×

More than 700 link up for climate strike between Hanover and Norwich

  • From left, Crossroads Academy students Oliver Yukica, 12, Ethan Huang, 11, and Isaac Yukica, 12, acknowledge a passing motorist's honking horn while chanting "time is up" during a demonstration against climate change in Hanover, N.H., on Sept. 20, 2019. A line of demonstrators on Route 10A from above Tuck Drive in Hanover to the Interstate 91 North onramp in Norwich, Vt., were part of an estimated 1,000 climate strikes across the country. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Over 700 climate change demonstrators lined Route 10A from above Tuck Drive in Hanover, N.H., to the Interstate 91 North onramp in Norwich, Vt., on Sept. 20, 2019. They were part of an estimated 1,000 climate strikes across the country. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • From left, Molly Sheehan, of Meriden, N.H., Nancy Welch and Katja Koeppen, both of Hanover, N.H., demonstrate against climate change during the morning commute on the Ledyard Bridge in Hanover on Sept. 20, 2019. Koeppen and Welch are part of a new chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. Koeppen said climate justice and ecosocialism are amongst the DSA’s national priorities. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, September 20, 2019

NORWICH — Sue and Dave Taylor already were raring to join Upper Valley friends and neighbors in collectively sounding the alarm about the warming of the planet on opening day of the week-long Global Climate Strike.

Then the Plainfield couple read Friday morning about a catastrophic drop in the estimated population of wild birds in North America over the last 50 years, suspected to be driven by habitat loss, and hustled off to the Ledyard Bridge with even more determination to find places in the chain of more than 700 protesters stretching between the greens of Norwich and Dartmouth.

“It’s almost three billion, with a B, birds,” Sue Taylor said on Norwich’s Main Street at the end of the demonstration. “We’re bird lovers, and we’ve noticed the diminishing numbers, but this was just devastating.”

“I grew up in Meriden listening to whip-poor-wills,” added David Taylor, who is in his mid-70s. “Now you can’t find one.”

The Taylors and concerned residents could find a number of Upper Valley climate strikes to join on Friday — from morning drive-time gatherings in South Strafford and Thetford, to lunchtime demonstrations in White River Junction, Randolph and Claremont — as well as gatherings in Vermont and New Hampshire’s capital cities, and indeed worldwide. Marches, rallies and demonstrations were held from Canberra to Kabul and Cape Town to New York.

In South Strafford, an estimated 100 protesters waved signs and exhorted commuters turning west onto Route 132 to honk their horns in support.

“We were really happy with the turnout,” said strike co-organizer Susan Hodges. “Our constable (Ed Eastman) said that this was the most people he can remember coming out for a protest or an event like this here.”

While the strikers skewed older in South Strafford than elsewhere, United Church of Strafford pastor Tom Kinder observed that the town’s high school-age cohort, most of whom attend Thetford Academy and The Sharon Academy, “are participating in other actions. I heard 24 went from TA to Montpelier, and at least a few Strafford high schoolers were in that crowd in Norwich and Hanover.”

Near the top of West Wheelock Street in Hanover first thing in the morning, Richmond Middle School eighth-grader Madeleine Gleeson and sixth-graders Lea Perreard, Alba Gomez-Saucedo, Caroline Daft, Rachel Kohl and Oona Gleeson were chanting and waving at the nearly captive audience of commuters in cars that were idling or creeping toward downtown in morning traffic. They said their worries range from unpredictable snowfall in the Upper Valley, winter by winter, to seemingly endless TV footage of human-influenced natural disasters near and far.

“You can’t help but notice the wildfires in California, and the major droughts they have out there,” Kohl said. “And then there are all these hurricanes and storms that are more and more intense.”

Inspired by Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg’s “Our House Is on Fire” speech to the World Economic Forum earlier this year, a number of protesters on both sides of the river carried red buckets with the phrase “The World is on Fire,” among them Hanover resident Margaret Jernstedt.

“I’m out here today because of what I’ve been learning in our book discussion group at church,” Jernstedt said. “I thought I was pretty well informed, but the more I read about what we’re doing to the climate, it’s just devastating.

“It’s a huge wake-up call.”

She added that for her, “the hope is the kids.”

Former Thetford Academy head-of-school Martha Jane Rich seconded that emotion on West Wheelock Street, while holding a sign rhetorically asking “When Mar-a-Lago sinks, will you believe in climate change?”

“It’s wonderful,” Rich said of the activism she’s seen. “When I was at Thetford … climate was an issue, but there wasn’t this sense of on-fire urgency we’re seeing now.”

Across the planet, “Global Climate Strike” events ranged from a gathering of about two dozen activists in Seoul using LED flashlights to send Morse code messages calling for action to rescue the earth to demonstrations around Australia that organizers estimated were the country’s largest protests since the Iraq War in 2003.

In Paris, teenagers and kids as young as 10 traded classrooms for the streets. The demonstration took on a festival-like feel as bands played and kids danced in a park.

Marie-Lou Sahai, 15, said she skipped school because “the only way to make people listen is to protest.”

And in Washington, several thousand young people marched to the Capitol building carrying signs reading “There is no Planet B” and “This can’t wait until I finish high school.”

“Basically our earth is dying and if we don’t do something about it, we die,” said A.J. Conermann, a 15-year old sophomore. “I want to grow up. I want to have a future.”

“It’s such a victory,” Thunberg, the Swedish teenager, said in an interview Friday with The Associated Press in New York. “I would never have predicted or believed that this was going to happen, and so fast — and only in 15 months.”

Thunberg is expected to participate in a U.N. Youth Climate Summit on Saturday and speak at the U.N. Climate Action Summit with global leaders on Monday.

“They have this opportunity to do something, and they should take that,” she said in the interview. “And otherwise, they should feel ashamed.”

Amid news of recent climate crises — such as this week’s 40-inch rainfalls from Tropical Storm Imelda in greater Houston, two years after Hurricane Harvey similarly swamped the region — Sue and Dave Taylor also are taking heart at the urgency they see in young people. During a pre-strike forum in Hartland last weekend, they heard college students outline strike options and issues, as well as Hartland Elementary School students talk about developing a climate-change curriculum that included holding a teach-in at the school.

“You see their passion,” Sue Taylor said. “They are very committed, enough in some cases to interrupt their educations to work on this issue.”

They were counting on their oldest grandchild, a student at Hanover High School, to at least interrupt his first morning class.

“He’d better be out there,” Dave Taylor said.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.