The Sunrise Climate Activists Are Going on Hunger Strike

Girma has been preparing himself for the strike by gradually reducing his caloric intake in the lead-up to the water-only fast. “The effects on the body start pretty immediately,” he said. “In two to three days, you experience muscle loss and mental health risks like apathy and depression. As the weeks go on, there’s the possibility of organ failure and cardiovascular issues. Right now, where we are is: This is indefinite.”

From political prisoners to suffragettes to activists in anticolonial struggles, hunger strikers have a long legacy in social movements that Girma has been acquainting himself with over the last several days. Just last month, German climate activists ended a weeks-long hunger strike. After two weeks, one of the participants was hospitalized before being returned to the encampment in Berlin. The group demanded meetings with German party leaders in the lead-up to federal elections there, which candidates only agreed to take after voters had already gone to the polls and on condition the meetings be held behind closed doors.

Sunrisers are hoping for a better result. Progressive nonprofits and activist groups, many of whom have enjoyed an unusual level of rapport with senior White House staff, met over the weekend to discuss possible paths forward. While they aren’t giving up on the CEPP, different organizations are also exploring possibilities for redistributing funds to beef up different climate-related line items, like clean energy tax credits and building electrification. They’re also looking for other ways to target power sector emissions, in particular. That could include a program incentivizing state-level clean energy standards and deployment with federal funds. Groups including Sunrise and Friends of the Earth also want to ensure that the CEPP program, if it survives in the bill, isn’t amended to define gas and certain kinds of coal generation as clean. Maunus and others are skeptical that a carbon tax, which outlets have reported Democratic leaders may be considering to replace CEPP, could be a “silver bullet solution” for the power sector emissions the CEPP seeks to curb; Manchin himself struck down the proposed trade-off Tuesday morning. U.S. power sector emissions are responsible for just under 3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions per year.

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