WEST ORANGE, NJ — Youth leaders from around New Jersey, including two from West Orange, held a press conference on May 20 calling on state lawmakers to pass the New Jersey Green Amendment and add it to the state constitution. The amendment would add environmental rights to the constitution and protect rights to clean air, pure water, a stable climate and a healthy environment for all people. The bill is sponsored in the state Assembly by Assemblymen John McKeon and Daniel Benson; Assemblywoman Mila Jasey is one of 41 co-sponsors. In the state Senate, it is sponsored by Sens. Linda Greenstein and Christopher Bateman; Sen. Richard Codey is one of 10 co-sponsors.
“There is a hunger for this type of protection among young people,” Svanfridur Mura, a West Orange High School student and the Green Amendment co-coordinator of the New Jersey Student Sustainability Coalition, said at the press conference. “We’ve come of age under a constant barrage of bad news. Climate change has never been news to us. It is the default our world is set to.”
Now 15 years old, Mura was 11 when Donald Trump was elected president in 2016. She pointed out that the Trump administration stripped climate policies and took no action on climate change.
“Donald Trump was the first president that we paid attention to and the one that defined our perspective of this country’s politics,” Mura said. “He took no action upon the United Nations’ report of a 2030 deadline to stop climate change, news that hit young people like me, who still thought we had time to grow up before joining the fight, like a stab in the chest. In our view, our leader and our country were anti our future. All of this has sent our generation one message: We do not matter.”
Mura called the Green Amendment the “balm to climate anxiety” and “insurance against shortsighted governments.”
Golda Och Academy student Daniel Shapiro also spoke at the press conference.
“What the Green Amendment represents to me is the willingness to change,” he said. “In a world filled with massive amounts of upheaval and distress, we can draw strength from the knowledge that change can be a vector for improvement both individually and societally. What this Green Amendment represents is fundamentally human, the ability to plan for the future. This Green Amendment will change a lot, but it will change for the better. The amendment will give legal leverage across the state to right wrongs. This is something that is sorely needed in our modern political climate, especially to protect the millions of people who will be hit hardest by the lack of sufficient legislation.”
According to McKeon in a phone interview with the West Orange Chronicle on May 21, the amendment is currently in review with the Assembly’s Agriculture Committee.
“It’s not easy to amend, but it was designed to be flexible,” McKeon said about the state constitution. “With the undisputed science (showing) an external threat to our very existence, why not? It’s a long-term, big-picture thing.”
McKeon is hoping to gather momentum and bring the amendment to the Assembly for a floor vote this summer.
“I think we can’t afford not to do it,” he said. “This is something that will protect the rights of everyone in New Jersey.”