Youth Voices on the Green Amendment
On May 13, 2021, several student leaders from across the state of New Jersey spoke up in support of a Green Amendment. For context, the addition of a Green Amendment to New Jersey’s state constitution would put environmental rights on par with other rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights such as free speech and religion. The Green Amendment is necessary in order to address high levels of environmental injustice across the state and guarantee equal environmental rights to all citizens regardless of race, religion, sexuality and gender. Further, during a press conference orchestrated by For The Generations, an environmental organization that has been integral in the widespread passage of the Green Amendment, youth leaders from New Jersey shared their personal stories about why a Green Amendment is valuable to them.
A recurring theme in the testimonies of student leaders was a fear for the future. According to Svanfridur Mura, a student at West Orange High School, “The Green Amendment is the balm to our climate anxiety, insurance against shortsighted governance, and the acknowledgement from our leaders that we [youth] matter.” Similarly, Aarush Rompally, a student at Morris Hills High School shared, “As a youth living in the frightful world of today, where phrases like ‘lead water’ and ‘plastic pollution’ are the norm, the Green Amendment uniquely allows us to take charge of our futures.” Thus, it is clear that the Green Amendment is extremely valuable to youth due to the sense of concern for the future that it highlights and addresses.
Another recurring theme present in the testimonies of the student leaders was a concern for marginalized groups that will be hit the hardest by the climate crisis and are already facing environmental injustice. According to Ashley Park, a student at Bergen County Technical High School, “The Green Amendment will not only preserve our environment that is being destroyed with every new power plant, but also improve public health and protect the marginalized communities that have been targets of environmental injustice for generations.” Similarly, during my own testimony I asserted, “The Green Amendment is necessary to give the marginalized a seat at the table and a voice in matters they have wrongfully been excluded from.” So, it is evident that environmental justice is a leading concern amongst student leaders advocating for the Green Amendment.
Many of the student leaders who spoke at this press conference have actively been participating in advocacy work in support of a Green Amendment for the past year or so. However, due to a lack of votes and cosponsors in the state legislature, the Green Amendment will likely not make it onto the ballot for this year. While this news is unfortunate, there are no signs of these campaign efforts stopping.
The majority of the activists who spoke at the press conference are high school students who shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not the planet will be safe for them and future generations going forward. We have already witnessed some of the effects of climate change firsthand and it is becoming alarmingly clear that it will only get worse unless we act immediately. At its core, the Green Amendment works to protect not only the planet, but the humans that live on it. So, it is time for legislators to begin listening to the real stakeholders: the youth who will have to live with the consequences of climate change for the rest of their lives.