Joining global strike, students rally in Morristown for action on climate change

Students at Morris County Climate Strike, Sept. 20, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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Roxbury High School senior Kathleen Smith wasn’t concerned about repercussions for cutting classes on Friday.

Roxbury High School senior Kathleen Smith at Morris County Climate Strike, Sept. 20, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“I could not have gone to school with a clear conscience,” said Smith, who joined dozens of other students and adults outside Morristown town hall for the Morris County Climate Strike.

Millions of people in more than 150 countries were anticipated to take part in similar rallies to protest climate change, ahead of next week’s United Nations Climate Action Summit.

More than 1 million students were granted permission to skip school in New York City, where 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg marched on Friday.

Thunberg, whose weekly school strikes in Sweden galvanized youths around the world, was cited by several speakers in Morristown.

“The one thing we need more than hope is action,” said Newark Academy senior Sophia Ludke, echoing Thunberg.

Video: Time for action

 

“This is our window to act…I have to start now,” said Ananya Singh, a senior from the Morris County School of Technology in Denville. “I’m so scared of what the world will look like in 30, 40, or 50 years.”

The crowd, estimated at 100 people by Morristown police, was exhorted to press Gov. Phil Murphy to halt 15 fossil-fuel related projects across the state, and to support renewable energy.

John Ellwood, a farmer from Andover, lampoons President Trump’s environmental policies, at Morris County Climate Strike, Sept. 20, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Governments should “listen to the science” that warns of increasingly severe storms and rising sea levels from human emissions of greenhouse gases, said Singh, who helped organize the Morristown event for the county chapter of the Sunrise Movement, a grassroots group.

Chapter co-founder Sam DiFalco, a recent Ithaca College graduate, stated seven demands: A Green New Deal, a halt to fossil fuel projects, linkage of government decisions to scientific research, declaring climate change a national emergency, teaching climate change in elementary schools, preservation of public lands, and clean water for all.

Speakers included members of Clean Water Action, Our Revolution Essex County and 350NJ/Rockland, and 26th District Assembly candidate Christine Clarke. Cassandra Worthington of Food and Water Watch recounted how she temporarily was blinded while researching fracking sites in Wyoming.

Video: Chanting for the planet:

Participants included employees of Lush Cosmetics, who said they were given permission to attend.

No students from the Morris School District spoke at the event. A Morristown High School student said it “was business as usual” there and that few kids seemed aware of the gathering downtown. Superintendent Mackey Pendergrast and Principal Mark Manning did not respond to requests for comment about the District’s policy on students who cut classes for climate strikes.

‘THE HANDWRITING WAS ON THE WALL’ : Retired teacher Rebecca Johnsen at Morris County Climate Strike, Sept. 20, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Retired teacher Rebecca Johnsen said her sixth graders at Mountain Park Elementary School in Berkeley Heights were honored in 1988 by the first President Bush with the President’s Environmental Youth Award.

The students called their recycling project H.O.W., for Help Our World. Johnsen expressed disgust at how she perceives the United States to be backsliding on the environment.

“In 1988, we showed videos that predicted the hurricanes, the flooding, the droughts,” Johnsen said. “The handwriting was on the wall, and we chose to ignore it. And here we are again.”

It’s time to “create chaos,” said Molly Breckman, a freshman at Newark Academy. “Act like our lives depend on it– because they do.”

MorristownGreen.com correspondent Olivia Yepez contributed to this report.

Morris County Climate Strike, Sept. 20, 2019. Photo by Olivia Yepez
Morris County Climate Strike, Sept. 20, 2019. Photo by Olivia Yepez
Students at Morris County Climate Strike, Sept. 20, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Students at Morris County Climate Strike, Sept. 20, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Students at Morris County Climate Strike, Sept. 20, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Crowd at Morris County Climate Strike, Sept. 20, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

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