MANCHESTER — Lydon Philbrook decided to skip classes at Manchester High School Central the day before his 18th birthday on Friday afternoon to bring awareness to the effects of global climate change.
He joined hundreds of others at Veterans Park on Elm Street — and thousands across the state and country at similar rallies. The “climate strike” was planned to take place a few days ahead of the U.N. Climate Change Summit on Sept. 23. Organizers advertised the strike as “an intergenerational, intersectional effort.”
Philbrook heard about the rally while working at Ben & Jerry’s and took to social media to bring attention to the event.
“I think it speaks loads that we are saying, ‘You know what? Grades can wait right now, we need to act,’ and that we have a priority with this,” the Central High senior said.
Climate change is one of the most talked about political issues discussed about among young people, he said.
“We are thinking long term,” Philbrook said. “We need to combat climate change because that is our greatest threat not just to us, but our dogs, our cats, our water and everything. It is a mass extinction-type crisis.”
People held signs reading “Climate Change = Human Rights Crisis,” “Save our Maple” and “Live Fossil Free or Die.” An estimated 250 people attended the rally in which people marched to City Hall saying chants like “climate change is not a lie, we won’t let our planet die.”
Similar rallies took place on the Plymouth Town Common and Prescott Park in Portsmouth.
About 100 gathered at Murkland Courtyard at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.
According to the New Hampshire Coastal Flood Risk Summary, relative sea level in the Granite State is rising and is expected to increase between 0.5 to 1.3 feet by 2050, and between 1.0-2.9 feet by 2100 if global greenhouse gas concentrations stabilize.
Jordan Shefferman, 19, of Durham, is studying sociology at UNH and helped to organize the climate strike on campus.
“Something that’s unique about our generation is we are the climate change generation where we have grown up with this sense of urgency and this fear that we’re not going to be able to live full lives without dealing with the destruction of climate change,” he said. “Because of that we are in a unique position to literally save our own lives.”
In Manchester, 16-year-old Sofia Mendes, a junior at Central High School, spoke to the crowd through a megaphone, saying many of the students were uncomfortable skipping school — but felt compelled to make a difference.
“Today, we are all here standing united in a fight to save our right to live, to breathe clean air, to drink clean water and to wake up every single day to see the sun versus clouds of smoke and pollution,” she said. “For years, environmentalists have been shouting in the dark to a room full of politicians who would never listen.”
Many held signs against the The Granite Bridge Pipeline proposed by Liberty Utilities.
One of the organizers, Jennifer Dube, of 350NH, a group that opposes fossil fuel infrastructure, said the crowd was about double what they expected. She was impressed by all the students who showed up.
“I hope they had the support of their family and their teachers and principal at school to do it,” she said. “If they didn’t, I’m loving it that they are a rebel and coming out to do this.”