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Teens demand climate action

Protest organizer Leena Keal, front center-left holding the “System change not climate change” sign, stands amid about 30 other students from Saranac Lake High School at a walkout protest Friday. (Enterprise photo — Kevin Shea)

SARANAC LAKE — Students joined with local residents to protest climate change and the lack of action on behalf of politicians to curb humanity’s contribution to the problem.

Under gray skies and a faint drizzle, the high school students were applauded by a small crowd of residents and locals.

Around 30 students and 15 community members stood in a circle. Several held signs putting words to their beliefs. The protest was mostly silent, but the event’s organizer, sophomore Leena Keal, explained that the originator started this series of global walkouts as a silent protest.

The movement, known as Fridays for Futures, began with one Swedish student, Greta Thunberg. The then-15-year-old sat on the steps of Swedish Parliament every day for three weeks before switching to Fridays only. Almost a year later, her protest has exploded into a global walkout on Friday led to 2,333 countries participating, including Australia, Lebanon and Zambia, according to Fridays for Future’s website.

“We’re out here because politicians aren’t doing enough,” Keal said. “So we need to do something.”

Local adults join Saranac Lake High School students to protest the lack of climate change action from politicians Friday outside the school. (Enterprise photo — Kevin Shea)

Members of a local political action group known as Adirondack Voters for Change came to show their support for the students.

“I just want to say thank you, good luck, and sorry for what we’ve done,” said Steve DeHond, a member of Adirondack Voters for Change.

Keal said she started to form the idea of having a walkout at the school back in October, when she first heard of Friday for Future at a seminar in the Catskills. She later learned more of Thunberg and the movement on a trip to New York City. After she had her letter to the editor published in the Enterprise Wednesday, she heard from different people and groups offering her support and asking to join the walkout.

“Everyone reached out to me in the last four days,” Keal said.

Lennon Clement, a freshman at Saranac Lake High School said other students had been downplaying the effect the protest would have, saying no change would come from it.

Keal and Clement refute that sentiment. Keal said that until the school closes for the summer, she would help organize rallies on as many Fridays as she can.

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