Climate Anxiety Counseling: Day 6!

Weather: warm and sunny, breezy, occasional sharp gusts, cooler later

Number of people: 15 stoppers, 2 walk-bys, one bike-by

Number of hecklers: 1, kinda?

Pages of notes: 13

Conversations between people previously unknown to one another: 4! (all-time record)

Mentions of the Industrial Revolution: 2

People who asked (and received) permission to take a picture: 2

People who did not ask permission and took a picture anyway: 2

Business cards proffered and accepted: 1, and 1 email address

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $10.49!

 

Observations:

I wrote “We have chalk today” in sidewalk chalk in front of the booth, but no takers.

Pretty much everyone who says “I’m just one person” says it in a stupid voice, mocking a hypothetical other person–this has happened multiple times and I haven’t heard anyone say it seriously.

 

Some conversations:

[These two were friends.]

Friend 1: When I’m in the sun it burns a little more. And my friend Brittany, remember? She burned her whole back. Normally I can lie in the sun at the beach and nothing happens. And all we did was just walk over here and we got burned … Everybody says like it’s too hot or it’s too cold.

Friend 2: But everybody said the winter was cold, but I thought it was warm. It snowed a lot but it was warm. I wore a sweater the whole entire winter. I wore my North Face and it was too hot.

So when you think about these changes happening, what do you do?

Friend 2: I live it up!

Friend 1: You don’t pay too much mind. Whenever the big man upstairs decides …

*

They have standards in MA. Each company is allowed to let off a certain amount of emissions, otherwise they have to pay a fine. So like everything, there’s loopholes if you look. So some companies, they were actually buying other companies’ emissions to skate around the law. It starts at the top–they get lobbyists to throw money at the law. They’re all about the bottom line.

So with that in mind, that people who are making these decisions are all about the bottom line, as you say, what do you think people like you and me can do?

Well, I think what happens is people start getting in the mindset, “I’m just one person” [stupid voice]. But if you start thinking of millions of us doing the same thing–thinking, what can I do today to prolong the life of the earth? Start thinking that overall it can do a lot. I guess it’d be little stuff, like what they’re doing with bags at Whole Foods, I like that. They can email your receipt now, there’s less paper … We are a country of waste. People would rather throw food away than give it to the needy.

So do you keep stuff like this in mind as you go about your day?

I’m starting to. I’m not gonna bullshit and say yes.

*

I own a rainwear company. I wasn’t sure if this was flip or genuine … So much of what you hear about climate has a lot of negativity, and bike riding is a positive thing. But it’s difficult to give up your car–you’re exposed to the weather. So we wanted to make rainwear that would be accessible–not accessible pricewise, unfortunately–but we hoped it would help people make that transition to get out of the car, without saying all these things. Like, “This is cool,” not, “We’re all doomed.” I work with bike advocates and they say that it’s the same with helmets–when you talk about safety, no one’s gonna do it. You can’t get people to help you. How can you make it positive? I don’t know how you do that with climate change.

*

I have a 3 1/2 year old daughter. I worry if she’s gonna be able to breathe by the time she’s 20. I had a friend who used to work with Greenpeace, she doesn’t anymore, and she said that there are these piles of plastic, 2-3 feet deep, in the ocean, the size of Maine. Fish get caught in them, animals get caught. They’re never gonna be gone, they’re never gonna be clean. The environment bothers me more than anything now, I think that’s our most pressing need. I don’t know what to do … Capitalism won’t allow less profit … People don’t want their life turned upside down.

*

What’s something a person could do on a daily basis with their worry? Something different than I’m gonna go online and donate a lot of money, or I’m gonna go through the trash and make sure there’s no foil in it?

Do you feel like it’s weird that people aren’t marching in the streets?

*

[These two were also friends, and are friends of mine.]

Friend 1: After I read the blog, I was thinking about this, and I was thinking about it from a parent’s perspective. I can imagine that change could happen slowly and humans adapt to it in ways that will become normal. Like my daughter, maybe she’ll wear a mask when she goes outside. It happens slowly–things that weren’t factors a hundred years ago are factors now. People have flood insurance. And it’s freaky, because who knows what sacrifices will have to be made.

Do you try to imagine it?

Friend 1: I do. I try to think about history, the way that we adapt–there’s a status quo that wasn’t always the status quo.

Friend 2: There are these cultural narratives that are stories but feel like truths.

Friend 1: And they’re carried through generations.

Friend 2: Are there things you notice about [your daughter’s] life in the world that seem different to you?

Friend 1: Small things, like she knows to recycle …That’s improved, that’s a better way. She’s more aware of her impact on the world…

Friend 2: When I was in high school, part of my family’s land was taken by eminent domain for a power line. It was a big emotional thing for our family. Part of it was, “We don’t want a big unsightly thing on our land,” but part of it was “This is mine and I get to decide what happens here.” And it was a turning point for me.

Friend 1: You went from what to what?

Friend 2: From a naivete, a lack of awareness–I mean, I loved the woods, I didn’t throw garbage in them–to understanding what it meant to be the steward of the land in a directed way. Something that feels really intimate to you and you have no power over. My family couldn’t even protect it with money–they tried throwing money at it, hundreds of thousands of dollars. And that makes me feel jaded and scared: what is that kind of power, how do we traction our nice conversations into something that can make a difference?

[At this point, a third person, a stranger, came up.]

New person: I got plenty of anxiety about the climate, but I doubt humans can do anything about it. I’m a defeatist about it. I don’t know if it’s the end of mankind, but …

What about the end of other things, plants, animals…

Well, that’s been happening, the sixth big species die-off is already happening. If it’s the end of mankind, maybe that’s a way of righting itself. Conservation, energy saving, those are good to some degree, but — for example, people aren’t gonna give up their cars, everyone needs a car.

Actually, lots of people don’t have cars, and not because of the environment, because they’re broke.

Maybe, but if you live in the suburbs there’s no way to get away from it. I could take the bus, but it’s completely inconvenient. And convenience will always trump–if it means going tremendously out of my way, I won’t do it.

Friend 2: What would be the right amount of incentive?

New person: I don’t know. I’d be willing to pay higher taxes–you don’t have to do anything. But if you have to go out of your way …

What about when things change, what might you be able to do to make things easier for the people around you?

The people around me … I don’t know, it depends on the situation. As far as helping other people? If it meant having days in the summer where you don’t use electricity, to conserve electricity for the neighborhood, I might do that … I think for a lot of people it’s something out there, it’s not concrete enough–it’s abstract to a certain degree.

*

[These two were also friends.]

Friend 1: We laugh every time we see your stand.

Friend 2: I started reading about orange roughy. Orange roughy live 146 years. Now they’re endangered, and we’re still raking the sea floor for them and damaging it. And they’re still thinking about whether to protect it. But there’s cachet to having orange roughy that somebody trawled for and killed.

Friend 1: How is that the climate?

Friend 2: The ocean’s not the climate?

 

Today’s poem: 

 

A luxury good of action.

Not could you but why would you.

What the because of it does/is.

In the spring woods.

Where the canes touch the ground.

Where I would fall at their feet.

Useless cunt, naive turd, stupid whore.

How could you, why would you.

All this yelling, this brutality, feels good.

Because it feels like action.

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3 thoughts on “Climate Anxiety Counseling: Day 6!

  1. Pingback: Alternate Histories: 5/20, 4/8 | climateanxietycounseling

  2. Pingback: Alternate Histories: 5/20, 4/25 | climateanxietycounseling

  3. Pingback: Climate Anxiety Counseling: Regular Shift, 5/15/15 | climateanxietycounseling

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