Opinion: The need for New Jersey Green Amendment


Jack Hancsin

Del Val’s idyllic, rural landscapes are in danger due to climate change, and the New Jersey Green Amendment is essential to protecting our state.

Each morning, on my drive to Delaware Valley Regional High School, I pass the sun rising over an old barn and its surrounding hills. Of course, as a new, and nervous, driver, I only allow myself a few quick peeks at this daily, yet infinitely wondrous phenomenon before returning my eyes to the road.

Still, these momentary glances of an orangey-pink sky, an old tin roof, and an expansive field covered in morning dew remind me of what a blessing it is to have lived and grown up in the naturally beautiful landscape that is Hunterdon County.

Invariably, though, my thoughts turn to my car, and how it is emitting carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, which will make their way up to the atmosphere, where they will heat up our already warming planet via the Greenhouse Effect. This will further melt our glaciers, in turn raising sea levels, and before I know it, this very spot will be underwater and the beloved setting of my childhood will be at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. So much for a peaceful morning commute.

These days, it’s hard to be anything but pessimistic. The IPCC report, published in August by the greatest environmental scientists from around the globe, cited that sea levels would continue to rise for fifty years—and that’s if all greenhouse gas emissions ceased immediately. Not to mention, the other deadly consequences of climate change—heat waves, hurricanes, wildfires, and extreme temperatures—will only worsen if we continue on this trajectory. In case you still aren’t getting the point, let UN Secretary General António Guterres put it in simpler terms: this news is a “code red for humanity.”

For me, anxiety surrounding the climate crisis is intensified by the false politicization of the issue which is taking place all around the United States. No resolution can be agreed upon across the aisle, and in many cases, the very acknowledgement of our current crisis is treated as partisan politics.

As wildfires rage in California, hurricanes and tropical storms pummel the Eastern seaboard, and global temperatures continue to rise at unparalleled rates, it seems our local state and federal governments are poisoned by inaction and petty bickering. Indeed, the hill we climb appears insurmountable. However, we do not have to—in fact, we must not—look towards the future with such cynicism and dread.

Former President John F. Kennedy said, “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity.”

I have addressed the danger of this crisis, and now I would like to recognize the opportunity, and that opportunity starts with the New Jersey Green Amendment.

The New Jersey Green Amendment, if passed in the State Senate and Assembly, and subsequently approved by New Jersey voters in a referendum, would be added to the state’s constitution to ensure that every person has the “right to a clean and healthy environment, including pure water, clean air, and ecologically healthy habitats, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic, and esthetic qualities of the environment.”

This amendment is the first necessary step towards solving the climate crisis because it is something that all New Jerseyans, regardless of political affiliation, can agree upon. This right is obvious, inalienable, and inherent to the human condition.

The New Jersey Green Amendment is not a comprehensive or final solution to the predicament we find ourselves in today, but it opens up bipartisan dialogue and makes certain that effective action will follow; for if each citizen has the right to a healthy environment, the government will be forced to tackle climate change head-on, and quickly.

In other words, it is the starting point in our mission to preserve the natural wonder of Hunterdon County, and New Jersey at large, for generations to come. It is the beginning of our opportunity to overcome the most formidable, the most pressing crisis humanity has ever known—and this is why I, co-president of Delaware Valley Regional High School’s Environmental Club, offer my full support for the New Jersey Green Amendment, and urge you to do the same.