MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Students at Columbia High School want New Jersey politicians to put more measures into place to stop climate change and are asking these leaders to be more proactive with addressing the issue.
The students made their voices heard on Friday during a student-run and organized classroom walk-out event. The event was part of a global climate strike internationally to get local, state and world leaders’ attention about issues negatively impacting the climate and environment.
The walk-out at Columbia High School was led by the school’s Students for Justice and GAIA Environmental Clubs. Students walked from Columbia High School to Maplewood Town Hall, beginning around 10 a.m., and then through Maplewood Village and finally to Ritzer Field where they called local politicians and decorated reusable shopping bags.
Voter registration sign-up sheets were also handed out during the event.
“A lot of people in Maplewood, South Orange and Columbia High School care about these issues but don’t know how to help,” said Lily Forman, a junior and student leader with Students for Justice. “We wanted to create an event to get the students excited about helping.”
Registering to vote, calling the representatives, and decorating the bags, Forman said, are all ways that students can help in spreading the word about the dangers of changes in the climate and environment.
In New Jersey close to South Orange and Maplewood, the lead contaminated drinking water in neighboring municipality Newark is a recent environmental issue that concerns the students.
Last month, thousands of residents in the city were given bottled water to drink after above normal lead levels were found in the tap water. City officials had deemed the water unsafe to drink. New Jersey officials are taking steps to clean the water through a $120 million project to replace the aging water pipes in Newark that are contaminating the water, npr.org reported.
“Climate change affects everything and everyone so we’re focusing on the way it’s already hurting people,” Forman said.
The day was about pushing the U.S. Congress to act in protecting the Earth.
“We stand against Congress who isn’t really doing anything regarding this issue. Greenhouse emissions, recycling, it’s all these different things that we’ve known for years. Melting of the ice caps,” said Terry Woolard, assistant principal for ninth grade at Columbia High School.
Students spoke about several of these issues during Friday’s event. They also took advantage of the walk-out time and used it to speak about other issues they said are negatively impacting the community such as racial injustice and homelessness.
Residents of Maplewood and South Orange also attended the walk-out event and said they were inspired by the students’ motivation to want to get the word out.
“It would never to have occurred to me to cut school to make a statement, said South Orange resident Elly Lonon. “They are caring and powerful. I will back them the whole way.”