There is not much that Shayne Cytrynbaum, a seventh-grader at Golda Och Academy (GOA) in West Orange, worries about more than climate change. “This is the existential crisis of our times,” he told NJJN.
So, when the 12-year-old from Livingston realized that logistical reasons would prevent his being able to get to Foley Square in New York City to join his peers at the Sept. 20 Youth Climate Strike, he did the next best thing: He organized a talk and video presentation at his school. At 10 a.m., as morning prayers ended, he addressed his peers, offering warnings about global warming and other threats to the environment and urging them to action.
They cheered for him as he walked to the center of the room. In his “Go Green” T-shirt, he was among the smallest in the crowd of seventh- through 12th-graders, but the message he was there to offer was serious.
He gave his peers a taste of the future if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t cut. “There will be constant drought and fires and storms and hurricanes and floods,” he said. “And there will be more poverty and more wars about resources, and there will be more refugees and hunger problems, and disease will spread.” Citing the new UN Climate Change Report, he warned, “We have less than 12 years to cut our emissions in half, and after that, we do have to get them down to net zero.”
Shayne pointed out, for the skeptics in the crowd, that we are already seeing the effects of climate change, listing a series of damaging storms. “We’ve had Katrina, Sandy, Dorian, Irma, and Harvey, and these were all much stronger than they would have been without climate change,” he said.
But he also offered steps all his fellow students can take to tackle the problem, from planting trees to eating less meat. And for those worried about the expense of installing solar panels or buying an electric car (though for the time being, it’s clear his classmates themselves are positioned to take neither of these steps), he offered one last thought: “The most expensive plan, also the most dangerous one, is what we are doing right now: doing nothing.”
He was disappointed not to be in Foley Square, but added that he’d planned to attend a vigil for supporters in Montclair that evening.
Although there were reports of anywhere from 60,000 to 250,000 people in Foley Square, and local students headed both into New York City as well as to various town halls during the school day, none of the day schools in the area reported significant absences.