PLYMOUTH — The octagonal Bulfinch Bandstand on the Plymouth Common served as a platform for a host of speakers Friday who told the capacity crowd that more needs to be done to safeguard the health of the planet.
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Inspired by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, Plymouth elementary school students joined their counterparts from Holderness and New Hampton schools, Inter-Lakes High School in Meredith, and Plymouth State University, chanting and singing. Most said they joined the climate strike because they were anxious about their future on a hotter planet, and angry at world leaders for failing to act. Thunberg, who launched the climate strike movement as a demonstration in August 2018, was quoted during the Plymouth event.
Many brought handmade signs to the Plymouth event. “The dinosaurs thought they had time too,” one read.
Others read: “Make Earth Great Again,” “Our Future is Not A Partisan Issue,” and “The Earth Needs Thinkers Not Deniers.”
A common theme shared by many speakers was the desire for leaders to address the issue, and that the event marked the beginning of activism, not the end of it.
“It is critically important to express our voices. Solving the climate problem doesn’t start with you, but us. Let’s make this a start, and the next time we hold this, bring someone who couldn’t make it today,” said Dr. Brian Eisenhauer, who heads Plymouth State University’s Office of Environmental Sustainability.
Former state Sen. Wayne King told the crowd the tools of democracy are available if change doesn’t happen fast enough. When governments forget about their responsibility to the future they must be reminded, he said.
King began his remarks by offering an apology for the condition of the planet that has been left to future generations to address.
“We must say to politicians that they must stand with us, or stand down,” King said.
“We are all here to wake up our communities and to save our planet’s life,” Malin Alusic-Bingham, a senior at Holderness School, told the crowd.
She recounted eating at a restaurant, asking why the establishment was using Styrofoam containers instead of cardboard, and being told it was too expensive. She urged the climate strikers to ask similar questions at the businesses they patronize. It’s not so much about the act but taking a stand and the awareness that such questions engender, she said.
State Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky took aim at Gov. Chris Sununu.
“We have a governor who doesn’t believe (climate change) is real,” said Volinsky. He urged attendees to consider running for office.
“Do things in public life that are consistent with your values in your private life,” he counseled.
Plymouth activists helped derail Northern Pass, and, Volinsky said, they should now set their sights on a new target, Liberty Utilities’ proposed Granite Bridge natural gas pipeline, supplied largely by fracking operations in places like Pennsylvania.
Elizabeth Larny-Harris, of Henniker, said fear and hope brought her to the Plymouth strike.
“I fear for the future if we don’t change what we are doing and my hope is that we will come to our senses about what we need to do to prevent further controversy,” she said.
“You are the folks who get it and realize that global warming is real. We gather here today to effect immediate change,” said Dick Hage of Plymouth.
“I am very concerned about climate change. It should be our number one priority. If we don’t have a planet we don’t have to worry about the other stuff,” said Jessica Charon of Plymouth.
Charon is no stranger to activism, recounting that as a child she accompanied her mother among those protesting construction of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Station.
The Rev. Dr. Linda Barnes of the Starr King Unitarian Universalist Church, who holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology and formerly served as a college biology professor and organic farmer, told the gathering to put the health of the planet before convenience.
“We face a terrible truth — ecocide,” she said.
Bill Bolton, a Plymouth selectman who is running for the District 2 state senate seat, urged strikers to vote up and down the ticket for those who aren’t climate change deniers.
“If your candidate is not taking climate change seriously, then vote them out, or better yet, run for office,” he said.
Nationally, 633 climate strike events were registered. The worldwide demonstrations come three days before world leaders are set to gather at the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York, where U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said he wants to see governments and businesses pledge to abandon fossil fuels.