‘We can stop this from happening’: Rhode Island students join Climate Strike

PROVIDENCE -- Hundreds of young people marched to the Rhode Island State House on Friday as part of international “Climate Strike” to press for action on climate change.

“I wanted to come because I am scared to grow up and bring kids into a world that is dying,” said Greta Redleaf, a 16-year-old high school junior who lives in Cranston.

Redleaf was one of 31 students from at St. Mary Academy-Bay View, in East Providence. The students said the school focuses on protecting the environment and some teachers came with them to the event.

Sabrina Randall, a St. Mary Academy sophomore who lives in Johnston, said members of her generation don’t have to accept the inevitability of rising sea levels and dying wildlife.


“We can stop this from happening,” she said. “The future for politicians is 15 years, but we need something to get us through 50, 60, 70 years. We don’t need temporary solutions.”

Ilan Upfal, an organizer for the Sunrise movement Rhode Island, estimated that 1,000 people converged on the State House as part of the Climate Strike.

Upfal, a 20-year-old Providence native who attends Brown University, said, “As people coming of age right now, we really feel like there has not been action on climate change on the scale that science and justice demand.”

So young people are taking matters into their own hands and trying to apply pressure on elected officials, he said.

“We are going to turn up. We are going to organize. We are going to be powerful,” Upfal said. “And if you don’t support action that protects our future, we are going to vote you out of power.”

As a coastal state, Rhode Island will feel the effects of rising sea levels, and there is no fossil fuel industry in the state, he said. “So this is a great state to really get started on this energy transition,” he said.


But Upfal said Democratic Governor Gina M. Raimondo and other local leaders have not done enough to combat climate change.

“Our politicians simply don’t feel the pressure that it will take to get legislation through,” he said. “They are cozied up to the fossil fuel industry and the utilities, and they are not going to budge unless we make them feel that their seats are threatened by our power.”

Members of older generations also turned out Friday. Dena Quilici, of Providence, stood in front of the State House holding a poster displaying photos of her 7-year-old granddaughter, Olivia. “Speak out,” the poster read. “Believe in science. Our grandkids deserve a bright future.”

“I can glide through the next 20 years, but she can’t,” Quilici said of her granddaughter. “I’d doing it for her and the rest of her generation.”

Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.