Climate Anxiety Counseling: Day 11

Weather: Warm with clouds and sun, cooling off later

Number of people: 12 stoppers, 1 walk-by, 1 drive-by

Number of hecklers: 1, possibly? Couldn’t really hear him

Pages of notes: 9

Conversations between people previously unknown to one another: 2

Packets of Small State Seeds given away: 5 (we have more! Come by tomorrow!)

People who recognized and commented on the Peanuts reference: 2

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $6.45



Two people mentioned the article in the Providence Journal, and one asked me to sign his copy! No notable uptick in traffic, though.

A couple I’ve spoken with before stopped by and kidded around with me about the article: “Now that you’re so famous, thanks for giving us a moment of your time!” As I swing into Week 3, there are many people I’ve seen two or more times.

I am not (as a commenter on the ProJo article pointed out) a real doctor or a peer-reviewed counselor of any sort. I suspect that if I would be, I would be more familiar with some of the ways people reveal or withhold information. Also, still working on that whole “not getting mad at people I suspect are jerking me around” thing, which I suspect a real doctor would be better at. 


Some conversations

Being stuck at my current job. I don’t have freedom to speak as I’d like or do as I’d like. I’d like to be a counselor of some kind for high school students.

Do you know what steps you’d take to do that?

No, but the counselor at my high school was really good, so I might ask her.


What’s making me anxious and nervous about climate change right now is the massive change in temperature making the ice caps break. I’m thinking terrible waves and tsunamis that could take off all of us — East Coast, West Coast, North, South, it doesn’t really matter to the water. It will go where it will go. … I’m afraid that something terrible’s gonna happen, something truly irreparable, damage that cannot be reversed, and that in the wake of that tragedy, people will ask, “What should we have done?” That by the time we acknowledge it, the answer to “What should we do?” is gonna be, “Tell your loved ones and your dear friends that you love them very much, and say your prayers.” 


I’m concerned about it. Where’s U.S. agriculture gonna be in another 10 years? We’ve been observing how in the South we’re losing oranges, grape fields, cornfields, potatoes in Idaho. How is the U.S. gonna provide for themselves, support themselves, instead of depending on other countries? Let the grass grow again! Or blow up or dynamite so the water can go where the drought is! If you can put a man on the moon, you can’t end a drought? … The earth is the ground, the dirt. Once you kill the ground, you kill everything, the trees–we’re gonna be extinguished. We’re gonna be extinguished. 


It’s the biggest problem we’re facing, and we should be devoting huge amounts of resources to it. Instead, they’re still having debates about whether to give oil and gas leases in national parks. We’re putting the earth, the country, and the climate at risk by looking for oil and gas. It won’t be helped by a piecemeal approach. And I’m not hopeful. I don’t think governments have the guts to face up to oil and gas interests. I think we’re doomed. And my biggest concern is not so much for humans–I’m worried that we’ll make it impossible for anything else to survive. We don’t begin to take this seriously enough. 


One time I was reading this article where they were claiming, this particular scientist was claiming that we’re gonna have extinctional climate change in the near future, that peak temperatures will rise above what animals can survive, and I realized that I was automatically thinking about Fahrenheit, not Celsius–a rise of 3 degrees Fahrenheit is not a big deal. But the idea that all humans could die, just get hotter and hotter and lie down and not wake up, seemed like the opposite of anxiety. It’s not like a punishment, it’s pointless–it undermines human moral grandiosity. 


My colleague runs climate modeling labs and he faces this problem: how do you make sense of something when in order to prove its claims, it has to be too late? It makes you feel sort of frozen. That may be why I’ve deprioritized it among the activist-oriented things I do. 


Today’s poem: 

We who are already here

have received so much.

We who are about to die

surrender our collections.

We who are apparent show

what has sunk into us.

Imagine if we had to give it back

All of it, every molecule.

Of air. Of flesh. Every cell

we build. Every waterdrop.

We are terribly concrete.

Made terribly of everything.





4 thoughts on “Climate Anxiety Counseling: Day 11

  1. Hi Kate,
    A colleague emailed me the link to the PJ article this morning and I have only had time for a brief look at this website. What I want you to know is that I intend to return and read all that you have shared of your project here. In the midst of a busy day I just want to quickly let you know that I take seriously what you are doing–listening–and your why for doing it. And I admire the elegant medium with which you are doing it, at the park, and sharing that online. I would like to speak with you personally about it at some point, because many are speaking, but few are listening. And because I have developed a statewide program for a non-profit where I live for listening to, and addressing, the mental health effects of anthropogenic climate change, which we will begin seeking funding for this summer. I will be out of the country for the next two weeks. But, after I return, I would like to follow up with you, if your are willing. Meanwhile, you may be interested in a report published in February 2012 by the National Wildlife Federation, which was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, titled The Psychological Effects of Global Warming on the United States. You can google the Federation and download it from their web-site. The sub-title, “And Why the U.S. Mental Health Care System Is Not Adequately Prepared” is the focus of the program I have developed–to prepare the providers, at least in the place where I live, who are that system. From your poem, you apparently know that this is about loss. Fundamental loss. Terrible loss. And, you seem to know that, as authors of the loss, it is about a moral challenge to the very terms of exchange with existence that brings forth life, and our lives. So if those to whom we turn when this loss becomes more than we can bear, alone–of which mental health providers are but one community–are unable, unwilling, or unprepared to acknowledge, to talk about the losses, to themselves or others–your question for us all–then they will be of less use than we need them to be to those who present to them with the symptoms of climate insecurity. Moreover, they will be at high risk, themselves, as climate insecurity grows, as it must, to meet their own personal challenges that such insecurity will present them with, and that such symptoms represent, which will further challenge their resilience. I am a licensed counselor, and my first client who appeared in my counseling rooms with–and because of–severe climate insecurity, appeared two years ago. Only because I was personally preparing have I been able to be of use to him. Finally, in response to your curiosity about counseling skills, and your, apparently, instinctive choice of listening, rather than speaking, as your offering to your community, I will suggest a simple book which presents some of the most fundamental, and powerful, skills that we know of for easing the pain and challenges of human change of belief and behavior, skills which are founded on listening. It’s Motivational Interviewing in Health Care: Helping Patients Change Behavior (Applications of Motivational Interviewing). You can read about it on Amazon. And I must assume it’s in Brown’s Library. Meanwhile, thank you, again, for your outreach, your installation, your poem, and this website, which I will continue to follow. My email is

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

  3. Pingback: Alternate Histories: 5/27, 4/15 | climateanxietycounseling

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s