Gerald Burns shares his thoughts about Fridays for the Future Climate Strike held in Jaffery, NH.
Have you happened to pass through Jaffrey on a Friday morning recently? Noticed a group of people, young and old and in-between, clustered on the main intersection in town, holding signs and waving at the cars and trucks going by? If you’ve seen it, you’ve witnessed the local climate strike, Fridays for the Future; if you waved back, you’ve participated in it. (Thanks!)
This action carries on the spirit of the first strike, launched by the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, on a day when she decided to skip school in order to call attention to the crisis facing the planet. (Greta has repaid the honor by sharing many of the weekly posts of the Jaffrey group.) The Monadnock version was also started by a single young person, Madison (Maddy) Springfield, a former star basketball player for Conant High, home on a break between college and grad school in International Environmental Policy at California’s Middlebury Institute . Maddy quickly rallied others to the cause: high school and college students, retired folks and those still working—including one who shows up faithfully at the strikes’s 8am start, then hustles off in time to make it to her job in Keene at 9.
Maddy’s place as an organizer has been taken by another recent college grad, Megan Wheeler. Megan is a former teammate of Maddy who is eagerly waiting to hear back on an application to the Peace Corps. It is she who sends out notices, provides inspiring quotations, ferries a supply of extra signs, and posts a group selfie of each gathering on the Fridays for the Future Facebook page. “This Friday we will be striking from 8-9am!” Megan announces on Fb sometime during the week before, and all know that the event is on, come rain or come shine (and these days, come snow or subzero cold).
Why do we strike, especially in this way, where a friendly wave is as important a part of the action as the protest signs? Simple: to create more awareness of an issue that demands full attention. The United Nations scientific panel warns that we have only until 2030—that’s eight more years—to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half and spare future generations the worst consequences of climate change. (And the “worst” are pretty bad; they might even threaten the existence of many species, including our own.)
Thinking more politically, we need to move past the point where, as seems to be the case looking ahead to the fall elections, climate change figures for even some Democratic candidates as a topic to avoid rather than address head on. In fact, climate has to become as familiar a topic of conversation as, well, the weather, in order for us to have any hope of taking meaningful, timely measures to meet the challenge it poses, in the Monadnock region, in the country, and in the world.
And what better way to nudge our neighbors and fellow citizens toward this kind of awareness than to issue a friendly reminder, as they get going on their own day’s business, that there is something beyond daily business that needs attending to by all of us, and for all who come after us? Well, OK, there may be other ways of making a difference, and a number of us are involved in those, as well. But Fridays for the Future lets us make a statement that is both personal and public. We expect to keep it going. Please join us. Fridays 8-9, downtown Jaffrey. There will be extra sign to hold, and a spare pair of mittens to wave, waiting for you.
Gerald Burns is a Professor Emeritus at FPU, a founding member of the Institute for Climate Action. He is also a board member of the Monadnock Sustainability Hub.