Most religious traditions have some form of fasting as part of their spiritual practice. The Muslim season of Ramadan is perhaps the most widely known and practiced form of fasting worldwide. For many Christians, the season of Lent is associated with fasting as part of the preparation for Easter.
As a spiritual practice, fasting purifies us and sharpens our intentions. Like pebbles in our shoe, the hunger pangs of traditional fasting are a steady reminder of an intention to leave behind an old way of life and to prepare for spiritual rebirth. The feeling of hunger prompts a continued awareness of the need to become more conscientious in our actions and to whole-heartedly commit to the inward transformation we seek. Fasting also reminds us to keep in our hearts the plight of the poor and the imperative to care for the least of these.
Many of us grew up “giving something up” for Lent—candy, meat, or other pleasures—only to gleefully indulge in the forbidden item when the season passed. While going without something we enjoy gives us a taste of sacrifice, it often does not bring about a substantial inner change.
Whatever your religious persuasion, our intent with this Carbon Fast is to suggest practices that will go beyond merely “giving up” some conveniences temporarily, but will support a deeper transformation in your relationship with Earth.
Because carbon dioxide (CO2) is a heat-trapping gas and key driver of global warming, reducing carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions is a matter of great urgency.
Those who are being affected most severely by climate change— including millions of people in the developing world who have already lost their homes and livelihoods— are those whose own carbon footprints are the smallest, and who have the fewest resources to cope with the fallout. Reducing our carbon emissions is as much a matter of caring for Creation as it is of protecting the least of these.
*In an effort to keep the calendar fresh, we’ve broadened the types of suggested activities to include water protection and conservation. While some of these are not technically carbon-reducing, we feel they keep the spirit of the fast.
How to use this calendar
This calendar suggests one sustainability-related activity for each day between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Some of these might be things you’re already doing. Some require a little preparation. Some may be challenging or even uncomfortable.
If doing one activity each day seems overwhelming, you might instead choose one activity each week and repeat it each day. Or choose one action and do it for the whole season.
Since Christians are called to dwell in community—to share in one another’s burdens and joys, and to work together as members of one body— we encourage you to see if members of your congregation or family want to participate in the Carbon Fast with you.
As we take steps to do our part— changing the ways we drive our cars, heat and cool our buildings, consume food and other goods—we also recognize that personal lifestyle changes alone are not sufficient. Therefore, we hope this fast helps you be a witness for the cry of the Earth and promote systemic change— as a member of your community and as a citizen.
In this time of repentance and rebirth, we hope above all that this calendar will be a tool for spurring action and reflection, helping us right our relationship with the Earth, in this season and beyond.