Why would anyone voluntarily decide to live on water only for 18 days? Why, while not eating, would anyone agree to sleeping on the floor of a church often getting dizzy as you try with great effort to stand; get up at 5:30 AM each day; use 4 flights of stairs for a sponge bath (no showers available); walk 12 blocks, stand passing out literature related to your cause or sit on a noisy street for about 11 hours a day, just being? Wonderful odors drifting up the street from the food trucks, beautiful displays of fresh fruits along the walk and trips to the bathroom often in food courts only add to your discomfort. Indeed, why?
Our group of 12 set out on this journey (fasting) to try to get the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to pay attention to citizens’ very serious concerns in relationship to pipelines and other noxious fossil fuel infrastructures for which FERC grants permits. FERC gets its money from the fossil fuel industry through the permitting process and just rubber-stamps anything the industry wants to do. We have tried to meet with FERC officials on various occasions, tried civil disobedience with arrests and now a hunger strike.
Some of our neighbors to the south (Highland, Augusta and Nelson Counties) seek to be heard concerning a pipeline that is being jammed down their throats. Eminent domain, which is supposed to be for the public good, is being used for private gain to take their land and place dangerous infrastructures near their homes, schools and communities. Pristine public land will also be destroyed. The same thing is happening across the country, from Cove Point, MD to Jordan Cove, Oregon. In fact, in Oregon, it is for foreign private gain. It is estimated that over 4000 miles of new pipelines, related to fracking in Pennsylvania alone have been proposed.
Personally, the fast with its daily challenges helped me to understand better those poignant pictures of children, mere skin and bones because they lack food. Of course my situation was quite different because I had an end date. I had clean water to help sustain me, which much of the world does not have. Fasting also deepened my awareness of those whose homes and communities are threatened by fossil fuel infrastructures. Imagine yourself in a similar situation. What if such a structure ran close to a school in Harrisonburg? You would not feel good about yourself knowing that you are part of the problem.
Put yourself in the shoes of future generations. What will they say about us when their world is falling apart because we were unwilling to make changes to protect them, when the chemistry and physics of climate change is so clearly understood? Denial is no longer an excuse. We need to act now to put a price on carbon and stop digging a deeper hole that our grandchildren may not be able to get out of.
This fast was timed to coincide with Pope Francis’ speech to Congress, with its emphasis on the need for a moral commitment to creation care. “I call for a courageous and responsible effort to redirect our steps, and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity.”I am not Catholic, but I can really appreciate a person of his stature who walks the walk for humanity and climate justice.
Attempts were made to get Senators Kaine and Warner and Representative Goodlatte or staff person to visit the fast site and discuss our grievances with FERC. No one could make it. Please stress to our elected officials that time to act is growing short. It is my hope and prayer that each reader will use their power as a voter to elect and support candidates who recognize the gravity of this issue in our time. We need to push our elected officials to make the necessary difficult choices. We can do this with a little empathy and will power. There is no plan(et) B.
Charles Strickler DDS
Harrisonburg VA 22801
I tried to get this published in the Daily News-Record within a week of the fast. After 2 weeks with no reply, I called and they said there “was no context” and would not print it. I then sent it to Staunton News Leader and after a week or so they said “not before the elections if at all.” – Charlie, November 7, 2015