Climate Anxiety Counseling: Day 1

Weather: sunny and brisk shading to gray and chilly

Number of people: 22 stoppers, 4 walk-bys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 12

Conversations between people previously unknown to one another: 2

Business cards proffered and accepted: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $10.00 even! (Most people donated a lot more than a nickel–one guy put in $5.00!)


When people don’t stop but look, they provide a wide range of facial expressions.

The handtruck works great, but it’s heavy. My forearms will be awesome.

I can’t say I feel better, but I’m glad to be doing this.


Some conversations:

I’m worried about the financial situation. In the whole country. I’m embarrassed to say this: I work part time so I can qualify for food stamps so my son and I can eat. I was working full time, but I couldn’t afford food. Daycare was $800 and I was taking home $1600 after taxes, health insurance, everything, but my rent was $600, and then utilities. So I would pay a little rent each month and buy food … I went to college, I wanted to be able to sustain myself.

Can I ask why it’s embarrassing?

I just feel like I should be able to support myself. Everybody struggles, but people just don’t talk about it.


What do you imagine when you imagine that kind of future?

That everything’s melted and burnt. So hot that you can’t go for a second without drinking water. Doomsday scenarios. And we know that humans made it, that it’s because of our use of natural resources.


I’m filled with climate anxiety all the time. It doesn’t bother me on a day-to-day basis, because my life is fine right now. But we’re gonna have a planet that’s going crazy–deserts, no food, storms. I feel embarrassed to say that it bothers me, because everything is working fine for me at the moment. But it’s hard to have hope.

What about stuff that you could do to ease things for people who’d be less okay?

What I could do to ease things for people — well, I volunteer, I vote. I do stuff with

What about taking someone into your house who was displaced by flooding, something like that?

 Well, I don’t even have a house of my own right now. There’s limits to how much I really wanna do. I mean, I like my own personal space. Then you get guilty that you’re not doing more.


(This was part of a long conversation with two people, friends)

Friend 1: It seems like that’s an important thing, scaling down from thinking about the world. There’s some potential in people feeling connected to their homes.

Friend 2: I just learned the difference between a phoneme, which is the smallest unit of sound, like Mu Ih Ll K, and a morpheme, which is the smallest unit of meaning, like MILK. So like the world, that’s a phoneme, but what the crap is the world? It’s not the smallest unit of meaning. How do you break that up–world, countries, communities?

Friend 1: Maybe people need to find their morphemes for themselves — “I’m only gonna think about planting trees in my neighborhood.” And, “What do I want to protect?”  … And that could also mean learning the history of the neighborhood and the community, meeting people and learning about people. Do we wanna help each other or help ourselves more?

Friend 2: That freaks me out so much.


I’m worried about the future. I lost my passport two days ago. Also I’m worried about my kids for the future, my family back home, politics, corruption, health.

Is there anything wrong with your health?

Sometimes you feel something … Anxiety itself, if it’s gonna harm me, or someone. My end in this world. My friends. My younger sister, her future.

Do you feel all of these all at once or do they take turns? 

All at once.

What do you when you feel all these anxieties?

 I sing to myself, or I pray. Mostly I pray.


Today’s poem (from a four-way conversation between participants that went by a little fast):

It’ll all come to us

when we’re gone

30, 40, 60, 70 years

when we’re gone

it’ll come to pass

the north, the south, all gone

humans and animals

will come to pass

will never last

will be a loss

a dead loss and acceptable

will lessen

where we’re going

it will all be changed

be lost as a whole

or partially the lesson

under the icecap

on the wing and leaking

losing sleep

and getting rich

and giving what you can

to everyone and let loss

and get less

and be given

to everyone in trust

for less and less

held in bewilderment

by someone a stranger

a passerby openly

stepping over the doorsill

as over a body

the livelong day

what’s worse

an invading vine

or a blank isle

what’s the wrong question

how will you give

yourself away

what’s the right ocean

the living one spelling out

what remains to us

since you asked me

I’ve sat here for over

two hours of people

and passage and seeming

not to stare or staring

like a hole

in a coat

I don’t bother to hide

like a bald spot



a garbage animal unseemly

how they make a living

how to make someone or

something else living

how to make a living thing

how to make a living thing dead

how to make a living thing die

by turning to me

we’re basically dead

we’re basically already gone

no we’re basically dying

it’s different



2 thoughts on “Climate Anxiety Counseling: Day 1

  1. Pingback: Alternate Histories: 5/13, 4/6 | climateanxietycounseling

  2. Pingback: Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/29/17 | climateanxietycounseling

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