WEST ORANGE, NJ – A climate movement that has gained steam on an international scale has now come to West Orange thanks to a push from climate activist and Roosevelt Middle School student Svanfridur Mura.
Although still too young to vote, Mura decided to take the issue of climate change into her own hands after hearing reports from leading scientists and the United Nations (UN) saying that there are only 11 years to do something about climate change before irreversible damage is done. Mura believes that time is of the essence in tackling this monumental issue and is now calling the youth of West Orange to gather outside the steps of town hall once a month to protest the government’s lack of action with regard to climate change.
Her efforts are inspired by “FridaysForFuture” (FFF) and “School Strikes for Climate Change,” two names for a global movement started by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg in August 2018, where children skip school to protest in front of their local government buildings.
The movement has grown to include more than a million students in more than 100 countries, including the United States.
Thus far in West Orange, Mura and four of her classmates have held three strikes between the months of April and June to ensure that their futures will not be marred by inaction.
Although the adults in Mura and her peers’ lives have looked down on the activists skipping school, Mura also asks, “Why go to school to prepare for a future that—if climate change does what scientists predict—will never come?”
“The youth of West Orange, NJ and the U.S. need to be talking about [climate change and be] aware of it; and we need to show our parents that this is something that matters to us because they are the ones who will end this,” she said. “It is no secret that our country is not doing what it needs to be in terms of environmental reform.”
Mura added that she believes President Donald Trump is tearing down environmental regulations and disregarding climate change despite scientific data supporting it.
As teenagers, Mura and her peers find it frustrating to have no voice on the issue of climate change, even though it is their generation that is going to face the consequences if nothing is done now.
“For many of us, we feel as if we are helpless—like the adults are throwing away our futures and dreams,” she said. “Our one job is getting an education, so we’re striking because that is the only thing we can do.”
Although the recent strikes have mainly included Mura and her peers, Mura said she hopes that the movement will gain steam when the strikes recommence outside West Orange Town Hall in September. Mura also said that the small group of people who have consistently shown up care about the issue and “are trying their hardest to stop climate change.”
“Many of us have altered our lifestyles, doing what little we can as kids such as becoming vegan/vegetarian, composting and encouraging our parents to be environmentally friendly,” said Mura.
She and her classmates have also been taking action at Roosevelt Middle School by collaborating with the student council, teachers and administrators to encourage school-wide environmentally friendly behavior.
As an eighth grader next year, Mura intends to run for student council president, where her platform will be on climate change awareness and environmental reform.
In the future, Mura said that she and many of her peers plan to make careers out of protecting the environment, but added that she hopes “most of [their] work will be damage control” by then.