Rally sends message about cutting carbon dioxide
U.S. Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, left, shakes hands with Jonathan Sandberg of Portsmouth. Sandberg says he agrees with Kucinich's ideas but doesn't think he's "a viable candidate because he's so abrasive." (Elizabeth Dinan photo / SMG)
Dennis Kucinich (D) Representative, OH
Born: 10/08/1946
Birthplace: Cleveland, OH
Home: Cleveland, OH
Religion: Catholic
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PORTSMOUTH - There was little green to speak of in downtown Portsmouth, but that was still the color splashed across signs, chalked on the street, and in the minds of about 200 people who gathered there Saturday afternoon.

Seacoast residents and political figures held a "Step It Up!" rally in a cordoned off section of Pleasant Street and Market Square as part of a national effort to call on Congress to cut greenhouse emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050.

Eighteen groups, ranging from the Marshwood High Recycling to the Sierra Club, stacked tables with information and kept those wandering the street busy between speeches.

"It's wonderful to think that things like this are going on all over the country right now. It really shows how much people are concerned," said rally member Pat Daunic.

The day was highlighted by speakers, including Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich.

Marchand kicked off the speeches with a call for residents to do their part to cut down on their carbon emissions.

"It doesn't matter if you're federal or local, you can make a difference right now," said Marchand. "It is a moral issue for us, because what we're really thinking about is the next generation."

Sarah Brown, the head of the St. John's Episcopal Church's Stewardship of the Earth committee, said the event originally was planned as a smaller rally in Market Square. After she realized there would be too many attendees for the small space, the group managed to get permission from the city to close the end of Pleasant Street bordering the square to vehicle traffic.

"The city of Portsmouth was very supportive of our efforts," she said, with protesters behind her waving signs and passing cars blasting their horns in support. "We've seen a lot of enthusiasm from everyone involved here today."

Brown said the 80 percent emission cut is in direct response to scientists who say that trimming less will result in more drastic warming by that year. She said from the period of 1990 to 2004, carbon emissions have gone up 18 percent in the United States and nearly 50 percent in New Hampshire.

"That's the period we've really known about global warming, so to me it's like someone eating poison when you already know it's poison. One goal we have is to make the individual aware of what they can do to reduce these emissions," Brown said.

Kucinich arrived near the end of the rally and gave the afternoon's final speech after a short address from state Sen. Martha Fuller Clark. He shook hands with rallyers and called on residents to join forces to help reduce their carbon footprint.

"We accept that we have a responsibility to each other and to this planet," said Kucinich, drawing cheers and whistles from the crowd.

In Exeter, more than 100 people came to Swasey Parkway along the banks of the Exeter River to support the effort.

"We, as citizens, are finally waking up" to the issue of global warming, said state Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-Exeter.

Hassan cited three major ways in which global warming has begun to affect the New Hampshire economy.

"There are fewer ski areas in the state than there once were," Hassan said. The skiing season is shrinking and the maple syrup industry is fading. Global warming is "changing not only our environment but our way of life and economy as well" and it needs to be addressed.