As students, we believe climate change to be one of the greatest challenges facing our generation. But more importantly, we know that we must to take active steps to make sure we don’t repeat the mistakes that got us here in the first place. The section below is the story of our origins, our work, and our reflections that have brought us to where we are today.
As a coastal state, New Jersey is especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including increasing temperatures, rising sea levels, and more frequent and severe hurricanes. Moreover, studies have shown that these impacts are worsened by emissions from fossil fuel-reliant industries and facilities, which also release toxic air pollution that negatively impacts our health and wellbeing. Simultaneously, we recognize the need for good, family-sustaining jobs for residents throughout the state.
Thus, our organization [the New Jersey Student Climate Advocates, NJSCA] was founded by Jonathan Lu (Princeton University Class of 2018) in May 2017 with the goal of cutting carbon pollution while benefiting New Jersey residents and protecting vulnerable groups in order to invest in a clean and equitable future.
Past Projects and Accomplishments
As a tight-knit group of high school, college, and graduate students, NJSCA began by meeting with NJ State Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker to brainstorm possible climate policies for New Jersey. Over the course of the next three years, we worked tirelessly to develop a future-minded policy. In particular, we:
Met with over 100 legislators and stakeholders across New Jersey to develop a democratically informed policy,
Presented our work at the premier international research conference on carbon pricing in New Delhi, India,
Were invited to speak and present our work at the United Nations International Day of Peace,
Were invited to speak at the International Citizens Climate Lobby Conference, and
Were invited to attend the Global Climate Action Summit.
NJSCA members meeting with State Assemblyman Zwicker
Then in summer 2020, we reconnected with a local environmental justice advocacy group. We had intense discussions that provided us with a renewed opportunity to authentically engage with notions of climate and environmental justice, to listen to their substantive policy critiques, and to learn more about the reality of the local political situation. These conversations also prompted us to challenge our assumptions and pursue deep, meaningful self-reflection for ourselves and for our group.
We ultimately came to the conclusion that on issues of climate and environmental policy, we need to center the voices of the people who will be most impacted. We want to help make justice and equity a larger part of mainstream climate policy conversations.
We tremendously appreciate the members of the environmental justice advocacy group who have shared their honest insights with us. Moving forward, we will continue to listen. As students, we are grateful for this opportunity to go on this journey—of learning, towards an equitable and sustainable future.