Carl Kline just completed a seven-day water fast. But he wasn't fasting to lose weight, or even to improve his health. The semi-retired United Church of Christ minister and member of Brookings (South Dakota) UCC had been fasting as a mission to protect the earth.
Kline's fast is specifically in protest of the extension of the TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, threatening to make its way through western South Dakota.
"For me, it's a major issue," Kline said. "I don't want to see it happen. But it's part of a larger situation as well."
This larger situation is being addressed by Fast for the Earth, an ongoing initiative co-founded by Kline and Phyllis Cole-Dai, another Brookings activist. Officially launched Aug. 1, "Fast for the Earth" is both a nonviolent protest against the moral disregard for the earth and a spiritual affirmation of the responsibility we all face to make important changes in our lifestyles.
One of the main initiatives of Fast for the Earth addresses the need to increase the use of renewable energy and decrease the use of fossil fuels throughout the U.S. The first week of the program included visits to South Dakota wind turbine farms and demonstrations by solar power companies.
"We learned that you could potentially use the wind in North and South Dakota to supply clean, renewable energy to the entire nation," Kline said. "It is obvious to us there are alternatives to fossil fuels."
Currently, nearly 200 people from all over the U.S. and the world – from South Africa, to the United Kingdom, to Australia – have signed on to the initiative through the Fast for the Earth website. While renewable energy may have been the project's inspiration, participants are fasting for many different reasons. For example, 80 people in India began a three-day fast Aug. 6-9 protesting the use of pesticides that have infiltrated the Indian water systems.
"Getting the word out has been a grassroots effort," Kline said. "A friend of mind in India heard what we were doing in South Dakota and decided to join our effort in protest of pesticide use. Fast for the Earth is inclusive – it's not only about the tar sands."
Fast for the Earth also has organizational partners including Spirit of Peace UCC in Sammamish, Wash., and First Congregational UCC in Sioux Falls, S.D., as well as many environmental groups.
While he feels the initial weeks of the program have certainly been a success, Kline plans to continue to grow the initiative. He eventually hopes to expand the web platform so individuals can sign up to fast for a particular week, day or even meal, so there is a visible statement that someone is fasting every day of the year for environmental causes.
"We intend to do this indefinitely until we see a movement toward serious reduction in fossil fuel use," Kline said.
For more information on Fast for the Earth or to sign up, click here.