Disclaimer: Tearfund does not endorse hunger striking in our campaigning. However, this interview with Angus Rose and his protest against the government is a moment to recognise people’s willingness to campaign for a better world.
There are many ways climate activists demonstrate their care for the world and the situation’s urgency. Read more here about different climate tactics being used across the globe.
Angus Rose is a 52-year-old man who was hunger striking outside parliament, willing to go for as long as it took until his demands were met. He was asking for Greg Hands – Minister of State for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change – to make available the ‘secret briefing’ shared in 2020 with Prime Minister (PM) Boris Johnson.
From Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Valiance, this briefing shares the risks and solutions to climate breakdown. The PM himself had referred to it as ‘his road to Damascus moment’ before COP26.
On Day 32 of his strike in April 2022, I interviewed Rose outside the Houses of Parliament. He had clearly already been having many conversations with climate activists, doctors, passers-by and reporters. When I arrived, Rose was in a long discussion with a doctor. The doctor was trying to convince Rose that if he died, he would only be a martyr for a moment and that there were other ways to take action more effectively.
MY INTERVIEW WITH ROSE
Anna: We are talking about different ways people protest the climate crisis. What do you want to say to young people who care about the climate crisis? Why are you doing this for them?
Angus: Younger generations are pretty aware of the situation we are in. They have been educated on the environment, solutions, climate change [and more]. I am noticing – something which is really quite concerning – that they are now more than frustrated. They are getting angry. Really angry. They are seeing the government taking away their futures before their eyes. I can see them getting really stressed. I think they are acutely aware of the problem.
[Angus makes a disclaimer that he may waver off the topic due to his hunger strike]
I am a middle-aged white dude. My age (and younger age groups) are largely the decision-makers here in this country, [but] the government is full of far too many people like me. What is really surprising is a lot of people there [gestures to the House of Parliament], even if they have children or grandchildren, are making decisions that are clearly – very clearly – not in their children or grandchildren’s interests. To the point of threatening their future prosperity and threatening lives. So that is really destructive what is happening now.
We have got a far greater responsibility for resolving [and] addressing the issue. I think the younger generation undoubtedly have the greatest moral authority on this issue. People like Greta – like powerful, right? People listen to her [Greta], not just because she is young but also because she has been disenfranchised and people know it. They know she and others have got a lot more of their lives to live so I think that’s really important. The words they make about this are often more powerful than what I can do.
Anna: You’re making a powerful statement by standing with people who care about the climate crisis by being here. Today you’re on Day 32; how have you found the hunger strike so far?
Angus: What has been extraordinary is one, the interaction I have had not just with politicians but particularly Conservative politicians. Some have come up to me. I am sitting in the rain, second day and Sir Bernard Jenkin, 30-year senior conservative […] walks up to me. Properly in the rain, not the drizzle, saying ‘hey, are you okay? Do you have doctors looking after you? Please don’t do this. Here is my card with my number, phone me.’ I have spoken to Boris’ dad, John McDonell, Jeremy Corbyn, a whole lot of people. So that has been surprising.
The other thing that has been really surprising is the support I have gained from people who understand the issue. I was carrying the stuff for ten days, for two weeks, and I was like ‘this is terrible’, taking it to random storage places. But almost like out of the woodwork, from the ground up, people come along [and say] ‘how can I help?’. They get me a coffee, help me with this [gestures to his table], and suddenly people I’ve never met before now arrive in the mornings here. Before I leave they come along and pack it away.
That’s also left me not falling into a pit of despair. In the time I’ve been here, I reckon I have philosophised – like ruminate – for no more than or definitely less than half an hour. All the time I am speaking, I am having this occasion that is keeping my spirits up and also keeps my energy levels up. Guillermo Fernandes in Switzerland also found that his energy levels stayed up a long way into the hunger strike, he did 39 days. So yeah, that’s been really surprising.
I do have my moments – so the early mornings I had said earlier, bit like covid lights. I just want to sleep in, I don’t want to move. Slowly over the morning, it gets better, and at two o-clock I will hit my peak energy for the day.
Anna: So, how long are you going to do this for?
Angus: I am here. I have four times had the demand turned down, three times by email and once in person. I had a 15-minute conversation with the minister [Greg Hands]. I am carrying on till the demand is met, so basically, my life is at risk, as I am prepared to die if the demand is not met.
Why? Because if I was in Ukraine as a Ukrainian, I would be risking my life to defend my nephews and nieces. Here, a lot of people do not appreciate the enormity of the situation that we face. The risks that lie just ahead. If you have seen the film Don’t Look Up, I see it all the time here.
Anna: Final question, if you could have one message to young people about the climate crisis, what would you say?
Angus: I am not asking for a bunch of adults; that’s not going to cut it. [My wish is] for younger generations to be here because their voices are so loud and so important […] they can’t make political decisions, or financial [decisions], but they can have influence with their voices. [It’s] very very powerful.
Anna: Thank you so much. Thank you for sharing.
DID ROSE WIN?
Rose was successful in his hunger strike, reaching Day 37 when Sir Patrick Vallance agreed to address the MPs about the climate crisis. Although Rose originally asked for a televised briefing of the cabinet rather than an address at a parliament committee, he mentioned he was happy with the outcome. He referenced that ‘it’s been quite difficult for those who care about me most, it hasn’t been fun. I don’t want to do that to them again’. He broke his strike with some peanut butter, claiming the taste was ‘indescribable’ but also that it was ‘the taste of progress’.
Rose gathered extraordinary support, with a group of 79 leading scientists writing a letter supporting his demand, saying: ‘briefing on the climate and ecological crises would help our leaders to enact the right policies to decarbonise our society at the required pace, while also preserving biodiversity‘.
Rose was successful, and we applaud his courage. We also want to remember and celebrate those before him in climate activism, whether that be indigenous activists, those globally on the frontlines of the climate crisis, and youth and young people leading the change.
If you enjoyed reading this article, do check out our related article 5 climate tactics people are using to stop this crisis.