Save the Earth: By Fasting
By Deepa Kandaswamy**
July 24, 2005
Hunger strikes are a form of resistance popularized by Mahatma Gandhi
Fasting is not a new concept to people in developing countries or to Islam. Food fasting is a common practice in our cultures, as a part of religious practices. There is Ramadan which requires a month of day-time fasting; fasting being one of the five pillars of Islam. Other religions that inculcate fasting in their ritual practices are Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism (during Yom Kippur), Confucianism, Jainism, and Christianity (before Easter).
Apart from fasting as a form of religious observance, it is also practiced as a form of civil disobedience. Hunger strikes, for example, are a form of resistance popularized by Mahatma Gandhi. This practice is common in India, where workers irrespective of religion would go on a fast in front of their workplaces to either protest unjust practices of their employer/government or some other demand-like action against injustice. They fast until their demands are met and at times declare a fast unto death. Fasting is used as a political weapon the world over by people to protest against the injustices practiced by their governments. From political prisoners in America to Asian immigrants who have been incarcerated in Australia, fasting has proved to be a powerful tool to send out a message.
In some countries, some people go on a silence fast, when the person doesn’t talk for a day or a few days. It is called by different names in different countries of the south. In the Indian subcontinent, it is called “mouna virath” where mouna means silence and virath means fast. Some health resorts require all its members to go on silence fasts during the period of stay in the resort. While it has not been scientifically proven that this actually has health benefits for the person, it requires great effort and discipline on the part of the person participating in the silence fast, for not even a grunt or a groan is allowed. Silence fasts helps in inculcating discipline in humans and most martial arts schools use them in training.
But an energy fast?
According to the World Watch Institute and the Rainforest Conservation Fund, here are a few earth facts:
*Almost two acres of rainforest disappear every second. With shrinking rainforests, thousands of species which inhabit the rainforests, such as the gliding tree frog and the colorful macaw, have made the endangered species list.
*Smog and increasing pollution is choking our cities with more people falling ill as a result and developing higher health bills.
*Drastic population increases have necessitated burning of carbon-based fuel, like coal and oil, for power production. As a result, the carbon locked in millions of years worth of ancient plant growth was released into the air, laying a heat-retaining blanket of carbon dioxide over the planet. Earth's temperature has increased significantly, just as climate scientists had predicted 30 years ago. And annual damages from weather disasters have increased over 40-fold.
* Our consumption of chemicals has exploded, with about three new synthetic chemicals introduced each day. Almost nothing is known about the long-term health and environmental effects of new synthetics, so we have been ensnared again and again by belated discoveries. As pesticide use has increased, so has the evolution of pesticide-resistant pests.
* The increase in the human population in the past 30 years is equal to that of the past 100,000 years! This extreme increase in the number of people and the pressures to accommodate the human population has had a direct effect on the amount of land used by each person, either directly or through economic demand. As a result of this expansion, incursions of human activity into agricultural and forested lands have accelerated.
*Our oceans and sea life are in trouble and we need to do something about it. The global economy has more than doubled in the past 30 years, putting pressure on most countries to increase export income. Many have tried to increase revenues by selling more ocean fish, for which there is growing demand, since the increase in crop yields no longer keeps pace with population growth. Result: over-fishing is decimating one stock after another and the catch is getting thinner and thinner.
Fast Or Buy?
Can you go without man-made energy for a day?
Energy fasts are pretty much the same as food fasts, except you go completely without man-made energy for a day. It would be easier to observe this in the developing and underdeveloped countries if we pretend we are in the midst of a power cut and a petrol pump strike for an entire day.
But why energy fast instead of fasting from a natural resource like water, for example? This is because after population pressures, human energy use is the second link in the chain of environmental destruction. All human beings need energy; for warmth, for cooking food, and in the developing and developed countries for our manufactured goods, transportation and communication. Evidently the locating, refining, production, and distribution of consumer-ready power itself require energy.
But why is this important? Because every time we use energy, there are costs to nature.
The late David Brower, founder of Earth Island Institute who is considered by many to be the dean of the world environment movement, said in 2000, “Many environmentalists hail new efficient and ‘green’ energy sources, while forgetting that our greatest untapped source of energy is still the energy we can conserve by not using so much of it. Earth Day Energy Fast is the kind of idea that we need right now to put ‘conservation’ back in the conservation movement. To all those who are concerned about climate change, air pollution, species extinction, and the other costs to the earth of making energy, it's time to take action. Give the Earth a break it can feel by going on an Earth Day Energy Fast.”
So instead of just buying energy efficient gadgets, which is important but also easy, try going on an energy fast. Better still, try to combine your food fast with your energy fast, which is comparatively easier. Depending on the climatic conditions of each country, one can observe it in spring, winter, summer or fall. Go on an energy fast for one day. Get your community involved.
The Green Ribbon Pledge
The green ribbon stands not only for environmental awareness but also means the person wearing it has taken the pledge to conserve
While the red ribbon stands for AIDS awareness, the pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness, the green ribbon stands not only for environmental awareness but also means the person wearing it has taken the pledge to conserve. Join people worldwide who have taken the green ribbon pledge to conserve energy for a secure future. There are hundreds of things you can do every day to reduce energy consumption. The result will be that you’ve saved energy and money, increased our national security, improved our air and water quality, lessened threats posed by global warming, and benefited the health of all humans. Here are a few suggestions from the Green Ribbon Pledge:
LIGHTS & COMPUTERS: Turn off lights in unoccupied rooms; turn off appliances and computers when not in use.
LIGHT BULBS: Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs.
FULL LOADS: Wash only full loads in dish washers and washing machines.
WINDOW SHADES: Keep drapes and shades closed at night in winter (to keep heat in) and during the day in summer (to keep heat out).
HEATING & COOLING: Adjust home and office thermostats down at least one degree when heating and up at least one degree when cooling (adjust further when you are out).
WATER HEATING: Put an insulating blanket on your water heater (saves 540 kWh/year).
LOW-FLOW FAUCETS: Install faucet aerators and low-flow shower heads to reduce water use and energy used for water heating (saves up to 446 kWh/year).
HOT WATER PIPES: Insulate hot water pipes, especially at their outlets from hot water heaters (minimum savings of 340 kWh/year).
GREEN ENERGY: Purchase green energy from renewable energy sources where available (where not available, hook up with local groups and companies that supply green vehicles and spread awareness about it).
CARPOOL/PUBLIC TRANSIT: Take public transit or carpool to work, school, and events.
CAR CARE: Keep your car well tuned, tires inflated, and have regular oil changes.
If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a room with a mosquito – African proverb.
Cutting down energy use is the most important thing you can do to secure our and our children’s future from the negative effects of unreliable, unstable and environmentally damaging energy sources.
Find out how many barrels of oil or equivalent you have leaking out of your house, then see what you can do stop the spill.
Visit the Rainforest Site daily. With a simple click of the mouse, you can save endangered forestland -- for free -- every day. Just visit the website and click on the green button. In the past 5 years, people across the world have together managed to save 29,000 acres of endangered forest land and the species that inhabit it.
Take the green ribbon pledge and follow it. Be a part of the world movement and do what you can to conserve energy.
Find out the latest facts on how the environment is affected.
This is a worldwide environmental watchdog and pressure group that keeps tabs on the various companies that either misuse natural resources or do not conform to environmental standards in their products. Their recent campaign was to get compensation for affected villagers.
If you are a skeptical environmentalist or you are thinking to yourself that this is all very good to read but one person cannot make a difference, think again. There is an old African proverb, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a room with a mosquito.” Every small action of yours makes a difference in this big world of ours. If each of us does it, it will have an enormous global impact, for only tiny drops make up the ocean. So take the green ribbon pledge and act today.
**Deepa Kandaswamy is an award winning writer, political analyst and engineer based in India. Her articles have been published in six continents and some of her writing credits include ABC News, Ms., Truth Out, Data Quest and Middle East Policy. She is the founder–moderator of the International Gender Lobby which is a global networking platform for individuals, organizations and activists who are interested in working for human rights, peace and development worldwide.