RARITAN, NJ - Bridgewater-Raritan High School students are taking action to protect the environment and raise awareness about climate change and its consequences.
The high school’s Earth Guardians of Bridgewater-Raritan, formed in February 2019, has approximately 60 student members working to address environmental concerns, both locally and globally.
Led by co-presidents Ananya Rayapuraju and Veena Arunkumar, Earth Guardians BR members held a press conference on Raritan’s Nevius Street Bridge June 1 as was part of a coordinated national effort of nearly 100 similar press conferences taking place across the nation and worldwide, strategically scheduled to occur within days of an appellate court hearing of a youth climate lawsuit, Juliana v. United States.
The lawsuit is named after Kelsey Juliana, of Eugene, Oregon, the eldest of 21 plaintiffs that want the federal government to be held accountable for protecting the environment for future generations. The plaintiffs have organized with support from Our Children’s Trust, a national nonprofit environmental organization, and Future Coalition, the nation’s largest network of youth-led organizations.
The case asserts that the government has an obligation to change practices that have caused climate change. Strategies include stopping pollution and the improper disposal of hazardous waste, and adopting renewable energy sources as an alternative to heavy reliance on fossil fuels that emit high levels of carbon into the atmosphere.
Juliana v. United States is being called the most important climate case of this generation. The lawsuit was first filed four years ago in 2015 in the state of Oregon, and has been met with a series of appeals and attempts to dismiss the case that have delayed it from going to trial.
It is the first lawsuit to declare that a stable climate free of catastrophe is a constitutional right.
Earth Guardians BR members echoed that assertion, displaying posters with #alleyesonJuliana, as they gathered on the Nevius Street Bridge.
“How many places have to be ruined by climate change for the government to realize that sitting back and watching is only going to make matters worse?” asked Stephanie Villanueva, 16, Earth Guardians Member and Youth Activist.
“Every day, I fear for my future and the future of my friends and young people in this world,” said Rayapuraju, 15, co-president of Earth Guardians BR, youth ambassador for This Is Zero Hour and volunteer state organizer for Our Children’s Trust. “Right now, we aren’t guaranteed a sustainable world to live in. The US is the largest gas and oil producer in the world. We have the right to a stable climate according to our constitutional rights to life, liberty and property.”
Co-president Arunkumar, 16, agreed.
“Climate change is not a future problem, it’s a now problem,” said Arunkumar, who is also a volunteer state organizer for Our Children’s Trust. ‘
Arunkumar explained some of the negative consequences of climate change, including natural disasters like hurricanes, floods and wildfires.
“If we don’t do anything within the next 12 years, the effects will be irreversible,” she said.
The student members of Earth Guardians BR are doing something, working to protect and conserve the local environments of Bridgewater-Raritan and New Jersey. They completed a beach cleanup in Point Pleasant, and they are planning a week of climate actions to take place from Sept. 20 to Sept. 27, at the start of the new school year.
The club is also working on a recycling initiative to heighten awareness about recycling properly within the high school, and will be conducting a river cleanup to keep their local environment clean.
The club is also committed to continuing to support the national change efforts of Juliana v. United States. They raised and donated $350 to Our Children’s Trust to support the initiative.
Earth Guardians BR will continue to share photos and videos of their local efforts on their Instagram page, https://www.instagram.com/brearthguardians/, and they encourage BRHS students to get involved in their efforts in the coming school year.