Slowing Down for the Climate

Yesterday, I participated in my second Fast for the Climate. (You can read about my first fast here.) I cannot say I find fasting for a day easy, but I certainly do find it both worthwhile and transformative.

I followed other fasters on Twitter yesterday, using the hashtag #fastfortheclimate, and noticed a couple of haters. Perhaps because the first of the month fell on a Saturday, when fewer people post on social media (they post during the week, bored at work), I simply didn’t notice these detractors last month. Or perhaps the movement has grown large enough to attract the attention of climate change deniers.

One guy tweeted that fasting for the climate is “meaningless” and “silly.” I would wager a large wad of cash that he has never fasted for any reason. Sure, my own individual fast will neither substantially cut carbon emissions today nor eliminate them by 2100, both of which the latest report from the UN’s IPCC says we must do in order to stop the severe impacts of climate change. But I didn’t fast alone. Thousands of us around the world participated. Fasting makes a statement and that statement gets louder each month as more people join in: We demand of our leaders action on climate change now.

Even if I had fasted alone, I find this practice anything but meaningless or silly. As a lapsed Catholic, I’m not religious, but I do believe in the power of meditation to calm the mind. Fasting for me is meditation on steroids.

I had a lot to do yesterday: sewing; creating a menu for a zero-waste event; figuring out what cups, glasses and cutlery to rent for it; responding to comments on my blog and catching up on reading blogs (sorry I’m so slow); tending to a sick child while avoiding getting sick myself (the fermented foods I eat daily, which help keep me healthy, were off limits, even a drink like beet kvass—I almost had some, but found a cold drink unappealing); plus the usual weekend chores like laundry.

Often my staggeringly long to-do list paralyzes me. But while fasting, my body goes into power-saving mode and turns off the noise that all too often infiltrates my brain. I can focus on the task at hand, while remaining unusually calm, rather than feeling the weight of the entire list as I scramble trying to complete it. I didn’t cross every last item off of it and it didn’t matter.

cloth napkins
I cut about 90, finished about 25

I also find sewing and knitting very meditative (and cooking) and spent most of the day cutting squares for napkins and finishing them with a rolled hem on my serger.

todd's recitalNext week, my incredibly talented friend Todd will give a piano recital and he asked me to provide refreshments—thus, the cloth napkins for serving my zero-waste homemade goodies (shortbread; flourless black bean brownies; and chocolate chip cookies).

fasting reads
Please read these

While sewing, reflecting and feeling hungry, I kept coming back to one idea: slow down. How much more I appreciate my life when I slow down. This thought reminded me of a passage I had read in Don’t Even Think About It, by George Marshall:

“By all indices, happiness in developed nations peaked in the early 1970s, when Americans drove 60 percent less and flew 80 percent less. Was it so bad? The really important things: family, friends, community, faith, joy, excitement, laughter, passion, and beauty, could, if anything, be enhanced in a low-carbon society.” (page 93)

I set the sewing aside for the day and read about climate change for a couple of hours (it seemed apt). Both Marshall—and Naomi Klein, in This Changes Everythingargue that addressing climate change presents the opportunity to build a more just and equitable society. Slowing down plays a role in this future world.

Like last month, the morning after I felt quite weak yet extremely grateful for food. And like last month, I fantasized the night before about how I would break the fast. Before I went to bed, I set out two persimmons—one Hachiya and one Fuyu. As I ate the perfectly mushy Hachiya this morning (do not eat Hachiyas until they have reached peak mushiness), it dawned on me that this was the first Hachiya I had eaten this season. I was thrilled. I don’t know that I have ever given so much thought to a piece of fruit. I felt so grateful.

I may be silly for a number of reasons. Fasting isn’t one of them.

16 Comment

  1. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head: slowing down is the key to addressing a lot of the environmental, social and economic issues that are leading to climate change and other forms of environmental and social harm. All of yesterday I couldn’t shake the certainty that life is so much simpler, meaningful and beautiful when our most of our attention is devoted to the things that sustain life: food and drink, warmth and love of our ‘family’ (however we define that)

    1. Well said. Thank you and I completely agree 🙂

    1. Thank you 🙂 As I folded some clean ones last night that I made, oh maybe seven years ago, I noticed the rolled hem still looks great. They work well and I haven’t bought paper napkins in years.

      1. I getting pretty tired of buying paper napkins. I should just start using my cloth napkins, not only is it better for the environment but my budget would benefit as well. You always inspire me!

      2. Thank you. That’s so nice to hear 🙂 I’ve probably saved quite a bit of money over the years with these reusable ones.

  2. Ahhhhhh, slow. My shoulders relax just reading the word. I agree, completely. Where is everybody rushing to and through, anyway?

  3. So encouraged to know that I’m not alone in finding fasting from the “noise” difficult! Great post!

    1. Thank you 🙂 I find meditation really helps to cut out the noise. My biggest problem is taking the time to sit down and actually do it.

  4. I agree with you about the importance of meditation/mindfulness in everyday life. Fasting can be a great way to remind oneself how lucky we are to have what we have. It can also be a different kind of fast–giving up anything we’re used to having makes us appreciate it so much more! PS, thanks for the reading tips!

    1. Thank you! I used to meditate every morning, but fell off the meditation bench. I hope to incorporate that back into my routine. But the effects of the fast are pretty long lasting. While fasting and for at least a couple of days after, I feel incredibly grateful for everything I have. I find it a very profound experience and look forward to it even though I find it quite difficult.

      The books are great! I have written all over them (in pencil).

      1. It is one of the pleasures of owning real books. You can do whatever you want with them!!! 🙂

      2. Almost everyone I know owns an e-reader but I refuse to give up my real books. I’m practically a luddite.

  5. Sounds like a very productive fast! I have never been able to fast from all food for a whole day, except with illnesses that prevent keeping food down–I have a very rapid metabolism and become absolutely useless and miserable when I get too hungry, without even a moment of the clear-headedness you describe–but I have fasted from specific types of food and from many other things. You might appreciate my article about fasting from environmentally-damaging habits.

    1. Not everyone can do it. For most of the day, I find the psychology of knowing I won’t eat more difficult than not eating. I just realized that December 1st is in a few days, so I’ll do this again.

      I checked out your article. You have some fantastic ideas there. Thanks for the link to it 🙂

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