My name is Jeremiah LaCon, a twenty year old undergraduate college student who has lived in South Orange, New Jersey since 2000. During the summer of 2017, I was a rising junior at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey and employed as an intern at the nonprofit B.L.E.S.S.E.D. Ministries in Newark, New Jersey. As a result, each day I would take the journey from South Orange, New Jersey to Newark, New Jersey. 

When driving or walking along South Orange Avenue (twenty minute drive / thirty minute walk) the most distinguishing factor that resonated was the gradual and then exponential buildup of waste (undisposed mountains of garbage bags laying on sidewalks, broken shards of glass mixed in a slew of plastic bags/containers, heaps of boxes indiscriminately stacked upon one another, ect.). Along with the gradual and then the exponential decline of trees, herbs, and flowers decorated along the road – perhaps that was the most the most distinguishing factor I noticed on my journey simply when driving or walking along South Orange avenue. 

After reflecting on the environmental difference between these neighboring communities, I began to google and inquire more on the overall environmental condition of New Jersey. Instantly, a web page of the Environmental Protection Agency appeared and highlighted shocking news from around New Jersey – severe levels of lead contamination found across multiple counties, grossly contaminated plots of soil invading the farms, and flows of toxic groundwater running through the streams. In addition, the cost needed to clean up the sites of environmental ruin could dip into millions of dollars

The severity of the environmental damage around New Jersey raises major red flags across the board – the steady decline of clean air, heightened levels of chemicals and microplastics in our water, and increased concentrations of infertile soil – and directly affects the health of each and every community. Living in a clean and healthy environment is not a privilege offered but a right each community should constantly profit-of. 

Yet, the provisions or laws for guaranteeing the right to a clean and healthy environment have been created but have not been implemented. Currently, the Green Amendment, the provisions created to for ensuring clean water and air in New Jersey, is being held captive by Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling and his committee in the Senate. Passing the Green Amendment would be groundbreaking – making New Jersey the first state to pass a state Green Amendment in 40 years – and also long overdue. It is entirely astonishing that there hasn’t been a single piece of legislature that provides living in an environment with clean water and air as a right. 

Click this link https://www.lesniakinstitute.org/environmental/ and urge Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling to free the Green Amendment from its cage, his committee, and grant the right to ensuring a clean environment for every individual in New Jersey.

Figure: Top three photos are taken in South Orange, NJ (the location becomes closer to Newark left to right).
Bottom three photos are taken in Newark, NJ (the location becomes further from South Orange left to right.
Photographer: Jeremiah LaCon