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Nicole DiPaolo: To defeat climate change, we must disrupt the status quo



Climate activist Nicole DiPaolo speaking at the 2nd International Student Climate Strike at the Rhode Island State House last Friday:

“Friends, last time we were here we stood with a global movement of one and a half million people on strike for the climate. And since then a study came out reporting that one million species of plants and animals are on the verge of extinction. The climate crisis is disrupting all life on earth. So much life that doesn’t have a voice. And so many humans that our society has tried to make voiceless.

“As young people, we are among the most impacted by this crisis, but for us, the impacts are not as much in the present as in the catastrophe that awaits in our future. We are are told that we are too young to understand how these things pan out. As if our forced education didn’t teach us to read. As if science didn’t suggest that the last time there was this much carbon in the atmosphere, it was the Pliocene era, 4.5 million years ago, when giant armadillos roamed the earth. As if the fact that climate change isn’t taught in our schools means that it doesn’t keep us up at night. As if the horror is ONLY the daily news of the people suffering, displaced, sick, without air, without water, across the globe and in our own state. As if we are not also outraged that it is our own government that is suppressing scientific fact, sacrificing human lives, and all the while CLAIMING TO CARE about youth, the economy, and the climate. They tell us their efforts are in the process, and that we should trust it. They tell us they are seeking maintenance of the status quo, the glorified status quo under which the masses are suffering.

“This glorified status quo, this glorified process is what got us here — IN CRISIS MODE. And these spineless politicians flaunt their embrace of the status quo, right here in Rhode Island.

“Well you know what the people of a London did in their city that embraced the status quo? They shut it down! Because they wanted it to be known that business as usual is disrupting survival – and survival is more important.

“People are outraged at the inconvenience of these acts of civil disobedience. But whats inconvenient is entire countries being drown out by the rising seas, their plastic filled shores growing smaller and the people growing more and more scared. Communities are being displaced by drought, by famine, by wildfires. We are seeing fracking induced earthquakes. We are seeing cancer sweep entire cities whose water source is poisoned by mountain top removal. We are seeing CEOs getting richer, investing in these projects, destroying indigenous ways of life, uprooting sacred land, making children into data who frequent the hospital for asthma attack and respiratory diseases. We are seeing regulations for corporations go down and prices go up. We are seeing the employees of the richest companies die due to unjust working conditions, and even those Amazon workers went on strike to pressure Bezos into taking action on climate change.

“What we are up against is centuries of conquest, a culture of oppression that has one goal and that is to convince us that business as usual will one day help us to conquest something of our own! But I know that all of you out there with the Lorax signs can see – without the climate, there will be nothing left.

“So please, keep striking. 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.”

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Nicole DiPaolo is a climate activist in Rhode Island.