Climate Anxiety Counseling TODAY: Last day of the season in Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park!

Come visit me downtown today! It’s my last day at the entrance to Burnside Park, across from Kennedy Plaza, and I’ll be there 2-5:30 approximately.

Bring me your climate anxieties and other anxieties, write a postcard to a regulatory agency to stop a fossil fuel project, and take home a drawing of one of our nonhuman Rhode Island neighbors.

I’ll also be at the Sankofa World Market this Wednesday, June 19, 2-6pm, and most Wednesdays throughout the summer. Come see me there, too! A Newport slot is in the works as well, probably for Mondays.

cecropia cj

[Image: Detailed line drawing of a cecropia butterfly by CJ Jimenez.]

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Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/15/19

Weather: Bright and fiercely windy

Number of people: 8 stoppers, 1 walkby, 1 map marker

Number of hecklers: 0!

People who got the Peanuts reference: 2

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Pictures taken without permission: 1

People I’ve spoken with before, back for more: 3

Pages of notes: 4

Dogs seen: 16

Dogs pet: 1

Money raised for Tooth and Nail Community Support Collective: $0.15

 

Observations:

Downtown was tooling up for the Pride parade. There were lots of people wearing or carrying one-use plastic rainbow objects, which infuriated me. There was also one person wearing a rainbow clown wig that looked like it had seen a few seasons of service, and another person carrying a little made-at-home trans pride flag, both of which I found touching. Older couples and groups were nice to see.

While eight people spoke with me at length today, none of them wanted me to take notes or share the conversations (which were also not about climate change but about other concerns and strains in their lives). So I won’t.

Today also had an unusually large number of people saying that they thought the booth was cool, a great idea, etc., but not stopping.

Around 4:25, one of four white people I’d seen walking around together with a muzzled dog beckoned a cop car over to the park. That cop and two others searched a Black man with an orange-striped shirt and made him get in the car, then stayed around questioning other people. Three white women (not me) went over together to speak up for the guy they arrested, but with no success. Later, someone else told me that the dog was biting people and that the guy they arrested had tried to defend himself.

Someone wrote, “My kids’ safety” on the whiteboard map of Rhode Island, where I ask people to “put their worries on the map,” but I can’t get the picture of it off my phone. So here, instead, is a picture of a small friend of mine feeding blazing star to his shark. Let’s work together to make sure that joy, not violence, is waiting for him. Let’s work for the thriving of the plants, the sharks, and the humans.

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/14/19

Weather: Passing sun and clouds, stuffy at first, then wind picking up. Heavy cloud mass rolling over from the northwest, looking like rain but not raining.

Number of people: 6 stoppers, 1 walkby, 1 driveby

Number of climate change deniers: 1. I wouldn’t exactly call this guy a heckler, but he was smug in a very vocal and persistent way.

People who got the Peanuts reference: 1

Conversations between strangers: 1, brief

People I’ve spoken with before, back for more: 1

Dogs seen: 2

Dogs pet: 0

Pages of notes: 4.5

Money raised for Tooth and Nail Community Support Collective: $0.35

 

Observations:

Park ranger car was there when I arrived at 2, gone soon after. A cop car, a fire truck and an ambulance showed up around 3; the truck left with sirens on soon after and the ambulance and cop car stayed for a while. At 3:19, the first cop car was gone and a different one had come; that one pulled away at 3:36. A couple other cop cars, marked and unmarked, drove through on Washington St but didn’t stop.

Nonhuman animal passersby: teen starling, pigeons, sparrows, mallard duck couple.

While I find some things about the corporate electric scooters and bikes sinister, I really like watching people get the most out of them: a Del’s vendor riding one of the green scooters and towing their cart, one kid riding one of the red bikes with another kid in the bike basket.

Had a very good conversation that I didn’t take notes on but was glad to have! M, if you’re reading this, thanks.

 

Some conversations:

I feel bad for those climate change deniers who are living on fantasy island.

Do you feel bad about it yourself?

I’m so deeply concerned I feel like I need to stay put. I’ve taken personal responsibility… I’ve been trying to get more active in my locality. I like that they write bills to investigate the ocean, the pH of the water. We should help our allies dispose of desalination waste, not just put it back in the ocean. That’s where we get all of our oxygen. I call my reps, I do my little part.

*

I have three concerns. One is pollution. It’s killing animals and hurting animals and also causing global warming. Humans need to stop doing that. One is overhunting. All animals are important to the society of the earth. It’s just like humans are important, so are animals. And one is poaching. One, it’s illegal. Two, it’s like overhunting, except it’s only certain animals … Mankind is pretty messed up.

How does it feel when you learn about these things?

It feels like very sad and depressing. But it’s like—if you help to make the world a better place, then other people might see what you’re doing and try to make the world a better place too.

map detail 6-14-19

[Image: Detail of a whiteboard map of Rhode Island, strapped to a red handtruck. Written on it in pink marker: “Offshore wind farm: will underwater life (dolphins, seals) be able to hear anything else?]

Climate Anxiety Counseling TODAY in Burnside Park/Kennedy Plaza!

I’ll be in Burnside Park today (6/14), 2-5:30pm, to listen to your climate anxieties and other anxieties. Come see me!

My friend Corinne came for a session and took this nice picture of me at the booth.

kate booth 6-11-19

[Image: Kate (a white woman with big eyebrows, square glasses, and a sun hat) at the Climate Anxiety Counseling booth at the entrance to a city park. Superimposed text says “Received some v important counseling in Kennedy Plaza.”]

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Burnside Park/Kennedy Plaza, 6/12/19

Weather: Warm & bright, wind picking up

Number of people: 5 stoppers, 3 walkbys, 1 map marker

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7.5

People who got the Peanuts reference: 1

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Dogs seen: 4

Dogs pet: 0

Postcards against the plant: 0

Money raised for Tooth and Nail Community Support Collective: $0.00

 

Observations:

Slow day today, not sure why; only got permission to post one conversation.

To the filmmaker who spoke with me, if you see this: You might like reading Brandon Taylor‘s and Keguro Macharia‘s writings. They are very different writers and thinkers, but what we talked about shares some elements with each of them. Good luck.

Noticed a cop car by the old Greyhound stop at 4:45 but have no idea how long it had been there; a second car arrived at 4:55, left soon after; two more marked cars and one unmarked drove through on Washington St but didn’t stop.

The map marker marked the map with “Hakuna Matata” and it is the only thing I have ever wiped off the map before taking a picture. If you’re not worried about climate change, okay (I mean, not okay, but I’m still going to treat your worry with respect) but you don’t get to tell people not to worry at a thing that’s about worries! This is not the thing for you! Go to the “no anxieties” booth!

 

A conversation: 

I think I feel anxious about how everything gears up toward not thinking about it. Our culture is one of denial, continuing to exist as if nothing needs to change.

Is this something you see in yourself, or you see it in other people and worry about that, or both, or what?

Yeah, it happens in me, but if it happens in me, everything in the world around me tells me it’s fine. It’s a first-world, not-in-current-climate-catastrophe privilege. It lets you be a doer of all the things you do as a consumer in fossil-fueled capitalism. There’s nothing that makes you uncomfortable about these decisions.

For you, what’s the relationship between feeling uncomfortable and what you do next?

I think I have my internal conversation about what I do. Things like bike [instead of drive], eat less meat. I make art about species loss and climate change. There are ways that I as a creature, as a person in the world try to consume less and question more. In my work I’m interested in what are ways that we can hear different conversations about climate change—there’s such crisis language about it, I feel like the emotive and the affective has no space. So having space for the emotional realities of climate change, and how it’s intertwined with global capitalism and poverty. We don’t have space in our culture for a public ritual of mourning.

So you mentioned the emotional reality of climate change, what is that reality for you?

Yeah. I’m like devastated about species loss—it feels irreversible and awful. That we’re a species amongst many—those of us engaged in capitalist structures—and we’re the worst stewards every of others, and other species, and of land. I’m desperate about the state of water. It’s this essential life force and we’ve toxified it and weaponized it against the poor, and changes in weather and temperature are making water dangerous, with flooding and storms. It’s the intersection of climate change and global capitalism—the precarity of poverty… Hurricane María was so devastating in Puerto Rico because of the lack of infrastucture and because the distribution of resources was profoundly inequitable.

What usually happens when you feel those things, or know about those things?

I feel heavy, I feel anxious. But I think we live in a world of such distractions that my environment is always inviting me to escape from that feeling. I can pick up my phone, look at something, or call someone. I’ve been trying to work on not doing that, on sitting with it. It’s good, but it’s really depressing! It feels so honest—I think that there’s devastating things happening in the world and I want to be honest about that devastation. … It feels kind of meditative. Sometimes it’s reading—my partner is currently reading the climate report and they’ve been telling about it, so not looking at anything else after that. Or writing in response, or just sitting in response. … I’m terrible at not being honest. But we’re all self-deceptive—we live in a very deceiving culture. Like the “right to work” law, which is the most anti-worker law. Or just propaganda, the way we’re lied to all the time. We self-deceive about so many things—maybe it’s necessary to deceive yourself a little bit, just to move on with your day.

Do you think about climate change every day?

I don’t do it every day. I guess I think about it—do you know the meditation practice tonglen? You breathe in suffering and breathe out relief. So you generally start with easy things, maybe an acquaintance who’s having a hard time. Then you can move through more complicated things, someone close to you, or a stranger. That’s maybe one of the ways I think about sitting with it—breathing in, taking in the suffering.

How do you interact with other people about it?

I teach about it with students. I talk about it with friends, but that often feels like a hard conversation to have—where does it go? What solutions are there? I’ve gone to protests and rallies, like the climate justice rally. I went to Standing Rock.

What was that like?

It was unsettling. Like [undoing] settler colonial structures. It was a very Indigenous space that I experienced strongly, being an ally but being a white person walking in, knowing it was not my space. It felt like a very—both like powerfully joyful and powerfully sorrowful space.

Are you looking to find that kind of powerfully joyful and sorrowful space again?

The thing that I’m really looking to find again that I felt there is the experience of being in powerful community, ’cause that is who you share joys and sorrows with. I was part of a worker-owned collective for five years, and that collective political existence, building and breaking in community—I miss that shared experience. What does it look like to be in a collective? Who would it be with? I’m engaging in a lot of collaborative projects right now and that feels good, like it could be the beginning of those things.

What are the environmental justice fights where you are? 

There’s the Line 5 fight, to interrupt a pipeline, and there’s mining in Superior National Forest, which is very complicated. I’m just now learning about it. I’ve given money but I haven’t done other things. I live in a city with the third largest Indigenous population in the country, and I know that for example on the White Earth reservation there’ve been struggles about getting land ownership back to members. For a project I’m working on now, I’m interviewing a few Indigenous folks who are doing work around food sovereignty, and interviews feel like a good way to begin getting to know the place.

booth interior 6-12-19

[Image: the interior of the Climate Anxiety Counseling booth, a turquoise plywood tabletop with a binder for notes, a jar for donations and pens/markers, and a box of cards featuring Rhode Island organisms.]

Climate Anxiety Counseling in Burnside Park/Kennedy Plaza TODAY, 2-5pm!

Come visit me in Burnside Park today (Wednesday 6/12) between 2 and 5pm, share your climate anxieties or other anxieties…

booth 6-5-19

[Image: A small turquoise booth made of cardboard and plywood, with “climate anxiety counseling 5 cents” and “Here to listen” written on it, next to a map of Rhode Island with people’s beloved places marked on it, at the entrance to a park.]

…take home a piece of art featuring a Rhode Island organism (here’s one showing some of the plankton that help to make the air we breathe)…

phytoplankton 1

[Image: a line drawing of phytoplankton species Ceratium furca.]

… and fill out a comment postcard to stop the fracked-gas power plant in Burrillville.

20190608_112157

[Image: an orange postcard with a space for people to tell the Army Corps of Engineers why it’s important to New England’s waters and wetlands not to build this power plant.]

Come and talk with me. I’ll be glad to see you.

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling: PVDFest 2019, Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park

Weather: Hot and bright and clear, cooler and breezier toward evening

Number of people: 30 stoppers, 10 walkbys, 5 map markers

Number of (vocal) climate change deniers: 2

Pages of notes: 16

People who got the Peanuts reference: 2

Pictures taken with permission: 6

Pictures taken without permission: 5

Conversations between strangers: 2

Repeat interlocutors: 2

Dogs seen: 51

Dogs pet: 2

Snakes seen: 1, very large

Postcards against the plant: 26

Money raised for Tooth and Nail Community Support Collective: $28.16!

 

Observations:

I was set up as part of PVDFest, which meant not only that there were a lot more people around, but a larger percentage of them were ready to stop and look at things, including me. On the minus side, people were also there to have a good time and maybe didn’t want to engage with something that would be a downer.

Interlocutors today had a wide age range but were/appeared to be overwhelmingly white, which didn’t reflect the composition of the crowd at all.

For future reference: there is a relationship between climate change and plastic waste, both of them come from fossil fuels and both of them contribute to ecological degradation, using one as as shorthand for the other is not a great idea, and I need to figure out a simple and quick way to clarify this for people without talking down or arguing.

A noticeable number of people had read the article asserting that 90% of humanity will be dead by 2050 (which would mean of course that most of us will die much earlier). One thing I need to remember is to ask both, “How does it feel to read that?” and “What do you want to do if that’s true?”

Many people also said some version of, “I don’t know how to get more involved.” Depending on the other things they said, I recommended that they explore the Land and Water Sovereignty Campaign (with whom I also work), Sunrise RI, the fight against the power plant in Burrillville, and Tooth and Nail Community Support Collective (where the donations will go); in a couple of cases I also pointed people toward Uprose and Occupy Sandy.

There’s this thing that people sometimes do where they try really hard to prove how much smarter they are than everybody else and if everybody would just listen to them it would be okay. I didn’t get a ton of this today, but there was a very marked instance of it. It seems connected to what Diane Exavier calls the “innocence project” of white America: the notion the important thing is to prove that you’re above the mess, not to figure out how to live in the mess with others, and the actions or inactions that result from that notion.

 

Some conversations:

I don’t know how to get involved in climate change groups—and I’m a librarian, I know how to do research! But I work full time, and everything I’ve found out so far has been very vague. When I’m working with very young children, three- and four-year-olds, I think, What kind of future are they gonna be having? I’m older, it’s not going to be as drastic for me.

*

I usually say, “The earth is hot, don’t litter.” Paris Hilton once tweeted that and it just really spoke to me. Those three [sic] simple words, “The earth is hot”–it’s not “global warming,” not something people hear all the time.

How do you feel when you think about it—sad? Angry?

It makes me so sad. I’m not really an angry person. [It] makes me want to do something. I always recycle, I choose glass over plastic. I’m educating myself and then educating others. I try to be positive.

Is it hard to do that?

No. I feel so empowered. The more that [I] look at it, the more I wanna help.

*

Person 1: We live pretty close to the water and I’m always hearing about sea level rise.

Person 2: People talk about it over social media but no one does anything about it. It just makes people feel better about themselves.

Person 1: It’s feeling more urgent.

Person 2: Because of that congressional report.

Person 1: Everyone’s sharing this article saying that 2050 will be the last habitable year for people.

How do you feel when you read that?

Person 1: I get stressed but I also get frustrated. The previous generation screwed us over, and we have to live with what they did.

Does it piss you off?

Person 2: Yes.

Person 1: A little bit. Corporate America is making these decisions–

Person 2: –For oil money, and they’re not going to have to live with these decisions, we are.

*

I heard something about how we’re all done for by 2050.

How’d it feel to read that?

Deflating. Horrifically sad. But like anybody sentient, I’m trying to enjoy things that don’t cost money and don’t produce waste. I just joined [a local marching band]–it’s so nice to do something with a bunch of people…that doesn’t use any resources—well, I guess we drive to get to the practices—and that creates beauty. Nothing on its own sounds so good, but together it’s beautiful.

*

I was reading the study that was all over the internet about how the world is basically ending in 2050.

How’d you feel when you read that?

Sad and angry. I don’t know how to help at an institutionalized level. On an individual level I don’t eat red meat, I recycle, I compost, I try not to use plastic. I monitor my friends and try to get them to not use plastic, and they don’t at least when I’m around. Sometimes I yell at people [who are trying to throw things in landfill trash]–“That’s recycling.”

Have you looked into doing stuff at the institutional level?

No—I’ve explored it a bit but there’s not a lot that I can do here in the US. There’s maybe more that I could do back where I’m from, which is Puerto Rico. My parents had to move off the island because my dad lost his job. And a lot of people had to leave because the health care system was in shambles. My dad found a job in the US, in Missouri, in St. Louis. It’s interesting, because it’s Trump country over there. My parents are the only people of color in a predominantly white neighborhood. All these women that are wanting to engage with my mother are treating her like an exotic toy…

… If [climate change] were having an effect on people who are rich and have influence, we would have made these changes, like we would have all gone solar so long ago. But it’s true for them too, like, you’re dying, you’re dying, your children are gonna die! I did get my dad to stop using plastic water bottles. I was like, “You’re so into recycling but they’re still manufacturing the plastic. You’re not really doing anything good, you’re just giving yourself peace of mind for no reason.”

*

Have you read Emergent Strategy? You have to read it. She got me reading Parable of the Sower , and there’s this part where [the main character’s] dad is talking about: how do you talk to people about future threats without making them write it off and dismiss you? How do you actually prepare yourself for the next climate disaster? I’m trying to stop fossil fuel projects and support renewable energy, but on a community level we need to be preparing for adaptive strategies, and how do I talk to my mom who doesn’t read the news because she doesn’t want to think about it? She lives on the thirteenth floor of our apartment building. What will she do if there’s a disaster? What do I do for our elderly neighbors who live on the upper floors? There are these moments where I’ve been actually letting it hit me, especially about New York. I saw where someone marked on the side of a building how high the waters came up during Sandy, and it was as tall as me. There still aren’t proper flood plans, and these are in places that are mostly public housing, affordable housing. People don’t have places to go. It’s scary—how do you talk to people who are really afraid, but we have to have a plan for what we’re gonna do?

Is anyone working on this in your neighborhood that you know of?

I don’t know, that’s a good question. There are some environmental organizations and I think they’re mostly pushing the city to have formal plans, but I don’t know if there’s anything on the community level. … Every time I bring it up [to my mom] she’s like, “If I talk about it I’m gonna have nightmares.”

What if you said something to her like, “I’m okay with you having nightmares if it means you’re gonna be safer?”

It’s hard, because it’s still possible for us to walk around, have festivals, have dinner. I was reading an article by someone who heard about a school shooting, and he was like, “I compartmentalized it so I could have dinner with my kids. And this is what it’s like to be in America.” Climate change is like that too. If we let the whole weight of it be felt constantly, we couldn’t live our lives.

I guess I have two things I want to think about in there. One is the “constantly”–what if we didn’t feel it constantly but we made times to really feel it? And the other one is the “living our lives”–which parts of our lives does it make sense to keep living?

I’ve been trying to be more thoughtful about trying to use less—how do I use less energy? How do I train myself to use less? Trying to keep in mind, “This is an energy thing that I’m doing right now.”

*Some of the Department of Health’s Health Equity Zones are beginning to try to set this up for at least some Rhode Island communities. I will look into this and make a separate post.

*

I do have climate change anxieties, mostly about the city as a whole. I’ve been hearing from real estate people with the city, developers talking about building in flood plains—it’s kind of like a rich people inside scoop, not something I feel like is talked about in policy meetings. But then you hear from the city’s director of real estate, “Oh, we probably shouldn’t build there.” It feels slimy, because these conversations are happening amongst people who are probably gonna be okay with things like that happening. I’m just one elected official, and I feel like we all need to be thinking about it.

Have you already tried to talk with your colleagues about it?

I have. And there’s a lot of, “Oh, we already tried that and it didn’t work,” or, “We’ll never be allowed to do that.”

Is this how you thought it would be when you started this position?

No. Not at all. But then I think, if I were a representative or a senator, I would still have to contend with bad people in leadership.

So with all of that in mind, what do you think is the way out of that?

Honestly, I think education. …With climate change, we’re seeing the effects but they’re not impacting our lives in a restrictive way.

What would be a good place to start with that?

Maybe the river. Everyone loves Waterfire*, but it’s starting to become really difficult. In the next five years, it’s regularly going to be flooded. And the coastline—in Charlestown, they’re no longer insuring houses in those areas.

*I wouldn’t say “everyone.”

*

I worry that I don’t worry enough, partially. People are saying there’s no place for recycling anymore. And if there’s nothing else being solved on a macro scale—this thing that it took the USA a decade or more to do—what kind of solution is going to be found for anything else? I keep putting things in bins because it’s a habit.

Are there other ways of participating that you’ve tried, or looked into?

I feel like there were parts of my life where I was more in tune with that. In the last few years I’ve concentrated more on building the power to do what’s best for myself, building a career, consolidating my position to do more. But I feel like time is slipping away—there’s not a someday to work towards. It’s good to remember that there are tangible, actual ways.

*

Person 1: I’m worried I’m choosing a career path that I’m not going to be able to support my family.

Person 2: It’s disturbing that access to stuff in the face of climate change depends on having enough money.

What are you thinking of doing for work?

Person 1: I’m not sure yet. But I’m seeing a lot of people go into finance, these lucrative jobs that I do not want to go into, but I’m worried that I’m setting myself up for greater difficulty.

What if there weren’t going to be jobs anymore?

Person 2: Like focusing more on learning basic survival skills.

Person 1: It depends on if we’re talking about a cooperative jobless world or an individualistic jobless world.

Person 2: I feel like sea level rise and climate change in general could make that landscape completely different. But you can’t really plan for that—it’s unimaginable, there are so many different possibilities. When I’m being rational, I prefer to think about things I can do to help [with] climate change now. My anxieties lie with stuff beyond the present.

Person 1: There’s a lot of control issues.

How do you live with lack of control?

Person 2: Everyone just kind of goes about their daily routine. But you could get run over, you could find out that you have Stage 4 cancer. You kind of have to ignore it—it’s a mental health thing. A lot of mental illness comes from not being able to put those worries away.

Person 1: I worry, and I think certain things I get a little obsessive-compulsive tendencies over. Sometimes I deal with it by trying to pretend that I know things—like, Oh, if I read enough about it, I’ll understand it, even though that doesn’t change the unpredictability of it.

What is the cost of thinking about it? I mean, what do you have to give up if you think about it?

Person 1: Ignorant bliss and self-indulgence.

Person 2: What makes it so much more difficult is that industry has made it about shifting the guilt onto individual people. Like, yes, plastic is bad for sea turtles, but plastic straws are not that big a deal.

*

[This was from a group of four who came up together; person 4 was quiet.]

Person 1: We were just talking about the plastic bag ban. It seems like a good thing!

Person 2: I’m just bothered that people are so ignorant about [climate change].

Which people?

Person 2: People on the internet. Apparently it’s not a problem. If it doesn’t affect you now, why bother?

Person 1: People who don’t have small children, they don’t have to look as far forward.

Person 3: I just learned about fast fashion and it’s stressing me out. I’ve been trying to go through my closet and get rid of stuff.

Person 1: I feel like it’s that subtle guilt that you give yourself.

Person 3: I start thinking about every little action I do—seven billion people are doing the same thing.

*

What are you anxious about?

Person 1 (indicates very small daughter): She’s on my shoulders.

Have you talked with her about it at all?

Person 1: Not that much so far. She’s a little young for it.

Person 2: I know that she and I have had some conversations about it.

Person 1: We do talk about the importance of conservation and recycling, we have talked about that.

Person 2: I know we were talking the other day about diminished habitats for animals. And we’re going to Narragansett Bay next weekend—this isn’t climate change so much, but there’s that area preserved for the [piping plovers].

That’s definitely connected to taking care of the rest of the world, the living world.

Person 1: And making her realize that it’s worth it. Of course it’s all in the news—that the environment is gonna be irreparably damaged by 2030, 2050. Well, she’s three years old and it’s 2020. By the time she’s my age, things will have come to this point. And I don’t feel like timetables for remediation are realistic.It can be really paralyzing. We can do individual things, but if it’s not accompanied by universal effort—I’m not gonna stop doing the individual things, but–

What about doing things with other people?

Person 1: Not really. We’re pretty atomized as a culture. I’m in school with people who are working on this, and I support them in their work. I’m planning to work on employment, community development, land use. I’m in law school, and to some extent I rely on social scientists to inform me about some of these things, like how we might bring people together with a better plan…

What do you do when you start thinking about these things?

I have a cigarette, or I drink a beer, or I get some food—some kind of quotidian pleasure. But also I think about these things late at night, when I’m alone and my family has gone to bed. I don’t know what it takes to focus people’s energy.

What would it take to focus your energy?

I mean, if there was something, I would show up and lend my voice. If I got an email, a call, I don’t use much social media but if [my partner] were to see something on Facebook, I’d show up.

*

Person 1: My anxiety is that people who are most affected are not causing it. A lot of it has to do with people who have a lot of wealth, and they’ll be able to survive….That the whole thing will be very unjust. In wealthy countries, the focus is on sustainable development, the focus isn’t on big impact things.

Person 2: A lot of the things that people do, like electric cars, the popular trendy things to do, in the system the money goes back into using more resources. You’re not really reducing the use of things. People need to be okay with consuming less, not just with resources being redirected.

How do you feel about all of this? Like, are you pissed about it?

Person 1: Anger is directed toward someone or something. This just feels inevitable. …

What are some things you do about this with other people?

Person 1: I don’t drive to work, but my coworkers do, so I try to talk to them, to encourage them to try other things.

Person 2: I do see people being less wasteful, and I think, how can I be more like them? Bying used clothing and furniture, making food at home instead of going out to eat—having more discipline.

*

I have a lot of guilt because there’s no way to overcome the amount of shit that we have on this earth. I’m somewhat of a hoarder, and when I’m trying to donate things, I’m like, “Oh, I should try to donate this, I should try to share this,” but then sometimes I just have to get rid of all of it. If I’m stressed, I shop.

What does that do for you?

I think it’s the rush of something new …

What else gives you that feeling?

Connecting with people. When I connect with someone, I like to know everything about them … But then if I try to [make these changes], there are still so many people doing nothing.

So is it fair to say that even as you’re feeling guilty for the amount you’re doing, you’re also feeling resentful of people who are doing less?

Yes, and I wanna know, is it gonna make a difference? Will me finding all these little piece of plastic make a difference?

What if—I’m not telling you this, I’m just saying if you definitively knew that it wouldn’t make a difference, what would you do differently?

I think I would just say, “Then let’s find a way to make it make a difference. We need to do better.” I wouldn’t just be like, “Fuck it.”

20190608_112157

[Image: A postcard addressed to the Army Corps of Engineers, asking that they reject a permit for the fracked-gas power plant proposed for Burrillville, RI.]

I’ll have more postcards like this at my booth sessions next week, Wednesday 6/12 through Monday 6/17, 2-5pm, in Burnside Park opposite Kennedy Plaza. Come and fill one out!

Climate Anxiety Counseling at PVDFest: Guest Artists, Postcards Against the Plant, and more

I’ll be at the Climate Anxiety Counseling booth in Burnside Park for PVDFest tomorrow, starting at 12pm and going as long as I can (probably till dark, anyway).

In addition to listening and talking with you about climate and other anxieties, I will also have postcards that you can fill out for RI DEM, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Energy Facility Siting Board to register your objections to the fracked-gas power plant in Burrillville. (The EFSB is no longer officially taking public comments, but they can’t unsee a postcard.) The postcards will be addressed and stamped, and I can put them in the mailbox for you if you like–all you’ll have to do is write a comment explaining why this plant should not be built.

If you talk with me, you’ll be able to take home a little piece of art featuring a Rhode Island organism–sometimes with an action suggestion, if that’s where our conversation leads. I drew a bunch of them, like this one in honor of World Oceans Day (phytoplankton exhale between 1/2 and 3/4 of the oxygen we breathe).

 

phytoplankton 1

[Image: drawing of phytoplankton species Ceratium furca, found in Narragansett Bay.]

For PVDFest, I’ll also be giving out organism drawings donated by these other artists:

May Babcock (who also donated handmade paper!) drew ajidamoo, aka Eastern chipmunk.

chipmunk mb

Zaidee Everett drew a marbled salamander.

salamander ze

Julia Gualtieri drew a big brown bat.

brown bag jg

CJ Jimenez drew a cecropia moth.

cecropia cj

James Kuo drew a pickerel frog.

pickerel frog jk

These and other beautiful portraits of our nonhuman neighbors could go home with you if you come talk to me tomorrow. I hope you will accept this invitation for connection and action.

 

 

 

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/6/19

Weather: Cloudy and muggy at the start, shifting between that and sunny.

Number of people: 7 stoppers, 2 walkbys.

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7

People who got the Peanuts reference despite the “doctor” part of the sign being gone: 2

People who asked me for Xanax despite the “doctor” part of the sign being gone: 1

Pictures taken with permission: 1.5

Pictures taken without permission: 0.5

Conversations between strangers: 2

Dogs seen: 1

Dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Tooth and Nail Community Support Collective: $11.07!

 

Observations:

I either never knew or have forgotten when “catching a passerby’s eye” crosses over into “creepily staring.” Anyway, I don’t think I have the balance right.

No visible cops or cop vehicles at the beginning of my shift. I noticed one on the park side at 3:30, leaving at 3:55, and another by the Greyhound stop around 4.

Had a couple conversations today that I’m kind of bummed I didn’t get permission to post.

 

Some conversations:

Winters no longer start. I used to go trick or treating with my kids, there would be snow on the ground in October. Now it doesn’t snow till February. We don’t have spring anymore—you know, how you think of three months slowly coming into summer. We just have winter and summer, and for winter you just get one giant snowstorm. It’s a really tight time frame—you remember that blizzard we had, it didn’t come till February and then it came and it came and it came. I do notice it, and it’s bizarre. In the fall, the foliage comes and goes very fast. It used to be you could pick a weekend, go and look at it. Now the window is so short you can’t enjoy it anymore.

My sisters live in Tennessee and Georgia, and they got snow, their first snow in twelve years. Nobody has a shovel—my sister had to have a shovel sent to her in Tennessee. But what do you do? I try to be minimalistic and not even make trash. But I don’t know what to do. I’m one person. This planet is huge—what can you do in little Rhode Island, the most politically and financially corrupt state?

*

Plants are our brothers … Trees, plants, climate. Every animal has the same type of organ basis as a human. If you scrape your knee, it scabs up, and that’s like the bark of the tree, it’s a scab protecting what’s inside from foul stuff in the atmosphere. Plants are living just like us …

So with all of these relationships in mind, how can we take care of them? Show our gratitude?

By respecting their time. A plant has a flowering time and a bedding time. Respect them like a human—but people don’t really respect humans that well. People are confused, it makes them judgmental, it leads to favoritism.

How do we move away from that?

Openmindedness. I think it just needs generations of time. People from older times are still stuck in their ways. You’ll hear somebody old say some racist stuff, it’s because they lived by it. The next generation gets to choose whether they follow that. But if you have a family that’s wealthy, people are gonna have to choose whether to agree with them and take the money, or argue with them. People would rather do the wrong thing and get value for it. Doing the wrong thing is easy in every aspect of life, it’s doing the right thing that’s hard.

map 6-6-19

[Image: Somewhat impressionistic map of Rhode Island, made out of tape on a dry-erase board. It says, “Put your worries on the map,” and “Is there a place in Rhode Island you’d like to protect?” Today, people added “The Neighborhoods” in the vicinity of Providence, and a ZIP code, “02840.”]

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/5/19

Weather: Warm, a little sticky. Wind picked up around 4:15.

Number of people: 7 stoppers, 5 walkbys.

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Pictures taken without permission: 2

Dogs seen: 3

Dogs pet: 0

People I’ve spoken with before: 2

Money raised for Tooth and Nail Community Support Collective: $5.20

 

Observations:

I’m very very very very very out of practice. And I need to figure out interpretation/language access!

When I got there, there was an unmarked-but-probably-cop car parked where the Greyhound used to stop, and a few small groups of teens walking around. Gradually the groups of teens started to clump up and make motions toward a couple of them fighting (though I didn’t see anyone actually fighting) and someone must have called the cops, because two cop cars showed up and three cops got out of them and stood around. The kids mostly went back into smaller clumps. The marked cop cars left and so did the unmarked one; later, the unmarked one and one marked one came back to the old Greyhound stop.

Nonhuman animals spotted: weird-looking fly, many pigeons, a teen starling, a grackle, couple of sparrows.

I only post conversations if I get permission–that’s why I noted seven people stopping, but only have two conversations posted here.

*

Some conversations:

I have lots of anxiety around climate change. I feel like it mostly manifests in terms of feeling guilty about consumption or behavior. I try to do things well, and I know it’s not about the individual anyway. But I feel guilty when I’m buying something new–really buying anything, anytime I’m participating in capitalism. I feel guilty every time.

What happens after you feel like that?

I try to get everything secondhand, but let’s say it’s for a job interview, I can’t wear pants I got at Savers.* But after—that’s a good question. Usually kinda nothing. Or I’ll go into not doing that type of thing for a while, not changing my behavior but avoiding it. But that behavior’s unavoidable—I’m talking about, like, buying a new towel.

Where is your information about what it’s bad to do coming from?

Primarily newspapers and/or magazines. But also, I’m a textile artist, so I know a lot about that industry and the harm of that industry. I can’t buy new clothing that’s ethically made because it costs a thousand dollars … A lot of it comes from interest [in my field], not from asking, “How can I be good for the earth?”

Is this something you talk about with other artists? How does it go?

It’s good. It can be weird, because people’s ideas about what is good for the environment can be a little white savior-y. But generally other people that I interact with professionally, we have a good conversation, not necessarily agreeing, but talking about more sustainable material choices, using recycled material, making work from older things.

I feel like so far we’ve been talking about you doing less of something. Is there more of something you’d like to be doing?

I’d really like to have more access to the land to do gardening. I do have a farm share, but I’d like to do more in terms of physically gardening and treating the land well, enriching soil and not harming it. If I had all the time in the world I’d also like to get more involved with environmental justice …

What’s in the way of you doing those things?

Access to transportation. I don’t drive. I do have a bike, or I could take the bus, but buses outside of Providence aren’t very good. And sometimes means—time, money, resources—can be difficult, because I work a few different jobs. I wouldn’t be able to be living and doing certain things unless I had more money.

*

I think they should pump up advertising for electric cars. They cut emissions, they’ll stop people depending on fossil fuels, there’ll be a reduction in smog. People don’t want to spend money on gas. … I’ve been researching on it, and it looks sound. I was hitchhiking in Iowa, and this guy picked me up in an EV, and it ran awesome. He talked about how fuel efficient it was and how it made his life much better, how he could get the speed up real fast. It was really really cool. We’ve got so much climate change problems and I think we could start by making EV cars popular**, making more industries electricity dependent …

Why do you think people haven’t done this yet?

Dependence on OPEC. OPEC campaigned to put down electric vehicles … People don’t like change. It makes them feel like they failed. Nostalgia, and lack of information …

It’ll stop once climate catastrophe gets close to home, to their relatives. Once the flood is close to home, they’ll start to understand that weather is a precious commodity. But it takes time. It’s kind of ironic—it takes time, but we don’t have time.

map 6-5-19

[Image: Somewhat impressionistic map of Rhode Island, made out of tape on a dry-erase board. It says, “Put your worries on the map,” and “Is there a place in Rhode Island you’d like to protect?” Last year, people wrote on it, “Norman Bird Sanctuary,” and “Downtown PVD,” and I left those in place to prime the pump. Today, someone wrote on it, “Save the bay,” and circled the East Bay area of Rhode Island.]

booth 6-5-19

[Image: The Climate Anxiety Booth, a small booth made out of cardboard and plywood and painted turquoise. Peach-colored letters say “Climate Anxiety Counseling 5 Cents” and “Hear to Listen.” The map described above is also in the picture.]

*This probably depends on the job and also the pants.

**Buy an electric vehicle by all means if you have the means, but there are some problems with trying to industrially manufacture a livable future.)