Teenage climate activists in week two of hunger strike over new Cumbria coal mine

January 18, 2021

Two teenage climate activists are more than a week into a hunger strike in protest against the opening of a new coal mine.

Lissy Green, 15, and Elijah McKenzie-Jackson, 17, are demanding a U-turn from the government after it gave the go-ahead for the mine in Cumbria in January.

Both teenagers say they are now on day eight of their protest and are refusing to eat.

Lissy, who is from Windsor and studying for her GCSEs, said she is only drinking herbal tea and water.

The youngsters, who met through previous protests, told Sky News they want to draw attention to the impact of burning fossil fuels on the climate.

Lissy said: "It's not nice to be constantly hungry, it's not nice to struggle with concentration, it's not nice to feel dizzy and have headaches.

"And obviously I see my mum and my sister eating and I want to go and be sociable and eat with my family, and it's something I can't do at the minute.

"So it's stressful in that way as well. I understand the need for jobs, but I think this is why we need to have something like a 'green new deal' that would provide jobs in a green economy and in renewable energy."

Lissy's mother Laura said: "I am monitoring Lissy's action and her welfare is my main concern although I do support her cause."

Both teenagers say they see the emissions from the Cumbrian mine as a national issue at a time when the UK has pledged to be net zero by 2050.

Opponents of the mine say all coal for whatever purpose should be left in the ground.

Both teenagers say they are conscious of current pressures on the NHS because of the coronavirus pandemic and would stop their hunger strikes before needing any kind of medical help.

Elijah, a student from London, said: "It feels really, really difficult at the moment, but one thing we need to remember is that the NHS is under severe pressure due to coronavirus, and I wouldn't want to impact that at all, so we are reviewing our health daily to make sure we don't add any more pressure on to key workers."

Copeland Mayor Mike Starkie, when asked about ongoing protests over the mine, said: "Democratically the local authorities have decided to approve on not one but three occasions, so it's time for people to understand the arguments have been had, and it's time for the mine to press ahead and bring the much needed benefits to West Cumbria."

The company, West Cumbria Mining, says it is delighted the government has agreed with Cumbria County Council's decision to approve planning permission for the mine.

It says the underground metallurgical coal mine, off the coast near Whitehaven in West Cumbria, will supply the UK and European steel making industry.

Supporters of the mine say metallurgical coal would otherwise have to be imported.

In January, Robert Jenrick, secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, decided not to challenge the planning application.

A spokesperson for the department told Sky News: "Planning decisions should be made at a local level wherever possible. This application has not been called-in and is a matter for Cumbria County Council to decide."

In January, West Cumbria Mining CEO Mark Kirkbride said: "I am delighted that the holding direction has been lifted following what has been an extremely rigorous planning process.

"My team and I are now looking forward to concluding planning sign-off and then being able to commence preparatory steps to begin site work later this year."

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