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Teenagers Launch Hunger Strikes Against UK Coal Mines

SNA (London) ​— ​In the United Kingdom, teenage climate activists have gone on hunger strikes in order to prevent the construction of the Woodhouse Colliery coal mine in West Cumbria, which would be the United Kingdom’s first deep coal mine in three decades.

The coal mine, approved by local authorities in West Cumbria and the national government, and slated for completion later this year, is regarded as a slap in the face for the youth environmental movement. The Woodhouse Colliery attracted support across the political spectrum in Parliament with few voices of dissent. Its supporters point to the five hundred jobs the £165 million (about US$212 million) Colliery is estimated to create, and claims by the West Cumbria Mining Company that it will be “carbon neutral.”

And yet, research by the think tank Green Alliance estimates that the mine will produce 8.4 million tons of CO​2​ annually, equal to emissions from over a million households, with its report stating that the mine is “clearly incompatible with the UK’s climate ambitions and the need for a clean energy future.”

Such a scenario prompted 16-year-old British climate activist Elijah McKenzie-Jackson to go on hunger strike last month for ten days.

McKenzie-Jackson, who is part of Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future movement and the UK Student Climate Network, told the media that he was waking up at 6am while on hunger strike to protest against the coal mine outside Parliament before going to school. He said that while the Woodhouse Colliery will create jobs, “we need to think about the generation to come… who will be affected.”

In the early stages of the hunger strike, McKenzie-Jackson complained to the media that he felt “invisible” demonstrating outside Parliament. However, as the days passed and he persisted, his campaign began to gain traction on social media. He reported on Twitter on the penultimate day of his hunger strike that he felt “overwhelmed with with support… [but] disappointed and outraged about [the] lack of political acknowledgement and action of my hunger strike.”

The next day, however, February 6, McKenzie-Jackson announced on Twitter that he had ended his hunger strike after being recognized by British MPs. He was “called into parliament” to discuss the pressing issue with several MPs, who pledged to advance his cause. Alex Sobel, Labour MP for Leeds North West, was one such MP.

While McKenzie-Jackson ended his hunger strike, other young climate activists in the country picked up the baton, with 14-year-old Lissy Green going on a hunger strike for nine days, calling for the West Cumbria coal mine to be “actually debated in Parliament.” Green then ended her hunger strike on February 10, whereupon another climate activist, 15-year-old Inky Lee Campling, picked up where Green had left off.

Campling told the Shingetsu News Agency that she feels it is important to go on hunger strike because she doesn’t “think that the mine is getting enough attention and media coverage.” She added, “hopefully people who have heard about the hunger strike… will start doing things such as lobbying their MPs and starting protests to try and prevent this mine from going ahead.”

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