May 29, 2019

PHS Students Lead Climate Strike At Hinds Plaza Rally

By Donald Gilpin

Warning that “survival demands action; inaction means extinction,” about 50 Princeton High School (PHS) students joined representatives from the Princeton University Students Climate Initiative (SCI) and others in Hinds Plaza on Friday afternoon, May 24, to demand action to combat climate change.

As part of a growing international movement led by youth to push for climate action, the PHS contingent carried signs stating “Save Our Planet. Save Our Future”; “Climate Justice Now”; and “The climate is changing, why aren’t we?” And they chanted, “We demand change”; Our planet, our future”; and “There is no Planet B.”

“We have a right to be angry about what has been done to our planet,” said rally co-organizer Nate Howard, PHS Democrats in Action (DIA) director of activism, in a speech to the gathering. “We are left to clean up the mess. If we wait, it will be too late. That’s why we’re here today. Politicians need to get on board.”

Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (16th Legislative District) and Sustainable Princeton Executive Director Molly Jones joined the gathering and spoke to the students. “There is no other choice but action,” Zwicker said. “We need your voice.” He emphasized progress on the environmental front through state government.

“”We’re not just striking,” he continued. “We’re not just protesting. We are taking action. New Jersey is making sure that we set the tone for the rest of the country. We are doing that because of you. Please go on fighting.”

Urging the young people to weigh in on the proposed Princeton Climate Action Plan, which is online and welcoming input and review until June 1, Jones stated, “I’m here to support the community and the youth engaging in climate action. This is a problem that is so massive, it takes us all to get on board. I’m here to support the enthusiasm of young people who want to figure out the solutions.”

Jones noted that Sustainable Princeton has many opportunities for student involvement, and she urged, “Keep marching onward and keep on with the fight.”

Other speakers included Allen Liu, vice president of the SCI at Princeton University, and PHS strike co-organizer Martin Mastnak.

Howard, a tenth-grader, emphasized the urgency of the climate crisis. “Compromise by politicians is not acceptable,” he said. “We don’t want compromise. We must be part of a global movement. Our leaders must be willing to do whatever it takes. We demand action now.”

Howard, in a press release, quoted UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who said, in reference to the global youth movement, “These schoolchildren have grasped something that seems to elude many of their elders: we are in a race for our lives and we are losing. The window of opportunity is closing. We no longer have the luxury of time, and climate delay is almost as dangerous as climate denial.”

PHS DIA students led a school strike for climate in Hinds Plaza earlier this year, on March 15, joining more than a million others worldwide to support the climate strike for the future and the efforts of Swedish student Greta Thunberg to urge government action.

On Campus at PHS

Meanwhile, back on campus, PHS engaged in a Day of Action last Thursday and a Day of Dialogue on Friday. Taking advantage of flexible scheduling in order to make time for “a wide variety of learning opportunities outside of the regular class schedule,” according to Principal Gary Snyder, students participated in a range of service activities, including a blood drive, voter registration, a food drive, and more.

Event organizer Talia Fiester, a senior, reported that 110 students registered to vote, students prepared 350 hygiene bags and wrapped 500 utensils for the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK), put together 120 kits for HomeFront, wrote 28 notes of appreciation for teachers and staff, and wrote 100 cards to Acorn Glen senior citizens. Other special activities at PHS on Thursday included calling and writing letters to senators and representatives, signing petitions for a variety of causes, and visiting with therapy dogs from Attitudes in Reverse. 

On Friday, student groups and advisors participated in a number of social justice workshops and dialogue on topics ranging from implicit bias to micro-aggressions to dealing with stress, internet safety, and a speaking and hearing session between students and teachers.