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Loyola Alum discusses Advocacy & D.C. Hunger Strike for Climate Change

Loyola Alum discusses Advocacy & D.C. Hunger Strike for Climate Change

Paul Campion, a Loyola alumnus, and four other organizers are from the Sunrise MovementIn Washington, a 14-day hunger strikes was started. D.C. protests government inaction on climate change Oct. 20,

Campion stated that he felt dizziness while on hunger strike. He also experienced stomach pains from hunger and trouble speaking. One of the other organizers was taken to the hospital by the end of the fourth-day due to health concerns.

After experiencing a drop in heart rate — putting him at major risk for severe heart problems such as arrhythmia, heart failure and cardiac arrest — Campion said he had to end his strike.

“Facing that reality, I had to make a really hard decision,” Campion, 24, said. “Honestly, the decision to kind of stop was just as hard as the decision to participate and to start the hunger strike because of the impact on all the people that I love and on the campaign and on our efforts.” 

Campion’s hunger strike lasted for 11 days but it took him about five days to physically recover. He said he’s regained most of the weight he lost during the strike and is able to eat whatever he wants now. 

Campion — who graduated from Loyola in 2019 with a bachelor’s in environmental science — currently works as a full-time organizer for The Sunrise MovementChicago. He said that Loyola was one of the reasons he chose to go to it because of its commitment to environmental sustainability.

Courtesy Rachel WarrinerPaul Campion protested by refusing to eat for 11 days before he was admitted due to medical concerns.

Campion stated that he started the hunger strike to promote climate change action with policies in line with The Green New Deal.

“We saw the hunger strike as an opportunity to tell the truth about what’s going on about the stakes of the crisis,” Campion said. “This isn’t just some story about Joe Manchin’s ego or a political insider game, but this is really about the fight for our lives.” 

Recent reports have shown that climate changes are occurring at a faster pace than originally anticipated. The Phoenix reported. Climate change could have negative impacts on infrastructure, disadvantaged people, and global weather patterns. 

Campion claimed that the idea of a hunger strike was formed after Campion saw how Democrats such As Senator Joe ManchinWest Virginia made desperate attempts to address the climate crisis. 

Campion stated that they prepared for the strike by eating an all-liquid diet, meeting with others who have done hunger strikes in the future, consulting with loved ones, and creating a detailed plan. 

Campion claims that it took less than one week to decide to strike and to plan for its execution.

Campion stated that the strike was designed to force Joe Biden to take more action on climate change.

Courtesy Allyson WoodwardBecause of their weak physical condition, all five protestors who participated in the Washington D.C. hunger strike used wheelchairs.

“We really call on Joe Biden to be the leader that we need him to be and simply enact legislation that would deliver the commitments and the promises and the pledges that he has done such a wonderful job saying in his speeches and in his statements, but doing an incredibly poor job delivering for his actions under his administration,” Campion said. 

Campion stated that they went on a hunger strike to prevent the chance of not being able to tackle climate change. He explained that the idea for the hunger strike was born after spending more than two years political organizing to address climate changes. They wanted to do something new. 

“A lot of us were feeling the fear and the anxiety of like, what if collectively as the United States we miss this moment,” Campion said “We don’t have another 12 years to waste without any legitimate action and leadership from our country on this defining issue of our time.”

Campion’s advocacy work began at Loyola where he joined the Student Environmental Alliance as a first-year. He worked on campaigns such the on-going campaign for climate change. campus renewable energyAnd divestment from fossil fuels

Despite their organizing efforts, Campion said the university decided not to implement the students’ plan. Despite Campion’s frustration, his past efforts to work towards sustainability at Loyola put him on the path to the work he does now.

Campion said a lot of the experiences he had in college were holding the university to its mission and now he’s doing the same with the U.S. president. 

“The university had made these commitments and these promises to act on its mission,” Campion said. “[My experience was] trying to hold the university to actually do that, and to turn those promises and those commitments into action, in the same way of now demanding the President of the United States make good on his own commitments and promises and turn them into real policy and action.”

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Courtesy Allyson WoodwardProtesters from The Sunrise Movement demanded more action by the Biden administration against climate change in October.

While Campion’s environmental advocacy work may have started at Loyola, he said his exposure to social justice really began when he attended a Jesuit high school.

Campion said it was there he  first saw how his peers from Central and South America came to the U.S. seeking shelter and security and had to face “cruel” immigation policies.

Campion stated that he organized a screening of a film about the struggles of immigrants, and worked with students at other schools to lobby Congress for comprehensive immigration reform. 

After seeing how climate change affected issues such as immigration, he decided he wanted to study environmental science. 

“It’s driving other crises and challenges like the immigration crisis,” Campion said.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees(UNHCR), climate changes are one of the causes of displacement. This is due to climate changes causing livestock and crops to die in places they used to live, extreme weather patterns, and limited access to natural resource. 

Campion encouraged students to get involved with advocacy and to take advantage of the power they have. 

“We have so much power that we leave on the table every day that we’re not wielding it and using it,” Campion said. “So, I would encourage others to step into that and get creative and go for it.” 

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