Help No LNG in PVD fight environmental racism and fossil fuel infrastructure

You’ve probably seen my posts about No LNG in PVD, who are trying to keep National Grid from building a toxic, explosive, fracked-gas liquefaction facility, which will increase greenhouse gas emissions, in a neighborhood inhabited by working-class people of color. They need financial support this week. Can you help?

Let me know if you have questions.

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TONIGHT: Burrillville Power Plant Public Hearing

Tonight is the final public hearing about the fracked-gas power plant that Invenergy wants to build in Burrillville. If you live in Rhode Island and can go, please do. Bring a sign opposing the plant. If you’re not a resident of Burrillville, you may not be able to get a spot to speak, but be there and show your opposition.

There are other hearings (dates at the link above) where the public can attend but won’t be allowed to speak.

Doors open at 5pm tonight and it’s expected to be crowded, so getting there at 4:30 if you can might be good.

TONIGHT (Tuesday), October 10th, 6-10pm

Burrillville High School Auditorium, 425 East Avenue, Harrisville, RI

We can’t afford any more fossil fuel infrastructure. A lot of people, I know, support this because they are hungry for construction jobs, and so making sure that Rhode Island develops jobs and training in renewable energy and energy efficiency construction (with something like the Energize RI bill) is an essential part of taking care of Rhode Islanders in the short term as well as the long term.

Looking for stories about the way climate change is changing you

Friends, I am looking for some help.

I want to know, and to talk about, and to write about, how we live with the knowledge of climate change: how we bear it, and how we act on it.

I’m working with a Rhode Island organization to create a manual of concrete actions for fossil fuel drawdown and community building in the state, called “Livable Rhode Island”, and so I’m looking for stories from Rhode Islanders specifically. If you have such a story, I can take it via email at any time: publiclycomplex at gmail is my address.

And I’m also working on a series of writings that will be a more general tool for transforming ourselves in response to the transformation of our world, so I want to listen to people about that. This, I’d like to do in person and in groups if possible.

The climate anxiety counseling booth isn’t really set up for this–for one thing, I want those conversations to be about what the person talking to me chooses and needs. I’m still working on the structure, trying to learn from the arc of Interdependence Days and other things I’ve been part of. Let me know if you think you might like to be part of this, and please ask me questions.

Talking is weird because it’s somewhere between feeling and doing–it’s a necessary prelude to action, but it isn’t itself action (though the amount of effort it takes to do it can trick you into feeling like it is). But it still seems to me to be a key part of making a possible, livable world in the present and for as long as we can–we need to listen to each other in order to know how we can work together.

Sorry about that “we”–I know it’s not as simple as that–but in its complication and variation is strength, too.

I hope you will stay with me.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market, 8/30/17

Weather: Sun & clouds, fresh. No need for sunbrella.

Number of people: 8 stoppers, 1 walkby.

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 8

People who recognized me, and I them, from previous sessions: 4

Dogs seen: 4

Dogs pet: 2

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.05

 

Observations:

Today was my last day at this market this season. A major theme of the day was the need for structural action, and for personal conversations as a path to that, and I think that’s a good theme to end the season on. Watch this space for more about that path.

Mobile nonhuman organisms seen and heard: cabbage white butterfly, small ant crawling on notebook (which I killed), sparrows, cicadas in trees, crickets in bushes, pigeons in the clear light sky and a bug that an interlocutor removed from my shoulder for me.

The Food4Good free meal truck saw a lot of action today. If you have some money to spare, consider sharing it with them.

 

Some conversations:

Any new anxieties since I saw you last?

I hate the world more. I don’t know if that counts as anxiety. That’s what I like about [TOWN]–my girlfriend and I are living in the woods out there. I don’t come around here anymore. My girlfriend got hooked on heroin down here, I’d get jumped every now and then ’cause I’m homeless, you wake up and your bag is gone, your stuff is gone. In [TOWN], nobody bothers us, we’re the only ones there. We work the off-ramps. I’m up here because I got picked up by the cops for unpaid fines. I was in the ACI and now I have to go back there and get my stuff—my blankets, bus pass, my clothes, my wallet.

We get corn, tomatoes, put ’em on the fire—we make a fire out of just brush and leaves. Sometimes people give us cases of food. Lotta granola bars. Someone gave us a five-pound block of cheese, but there’s only so much of that you can eat, we had to throw some out. If you go to Taco Bell at 4am, they’re getting rid of stuff.

I’m a country boy. I grew up on a 27-acre farm. That got repossessed, foreclosed on, that’s why I’m homeless. We’re the only ones out there, me and my girlfriend. We’re not trying to set the world on fire. Sometimes we sleep in a graveyard, a graveyard’s nice and peaceful. If we make enough to take a day off work, we’ll go to the ocean. We’d rather be freezing our butts off together than apart.

What are you thinking for the winter?

If it’s cold cold we head over to [REDACTED]. They have these steam pipes—you put cardboard down, then a blanket over, and then we sweat. You can do better with panhandling in the winter because people feel sorry for you.

*

I’d think there would be more need now. Not necessarily climate-related, but [people] got other anxieties. Half the people like the job that the anxiety is doing—most of the people I spend time around are Trump supporters.

What are they like?

They tend to be mostly Caucasian. Some of them are people who voted for Obama—maybe they just go wherever the wind is blowing, whoever gets buzz is who they jump on. Unanimously, people who dislike him are people who pay more attention to what’s going on…

…I still have the [RI organism] card you gave me. I believe it was a plant. I come here [to the market] once a year, when I get the free voucher from the senior center. If I had more money I would come more often. I don’t fault any of the small farms—they’re doing what they’re doing to make a living. But a lot of people around here are working with convenience meals. And the end of the month is a bad time.

*

That’s funny. I mean, “funny.”

Do you want to do it?

Sure. My anxiety is that it’s out of anyone’s control at this point. Like is it too far gone? When you see things like the flood [in Houston]–I don’t know if it’s that I’m worried. It’s depressing and terrifying.

What are you afraid of?

Survival. The future. That’s the last question, I don’t want to talk anymore.

Okay.

No, you can ask me questions. One more.

You’re talking about the future, being afraid of the future. What about the present?

We can only change the present, so we do what we can. That’s a good question.

*

How much of this do you think we’re really confronting, as opposed to just verbalizing?

Confronting how? Like, in our perceptions, or in our actions?

There could be many verbs—challenge, disrupt. Making it uncomfortable, taking it out of our experience, our comfort zone. There’s certainly something about talking about stuff, unloading what’s on your mind or your heart, but is there another step to take it into personal action, social action, justice action? There are a few points in clinical work and therapy, ideas and systems [that acknowledge that] everything happens in relationship to everything else. Real change doesn’t come until there’s change in the system. Do you do that, and how, and still maintain friendships so you’re not throwing people aside? … There’s therapy that brings people to action and then there’s therapy that helps people maintain where they are. The goal is not necessarily to gain more mastery or to hold onto what we are. How do we in this state of dynamic flux hold onto what we have, which is maybe a myth? How do we handle what’s there so it doesn’t apoliticize, a-seek change for us? If we are always changing and growing, why are we always holding on, instead of stepping forward and taking risks?

*

I’m really worried about global warming. It seems really clear that it’s gonna be a problem for everybody, and nobody’s doing anything about it, and I can’t—I can reduce my carbon footprint, but I feel disillusioned about it, because it’s not gonna make a difference as long as the larger structural things don’t change. It’s more than Trump—his predecessors didn’t do any better. They took some steps but it’s still a mess. And I’m sitting in this privileged country, I’ve enjoyed the benefits—do I get to say, “No no, Africa, no no, Asia, you can’t enjoy life”?

How do you feel when you think about this?

I’m gonna have to think about that. Sometimes I’m just like, “The earth will survive.” I’m not that tied to the human race. I’d prefer that we don’t blow the place up—then the next species to take over will do what they do. But that doesn’t help me know what I want to be doing now.

Climate Anxiety Counseling TODAY at the Sankofa World Market, 2-6pm!

Today is my last day this season at the Sankofa World Market, and I hope you’ll come visit me there between 2 and 6pm today. I have some beautiful drawings of Rhode Island organisms to share, and I want to hear what you’re worrying about.

I had hoped to continue at Sankofa through September, but I can’t do that, keep my other promises, and remain reasonably well, so I’m calling it early.  (I might do one more session at the Armory Park Farmer’s Market later in September.) Please come and visit me today.

Help for Houston and its people

Food banks: Galveston County, Corpus Christi, Houston

Texas Diaper Bank

SPCA (many shelters won’t take pets)

Portlight, providing disaster relief specifically for people with disabilities

Coalition for the Homeless

Texas Workers Relief Fund

Writer & former Houston resident Jia Tolentino, who supplied the names of many of the organizations on this list, also pointed out on Twitter, “As always, disasters are necessarily political: the kind of gov you would want to help your family in a crisis is the kind of gov you want!” Others have drawn the connections between Hurricane Harvey and climate change, between extractive capitalism and vulnerable infrastructure, between contempt for poor people and the quality of disaster planning and response.

UPDATE: Another very good list, compiled by Colorlines, here. 

Sometimes people say to me at the booth, “We need a really big disaster to wake people up.” Whether or not the waking up is forthcoming, we could’ve done without the disaster. If you can share your resources with Texans who need them, please do so.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Armory Park Farmers’ Market, 8/24/17

Weather: Temperate, with clouds and sun, cool toward the end

Number of people: 10 stoppers, no walkbys that I noticed

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7

People who recognized me, and I them, from previous booth sessions: 3

Dogs seen: 23

Dogs pet: 4

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.60

 

Observations:

Still didn’t line up an interpreter. Bad move on my part, and not fair. A friend who also works at the Sankofa World Market says that he can do it next time if it’s a language he knows.

I was in a different spot than my last time at this market—in the shade, over by the busiest vendor.

I had a long conversation with someone that I didn’t get permission to record. She came back with an apple: “’Cause you helped me out with some advice so I’m helping you out with something to eat.”

Two girls added their houses to the map, and a grandma marked the park itself and talked with me about dog attacks and plums. She came back to show me the plums in her walker compartment. And a little boy added a number 1. When I saw him pointing it out to his parents, I held up one finger and he did it back.

 

Some conversations:

I actually had a very bad day with climate anxieties last week. Too much New York Times and spending too much time on Twitter. A lot of doom and gloom, a lot of false insistence that the end is very very near.

What happens when you read things like that?

I get scared instantly, and I dive into it one thousand percent. A whole day is lost. It’s hopelessness coupled with an underlying desire/understanding of—it’s harder to live amidst the changing world rather than be like, “It’s all over.” It is way way harder to imagine the world not ending than the world ending.

What do you imagine it being like—the world not ending?

Things getting materially really difficult for a large number of people. It’ll probably include a lot of geopolitical conflict over who gets what resources and who is allowed to go where in light of restricted ability to [inhabit] certain areas. We’ll have to fight people who are trying to claim resources and then sell them back to us.

And what do you see yourself doing in this world?

That’s a harder question to answer. I’m moving to LA next month. I grew up there … In a locally specific way, LA was built on making a grab for resources. It exists the way it does because someone was like, “We can bring water here.” I’m thinking of focusing in on that as a site of action, while trying to keep an eye on everything else. In focusing in on one area, there’s this inherent feeling of failure that you’re not doing anything in all the other areas.

Is there a way to combat that?

I guess talking to people working in those other fields and understanding what’s on the horizon. More reading, more conversation. It also helps when I think that this earth was around before us and it will be around after us. But it hurts a ton. It’s just hard—and it’s hard to grieve for something that’s in progress.

*

I’m worried about coastal communities. I’m a geology student, and we used StormTools —you know about that?–to do a project on Misquamicut Beach. It’s gonna be gone very soon. It’s really concerning to me–it doesn’t seem like anyone is that panicked about it, and we should be. Down there, there are a lot of second homes, vacation homes, but there’s also lower middle class communities, people who can’t afford to pick up and move, and those houses are gonna be worth nothing.

Do you feel like people know about this?

I’m only aware of this because it’s a big topic in geology. The general public is not well informed. I went to that talk on gentrification, and the guy was like, “Who’s heard of StormTools?” and when people put their hands up, he was like, “Now everybody who’s a professional, put your hands down,” and I was the only one who kept mine up.

Is it hard to use?

The labels are kind of confusing. People wouldn’t necessarily know the abbreviations. It could be cool to have a workshop on it at the library. And I would love to do one on energy, with this rate hike.

*

I read the article that everybody read— “Here’s all the horrible things that are gonna happen.” All my friends texted me, and I texted everyone. Everyone was just like, “There’s nothing to do. None of us should plan for the future.” But then I talked to my girlfriend’s dad about it, he’s a climate scientist and a lawyer, and he was like, “It’s gonna be fine.” But he’s into engineering climate science so that everyone can continue not changing their behavior. He’s into nuclear energy. I don’t know if I believe him

… I’m thinking about where I wanna live. My partner’s buying a house—do I stay here and help her paint the bathroom? Maybe the best thing she can be doing is running a cooperative house and keeping the rent really cheap. And then I read another article that was like, “Do not move to New York if you’re a white person with a college degree, we don’t need any more of you.” But that’s another question: where are people going?

*

I’m always moving too fast. They call me “the turbo.” When I start a job, I’m anxious until I finish it, and what I don’t like is I don’t get the same treatment back. Someone else will do it, but it doesn’t come fast enough out. It’s always a fight– “You don’t move as fast as I do, so I think you don’t want to.” It’s not as important to them.

*

It seems like everyone I know is getting seriously ill. My mother had breast cancer, and I’m convinced that much of it’s environmental.

Are you worried that it might come back?

All the time. Everytime something goes on [with her health] that’s my first thought. And then I was supposed to hang out with a friend today, but she called me and she was like, “I can’t, I’m panicking, I got bad news from my doctor.” All I know is she has to go for tests.

Yeah, the uncertainty–

–adds a whole extra level. Each piece of news get worse. With my mom, I got to the point where I dreaded taking her to appointments, and even though it’s been four years, you drop back into it. It’s like emotional anaphylactic shock … It felt ubiquitous for a while. I’m also getting older, so things like this are happening more.

How do you respond during these times, what do you do?

I guess I just try to be helpful. With my mom it was a different thing. With friends, I try to help on the day to day. Making food, that’s always good. Walking dogs. Checking in if they need to talk.

And how do you deal with it for yourself?

Doing what I can to help people helps me deal with it. I’m also glad I have the job that I have. With my mom, I did not take care of myself in a lot of ways, it wasn’t just the cancer, she had a nervous breakdown and I had to take care of her, but in Rhode Island we have TDI. So I talked to a doctor to get time off work, and I would not have been able to continue doing it without that.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa Word Market, 8/23/17

Weather: Warm bright, breezy.

Number of people: 6 stoppers, no walkbys.

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7

People who recognized me, and I them, from previous sessions: 3

Conversations at the booth between people who didn’t know each other before: 1

Dogs seen: 4

Dogs pet: 1

Tiny calico kittens seen and coveted: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $1.00

 

Observations:

In a new spot, by the front steps, so that more people can see me and maybe come over. I think it’s helping—although my numbers aren’t yet up from last week.

I need to remember to ask returning people, “Any new anxieties?” as well as chatting and catching up.

Sometimes I see or hear somebody wonder about the sign to themselves or to the person they’re with as they walk by. Not sure if I get to feel good about this, or any of it.

A rat ran right into my feet! Other nonhuman RI organisms: a cabbage white butterfly, a huge dragonfly, all the usual grasses and microorganisms and flowerbed flowers and the maple tree, and a crickets singing off and on in the flowerbed close by.

Cooking demo today: Higher Ground bused in about 20 women, mostly older, dressed in prints and headwraps or in sweaters and skirts. They made a very beautiful procession as a younger volunteer delicately and gently helped those who needed help get from the bus to the ground.

 

Some conversations:

I don’t have my purse with me because I have a[n injured] nerve in my shoulder. A couple of years ago I had a ruptured disc and two herniated discs, and I had surgery for that, and the pain’s developing in my other shoulder. And I don’t have health insurance. I missed the open enrollment, but it seems to me that if should cost more if you sign up outside open enrollment, not that you can’t get it. They’re a business–they should want you to have health insurance! It’s the law to have health insurance!

*

 

 

 

Person 1: [When] I was in school, they took me to the science museum at the Omni Theater. I been a Big Dipper and a Little Dipper fan ever since. … No matter what state I’m in I’m always looking at what the sky is doing.

[Person 2 comes up and I explain what we’re doing.]

Person 1: Mr. Gore, Senator Gore, he’s talking about global warming, the effects of global warming. I’m sure there’s a lot of effects. The earth is mainly water—with glaciers melting at an alarming rate, the land is gonna be washed away. … I’m also thinking about [Hurricane] Katrina—the dam and the water and how much impact it had on everyone. I’ve started taking a lot of notice about stuff like repairing our bridges—[a lot of them] are faulty or falling apart.

Person 2: Everybody is basically overwhelmed with everything that’s been going on. I haven’t really been sleeping at night.

Person 1: I hear a lot of people worrying about the state of affairs.

Person 2: It’s everywhere. The work that I do encompasses not only being in this state, in this country—it’s across the globe. All this that we hear, all this rhetoric causing division—the President should be uniting people.

Person 1: That’s not his M.O. The US knew what they were doing … I think he told all his rich friends, “I can be the President!” and now he is and he doesn’t know what to do. I think he’s trying to get impeached.

Person 2: Purposely! This is a man with two tongues—that’s a proverb, a man who says one thing, then he says another, then he does something else, like a snake.

*

Oh my God, the Trump thing is horrible. The fact that he’s pulled out of [the Paris] agreement is very discouraging, but cities and states are saying that they’ll stay in it, and that’s encouraging. I’ve seen journalists say that they’re not even reporting on the news, they’re just trying to see if there’s anything behind what he said. He’s just making it worse—the North Korea thing, the Paris agreements. Now he’s saying he won’t pass this budget unless it has money for his wall [between Mexico and the US].

*

[This is someone I know, mainly through the booth and the neighborhood, who’s talked with me several times.]

I spent the first years of my life in Greenland. My dad was in the service, and he worked at the refueling base at Narsarsuaq, on the southernmost tip—planes had started to be able to carry more fuel, but there were still older planes in the air that needed to refuel. I have pictures of myself in Narsarsuaq, standing on an airfield. So I have feelings about Greenland, and when I realize how much melt there is and what’s happening, I feel personally affected. It’s a place I lived, it’s the place where I started my life. It’s a real place to me—I have lots of stories from my folks about what it was like. …I don’t want to see it deteriorate or turn into something that I wouldn’t recognize.

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market, 8/16/17

Weather: Hot and bright, with some help from big puffy clouds

Number of people: 7 stoppers, 1 walkby

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 6

People who recognized the Peanuts reference: 1

People who recognized me, and I them, from previous booth sessions: 2

Dogs seen: 2

Dogs pet: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.05

 

NOTE: As I type this, the Houston area is undergoing terrible flooding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Their emergency services are at capacity. Please watch this space in the coming days for how to get money and other resources to people there. One to start with: Portlight serves people with disabilities during and after disasters like these. There’s a donation button at the bottom of that page.

 

Observations:

A cop car drove by with flashers, no siren, at 2:23.

I took a break at 3:15 to buy blueberries, goya/bitter melon (the official vegetable of Climate Anxiety Counseling), collards and cilantro. I ate the blueberries while sitting at the booth. They were very good.

Two small girls added “The Pool” and some art to the map of places they’d like to protect. One of them likes to step in and one of them likes to jump in. The one who likes to step in says she’s afraid of sharks and the water is cold. Another child added “I love my house and my mom” to the map. Later, a little boy came up and asked about the map, and after I explained it, he said thoughtfully, “So if someone put the pool it means like not to dirty it. And somebody put their mom’s house so no bad guys come there.”

I have to get better at not crying when the conversation is about what should or needs to be done.

 

Some conversations:

My background is in environmental issues, but I’m not working on climate directly, and I feel really guilty about that.

Why aren’t you?

‘Cause I took this job. There weren’t jobs directly related to climate in this area, and my family’s here. When I hear about issues about climate in the news, or talk with other people who are working on it, I have that jealousy. What do I want to have accomplished in my life? Before, I worked on mountaintop removal mining–“stop the bad thing.” Now I’m looking for action happening at the city and state level. It’s hard for me to even imagine working in the private sector, so it’s got to be government or non profit.

What are you good at?

I’m good at synthesizing. Thinking big, putting information together, making sense of it. Research, writing, learning how to manage things and people, which is actually really hard. I’m good at learning new things …

… I get mad at myself for not getting involved.

*

 

I’m waiting to get my account done so I can get my car and go to work again. If that don’t work, I’ll go out in the middle of the road and never buy a watch. It was a year ’cause they did the claim—I got the car, got my license renewed…What’s impressive is that I don’t just jump.

*

 

Have you heard grownups talking about climate change?

Yeah, on the news. I’m gonna go to the Caribbean.

If it happens?*

Yeah, I’m gonna ask my grandma to take me. She lives in Florida, but that’s where she’s from.

 

*Doctor’s note: In retrospect, I realize that this was a really unhelpful, not to say dumbass, way for me to put it.