By Ryan Novak
September 20th, 2019— Throughout the world, people took to the streets in solidarity with nearly 4 million other activists united in the name of environmentalism. From London to Paris, Melbourne to New York City; all the way around the world and back again people participated in one of the biggest demonstrations in history. It was a beautiful day here in Saranac Lake where hundreds came out in support of the Global Climate Strike. Will it be enough?
“This is the most people I’ve seen here since Hobo Fest.”
The first spark of the Global Climate Strike was ignited by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old activist from Sweden who began turning heads when she refused to go to school on Fridays. “School Strike for Climate”, she called it. Now it has become a Global Climate Strike.
Thanks to Leena Keal, a senior at Saranac Lake High school, the North Country participated as well. It was as simple as saying, “Hey, I’m going to do this too!” said Leena.
Out on the Riverside Park in force, our youth fought for their right to a future, fittingly next to the Veterans Walk. All ages looked on and listened as thoughts converged on stage to not only raise awareness, but more importantly provide solutions to the single largest threat facing the earth’s population. The event was characterized by a cacophony of applause, cheers, and even horns as people drove by blaring their support.
“This is the most people I’ve seen here since Hobo-Fest” attested Dep. Mayor Shapiro
400 strong, there were students from elementary, middle, high and home schools. They poured in from Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene, Lake Placid, North Country, and North Wood Schools. Students showed up from North Country Community College, Paul Smith’s College, and even as far as Hamilton College near Utica, NY. Everyone came out under one banner to address the growing climate problem.
While it’s awesome to see protesters gather, we need to remember that posters and protests alone are not enough. Much of the skepticism that surrounds events like these is borne of hollow promises, words without action.
In response to the protest, a Resolution wass presented to Leena on behalf of Legislators Lindy Ellis and Carl Sherwin, an official statement intended to reflect that their plans to ensure that the spirit of this protest does not dwindle in vain. It reads:
“Resolved: That in recognition of the Worldwide focus on this issue (climate change), the 2019 Climate Action Week of September 21st and its efforts to recognize climate change urgently now and into the future, Franklin County encourages continued development of new data and is interested in reviewing existing and ongoing data to propose actions to keep our local communities resilient in the face of change”
Unanimously signed on September 5th, 2019, long before the demands of the assembly and the demands of the people were even heard. Vague blanket statements like this often seem to be echo chambers, hollow halls filled with reverberations of the voices who have already spoken.
In a panel at Paul Smith’s College discussing possible action and moving forward, one suggestion was that the youth needs to vote. That is a fact. Moreover, it is not a simple solution.
We as the younger third of the population are able to see our future is at risk. Our generation has a disconnect with the political system and due process, but maybe that’s because we have lost confidence in it all together. Between eternal wars and rampant veteran suicide, gun violence and a national mental health crisis; it is hard to put faith without cynicism into the same systems that have let us down.
Globally, we know what decisions need to be made. It’s time to act.
“Stop subsidizing the already fabulously rich fossil fuel industries and subsidize green energy”
We know we need to stop subsidizing coal and oil and invest in sustainable alternatives, regardless of short-term economic consequences, in order to prevent long-term economic collapse. But the fact of the matter is, it has already taken too long.
This movement is bringing a new generation to the climate fight, and with them, a new spirit! Now is the time to ensure that momentum is turned into sustained political pressure. Traditional institutional proceedings are not the tools available, however. When the institutional system of values are wrong, the movement starts outside the institution and overwhelms it so that change is the only option left.
The Civil Rights Movement didn’t start with a vote, it ended with a vote— and a right to vote. But it began with unease. Unease fermented into a culture of social movement. Organizations began to emerge from that unrest and a defined sense of discontent grew and with it the desire for those responsible to be held accountable. At last came the boycotts and sit-ins, the events that galvanized support. That focalized collective set the stage for leaders to step up.
The time of heroes is upon us once more.
For more information on what you can do, or to connect with people in your area that are doing something, visit: https://www.sunrisemovement.org/
“We’re building an army of young people to make climate change an urgent priority across America, end the corrupting influence of fossil fuel executives on our politics, and elect leaders who stand up for the health and well-being of all people. We are not looking to the right or left. We look forward. Together, we will change this country and this world, sure as the sun rises each morning.”