Young Activists Kick off a Climate Hunger Strike by Occupying Nancy Pelosi’s Office

They will start eating once they talk to her for one hour—on camera.

People with the group "Extinction Rebellion" during a demonstration in Washington earlier this year.Jacquelyn Martin/AP

This piece originally appeared in the Guardian and appears here as part of our Climate Desk Partnership.

Young activists frustrated and frightened by Democrats’ inaction on the climate crisis occupied the office of the top Democrat in Congress on Monday to mark the beginning of a hunger strike.

The roughly 20 strikers and their supporters, with Extinction Rebellion, are taking part in a global climate hunger strike that nearly 300 people have pledged to join.

They say the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, is holding back progress, so they are targeting her instead of top Republicans. They are demanding that she meet with them for an hour on camera before they call off their hunger strike.

“Every day the evidence piles up at your desk, but you have yet to pass even symbolic legislation recognizing the climate crisis as a national emergency. With all due respect, you have failed,” the group said in a letter to Pelosi.

Pelosi’s office pushed back on allegations of inaction but did not say whether Pelosi or her staffers would meet with the protesters.

Extinction Rebellion calls for governments to declare a climate and ecological emergency, cut heat-trapping pollution to net-zero by 2025 and create a citizen’s assembly to direct a way forward. Their demands are far more aggressive than most environment organizations.

They want radical change to keep world temperatures from climbing 3 degrees Celsius or beyond the normal of just a century ago and disrupting human civilization. Thousands of scientists warn of a future that threatens “untold suffering.”

Seventeen-year-old Sophia Kianni, in speech she has planned for the hunger strike said “it is deeply saddening and shameful that we must resort to a hunger strike just to get our leaders to care about their children’s futures. Our nation’s leaders would rather watch climate activists starve than give us the time of day.” She accused Pelosi of employing “cowardly politics,” and “worrying about alienating big businesses.”

Nick Brana, a spokesman for Extinction Rebellion in Washington, accused Pelosi of holding back a resolution to declare a climate emergency and a Green New Deal and “neutering” a special House climate committee that does not have the power to subpoena fossil fuel companies or the ability to write legislation.

Twenty-year-old Giovanni Tamacas, whose Washington hunger strike the Guardian reported on in August, said he joined Extinction Rebellion because he felt other climate activism groups were not disruptive enough. He came to the organization after some of its protesters stripped off their clothes to draw attention to the crisis in the British parliament.

Young people around the world have been striking from school on Fridays in solidarity with Greta Thunberg. Celebrity activist Jane Fonda, 81, is also protesting at the US Capitol every Friday too and has been arrested multiple times.

“The way that this movement is going is we’re going to need more and more extreme actions in order to bring the climate crisis to the forefront of the debate, and you know it’s going to take mass participation in civil disobedience and direct action,” Tamacas said.

More MotherJones reporting on Climate Desk


as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot. That's what Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein tackles in her annual December column—"Billionaires Are Not the Answer"—about the state of journalism and our plans for the year ahead.

We can't afford to let independent reporting depend on the goodwill of the superrich: Please help Mother Jones build an alternative to oligarchy that is funded by and answerable to its readers. Please join us with a tax-deductible, year-end donation so we can keep going after the big stories without fear, favor, or false equivalency.


as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot.

Please read our annual column about the state of journalism and Mother Jones' plans for the year ahead, and help us build an alternative to oligarchy by supporting our people-powered journalism with a year-end gift today.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.