Between the Lines Q&A

A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release Dec. 16, 2009

Home | Broadcast-Quality MP3s | Archives | Search BTL Archives
About | Broadcast Schedule | | Squeaky Wheel Productions

Climate Justice Activists on Water-Only Fast
in Copenhagen; Protest Inaction on Global Warming

 RealAudio  MP3

Interview with Anna Keenan,
24-year-old activist from Queensland, Australia,
conducted by Melinda Tuhus


Thousands of climate activists have descended on Copenhagen, Denmark for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, where delegates from more than 190 nations are negotiating a treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. One hundred ten heads of state are expected to arrive in the final days of the UN conference, with the goal of overcoming major differences between industrialized nations and developing countries that are pressuring wealthy governments to pledge more funds to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Among the thousands in Copenhagen are eight individuals who began a water-only fast on Nov. 6 in an effort to pressure world leaders to take the steps necessary to combat devastating climate change. They are calling their action Climate Justice Fast, and have been joined by others around the world who opted to fast either long-term, or for short-term in solidarity.

Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus spoke with one of those fasting in Copenhagen -- Anna Keenan, a 24-year-old activist from Queensland, Australia. She participated with an estimated 100,000 activists in a spirited march and rally on Dec. 12 to support the demands of the most threatened nations for immediate and far-reaching action. Keenan and the other long-term fasters are under medical supervision and taking salt supplements to protect their health, but no food or liquid, aside from water. Keenen explains why she decided to engage in the fast and what she believes is the necessary outcome of the UN climate talks.

ANNA KEENAN: I've taken on this hunger strike of over 40 days because I think it's the only form of action that we have left available to us. I've been a climate activist for many years. I've taken so many different forms of activism that it's not funny. I don't see politics changing as a result of most of it, though. I've given presentations in high schools about climate science, I've sat on government advisory boards and written government advisory papers; I've worked with professional NGOs and been arrested in civil disobedience on top of coal trains. Despite all these different forms of activism going on, I don't see politics changing fast enough.

So I wanted to do the most that I as an individual could do and to really demonstrate the dedication and the willingness to change that there is in the world. People have contacted us and said, 'You guys are making me reconsider the purpose of my life, and the direction of my life.' The reason that myself and Sara and others like Paul Connor in Australia are doing this is because we want to demonstrate that we're committed to the climate change movement with our lives and it's what we want to do with our lives, to work until climate change is solved. And so people all around the world are contacting us and saying, 'We agree with you and we want to join the climate movement.'

BETWEEN THE LINES: Anna Keenan, are there specific things you're calling for? I know the small island nations are calling for a rise of no more than 1.5 degrees C, rather than 2 degrees, or they'll all be underwater. And there are different demands for payments from the rich countries to the poor countries, and those commitments are nowhere near what's needed. So what do you think?

ANNA KEENAN: We stand in absolute solidarity with the poorest and most vulnerable countries on the planet. We support 100 percent the position of the small island nations in this. We think it's totally unacceptable for a single nation to go underwater for a problem they did not cause, and we think the survival of entire nations is not negotiable. We can't just negotiate away the existence of the Maldives. So the Climate Justice Fast has agreed on a number of positions. Basically, it's called the Climate Justice Fast because we're calling for climate justice. And our definition of climate justice means that those people and those nations who have caused the problem need to change their practices so they're just and they're made right.

And that means we have to end the use of fossil fuels, which are causing climate change. We need to end deforestation and we also need to end the rampant over-consumption that there is in our developed Western societies. We need to shift our very modus operandi of increasing GDP and increasing consumption as being our only goal in life to instead having our goal as being sustainability across our societies. And in terms of the political asks, we need to also achieve justice. Those countries that have been done wrong against, we need to make things right for them. And so that means returning CO2 in the atmosphere to a safe level -- to below 350 ppm. And also repaying them for the damages they've suffered -- paying them $200 billion per year in adaptation and assistance so they can develop in a clean way without making the same fossil-fueled mistakes that our wealthy countries made in order to achieve our development. And that's quite simply what's due these countries.

BETWEEN THE LINES: You mentioned $200 billion, annually, right? That's what the countries are saying?

ANNA KEENAN: That figure is taken from the Climate Action Network, which is a coalition of 500 NGOs, and they're widely regarded as the most expert in policy matters.

BETWEEN THE LINES: What do you think about the job Obama's done so far on the climate issue?

ANNA KEENAN: He's going to come to COP 15, he's going to make a speech on climate change and outline his position. Basically, we need to make sure Obama is aleader on climate change, not just a follower. He's got all this inspirational power. He's got the power to change the American public; the power to change everybody's opinions, and we need him to use that influence he has with the American people to bring them 'round to support climate action. He made a lot of great promises during his election campaign, and now it's time for him to live up to that. Obama's talking about political pragmatism all the time, and he's hiding behind the Senate. He's saying we can't go too far, because the Senate might not approve it. He's got to have the courage and the moral leadership to be the leader on this issue, and then he can inspire the American people, the Congress and the Senate to get behind him.

For more information, visit Climate Justice Fast's website at

Related links: -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Melinda Tuhus is a producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on more than 45 radio stations and in RealAudio and MP3 on our website at This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine,Between The Lines for the week ending Dec. 25, 2009. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Melinda Tuhus and Anna Manzo.

To donate to Between The Lines, please send your check made payable to "The Global Center" and mail to:
Squeaky Wheel Productions
P.O. Box 110176
Trumbull, CT 06611

To get details on subscribing to the radio program or to publish this column in print or online media, contact us at (203) 268-8446.

Home | Broadcast-Quality MP3s | Archives | Search BTL Archives
About | Broadcast Schedule | | Squeaky Wheel Productions

(c) Copyright 2009 Squeaky Wheel Productions. All rights reserved.