An Aussie dad-of-two has gone on a hunger strike, calling on the government to protect future generations by adopting a “science-based” approach to tackling the climate crisis.
“Canberra is going to be like Saudi Arabia in my lifetime, and God knows what it will be like in my children’s lifetime,” Gregory Andrews told Yahoo News Australia.
The thinly-built 55-year-old was feeling “quite weak” physically when he spoke with us on Sunday night. He’s wasted away 7.4kg since he switched to a diet of salt and water and started picketing outside Parliament House on November 1.
But the prolonged fasting has given Andrews greater mental clarity about his mission, and he remains committed to the hunger strike until the government meets his demands.
“I’m doing this for as long as it takes… People who initially supported me, like scientists and friends are all starting to say: Gregory stop, you’ve done enough now. But I’m not going to stop. My wife, my children and my mum support me to keep going,” he said.
“My life is one life out of 8 billion on the planet, but by the end of the century, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows 3.6 billion individual lives will be at risk (from climate change).
“We already know how internally focused governments are towards refugees. So it's pretty hard to imagine a situation where some countries will let a third to half of the world's population move in to escape an uninhabitable climate.”
What are Andrews' demands?
Andrews maintains he’s willing to go for as long as it takes. Here’s what he wants the government to do:
Stop subsidising fossil fuels and redirect these resources to climate action and adaptation.
Commit to an urgent phase-out of Australia's massive coal and gas exports.
End native forest logging.
Update Australia's key environment protection law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC Act) to include climate impacts.
Immediately release key details of the Climate Risk Assessment which outlines the national security risks we face.
What does the government say about his demands?
When it comes to preparing Australia's response to our rapidly changing environment, the Albanese Labor government has split the responsibility between several ministerial portfolios, including climate change, environment and forestry.
Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek’s office issued a statement in response to questions from Yahoo about Andrews’ demands in relation to the EPBC Act and native logging.
“Labor has already changed the law,” a spokesperson said. “We worked with the Greens and independents to deliver our strong new safeguard laws to get Australia to net zero emissions.”
“These strong new climate laws allow the Minister for Climate Change and Energy to stop coal and gas projects adding to Australia’s emissions. We are also already working to rewrite the EPBC Act as recommended by Professor Graeme Samuel in 2020.”
Climate change minister Chris Bowen and forestry minister Murray Watt did not respond to questions from Yahoo about Andrews’ demands or whether they were concerned about his health.
How the hunger strike is affecting Andrews?
Going without food has resulted in some interesting personal insights, for Andrews, who once worked as Australia's Threatened Species Commissioner.
The beginning was “easy” because he was running on adrenaline, but by day two his blood sugar was getting very low. “If I was walking downstairs I couldn’t look at my phone and I had to hold onto the rail. A couple of times I nearly fainted,” he said.
“I got up at five on the third day and I just felt really bad. And my wife was really worried about me. But halfway through the day something switched — some people call it starvation mode and some people call it ketosis, but basically my body switched from burning sugars to burning fat.
“From that afternoon onwards, each day I started feeling better… Never in my life have I gone for more than a day without food. But I’m now on day 12 and the human body is an extraordinary thing isn’t it.”
Andrews said one of his most remarkable moments of clarity occurred last week, when he made national headlines for walking out of an interview with climate science sceptic Andrew Bolt during an interview on his Sky News television show.
“When you go on a hunger strike and you go into starvation mode you don’t personalise anything… (Bolt) kept shouting at me… and when I challenged him on it he got even crosser. So finally I just said, you’re rude and impolite, I’m leaving,” he said.
“The news reported that I stormed off, but actually after seven days without food it’s impossible to storm anywhere.”
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