NISKAYUNA - Don't let Avi Barr fool you, he isn't quite as old as he seems.
"I'm 12, in August," said the Van Antwerp Middle School student at the Youth March for Global Climate Action he organized at Niskayuna town green on Saturday. "This is an event supporting action toward global climate change... I'm worried about all of the pollution and harm to wildlife. So, this is to get people noticing what's happening. So we can try to stop it, before it gets worse."
About 35 people attended Barr's event, which included music, speeches, a reading of "The Lorax" by Dr. Seuss, a presentation by earth science teacher Paul Scott and a short march to Niskayuna High School.
Barr said he became inspired to organize his youth march after looking at Instagram one day and seeing information about the Women's March in Washington D.C., which had a post about Zero Hour, an environmentalist organization aimed at combating global climate change and founded by Jamie Margolin, a 16-year-old from Seattle.
One Saturday the Zero Hour movement hosted Youth March for Global Climate Action events in Washington D.C., New York City, London and smaller affiliated marches like in Niskayuna.
"I saw there were no marches in New York state, except New York City," Barr said. "So, I decided to start one."
Avi's parents Melissa and Adam Barr supported their sons efforts to organize the march.
"Like a week and a half ago, he sees this post. And he says, 'Can we host a march?' " Melissa Barr recalled. "I think to myself: How can you say no when your child wants to be socially active and make a difference in the world. You just do it."
Adam Barr, a biology teacher at Mohonasen High School, helped set up the sound system equipment, using speakers and a mixer from the days when he had a rock band, and a microphone donated by Drome Sound, from Schenectady. Adam Barr said the event used paper from Nott Street Office, seeds and plants that were handed out from Faddegon's Nursery, the Dollar Tree and Hewitt's, and refreshments from the Niskayuna Coop Market and Starbucks Coffee.
"An event like this really shows you the importance of community," Adam Barr said, in reference to how easy it was to find sponsors among local businesses.
Avi Barr is the youngest of four siblings. His sister Rebecca Barr, 14, a Niskayuna High School student, said her brother is normally a shy youngster. But she said she wasn't surprised he would organize a rally to help the environment.
"He donated money from his lemonade stand to charities and stuff, he likes helping out," Rebecca Barr said.
One of the themes of the event was recycling. The ice tea given out at the rally was served in "Greenware" cups, which look and feel like transparent plastic cups, but are actually derived from biodegradable plastics.
Lexi Tull and Sophie Spindler, classmates of Avi Barr, attended the rally and held up signs, one of which said "Reduce, Reuse and Recycle."
"To save the Earth, we should recycle," Tull said. "Whenever you have glass or plastic, like from Starbucks, you recycle them, instead of throwing them away."
Tull and Spindler wrote songs for the event and performed a pair at the rally, singing and playing a pair of ukuleles.
The keynote speech at the rally was by Niskayuna earth science teacher Paul Scott, who told the people that 20 of the hottest years on record have occurred since 1995. He said for the children participating in the rally, the earth has had above average heat for every year of their lives. He asked all of the people in the audience to pledge to make a change in their lives to do more for the environment.
"We all live on planet earth," Scott said. "If it was an easy thing to solve, it wouldn't be a problem. Anytime we have real problems it's because people don't want to make some changes, which requires effort."
"It requires public organizations, our government and us to make some changes, to do something," Scott said. "Little by little, with sacrifice, we can make some change."