by MARTIN De JONG
Climate activists fasting outside Parliament in Wellington have been hosted for the last two months at Viard House, the residence of Cardinal John Dew and Fr David Dowling, parish priest of the Wellington Cathedral Parish.
Under the banner of “E Tū for our Future/Stand up for our Future”, initiated by David Goldsmith of Christchurch, a series of hunger strikers have been holding vigil outside Parliament since July 5, to draw attention to the climate and ecological crisis. The activists say current solutions offered by government fall drastically short of what is required by the science: complete societal transformation, in a fair and just way, is needed within ten years to avoid the worst impacts of the climate emergency.
Mr Goldsmith began his three-week fast on water (supplemented by electrolytes and a light broth at the end of the day) on July 12. He has been inspired by three people – Mahatma Gandhi, who used fasting to draw attention to injustice; Swedish climate protestor Greta Thunberg; and Ollie Langridge, who stood outside Parliament for more than 100 days last year calling for a “climate emergency” to be declared. (That protest morphed into “Fridays for Future” vigils, which continue each Friday lunchtime outside Parliament).
Though Mr Goldsmith has been the key spokesperson, it has not been a solo journey. Friend and fellow activist Tim Musson journeyed with him from Christchurch (by bus and ferry), kept an eye on his health, and fasted himself for four days.
Robin Treadwell from Waiheke Island heard of Mr Goldsmith’s plan, and immediately felt drawn to support him. She picked up the fasting mantle from August 3, saying that “desperation” about slow, ineffective action had brought her to this point. “I am hoping that, by making myself vulnerable in doing the hunger strike, I could draw attention to the vulnerability of the life support systems. I fear for the future of my grandchildren, their peers, and all [that] other species will inherit from us.”
Sue Boyde from Paraparaumu, north of Wellington, heard of Mr Goldsmith’s action and wanted to support him “as a guest in our town”. She followed Robin in fasting from August 13. They planned to continue as long as the Covid-19 situation allowed.
The idea emerged at a meeting of climate activists in Christchurch in the middle of last year. Someone said “hunger strike”, and it grabbed Mr Goldsmith’s attention. “I was actually consumed by it,” he said.
He immediately started planning towards a hunger strike at Parliament. The mother of a Christchurch friend put them in touch with Viard House, where parish priest Fr Dowling and Cardinal Dew have provided accommodation, cooking and cleaning facilities, and a space for meetings.
Fr Dowling said he was impressed by the commitment and example of Mr Goldsmith and his supporters. “They are motivated by deep concern for those who come after us and care for the environment. They are in tune with the thinking of Pope Francis in Laudato Si’ by reminding us that the climate is a common good, which belongs to all and is meant for all.”
Mr Goldsmith was grateful for the support. “It’s just over the road [from Parliament]. It couldn’t be more convenient. The accommodation has been wonderful.”
Climate change had concerned him for years. While trying to live simply in his personal life, he felt something more needed to be done. He had full support from his partner Julie, with whom he has a deep harmony on trying to live ethically. “She’s just 100 per cent on board with me being here, and I don’t think I would be up here without that,” he told NZ Catholic.
His four–year–old daughter Hana is also a deep motivator.
“We all struggle with denial, because the issue is so huge. It’s not just science denial, it’s thinking magically about how we might be able to get a solution. There’s also this emotional denial, which is what I’ve struggled with . . . . My daughter Hana has been a catalyst for that starting to break open, because [the emotional denial] is a block to doing something, and it’s a block to feeling my love. If fear and grief is all frozen up, also my love is all frozen up. With Hana, I can’t hold my love back. It just pours out of me, and then: what is the future for Hana?”
Mr Goldsmith continues his action for the climate through vigils in Christchurch, while the climate vigil and fast continues at Parliament – at least to the election – through a range of supporters. Visit http://etu4future.nz/ for a regular blog post on the group’s Parliamentary encounters, and supporting material.