for a fair go

To encourage conversations in the lead up to COP21 – the United Nations climate negotiations being held in Paris from 30 November to 11 December 2015 – Allen & Unwin has kindly granted permission for the release of a french translation of this Chapitre 8.

Paul Connor and other fasters went to extreme lengths to raise awareness about the vulnerability of the world’s poorest people to climate change. They put their own health at risk. This is not recommended. Think about their point of view but do not copy them.

ON 18 DECEMBER 2009 Paul Connor was preparing to eat again. It was 43 days – almost a month and a half – since he had last had a meal, or taken any nourishment other than water. Settled in a marquee on the lawns of Australia’s Parliament House in Canberra, Paul had been on a hunger strike to show his disgust over Australia’s heartless response to the plight of millions of the world’s poorest people – those who already were being affected by climate change. Paul was not alone in this. On the other side of the globe, as world leaders ended the Copenhagen world summit on climate change, fellow Australian Anna Keenan, 24, and Swede Sara Svensson, 22, were also preparing to eat after 43 days with no food. Around 10 000 other people (including former President of Ireland Mary Robinson and internationally known activists Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein and Vandana Shiva) had joined the last day of the international Climate Justice Fast! to show solidarity.

Paul had suggested a fast to his housemate not long before Victoria’s record-smashing heatwave of 2009 and the terrifying Black Saturday fires. He says:

One evening, while I was patrolling the hotel where I was working as a security guard, I couldn’t stop thinking about how it was too easy for those in power to ignore traditional methods of protest, such as marches and petitions. I figured that only an attention-grabbing public gesture like a hunger strike could express the depth of my feelings or achieve any shift in our pathetic climate policies and I wanted to have a serious crack at changing the way people think about the issue. So I decided to take up the hunger strike challenge myself.

Fasting is not a new form of political action. Over 100 years ago, suffragettes in England refused food as a protest against women’s status. Mahatma Gandhi used it in India.

Waking up to injustice

It was Paul’s housemate who alerted him to the ‘truly diabolical reality of the climate crisis’ by making him watch Crude Impact, a documentary about fossil fuels and ‘peak oil’. Seeing how the crisis would affect poorer countries reinforced Paul’s concerns about global injustice. He says:

I had visited poor countries in Africa and Asia, and seen first-hand the ways in which the global economy was advancing wealthy nations while reinforcing poverty in poor ones, as well as how vulnerable poor communities are to changes in rainfall and weather patterns. To me, by every measure the massive divide between rich and poor is unjust, and entirely unacceptable.

Paul recommends to learn more about the consequences of climate change.

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