No LNG in PVD: City Council Hearing TODAY, 9/12/16, 5pm

The Providence City Council’s Ordinance Committee is meeting today to discuss Councilman Seth Yurdin’s proposal to strengthen the Council’s opposition to the proposed National Grid LNG facility in South Providence. (Slightly fuller coverage of this resolution and the process here.)

This committee meeting has an opportunity for public comment. Please go if you can and let the City Council know that the city’s people don’t want this dangerous facility here.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market, 9/1/16

Weather: Coolish, muggy. Rained earlier so everything was soggy. Sun came out and stayed out, mostly, around 4:15.

Number of people: 11 stoppers, 9 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0! I think one guy was messing with me, but not in a mean way

People who recognized the Peanuts reference: 1

Dogs seen: 21

Dogs pet: 2

Ferrets seen: 1, on a leash

Ferrets pet: No

Money raised for the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island: $6.35

 

Observations:

Maybe this is a good time to remind readers that A) I don’t call out to people from the booth–they choose to come up to me or not; 2) people can talk to me about whatever’s pressing most on their mind, even if it’s not climate-change-related; D) I try not to argue with people at the booth, though I may try to get them to see something from an angle they haven’t previously considered.

This market was extremely rich in both kids and dogs. There’s a playground in the park, and the fields of the park itself; lots of playing, running around, shrieking, and so on. One kid stood rapt as a human threw a frisbee for a dog and the dog caught it in the air.

I heard enough people speaking Spanish to each other that I think the next time I’m in this spot, on 10/6, I’m going to try to line up an English <–> Spanish translator.

An unusual number of people, including lots of kids, marked a map of the state with a place in Rhode Island they love and would like to protect. Some places they marked on the map: the coast (x2), the park (for riding her bike), the zoo, Block Island, CityFarm, Dimeo Farm and farmland in Johnston, Burger King, Brockton (Massachusetts, where her family and friends live), salt ponds, farmland in Portsmouth and Newport, his house. A kid with an orange slushie circled the whole state.

 

Some conversations

Kid 1: Are you a doctor?

No, not really, but I talk to people about their worries.

Kid 2: Can we talk to you?

Yeah, you can talk to me. 

Kid 2: [Throws me an extremely suspicious look, leaves]

*

[These two came up together; the first speaker is the second speaker’s son.]

Person 1: I’m waiting for a kidney transplant. I’ve been waiting for two years and eight months. My friend’s finishing up with the testing and it looks like it could be good.

Person 2: We’re hoping that he’s gonna be a good recipient and that she–that it’s gonna go well for both of them.

That is a transplant they do a lot.

Person 1: Yeah, you don’t realize it until you’re in the situation. Everyone at the party has had it … I have dialysis Monday, Wednesday, Friday. I’m grateful for the help that I’ve gotten, I’m happy to have Obamacare, I don’t care what anyone says. My medicine would be $2000–it would be $44, 000 a month for dialysis.

*

I worry about my children. They don’t do anything bad, it’s just concern. Like in school, are they okay, are they gonna be okay in the future in school, are they gonna be okay if they go to college, how will they deal with it? One goes to [NAME OF HIGH SCHOOL], one goes to middle school. I wonder if they put pressure on themselves. The one in high school, she’s gonna take three advanced classes, she’s just gonna be a junior–is that a lot of pressure? She says she likes the challenge … If they don’t get what they want are they gonna be disappointed in themselves, are they gonna be something wrong? She’s a cancer survivor when she’s four, now she’s sixteen and she says, “I want to be a doctor, a children’s cancer doctor,” and you don’t wanna say, “It’s kinda hard,” but … How do you approach that? Once they become adult, they don’t talk to you. She brings me her report card, in calculus I think she got a C, she said, “Oh, you gonna yell at me? You can yell at me, I’m already mad at myself.” I’m not gonna yell at her!

I teach college and I’m also an advisor for students, and a lot of students, especially if they’re the first generation in their family to go to college, they worry about making their parents proud, about giving back to their parents.

But that’s not what we want. We want them-we know how it is to survive, we don’t really care what we are. For us, we start with nothing, we want them to do good, not for us, not to help us, it’s more for themselves. We just want them to have their own easy life.

*

Black people being shot by angry white people, ’cause nowadays everybody seems to be shooting Black people. Education and job security for my children. Saving Black babies here in Rhode Island–maternal and infant health. I run a cloth diaper service, I’m trying to help the environment.

*

Smaller Sister: I’m scared of something.

What are you scared of? 

Smaller Sister: I’m scared of poisons, poisonous spiders.

Slightly Larger Sister: I’m scared that somebody poison my food and make me eat it.

[A few minutes later, Smaller Sister comes back with Smallest Sister]

Smaller Sister: She’s scared of dogs.

Little dogs or big dogs?

Smallest Sister: Big dogs.

*

The word, “Anthropocene.”* The idea that an entire stage in the planet’s existence could be defined by human destruction. I read this headline, “Scientists define the Anthropocene,” and that really made me anxious … When I was a kid I had this Reader’s Digest atlas, with all sorts of information in the back, and there was a list of geological epochs, and I always think of the Holocene as being the geological epoch in which I live. And that we’ve changed things so fundamentally that we can never go back to living in the Holocene–

How does that cause you to approach the world, how you perceive things?

Even if we get to the state where we’ve reduced emissions so that temperatures are back to what they were during the Holocene, we won’t be able to go back. We’ll have changed so much. I still have that optimism–it’s just who I am, the belief that millions of people will change their minds, that something will bring it home to people. But it’s so definite–one era ends and the other begins. It implies a tipping point. I suppose that’s why they use it.

*Doctor’s note: I hate this word too, but for different reasons, which I might outline here or somewhere.

*

I wanna be an adult and buy property, but I’m worried if I go too far south it’s gonna be dry, and I don’t wanna move too far north. I don’t wanna buy property along the coast. Should I think more about farming my own sustenance?

It sounds like you’re worried that you might not be able to have the life you imagined.

Yeah. The old models that my parents used to plan their future don’t apply anymore.

 

 

 

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling at the Armory Park Farmers’ Market TODAY (9/1)

I’ll be at the Armory Park Farmer’s Market with the Climate Anxiety Counseling booth today, 3:30-6:30 pm (the market runs till 7, but I’m going to set up for the Interdependence Days mini-show closing). This is my first time boothing it up at this market, in a park that I really love, one of the places in Providence where you can see a lot of the sky at once.

The booth and my materials are mostly paper and cardboard, so we may be a little pulpy if the rain keeps up, but come and visit anyway.

Climate Anxiety Counseling at the Sankofa World Market: 8/31/16

Weather: Coolish, humid, overcast, a few raindrops.

Number of people: 4 stoppers, 1 walkby.

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 4

Pictures taken with permission: 2

Pictures taken without permission: 1

People who commented on the Peanuts reference: 0, though a woman did walk by in a shirt with Lucy, Linus, Charlie Brown and Snoopy on it.

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island: $0.05

 

Observations: 

Another sparse day, and not even Michael Jackson to blame for it.

A couple of people interviewed me among the other market vendors. Thanks, those people! I also had several moving non-counseling conversations with other vendors, and several second conversations with people who’ve spoken to me at this market before.

I also got to see someone I met last year downtown: we talked on this day, and I gave him a copy of this alternate history. Later that summer he stopped by to ask how it ended, and I asked if he would try to end it. Today he said he was still thinking about it and he actually wrote something for it! If we’re able to reconnect and he’s willing for me to share it, I’ll post it here.

Today was my last day at the Sankofa World Market, and various people gave me A) a small sunflower, 2) a spoonful of majarete, and D) a spray of peachy-orange gladioli. One farmer also let me know when the eggplants were about to be gone, so I could buy two of them.

 

Some conversations:

Finding a good job after graduation. I’m graduating from college this year. I want to work for the CDC and study diseases, disease prevention, epidemiology … I’m just nervous because other people with the same major as me are just floating around two years later. I can’t be working minimum wage, living and paying my loans.

*

Since I talked to you I’ve been trying to be more intentional about my choices. Sometimes I go to Stop and Shop and get vegetables from wherever they come from, but I wanted to come back [to the Sankofa Market] because the vegetables are so good, they’re grown right here and they’re really affordable. It’s easier to make positive choices [when you’re buying food], because companies say, “Oh, it was grown this way, it was raised this way.” But it’s harder to make negative choices, because the negative isn’t advertised: “Oh, we treat workers like shit.”

… I was also thinking from when we talked before about when I was really young, Public Works–this was in Vermont–would cut the trees and I was just sobbing, thinking they were killing them, and I think that’s a gift that young children have–to be able to relate to the trees. But me not being able to get out of bed because I’m sad about the trees isn’t ultimately sustainable. I’ve been watching a four-year-old and the other day she said to me, “Let’s make a movie…I wanna make a movie about trees. Trees are so important because they’re so pretty.” And I think there’s a connection between the place that tears come from that trees are dying and the joy at the awesomeness of the natural world. But I guess it’s easier to empathize with humans.

*

 

I guess my anxiety about this [gestures at sign] at the moment is around that article that’s circulating, “Is it irresponsible to have kids in the age of–” It’s an area where there’s so many really clear cerebral positive fact-based reasons [not to have kids]. It doesn’t make sense for there to be any more humans, that’s how we got to where we are. But then you’re thinking about this realm that’s so unconnected with any scientific analysis and reasoning. How do these intersect–this really primal, human thing, this biological imperative that bonks up against harsh reality? We don’t need more humans swelling the population. And then on a personal level it’s also ugggggghhhhh, wow, I don’t–

 

 

Doctor’s note: I suggested that this person look at the work that Conceivable Future does.

Climate Anxiety Counseling at the Sankofa World Market TODAY (8/31)!

Today the booth and I will be at the Sankofa World Market outside the Knight Memorial Library on Elmwood Avenue, 2-6pm, with a listening ear and pictures to give away of some of the cicadas you’ve probably been hearing around Rhode Island.

This will be my last appearance at this particular market, so come and visit me, and get a bitter melon or an eggplant or a bag of beans.

(I will also be at the Armory farmers’ market tomorrow with the booth, but I’ll make a separate post about that.)

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza opposes fracked-gas processing plant

“Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza is opposing National Grid’s proposal to build a natural gas liquefaction facility at Field’s Point in Providence.”

Other mayors of other towns and cities, please take note: this is the correct move.

Let’s work toward a version of history where we leave behind the methods of fueling our endeavors that also damage us and everything around us. Maybe that means alternative methods. Maybe it means fewer, or different, endeavors. At minimum, refusing this LNG plant is one of many ways to take care of this city’s people. Thank you, Mayor Elorza, for doing that.

Climate Anxiety Counseling at the Sankofa World Market: 8/24/16

Weather: Hot and bright with occasional breezes. Remembered to bring water this time.

Number of people: 3 stoppers, 2 walkbys.

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 4

People who commented on the Peanuts reference: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island: $3.90

 

Observations:

Kind of a sparse day–there were quite a few people at the market, but a lot of them were listening to/watching a Michael Jackson impersonator who was very energetic but also weirdly heteronormative/toxically-masculine in his patter, like jokes about how if he came home doing the Michael Jackson voice his wife would kick him out of the house.

What one interlocutor called, in slight fingerquotes, the “paralysis of the left”, was a big theme today, what with one thing and another.

There was also someone painting faces, and watching kids run around showing off their face paint was pretty great.

 

Some conversations:

[These two were friends, and came up together.]

Person 1: I was just in Ecuador. [One of the people I was there with] grew up in an indigenous community there, and the oil companies have gone in and done pretty terrible things there … They seem to have kind of taken a divide and conquer approach: they give motors [for working boats] to some groups but not to others. Or they install drills, they hire indigenous people to do the work, and people are psyched about it, because they get money–and then they get involved in the money economy, and when the drills start to go dry there’s no more work, and they haven’t been keeping up with their agricultural work. And that’s the oil that we [U.S. people] use. I’m uncomfortable with how complacent I become in this: the problem seemed so intractable when I was there, but it’s easy to come back to Providence and ignore it, to travel to places and do things that leave a big carbon footprint and are contingent upon this exploitation.

Is this something you’ve talked about with people since you’ve been back?

It’s not something I’ve talked about. I’ve had some conversations with comrades, but I feel defeated–Chevron’s still gonna exist, Texaco’s gonna exist. There was just one successful class action, but the oil companies haven’t paid up … It feels so big and so intractable. Even though [the person she was working with] knows how to build solar panels or knows how to negotiate, none of that works! The government [of Ecuador] has screwed over people while giving them some concessions. Government corruption is part of the problem, but the government is who has the most money and potential to change things.

What do you do when you feel this anxiety and this frustration?

When I was really little–7, 8, 9–I remember waking up crying and my mom came in and asked me what was wrong, I was reading a lot of National Geographic and they were just starting to talk about climate change, global warming, and they were like, “Oh, hurricanes, oh, sea level rise,” and I was terrified that a hurricane would kill me and my family. Very me-centered. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to compartmentalize the anxiety and not feel it as intensely, and kind of move about my days without being overwhelmed by crippling anxiety, but my ability to shut it down concerns me. I wish there was like a “CONSEQUENCES” button I could press when I got in my car, like “this is the impact of you driving.” It’s hard to feel the impact of our choices on a gut level without the immediacy of knowing the consequences–and I don’t, I don’t know the consequences, I don’t know what the world is gonna be like.

Person 2: I think people also have a distrust of their own agency in the political system. On an individual level, we feel helpless. I’ve been thinking about the political education I received, or didn’t receive–I was never taught about local government, or even really national government, or government in other countries, in a way that was like, “What is my role and relationship to this government if something’s hurting me or hurting my community?” I don’t know many kids or even adults who think like that, who think in terms of participatory democracy.

Person 1: If we were to really think about systems to organize people in different ways politically, anarchist non-hierarchical modeling–but if I say, “I don’t know if it’s possible,” I sound like people who don’t want to think in these transformative ways about our political system. It’s impossible to ignore the extent of of environmental destruction and also social inequality that’s so tied up in how capitalism works best. But I don’t know where I should sit on the spectrum of people buying into a system that might be uncomfortable and difficult to wrap our heads around because it hasn’t been done in the U.S.

Person 2: What if the norm for who plays roles in current systems changes? I was talking to a friend who’s an economist, and asking her to explain what she does, and she was like, “What people should know is that it’s not about money. I study it because when you when you have that knowledge, it gives you a seat at the table where not a lot of people who believe what I believe are sitting.” Maybe it’s not that the systems don’t work but that the people in a lot of these authoritative spots have been the same people for a long time.

Person 1: I feel like the ideals [of this country/participatory democracy] are noble and worth fighting for, I’m just not sure the tools are sharp enough. If we really want international environmental organization to go forward, why has diplomacy been replaced by U.S. military force? Is that how we want to be welcoming people to the table? If there are things that nobody should really have, how do we even start those conversations?

This is really provisional and I think would only work if you were talking to another person, not a government or something, but I think you could ask, “What would have to change about the world in order for you to be willing to make these changes, or give this thing up? And how does that world sound to you?”

That sounds like some of the same language people use to talk about getting over addiction, like what I ask myself about some of my own habits and what I ask my friends who are struggling with addictions. What is the world in which we no longer feel the need for these behaviors? With environmental issues, capitalism has fed the crisis, it depends on inequality and on people living in shitty conditions. But I think anarchism alienates a lot of people. What political systems can people imagine, and imagine themselves participating in?

*

I’m anxious about inter-organizational and interpersonal relationships related to campaigning against the National Grid LNG plant in the Port of Providence. We’ve got people who are focused on outcome, who just want something to happen, and we’ve got people who are focused on process, who are trying to put in place a system of organizing the right way so that we have that even if we don’t make anything happen this time. I guess it’s what they call the “paralysis of the left”.

From how you’re talking about it, you’re more of a process person.

Yeah, I guess so, but I’ve put myself in a position where I’m surrounded by outcome people.

What do you do when you feel the stress and the frustration?

I bought a bike. And I joined a friend with a quahogging boat–we’re going out maybe this weekend, definitely next week. And I have kids. Sometimes that adds to your anxiety, sometimes it distracts from it.

Do your kids know what you do?

They’re pretty little. My son knows. My daughter–she was with me when we marched against the Burrillville power plant, but I think for her it was more like, “Oh, there’s a dinosaur float.” You’d have to break it down so simply that it wouldn’t be effective. I also run a business, so I take time out of that to do this work, and it’s not like I begrudge the time but when it becomes more complicated, it takes more time than I planned. And it’s tough to get anything done when you’re arguing about it.

 

 

 

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling TODAY at the Sankofa World Market, 2-5pm!

I have to leave a little early today because my brilliant Frequency/Book City students are reading their incredible poems from their beautiful books at 5:30pm at the Providence Public Library (come to that, seriously, they’re so good, we have such good writers and smart people growing up in this city and state), but I will be at the Sankofa World Market outside the Knight Memorial Library today, from 2 to a little before 5, ready to hear your climate and other anxieties. Maybe today will be the day you buy a bitter melon!

Climate Anxiety Counseling at the Sankofa World Market: 8/17/16

Weather: Hot, sunny and bright

Number of people: 9 stoppers, 1 walkby

Number of climate change deniers/trivializers: 3

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 9

People who commented on the Peanuts reference: 2

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Pictures taken without permission: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $2.60, plus one stick of gum

 

Observations:

 

A lot of people wanted to have arguments today. I try not to have arguments at the booth, but not arguing is exhausting in its own way..

There were puffballs in the grass behind the booth and two kinds of oak gall in the little oak tree that was shading the booth, and I spotted a monarch butterfly, the second this summer.

If you are a person of faith, using “like a religion” as a disparaging comparison doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Today I had the second ever climate anxiety counseling session facilitated by a translator! I would really like to offer this more often, and am talking with someone about helping out, but if anyone else is comfortable translating between English and another language widely spoken in RI (Spanish and Khmer, for two) let me know.

 

Some conversations:

What is there to be anxious about climate change? The people who are worried, they have three meals a day, they’re driving around. It’s all marketing.

If it’s marketing, someone must think they can gain something from it. Who gains something from it?

That’s a good question. Political structures–they’re sold on belief in the system. It benefits liberals and secularists: if you don’t believe [sic], there must be something wrong with you. It affects elections, it affects what you buy and consume, what you think, just like a religion. We’re told to be afraid. When I was a kid, you had a bad storm and you ate whatever was in the house and then you went on with your life–now there’s a bad storm and you can’t get into the supermarket.

So it’s not something that troubles you.

Not at all, ’cause I don’t believe the hype.

So what are the things that worry you, that press on your mind?

Not having enough money to take care of my wife and my daughter. I’m going to leave this earth and the sun’s going to rise and set like it has for the past hundreds of thousands of years since God created it. And He is in control of everything, even though man [sic] thinks that number one, he can destroy the earth and number two, that he can save it–I think the latter is the craziest.

See, I don’t separate humans and the earth like that.

Are you saying there’s no difference between me and a snail, or me and the rocks and the mountains?

No, I’m saying all those things are part of the creation. I don’t think we’re arguing. I’m not talking about equivalency, I’m talking about all being part of something.

Part of something, yes. But everything here has been created for our purposes, and we’re supposed to be grateful.

*

I don’t think people pay enough attention, or if they do, they don’t care. “Well, I don’t care if the climate changes, if it’s 85 degrees on February 1st I’m gonna love it, I’ll go golfing.”

*

[This person and I had this conversation with the help of a translator.]

I’m gonna tell you what we should do: put less chemicals in the air. Less deforestation. Produce more organic foods, with less chemicals. Take care of our water. Not overfish–fish help oxygenate the water. We shouldn’t be damaging the ozone layer because God created the world perfect–we are the predators that have damaged the vast majority of it.

[I give him a card with a house spider on it.]

In the Dominican Republic, we have these, but they’re much bigger and they eat cockroaches. They’re called “donduna” because they make that sound at night … I’m a beekeeper, and anyone who works with bees has to work with nature, because nature is an extension.

*

My first reaction is always denial. My uncle from Virginia comes up to visit every summer, and he says, “Every time I come up here it’s hotter,” and my reaction is, “Oh, you’re being ridiculous.” I do think about it. I grew up in Newport and my parents still live there, and if you look at the projection maps of the flood zone, their house is literally on the other side of the street from the flood zone–oceanfront property! [Laughs] It’s beyond our control–to be really honest, the of all the ills of the world, the problem is capitalism and I don’t know what to do about that. Some measure of economic return being the bottom line–we need a major societal value shift. I don’t know how we as a society can address a lot of things without that. But economics is not a natural force like physics–that’s a system we set up. It’s just buying somebody’s story, we can change the story.

*

More of the pollution aspect. The air that we breathe affects us internally–it leads to illnesses, it gets into our bodies, it affects the food we eat, it’s all connected. We can be over here, over here, but eventually it all connects. … If you can encourage people to read independently, to be curious without feeling forced…[they can see how] it’s an issue that affects them. You alone start to ask questions. And there are things like local reps should be involved–education I guess is a big piece…. Start in school.

Is that your son over there? Do you guys talk about this together?

Not really, no. I read things and I file it away until he can talk about it.

*

I would like to not live out my retirement underwater. I don’t have any children or grandchildren, but I have friends and cousins who do, and I feel bad when I think about when they think about their future–we will pass and they will live to experience this.

Do you imagine what they’re gonna experience?

I imagine them having to build walls around New York City, to keep the water out. And Florida, I imagine Florida changing shape completely. The hunger–they say that’s gonna be the worst of it, is people starving. You can walk away from water, but droughts and floods–it’s not gonna be pretty. They’re gonna starve to death over much of the world.

*

[These two came up together]

Person 1: I don’t need to be afraid, because [life] exists so many years. It still exists and is still getting better and better. All the technology and all the people! It’s not my business, all the other things–I can do the best I can. I don’t know they will stop it or not, I don’t know what happened. In my point of view, it’s getting much better. I’m choosing to see it getting much better.

Person 2: In the Jewish tradition, everyone starts with the self. You cannot change the world, but you can change yourself.

Person 1: It’s not a Jewish tradition, it’s a point of view that people can have.

The way we change ourselves is partly by talking with other people, right? By observing the world and by listening to other people around us?

Person 1: The more we connect with people.

Person 2: Not to isolate ourselves. But do you need a doctor or do we need a doctor? Propagating fear of climate problems is very strange–if you have anxiety about climate change, you don’t buy leather, you don’t use plastic, but it’s really a basic thing in economics that you have scarcity: if a certain percentage of people don’t use plastic or leather, that will make it so other people can use them.

Just to be sure I understand you, you’re saying that there will always be people who want these things and use them, no matter if other people avoid them.

Person 2: Yes.

Person 1: Not to do business with the big idea, but to do with the small idea. If I see something on the ground I can pick it, because I want to contribute to a clean environment–it’s not because I’m working for somebody else.

Climate Anxiety Counseling TODAY: Sankofa World Market, 2-6pm

The Climate Anxiety Counseling booth will be at the Sankofa World Market (outside the Knight Memorial Library on Elmwood Avenue) today, Wednesday August 17th, 2-6pm. Come share your climate-change-related anxieties with me, take home a drawing of a Rhode Island organism, donate to the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island. Learn about Interdependence Days.Or just come keep me company.

You can also buy some vegetables and, in some cases, have a beautiful in-depth conversation about the virtues of those vegetables with the people who grew them. I didn’t know bitter melon was good for diabetes, or that you can eat it raw.