Williams College Joins Worldwide Climate Hunger Strike

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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. - Students at Williams College are teaming up with people the world over in a global hunger strike described as “a moral reaction to an immoral situation.” The international Climate Justice Fast has been gaining momentum and attracting a growing number of participants as heads of state prepare for the Copenhagen climate talks.

The international fast is set to begin on November 6, the conclusion of the Barcelona climate talks,  and will continue throughout the December climate conference in Copenhagen, where world leaders from 192 countries, including the US, will come together with the goal of making a climate agreement for the future. The climate justice fast is aimed at drawing attention to the injustice of world leaders’ lack of committed, effective action in tackling climate change, and amplifying public pressure for an appropriate response.

Climate Justice Fast members will be publicly fasting in Copenhagen throughout the climate conference, while other individuals and groups will stage solidarity fasts in Australia, the US, UK and other countries. Anna Keenan, an Australian and key organizer of the campaign, said that there is no set duration for the fasts. “The only thing we can guarantee is that we will stop fasting if we see justice from our leaders.”

Calling  the fast a “stand for justice”, Paul Connor, a student from Australia and another organizer of the fast, explained that the group action would call on world leaders, and in particular those from the USA, Canada, Australia and the UK, to:

• Commit to stabilizing atmospheric greenhouse gasses at below 350ppm
• Ensure the provision of at least $160bn per year to developing countries to aid them in mitigating and adapting to climate change.

Many Williams students have expressed enthusiasm in response to the Thursday Night Group's adoption of a solidarity campaign alongside the climate justice fast in Copenhagen. Some students have studied abroad in areas that are experiencing a far more intense impact to current climate changes, such as Jen Rowe '11, a student who studied in the Indian Himalaya. "The families I lived and worked with this summer suffered through a weak monsoon, which wreaked havoc on their crops. Although most people didn't know what climate change is, everyone could tell that the monsoon isn't what it used to be each and that their streams are drying up. It is unfair that these people who are the least to blame for climate change are the ones experiencing the brunt of the impact."

Other students are excited to see a binding climate treaty take place at Copenhagen, and are disappointed that Obama has yet to follow up on his promises to mitigate global warming by committing to attend the negotiations.

"I worked this summer on getting a U.S. climate/energy policy passed in time for the Copenhagen negotiations, and I feel that by dragging its feet on addressing the international problem of climate changes, the United States has been a poor world leader on an issue that will affect millions," says Sasha Macko '11, "Climate change is an urgent issue, and if Ghandian tactics are what will work, let's fast in solidarity and call on our leaders to take swift action on our behalf."

Ms. Macko and Ms. Rowe, along with other students in Thursday Night Group, Williams's environmental organization, have coordinated a rolling or relay fast, with a different student or professor undertaking a day long solidarity fast for each of the 42+ days of the fast. Participants will wear t-shirts indicating their involvement and students' meal points will be donated to support the long-term fasters.

The fast is receiving strong support from Williams's Center for Community Engagement, led by coordinator Stewart Burns. Burns, as an accomplished historian of social movements, has helped students learn from the successes and failures of past campaigns. He is also bringing his friend, Randy Kehler, an accomplished veteran of social movements, to speak at Williams on November 30th.

Williams is part of a growing international cause. “So far the global response has been inspiring,” said Ms Keenan, noting that already, over 80 people from the US, the UK, India, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Belgium, Honduras, Bhutan, New Zealand, and the Philippines had joined the action.

This is unsurprising because, as Ms. Keenan points out, “Our governments' inaction on climate could well go down as the greatest crime against humanity in history, allowing the world’s most vulnerable people, and even our very own children, to suffer at the hands of an irreversible catastrophe they played no part in causing."

“By resorting to fasting, we are sending not only an alarm, but expressing hope and belief in the innate sense of right and wrong within every person,” she said.

“And I believe that we will. There is simply too much good, and too many good people in this world to allow the injustice of climate change to occur,” she said.
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Education Commissioner Pushed for Plan He Now Says Superintendents Favor

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The commonwealth's commissioner of education may be overselling the grassroots desire to return to in-person instruction in comments he made earlier this week.
 
On Tuesday, Commissioner Jeffrey Riley told the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce that a "vast majority" of Massachusetts school superintendents favor hybrid or in-person models of instruction.
 
The remark was reported by the State House News Service consortium and Commonwealth Magazine, a Boston-based non-profit.
 
Riley appeared to be basing that comment on the initial plans districts were required to submit to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
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