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A Kalamazoo teacher has begun a hunger strike to urge action on climate change

A man in a hooded raincoat sits behind a large sign that says "climate change is an emergency." He is sitting under a metal awning frame. Kalamazoo Central High School is in the background.
Sehvilla Mann


A Kalamazoo high school teacher says he’ll go without food today through Sunday, to demand that Democrats restore key greenhouse-gas-curbing provisions to President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill.

Josh Gottlieb, 46, who teaches physics at Kalamazoo Central High School, says it’s unacceptable that lawmakers are likely to drop core pieces of the bill’s climate agenda over objections by Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia.

Manchin has suggested that a central provision of the plan, the Clean Energy Performance Program, which would reward polluting utilities for shifting to clean energy sources, is a waste of taxpayer money. But critics accuse Manchin of protecting a fossil fuel industry that benefits him personally. The New York Times reports Manchin earned half a million dollars in dividends last year from a coal brokerage he founded.

Gottlieb says he took a week of unpaid leave for the hunger strike. He’s picketing on Drake Road near Central High School, beginning in rainy, windy weather at 7 a.m. Monday morning.

“Fifty years from now, people are going to look back and say, ‘why didn’t you do anything? Why didn’t you at least try?’ And I cannot allow my children my students to ask me that question without being able to look them in the eye and say ‘I did everything I possibly could. I showed up for the fight,’” Gottlieb said this morning.

“This is a key moment in the history of the climate change movement,” Gottlieb added, noting that Biden will soon travel to Scotland for COP 26, the United Nations’ 26th conference on global warming.

“It would be incredibly important for the United States to show up in a position of strength and leadership rather than showing up on their knees,” he said.

Gottlieb says he was inspired by young members of the Sunrise Movement, a climate action group, who have started an indefinite hunger strike outside the White House to protest the cuts in the infrastructure bill’s climate plan.

Sehvilla Mann joined WMUK’s news team in January 2014 as a reporter on the local government and education beats. Before that she covered a variety of topics, including environmental issues, for Bloomington, Indiana NPR and PBS affiliates WFIU and WTIU. She’s also written and produced stories for the Pacifica Network and WYSO Public Radio in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Sehvilla holds a B.A. in French from Earlham College and an M.A. in journalism from Indiana University.
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