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Climate Strike: Granite Staters Call for Action on Climate Change

Hundreds of people across New Hampshire turned out at Climate Strike events Friday to lend their voice to calls for action on climate change. 

Carrying handmade signs, pushing strollers and handing out leaflets, they joined striking protesters around the world in a coordinated effort to kick off a week of climate activism.  

The demonstrations are tied to a major conference in New York next week. 

This morning in Portsmouth, groups of high schoolers marched together, chanting, towards the demonstration in Prescott Park.

At the front of that march was 17-year-old Erin Marsden, of Portsmouth High School, clad head-to-toe in single-use plastic shopping bags. 

"I'm actually wearing the amount of plastic bags a person uses in a year," she said. 

Most students who attended the protest, like Marsden, were high school-age or younger, too young to vote. But they called on national leaders to support large, structural action on climate change, though policies like the Green New Deal.

“I think it's unacceptable that the youth of our generation needs to be skipping school to fight to be able to have an actual future, but it's important to do it in our day and age," said Marsden.

Kids in Plymouth made signs in support of 16-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg, whose weekly protests inspired the global climate strikes.

Seven-year-old Emily Reikert took the day off elementary school to attend the strike with her dad, Jacob.

"I feel like it's really important to be here, because if we didn't come here and do this, then school wouldn't even be, like, a thing," she said.

Organizers said local leaders are letting them down too. Among the more than 50 bills he vetoed this year, Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed a number of clean energy bills.

Some of the protesters chanted “Vote Sununu out.”

Later in the day in Plymouth, hundreds of students, families and activists packed the town common for their climate strike - singing their own protest songs and chanting demands for change.

People said the warm weather felt a little strange, and that September used to be cooler there. It underscored the message of many who spoke at the rally.

Some were high schoolers from local private schools - like Holderness School senior Malin Alusic-Bingham, who recounted a nightmare she'd recently had about rising seas. 

"The climate strikes should feel like a call to action,” she said. “Leave here with a plan to educate the world on climate change. Spread the word that our world is dying. And make everyone feel as we do - panicked." 

Many spoke of climate changes they've seen in their lifetimes - including shortened ski and snow seasons, California wildfires, more volatile storms and dryer, hotter summers.

For some, the impacts were even more direct. Dina Hermawan is an international student at New Hampton School. She's originally from Jakarta, Indonesia, which is sinking by at least half a foot each year

“I’m really scared, honestly. If that really happened an entire city is going to be submerged," she said. "Just imagine, I decided to go back home one day and it’s gone – my memories all there – it’s just really sad.”

Hermawan plans to study marine biology in college in the U.S. and take what she learns home to help fight climate change. She says she wants people to call for political reform, and do what they can individually, to slow the effects of global warming before it's too late.

She says she wants people to call for political change, and do what they can individually, to slow the effects of global warming before they’re irreversible.  

Behind the protest stage, parents Erin Crangle and Erin Rideout watched their young kids play under a tree. Crangle says it's hard to talk about climate change without scaring her kids, especially since she's scared for them. 

"I worry that they won't have an Earth that will sustain life," Crangle said. 

Asked what immediate changes they wanted to see after these global climate protests, Crangle and Rideout had different ideas.

“I think it needs to come on a political level - I think it needs to be top down, because we can make all the small changes we want in how we operate our households, but until we aren't burning fossil fuels the way we do, nothing's going to change,” Crangle said.

“I think too, though, if we teach our kids what's happening next, when our kids are the politicians, this won't happen - you know what I mean? The small changes are important too," Rideout added. 

Other protesters said there's one big change they want to push for locally - ending the burning of coal and oil at Merrimack Station power plant in Bow. It's the largest coal plant left in New England. Activists are planning a rally and some civil disobedience there for next weekend.

A special series, "Covering Climate Now," is also a week-long global initiative involving more than 250 news outlets. 

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.
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