By Louise Witt
In a planned show of solidarity with young people around the world, area students on Friday are anticipated to skip classes for a noontime “climate strike” at Morristown town hall.
The movement is demanding political action to tackle climate change.
Across New Jersey, youth protests also are scheduled in Princeton and Mahwah for March 15, 2019.
Climate strikes nationally and internationally will aim to raise political consciousness about the dangers of rising greenhouse gas emissions, in what may be one of the biggest environmental protests ever.
A Swedish high school student with pigtails inspired the movement. Greta Thunberg started skipping school on Fridays last August to sit outside Sweden’s Parliament with a banner proclaiming a strike to fight climate change.
Thunberg made headlines worldwide in January when she addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switz., pleading for grownups to solve global warming.
“Adults keep saying, ‘We owe it to the young people to give them hope,” she said. “But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”
The U.S. Youth Climate Strike wants legislators to implement the Green New Deal and other pieces of legislation to address the climate crisis.
The Green New Deal calls for policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, so temperatures in this century don’t increase more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, as outlined in the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report last year.
That UN report warned that Earth will reach a point of no return from the effects of global warming within 12 years, if emissions don’t fall rapidly.
Earlier this week, student activists at Morristown High School said they were unaware of Friday’s planned climate strike.
Morris School District Superintendent Mackey Pendergrast did not respond to a request for comment Thursday about the district’s policy regarding students who might wish to participate.
Last March, one Morristown High student defied administrators and left the MHS campus, while a few classmates ventured as far as the school entrance, during a National Student Walkout to press for stricter gun laws in the wake of the Parkland, FL, massacre.
Later that month, Morristown High students helped organize the March for Our Lives in Morristown. In April 2018, hundreds of MHS students took part in a second National Student Walkout for gun reforms, parading around the football field with the approval of school officials.
That routine was repeated last month at Morristown High, where a small group of students looped the gridiron to mark the one-year anniversary of the Florida shooting.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 29-year-old Democratic congresswoman from New York, has put climate change on the political agenda with the introduction of her Green New Deal in the House.
The deal calls for a rapid transfer to renewable energy as well as an ambitious plan to change the nation’s economy and society.
Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-11th Dist.) hasn’t signed on with the Green New Deal. Morris County’s congresswoman told the Star-Ledger: “I like pieces of legislation that are pretty straightforward, and that we can build a consensus around.”
Kevin Coughlin contributed to this report.