Climate Anxiety Counseling: Day 9

Thanks to Camila for keeping me company today (and offering translation services, even though no one took you up on it) and Julia for an energizing and idea-filled conversation!


Weather: gray, humid, cool, rain promised but never delivered

Number of people: 12 stoppers, 3 walk-bys

Number of hecklers: 0

Number of really committed homophobes: 1

Pages of notes: 9

Conversations between people previously unknown to one another: 2

Business cards proffered and accepted: 1

People who asked (and received) permission to take a picture: 1

People who did not ask permission and took a picture anyway: 1, from a car!

People who recognized and commented on the Peanuts reference: 2

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $2.08



I don’t know what the white trees are that are in bloom in Burnside Park right now–I didn’t go up to them–but they smell awesome.

Big themes today were “all-encompassing worldview” and  “interdependence.”


Some conversations: 

Are you the climate person? I’ve been seeing you from my car! Obviously I’m concerned about the environment, but it’s mostly personal stuff. Getting into law school–well, I got in. I’m interested in international human rights law.

[There was a transition here that I don’t remember and didn’t note — this person came by while I was still setting up.]

How can we make interdependent, healthy connections?

There’s some connection here with your field too–as people get displaced, as there’s food shortages–

Absolutely, and water shortages, like the water wars going on right now in Africa. I’m interested in environmental law as well.


[The second speaker came into the conversation while I was talking with the first.]

Person 1: And I also find myself wishing that I had a lot more money so I could do some of the green things I read about, like putting a green roof on my house. I fantasize about buying and destroying parking lots, but I can’t afford to buy property to smash it up.

Have you tried pricing one of those things–not the parking lots, but the other things–just to see if you could do it?

Person 2:  And if you do that, you can also see if any of your neighbors want to do it–do you live in a neighborhood?

Person 1: We do, that’s actually one of the nice things about where we live.

Person 2: So you can talk to your neighbors, show them what you’re doing, see if it’s something they’d want to do on a larger scale–often the city doesn’t want to do it but if a neighborhood is willing to pay for it, they won’t have a problem with it. And you know, there are grants you can get to plant trees on your street.

Person 1: We’re doing that! Some people actually went around and said, The city will pay for this.

Person 2: That’s great, because not only does it maximize the impact–the more you know your neighbors, that’s the biggest safety net that people can have. That elderly person who lives on your street–you can make sure they’re okay, or you can invite people over to use the same A/C.

Person 1: That’s true, and that’s definitely not something I would’ve thought of.


I’m anxious because I feel personally responsible for this. I’m such a part of the system, how do I fight it? … We need to change the way we’ve been doing things for the past 200 years, and people with influence are not prioritizing it–other things seem more important. But this is pretty immediate for people who live on islands, people who live in big urban centers. I study it every day, I read about it every day, I’m very familiar with it, but how can I talk to people who don’t even know what it is? Am I studying something invisible? I think sometimes I’ve chosen the wrong career — if I was a doctor maybe I would be able to help people more directly. But also, I can use the knowledge to maybe influence policy, maybe in talking to people. So sometimes it’s discouraging, sometimes it allows a positive light.


Are you gonna scare me?


I’m anxious that climate change will happen but that the things that make the world unjust, or unequal, now will get worse. … I still feel like it’s urgent, it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna be bad, but it can be better than what it’s going to be. I used to have a hard time integrating my work for climate justice with work on race and labor, but now I emphasize those two–those are the reasons why there’s injustice and oppression, those are the problems that I have with the world and the things I want to change.


I work a lot on climate change, and my anxiety is that more knowledge won’t help. I’m in the university, in a place of power, and in a position of power in the world, and so I get listened to, but I’m worried that people outside that won’t listen to me, and that the strategies I choose to focus on might not do anything positive.

What would be positive? 

That’s the thing, I haven’t defined that for what I’m doing. We can say 2 degrees C, but we already know we’re gonna go past that, and that’s not what it’s about–it’s about how it affects people. … And like it or not, people are watching what’s happening on campuses. Now that they’re looking at us, what are we gonna say?


I’m doing a lot of work on the expansion of the universe, on supernovas. I’m just an amateur, but I’ve conducted studies–my most recent one is on binary star formation. I think that in part the sun’s nuclear reactions are heating up earth, but I think it’s mostly man-made objects–what the sun is doing is not as drastic as what we have done.


Today’s poem: 

We should do more

fun stuff this summer

like lying down

all over the land

like staying away

from all of the land

you can’t get away

from all of the land

you’re in space

you’re in style

the key to behavior

change you hope

you have hidden

in your mouth

4 thoughts on “Climate Anxiety Counseling: Day 9

  1. Wonderful project, Kate. We are just a drop in the bucket. But like a stone in a pond, what we do sends out ever-widening ripples of change. I act in my own house and hope to influence others by what I do, e.g. recycling, repurposing, reusing. I sign petitions, joining others to put pressure on our lawmakers to rein in the largest pollution makers. One upbeat thing! Look what farmers did in two Oregon counties, banning GMO’s! They beat Monsanto and Syngenta! You just being out there will prompt discussion. Yes, it’s too bad people don’t realize how interdependent we all are. But if you wake up one person, that is victorious!

    • Thanks for your support and kind words, Jo! (Sorry it took me a second to reply.) One thing I’ve been asking people lately at the booth: “Who else do you talk to about this?” I think it’s worth asking ourselves that question and seeing if we want to change the answer. Someone I was talking with today also pointed out that the next thing is figuring out how to transform our conversations into action, and I’m trying to figure out how to do that.

  2. Pingback: Climate Anxiety Counseling: Looking Back and Looking Forward | climateanxietycounseling

  3. Pingback: Alternate Histories: 5/23, 4/11 | climateanxietycounseling

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