Eighteen months ago, then Philippines Climate Commissioner Naderev ‘Yeb’ Saño did something extraordinary. When he addressed the opening of the Warsaw climate talks just after Typhoon Haiyan struck his hometown, he spoke truth to power, calling on his fellow climate negotiators to stop the madness of climate disaster – and announcing that he would Fast until he saw real progress or the Warsaw talks ended.
While the people of his hometown, Tacloban, could not eat, their representative would not eat. Over the next few days, more and more people pinned red dots of solidarity to their shirts and joined Yeb in fasting for the climate. Within a few days, 500 or more people across the world fasted with Yeb.
Since Warsaw, a growing movement has fasted in solidarity with climate vulnerable peoples worldwide on the first day of every month. Six months into 2014, we had 5000 people fasting with us. Then, one year after Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, Yeb led a 1,000 km Climate Walk from Manila to Tacloban. When the Lima talks began on 1 December 2014, over 10,000 people fasted for a just transition to a safe climate future.
Now, Yeb’s kicking it up another notch. Today, we stand in solidarity with Yeb as he fasts for the climate again. But today, he fasts as a man of the people, not any government. He has left diplomacy to join civil society, taking a key role at OurVoices – and leading not a Climate Walk, but a worldwide pilgrimage.
Today, I wish to announce that I am stepping down as a Commissioner of the Philippines’ Climate Change Commission. I will be working with different faith groups across the world, as part of the larger global climate movement.
As we celebrate Earth Day, I am filled with gladness and hope as I join OurVoices as Leader of The People’s Pilgrimage. OurVoices is the global, multi-faith climate campaign created in recognition of the moral urgency of the climate crisis and it is a direct response to the clamor for support for climate action from the world’s religions and faith communities. OurVoices is a movement that emerged from among people of diverse spiritualities and faiths from around the world, united by our concern around climate change’s impact on vulnerable communities, our children, and our precious planet.
Photo credit Sean Hawkey.