Students rally at the Rhode Island State House as part of the second International Climate Strike

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The second international Student Climate Strike was observed around the world on Friday. Here in Providence, students Joelye Land and Sara LeClair brought nearly fifty students from high school across the state to the Rhode Island State house. Both are affiliated with Sunrise RI, a student climate advocacy group working to save the world from the worst effects of climate change.

After a short introduction, a series of students spoke about the climate, and their uncertain futures on this planet due to insufficient action worldwide to deal with this crisis.

Emma Bouton, Brown University student, started by sharing why she got involved with the fight against climate change and why she is working so passionately for the Green New Deal.

“During Superstorm Sandy,” said Bouton, “I remember sitting in my grandparents house. I remember sitting in the living room as the winds howled outside. There was this really scary moment when my elderly aunt who was staying with us, who was battling cancer at the time, just got this really scary book across her face as she realized that she only brought enough medication for about two days. If anything happened where the trees blocked the roads and she wasn’t able to get home my family didn’t know what was going to happen.

“That’s feels like that was the first glimpse of a future impacted by climate change would look like… I know that my family was ultimately a very lucky. My aunt was able to get out and get her medication, but 44 people across New jersey died during Superstorm Sandy and people’s homes and lives were completely uprooted by the storm. We know that it was caused by warming seas, fueled by climate change…”

“In about 11 years from now the human race will be existing in one of two realities,” said Maev, a eighth grade student at Narragansett Pier Middle School. “A reality where wildlife and humans exist happily… or we can live in a reality that unfortunately seems much more likely: The reality where shelter is constantly being destroyed by frequent wildfires and floods their all-time highs… Where I’ll have to remind my children to put their masks on to go outside and we al have to tell them that what the stars used to look like…”

“Keep striking!” said Nicole Dipaolo, a 26 year old climate activist. “Disrupt your classes, your job, the conversation at the dinner table. Let the people you love know that this loving disruption is just the beginning. That this disruption will become violent when we have lost all means of survival. But most importantly, let them know that they, that we, are the fabric of society, and if we act in unity, we can make change. When cities shut down because the people have taken to the streets, the people have brought their parents, and their siblings, and their neighbors, and their teachers, and their friends, the government will see clearly who really has the power. We can stand together. We can grow this crowd so big that it fills the building, that wraps around it, and covers the streets. We can get this crowd so big that the Rhode Island government has no choice but enact enforceable climate legislation! We can make it so big that the politicians admit that their glorified status quo doesn’t serves us because the people shouted so loud that they wont serve it.”

“I want you to think about exactly why you’re here today,” said Camille Ledezma, an 18 year old Lincoln School student. “What are you fighting for? Who are you fighting for? Are you here because you care about your family? Your friends? The future of our generation? Are you here because you want to feel safe in your home, not threatened by so-called ‘natural’ disasters? Or maybe you’re here because we deserve to breathe clean air, drink clean water, eat healthy food and have access to nature. Maybe you’re here because climate justice is economic justice, climate justice is racial justice. Are you here because you’re tired of corrupt politicians and their inaction on climate change?

“Remember to think about the people and places you love while you’re fighting, because I know it gets really tiring.

“I’m here because I’m deeply angered at the state in which so many politicians and fossil fuel CEOs have left our world…”

“In the long run, people will have to adjust their diets dramatically because the consumption of meat at this time is completely unsustainable,” said Joelye Land, a junior at North Kingstown High School and one of the organizers of the event

“Through growing up poor, America has taught me a lot of things,” said Dounya Bilal, a junior at the Lincoln School. “That it is all right for me and my family to go through periods without health care because the systems in place are not built to support people, but large companies.

“That I should be ashamed for receiving free lunch and attending food banks, because my mother, obviously, didn’t try hard enough to find a job after the recession, and that every dollar we spend on food to stay alive is a waste of the government’s money.

“That fresh fruits and vegetables are a luxury item, and that I should be quiet and grateful for the endless canned goods and boxes of pasta.

“That access to healthy living spaces is just not an option for low-income people of color in low-income communities because they are anything other than a human right.

“I’m here because I want the air I breathe in not to hurt me. I want the water I drink to be clean and safe. When I step into the street I should see trees and hear birds, and not worry if that will be the last time I hear those calls…”

“I’ve been a climate activists for about a year and a half, said Alex Kithes. “More recently I made the exciting decision to run for Woonsocket City Council on the platform of, if we don’t get more young, new, uncorrupted, forward-thinking leadership in every level of government in this country, we’re absolutely screwed.

“I’ve knocked a lot of doors, hundreds of doors, and I figured out that, though this may surprise you, people actually want their politicians to think towards the future. Towards the livability and equitability of that future instead of maintaining the status quo…”

“This is no ordinary strike,” said Sara Leclair, a freshman at North Providence High School. “Climate change is the most dire crisis we face. Whether or not we solve the climate crisis determines whether or not life on Earth will be around by the end of this century.

“I am afraid of that. I’m afraid of my future. That’s something we’re supposed to look forward to and be happy about. I am afraid. I am scared that I will lose everything to climate catastrophe because when it strikes, it spares no one. When the Hurricanes rip through us and the heat waves strike and the forests all burned and the crops die out and we are dying, one by one, from disease – Climate change spares no one.

“If there’s no air to breathe, if there’s no water to drink or food to eat, if there’s nowhere to live and no way to live, if there’s no planet – What are we?

“What are we?”


Governor Gina Raimondo

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo made a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-cameo at the event, waving to the students between speakers. The students called out to the Governor to address them directly, but the Governor did not lessen her stride.

Here’s the video:

As the Governor departed, the students began a chant. “Hey Gina! We’ve got something to say! Give us climate justice or get out of the way!”

The students had planned to ask for an audience with the Governor after their rally, so they went to the door of her office. No one answered the door. A staffer trying to get into the office offered to extend the invitation to visit with the students to the Governor, but quickly disappeared.

The students never caught more than a glimpse of Governor Gina Raimondo.

“I just want to remind you that this is our State House, so our taxes pay for this State House and they pay the salaries of all of these legislators,” said Nicole Dipaolo to the disappointed students. “We should feel welcome here and we have a right to be here and we have a right to ask our legislators and the executive branch to represent us and our interests. A lot of people in this building, they get elected because they’re taking donations from fossil fuel companies and big corporations, and then they’re passing bills to protect the interests of those corporations, those fossil fuel companies. That is why we are in this fight.”

“Gina Raimondo, she takes fossil fuel money,” continued DiPaolo. “And she laughs when youth comes to her and asks her to sign the no fossil fuel pledge. We can see that as long as politicians are taking money from the fossil fuel industry, they are working for them. They are not working for us, but we elect them. I know a lot of you here are not old enough to vote, but that means next time, let’s bring our parents, let’s bring our siblings, let’s bring our teachers, let’s bring our neighbors. Let’s bring everyone you know and make sure that they are aware that right now our political system has been bought out and the only way to get it back is for the people to take it back.

“So that’s what we’re doing,” concluded Dipaolo. “We are in our rightful place here knocking on these doors and asking for our futures to be protected by the people that are supposed be, that are getting paid, to protect them.”


Photos:


Singing and Chanting:

Between the speakers, the protesters sang and chanted: Here is all the video:


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About Steve Ahlquist 1027 Articles
Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade.Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading.atomicsteve@gmail.com