Vigil day 31: Robin hunger strike day 4

Molly Melhuish
Molly is there every weekday.

David and Tim marked the 75th Anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing by holding a vigil at 0815, the time the A bomb was dropped.
Caz encircled the tree with white cloth and signs to mark the day; the possibility that Climate wars could involve nuclear weapons is truly terrifying.

Life on Earth faces two existential threats: the climate crisis and nuclear weapons. Both threats are closely linked and mutually reinforcing. With the world in flames, the climate crisis is, even for its fiercest deniers, impossible to ignore. However, the vast majority of people do ignore how this situation worsens the risk of nuclear war and why nuclear disarmament is more important today than ever.

Carlos Umaña

https://www.pressenza.com/2019/09/nuclear-weapons-and- climate-change

It was a day of non-stop action; firstly a rally led by 4 horsemen from Amberley, followed by others from around the country from ’Safe Men, Safe Families’ – good on them for educating and supporting men to stop family violence. And in the afternoon another small party ‘Advance NZ’, co-led by Jami-Lee Ross.

Even though we abandoned our base around ‘King Dick’s statue, it proved difficult to have conversations with passersby when people were speaking with megaphones!

Pleased to say that I had a more comfortable day, and continued great weather.

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Vigil day 30, Robin hunger strike day 2

Robin Treadwell
Day 30

Day at King Dick’s statue – with various interactions ranging from supportive and joyful to very negative and insulting from 1080 protester. Rick showed up mid morning and stated his intention to hunger strike also! Wonderful to have his support and encouragement, thank you.
That means there will be a hunger striker on site until after the election to help hold the new government to account. Great news indeed. Molly, David and Tim holding discussions with Year 13 students and others, and Caz doing her ‘charm offensive’ to encourage passersby to take information.


I focussed on sending emails to the PM and others, not having much energy for anything more. Feeling ok, just not much energy and cold in the afternoon.

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Vigil Day 29 Hunger Strike Day 22 – Robin Day 1

Some visitors around the statue

Straight to work before 8 this morning, the 3 of us (David, Tim and Robin) taken by Caz to join Molly, Sue and others to picket the ‘Downstream 2020’ Electricity industry’s conference at TSB/Shed 6. Many of the older delegates greeting Molly by name, not so many responding to invitations to talk about the messages on our signs eg. ‘High fixed charges cost low users’. Molly described this as ‘fun’ and will write on this separately.

Back at Parliament, a brief acknowledgement from James Shaw who walked past and encouraged us to ‘keep up the good work’ and we exhorted him likewise!
Rather quiet day overall which gave time for some background research on science – very disheartening, and provided excellent motivation for carrying on this mahi…

A few interesting and useful conversations with passersby, and heart warming visits from a couple of Waihekeans, thank you!
I felt better as the day progressed, settling in to talking about issues and solutions; not too hungry and physically fine.

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Introducing Robin

Robin
Roboin

I was a member of Ecology Action in my first year at Vic Uni, and after reading ‘The population bomb’ (which the Erlichs would have preferred to be named ‘Population, Resources, and Environment‘) I had my mind set on a career in Ecology. However I was diverted by my father into Medicine, and spent the next decades in my own fight for survival after experiencing personal tragedies.

It was in December 2017 holding my granddaughter in my arms, and reading Naomi Klein’s ‘This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate‘ that changed the course of my life back to environmental activism.

Since then I’ve joined ‘Our Climate Declaration’ group, established by Jeanette Fitzsimmons and other learned people, calling on all New Zealanders to pledge to take action to reduce Greenhouse gas emissions: Stop the bad stuff, Bring on the good and Lobby Government for change! As part of Carbon Neutral Waiheke, I participated in a tour from ‘Waiheke to Poneke’, 2 over 70 year old men cycling the whol to raisee way

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Handover of the Baton – 3 August

David handing over the Baton/Blanket to Robin

Apologies to followers for my delay in communicating; technology is definitely not my strong suite, especially when fasting… my capacity to take in new material and even interact with people is noticeably reduced. David tells me this will improve as my body settles in to ketosis, and I will gain clarity and energy, yay! He is such an inspiring mentor, and I am in awe of his ability to be on his feet, and talking even in the last week of his hunger strike. Huge congratulations and Aroha David.

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Being Nourished by Hunger Striking.

We face an overwhelming problem of human caused eco-crisis and mass extinction. This crisis is primarily caused by fossil fuel, but has further complex causes in pollution and exploitation of people and the Earth’s “resources”.

Responding to the eco-crisis,  I believe in science communication and I believe in direct action.

In climate action, big progress has been made by Greta, school strike, Extinction Rebellion (XR), and many, many others. That’s people doing direct action and people doing science communication. Everything we do is a small part of a huge team effort, trying to address an overwhelming problem.

Any acton we do joins a huge stream of climate actions by many, many good people, that has been happening for decades. If you include social change movements (and I do) then this huge stream becomes the vast Amazon river, centuries old. Greta, School Strike and XR are important developments but still only a part of this vast river which is much, much older.

Just getting most people clearly seeing the eco-crisis problem is a huge task. Getting a critical mass of people on the streets doing mass civil disobedience is necessary for the revolution required. Achieving that critical mass of people willing to directly act feels an overwhelming task. Then there’s the real task after that, even if there is the will to do it: the entire world stopping burning fossil fuel.

I live without any hope at all. I’m prepared to live with that and abandon myself to action anyhow. I do this because action is expressing my caring and love, it frees up my caring and love, it connects me with other people and their caring and love.

This is why I’ve been saying that hunger striking has been nourishing me. It has been a wonderful, nourishing, connecting, learning experience.

This is why I also say to people only do what nourishes you. Otherwise we are going to simply exhaust ourselves trying to move the immovable.

Of course constantly question what’s most effective and work to be as effective as we can. Then act, abandoning success and just doing what is right and true to do.

Deep aroha to you all as you struggle and feel the pain of having a heart that’s open and feeling. I’m proud to be standing with you: many, many good people, people with hearts broken open, people willing to stand in the pain.

Love and Rage,
David

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Vigil Day 28, Hunger Strike Day 21.

Handing over the hunger strike baton

This week was my third week of hunger striking and had been very disappointing for a lack of any media coverage until a 5 minute phone call with RNZ on Friday. You’ll see the link to their news item on me below. I’ve also just been interviewed by NewstalkZB tonight (will air tomorrow morning).

Of course, this isn’t about me or wanting attention. This is about the unspeakable suffering ahead for our children and the utter obscenity that collectively, we are not acting on the clear evidence and science. We are in a herd denial, burning away the lives of our children with our use of fossil fuel. 

Despite this definitely not being about me, I’d like to share personally a little with you as I approach the end of my 21 day hunger strike.

David hands the blue blanket to Robin.

This evening we had a simple little ceremony to hand over the hunger strike baton to Robin Treadwell. The baton in this case is a blue, adult size “swaddling” blanket, gifted by Theresa Newcombe. This blanket has travelled all over the world with Theresa and is now travelling with E Tū hunger strikers, providing us comfort and warmth. 

I’m feeling proud to have competed 21 days of hunger striking. I am amazed by my body and mind, and how straightforward this has been. My weight has dropped from 80kg to 71kg. 

Taking the supplements I think makes a very big difference, and I’m feeling I could easily continue longer. However I’m very happy to be ending tomorrow morning with a first meal of one quarter of an avocado. I’ll then wait 6 hours before eating a small quantity of plain boiled veges. 

I’ll very carefully increase my food intake over the next four days before travelling home to Julie and Hana on Friday. I’m looking forward to seeing them very much. 

Tim Musson has been rock solid beside me in support every day for the last month (and beforehand in Christchurch) and he will travel back home with me. I’m so grateful to Tim, and the comfort and ease he gives me by continuing to be by my side including the trip home. 

This has been a wonderful experience of abandoning myself to follow an irresistible call. I have been supported by many good, deeply committed people. The fledgling vision of E Tū for Future that started around my kitchen table only 6-7 weeks ago is gradually building momentum to be something more than all of us. 

I want to be very clear about two things. Firstly I’m not calling on other people to hunger strike. Only hunger strike if the call is irresistible for you, like it was for me. 

The change that’s needed appears impossible. Nevertheless, to not act is to choose denial and despair. By acting together, we support each other. Together we free ourselves and allow our love and care to flow in action. 

All of us together, each in our own way: whether that is doing vigils, labour strikes, school strikes, hunger strikes, or civil disobedience. 

Secondly, my vision for E Tū for Future isn’t for it to be another organisation. My vision for E Tū is as a coalition of existing groups or individuals all agreeing to act for our children’s future. So, E Tū isn’t about being prescriptive about how you choose to act, provided of course that your actions follow the principles of nonviolent direct action (nvda), that IS a bottom line. Violent revolution will only perpetuate the status quo of exploitation and colonisation. 

When I return to Christchurch, I’m committing to continuing a vigil in Christchurch all day every Friday. After I recover from this hunger strike I’ll likely be doing that as a fasting vigil. I will also continue in direct actions and activities with XR Otautahi as my activist family. 

I deeply appreciate the strong XR (extinction rebellion) community in Christchurch and the love and support they have been showing me. Just naming two: Torfrida for organising the central city Friday vigil and Marney for the amazing, professional videos – we’re so lucky to have you with us Marney. I’d also like to express deep thanks to Rachel Puentener for coordinating support for Julie and Hana, and all of you who’ve provided us meals and childcare. 

Finally, I’d like to especially mention Rebecca Finch. Rebecca has limited time in her Friday lunch break and can’t get into town to the bus exchange vigil. So instead she started a solo vigil (now growing) near her work. Rebecca, you’re showing us all how to do it. 

So, no excuses! Wherever you are, you can join the revolution for our children’s future. One off events are nice but for change on the scale we need,  persistence is key. Like Greta Thunberg school striking every Friday: you chose your place, your day, your action, or join existing actions. 

Meanwhile the action here at Parliament continues with Robin Treadwell hunger striking from tomorrow with Sue Boyde in support. Sue will hunger strike following Robin. Tim and I plan to return to Wellington in about a month’s time when likely Tim will hunger strike with myself in support. 

Arohanui, David

https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/422581/man-hands-over-climate-change-hunger-strike-after-21-days

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Vigil Day 26, Hunger Strike Day 19

Fridays for Future

Today was Fridays for Future and without Chlöe Swarbrick our numbers were less. However, one effect of our action here is growing numbers attending Fridays for Future, and today was a good turnout.

I’d like to mention John Blincoe (sorry no photo), a senior ministerial advisor to David Parker and possibly the most decent person working in the beehive. John is a suave dresser. He is also a busy man, yet he often finds time to stop and chat, about Government policy or personal sharing about ourselves and our lives. He’s genuinely interested and free about himself.

Today John joined us near the end of Fridays for Future and stayed maybe half an hour discussing Government policy and listening to our suggestions and concerns. Thank you John for being a decent human being.

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Letter to James Shaw (after a brief chat yesterday).

Here is the first section of my letter to James Shaw after our brief chat on Wednesday (the rest of my letter to James was similar to the letter to the PM):

30th July 2020

Dear James, 

Thank you very much for taking the time to come and speak with us on Wednesday. It was a pleasure to meet you and feel your genuine warmth and sincerity.

Thank you also for expressing concern about my wellbeing. Our time was short so I only gave a brief response. Please be reassured that I am taking my wellbeing very seriously. I had a thorough medical check up before coming to Wellington. I am also measuring my vital signs twice daily, plus monitoring my heartbeat 24 hours. Most importantly, I am not doing a pure water-only fast: I am taking electrolyte, mineral and vitamin supplements and this mitigates many of the risks of hunger striking.

I end my hunger strike this Monday 3rd August and Robin Treadwell will pick up the hunger strike baton from me then. There are other hunger strikers waiting to go in relay with Robin and me. We are hoping to keep this action going until the election and possibly beyond, to hold the new Government to account. We aren’t calling on people to hunger strike, but say only do that if the hunger strike call is irresistible. Our action can continue as either a vigil or a hunger strike. 

Our aim is to increase the public mandate for politicians to act on the eco-crisis. We aim to encourage voting for politicians who recognise the urgency and scale of the eco-crisis; who care about our childrens’ future and care about the Earth’s gravely threatened ecology that supports us all.

I have voted Green all my life since it became an option, but that is feeling less certain for me now (although I see no better alternative). As I said to you, I am not hearing from you a recognition of the urgency, scale and gravity of the eco-crisis. Making a gradual transition to electric cars simply doesn’t cut the mustard here. Planting a billion trees is good, if they are the right trees for the ecology and the future adaptive challenge, however that alone also doesn’t cut the mustard. The status quo needs urgently to be turned completely upside down and inside out, to give any hope of a future for our children and grandchildren. In this regard, it was very good to hear your support for citizens’ assemblies.

Greta Thunberg said: “I don’t want your hope. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day, and then I want you to act. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.” I add to Greta’s words: Our house is on fire and our children are inside. The flames are fueled by coal, oil and gas: unless the entire world turns off the tap, there is no hope for our children’s future. 

I am not hearing the truth from you or the Government about this unprecedented, catastrophic eco-crisis. Current actions fall drastically short of the problem.

You are the climate change minister, this is your area of responsibility. As a Green party co-leader and minister for climate change, it is your responsibility now to at least speak the truth.

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David’s Letter to Jacinda Ardern.

30th July 2020

Dear Prime Minister, 

INTRODUCTION:

I’m David Goldsmith, a 52 year old Christchurch father of 3. Today is my 18th day on a hunger strike in front of Parliament and the 25th day on vigil with my friend Tim Musson and other supporters. Our action here is to raise awareness about the dire ecological emergency we are in, which will have devastating impact for our children and grandchildren. Other hunger strikers are waiting to follow me when I finish.

 I firstly want to tautoko you for the grace, strength and most of all kindness you have shown in your role as Prime Minister. 

I deeply respect your empathic response after the mosque shootings. I remember the image of you wearing the black hijab, showing solidarity and sharing the victims’ grief and I feel my tears pricking. 

I also am very grateful for your leadership and courage in listening to the science and taking unprecedented actions in response to Covid19. People are alive now as a result of you and your Government’s actions: grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters are still with us. Thank you.

I genuinely respect you and believe you are New Zealand’s best Prime Minister in my lifetime. However, I also gravely challenge you for falling woefully short in your communication and actions in response to the climate and ecological emergency that the entire world is facing. Greta Thunberg said: “I don’t want your hope. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day, and then I want you to act. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.” I add to Greta’s words: Our house is on fire and our children are inside. The flames are fueled by coal, oil and gas: unless the entire world turns off the tap, there is no hope for our children’s future. I am not hearing the truth from you or your Government about this unprecedented, catastrophic eco-crisis. I see no evidence of adequate action either, only self congratulation for actions that fall drastically short of the problem.

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE CRISIS:

The overwhelming, all encompassing nature of this crisis means we struggle to be both intellectually and psychologically clear about it. I identify 3 stages of response to the eco-crisis: denial, despair and “do something”! Denial is complex, not just science denial. Denial suppresses our love and caring. Then, if we begin to wake from denial, despair comes like a heavy dark blanket. Despair is rage turned inward. Rage is an appropriate response except there is a dilemma about where to correctly direct it, as we are all in this together, we are all implicated. Doing something is also problematic, because what could we possibly do that would make a difference and turn this around? I am choosing hunger striking and now writing to you. I’m also committing every Friday for the rest of my life to action on this crisis, following Greta’s example. 

Humans are social animals and we are all influenced profoundly by the bubbles we occupy. The denial we individually experience becomes a herd denial that is even more difficult to step out of. Humans are a great herd heading for a cliff edge: most of us have some knowledge of the catastrophic course we are on, but collectively we are not changing direction or even slowing down. In fact, we are accelerating towards catastrophe.

UNDERSTANDING THE PROBLEM:

Any problem needs to be clearly understood before an adequate and appropriate response is possible. The sheer scale and complexity of the eco-crisis means there is the potential for a lot of smoke obscuring our clarity. Scientists are people also and not immune from complex denial or profound influence from the bubbles they occupy. The strength of science is its faithfulness to real evidence, and individual researchers following the evidence, each in their own narrow field. I see a huge deficit in a discipline of science communication, which brings together all the individual research knowledge into a clear big picture, sifting out opinions and natural human denial. I urge you to urgently invest in science communication, to inform yourself and the Government, and to inform the public. We must hear the truth and speak the truth, to urgently grow the political will to act, to give our children and grandchildren any chance of a future.

I’m not interested in ideology or beliefs but in evidence and science and I aim to be constantly open to changing my view based on the evidence and the science. The following is a brief outline of my lay understanding of the eco-crisis which has been developing for the last 30 years.

The ecological emergency is not only climate change (global heating). It is global heating and ocean acidification and mass extinction. Because of lag or inertia from decades to centuries in Earth’s climate and ecological systems, effects we see now are from emissions decades ago. 

The very scary thing is, all global greenhouse emissions since the beginning of the industrial revolution have doubled since 1990. I repeat: the emissions of the last 30 years equal all the emissions of the previous 200 years. The science has been clear since the 1970’s or before, it was certainly clear in 1990, and it is abundantly clear now. Yet we continue hurtling towards an utter catastrophe at an exponentially accelerating pace. Humans won’t necessarily be exempt from the mass extinction that we are consciously causing. 

9 of the 15 known tipping points in the Earth’s climate system are already activated. Tipping points have the potential to cascade, like a line of dominoes, one tipping point activating the next. The consequence of tipping points cascading is abrupt and irreversible climate catastrophe. 

It is quite possibly already too late, or the window of opportunity is rapidly closing. The urgency of our situation cannot be understated. The primary driver of all this is burning fossil fuel, therefore the primary solution is banning fossil fuel extraction and import globally. The problem is overwhelming and the primary solution is also overwhelming.

THE SOLUTIONS:

There is no other concern that comes close to the importance and urgency of this one. It involves all areas of Government: budgets, development planning, peace and order, national security, economic security, food and water security, wellbeing. We are facing an existential threat utterly unprecedented in scale. The first urgent solution is clearly communicating the science, so more people understand the urgency of acting now, acting now to give our children and grandchildren any hope of a future.

Secondly, we must start taking the necessary actions based on the science. The scale and urgency of this crisis does not suit our traditional government structure. The adversarial nature of our political system means the lives of our children and grandchildren become a political football while the evidence and science take a back seat. We urgently need a reform of power. For example: a two hulled citizens assembly, one hull being representative of the general population and the other hull being Tangata Whenua. This two hulled assembly then being informed by a skilled panel of science communicators. Giving this assembly real power in the decision making required to act on the science would take this matter beyond politics. In the end, we all will be suffering together regardless of our political leanings.

There are many potential solutions that respond in a limited degree to our crisis. One example is planting trees, which your government has already begun. Adding these partial solutions together could add up to a substantive response. In Aotearoa New Zealand, farming is currently a big part of the problem. For example, the emissions from use of synthetic fertilizer exceed all emissions from domestic aviation. However, through regenerative farming, farming could become a big part of the solution, sequestering carbon in the soil using natural climate solutions. Farmers need substantial support to achieve this because they will be changing the practices of generations of farming, and they will be doing this for the benefit of us all. 

However, despite adding together the limited partial solutions, we cannot ignore the primary driver of global heating, ocean acidification and mass extinction. The primary driver by far is the extraction and burning of ancient carbon (fossil fuel), putting that ancient carbon into the atmosphere. There simply isn’t the land available to plant trees to remediate fossil fuel emissions. An engineered solution of Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) is also unproven at scale and cannot come remotely close to remediating our global emissions.

I am calling on you to comprehensively ban fossil fuels progressively, to a full ban by 2025. I’m calling for this urgent transition because the science is crystal clear and we may already be out of time. We should have started 50 years ago. By comprehensive, I mean banning all extraction and import, except for some very limited life and death reasons for essential use of fossil fuel, but these must be very strictly limited and demonstrate there are absolutely no alternatives. I know banning fossil fuel is politically impossible for you at the moment even though that is what the science is telling us is required. This is the reason we need quality science communication and a citizen’s assembly.

Banning fossil fuels will lead to economic degrowth. This is also essential and reflects how our unrelenting focus on economic growth has led to the escalating exploitation of the planet that gave birth to us. The eco-crisis of global heating, ocean acidification and mass extinction essentially comes back to over-consumption by the middle class and wealthy. It is obscene to think that we will party on with this excess, without acting to save the lives of our children and grandchildren. Everyone loves their children, it is only our dream of denial that allows us to continue behaving this way. 

Economic degrowth must be fair, equitable and kind. This is a total transformation of our society and how we live. We need to do this in a way that emphasises we are all in this together and that a simpler and quieter life could actually be a much happier one.

I see two great arms of action required: one arm is ecological action focussed not on being carbon zero but on carbon drawdown. We are at a dangerous level of global warming gases now and must draw down carbon using natural solutions that also heal the Earth. The second great arm of action is social action. There is a huge task of fairness, justice, equity, and peace. This is essential for such a massive transformation to happen peacefully, and to prepare for the inevitable conflict coming (and already here in some parts of the world). The threat of nuclear war still hangs over the globe despite it falling from the common consciousness in the last few decades. The eco-crisis has high potential to also be a devastating war crisis as well.

Finally, stating the obvious, it is not only Aotearoa New Zealand that must make these immense changes, it is the entire globe. The task is overwhelming, yet we must begin or else we are just abandoning our children’s future. I believe that you Prime Minister, and Aotearoa with you, could lead the way for the rest of the world. You are very well respected globally, respect which you deserve. The eyes of the world are on us now with our success under your leadership with Covid19. This is an unprecedented opportunity to also follow the science responding to the eco-crisis and lead the world. It has to start somewhere: let it be us and challenge the world to follow. 

The only response that could restore hope for our future is a global emergency war effort, not a war with each other, instead a war effort for bringing the entire globe together and acting together in response to the global existential threat.

I would dearly love to speak with you, by phone or especially in person. You can find me and supporters on Parliaments lawn 9-4 on weekdays and 10-3 on weekends. Our action phone is 0226235345. My personal phone is **********. 

If you’re interested in more about our action at Parliament, you can visit our website etu4future.nz

Yours sincerely, David Goldsmith

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