Climate Anxiety Counseling: Day 15

Weather: Sunny, near-cloudless, cool in the shade, breezy.

Number of people: 6 stoppers, 1 walkby

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 5

Conversations between people previously unknown to one another: 2

Packets of Small State Seeds given away: 2

People who recognized and commented on the Peanuts reference: 3

People who called the booth “cute”: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.14



Saturday confirmed as a low head count day.

I really like seeing graduates with their families.

I’m sure you’ll be shocked, shocked, to hear this, but people who say they’re going to show up don’t always. However, when they do show up, it’s extra nice.

It can be very hard to get people to talk about specific things they are scared to lose. That’s why, in the first conversation below, I’ve included a long song of praise for the climate of the Pacific Northwest, which I didn’t have to pry out of this person at all.


Some conversations: 

I don’t wake up in the morning and say, This is my main concern, but I recognize the threat that it poses. I went to the University of Washington and I studied psychology, I minored in astronomy — I’m so interested in earth and space science. That’s why I stopped. You don’t usually see that together, climate and anxiety … The first thing I think of is geological effects, as far as rising water. In Washington State, there’s a lot of things I might lose to Mother Nature. (Like what?) The city, the ferries — [the town I live in] is near a shipyard, a naval base, where they house active aircraft carriers to get repaired. … Especially there, where the ferry terminal is — it’ll be so detrimental to all the new architecture. Seattle is built on top of a city [I think he meant on top of a hill]: you go east, you’re going up, you go north, you’re going up. So I might lose 1st, 2nd, 3rd Street. It’s not like there’s a quick fix — “Oh, we’ll put a wall up” — that’s not gonna work. Everything’s mild in Washington State, springs are really wonderful — usually it’s right where you would expect the temperature to be. The fall is kinda the same as the spring, maybe a little warmer. An ideal day in the summer is the high 80s, dry heat. The air quality is the best, you can’t beat it.


Yeah, I would say I’m definitely anxious about global warming. It’s an interesting problem — there’s a dichotomy of being really concerned and the knowledge that the horrible things about it are probably not going to affect me, so I want to enjoy the state that the world is in now while that’s possible. I mean, according to the predictions that scientists are making — I live in the first world, so it may have dramatic but not life-threatening consequences. I’ll still be able to enjoy life in a way that most people aren’t going to be able to. I do have a fear of getting old and having a lot of things become huge problems around the time that I get old and can’t take care of myself. A fear of not being able to do anything about it — not being able to enjoy the world because you know this horrible thing is coming.

What if it was going to be sooner? You know, what if in the paper you read that instead of fifty years, it’s going to happen in thirty years or whatever?

I hate to say it, but I think that would — rather than wanting to immediately do something, I would be in the mode of trying to enjoy the world as much as possible. There’s a way to slow but not stop it, and I think a lot of people are like, “Well, fuck it.” If it did look that imminent, there are all these things I would want to do and see.

Do you really hate to say it? 

A little bit, because I think it’s a reflection on my weakness as a person, where everyone’s out to have a good life, which got us into this — why should we stop it now?

What do you see yourself doing to look out for people in this harder world? 

I think it’s going to require a radically different way of looking at resources that I don’t think anyone in the U.S. is at all used to. I’m a planner, and I try hard to live off not a lot, so that’s a skill I could maybe give to other people — like how not to use an obscene amount of water. I’ll be the jerk who’s like, You can’t take a 20 minute shower, you just can’t.

Are you that jerk now? 

No, not really. I try to be mindful of what I use, where my food’s coming from, but Americans are conditioned to not pay attention to that because we don’t have to.


I’ve been feeling glum about getting my work published, and then I get mad at myself for being glum, because it’s stupid. The reason I write isn’t to get published, but then I catch myself caring about this, and then I get so angry at myself for caring. My skin is so thin, and I keep waiting for it to get thicker as I get older. I should be impervious, but I’m not, and that’s what makes me so mad.

What if, like, future you could tell you that your skin is never going to be thicker, it’s not going to happen?

But then what do I do with that? I think the problem is more that I continue to need praise and positive reinforcement … I just want to know if it’s good or have it not matter.


Today’s poem: 


To live off not

a lot not to live on

what anchors and underpins

all your respirations

to remove yourself

from less and less

a thin wavelength

an extraordinary measure

before it’s needed

or as it’s needed before

in order not to need

as much to live

with that collapsed

as far away as impact

of the Andromeda Galaxy

into ours

our only one

we’d better take care of it

I forgot my shift

today was short and

so was startled

to know I’d have

to leave so soon

with so little time

to talk myself down from

a tearjerker ending

at least let me have

that guilt, that pleasure

of knowing I could

have done so much




4 thoughts on “Climate Anxiety Counseling: Day 15

  1. Hi, Kate,
    I am a musical friend of your parents and heard about your project, which is great! People who are destroying the planet and standing in the way of a clean energy future don’t pay for the pollution they cause (Koch Bros come to mind). Their prevailing sentiment is that dumping emissions and discharges into the air and water (as well dumping pesticides and other chemical pollutants on the land/soil) should be free to them while the public pays to clean up/deal with the consequences of their polluting industries. Meanwhile, an increasing number of people who take care of themselves by eating “good” food (mostly laced with pesticides) and exercise (you’re still breathing air pollution while you’re running, gardening, or rollerblading) are getting cancer and searching for a “cure,” when the real cure is ending the throwaway plastic fossil fuel pesticide society. Won’t be easy to change minds but I’m glad the doctor is in!

    • Hi Betsy, thanks for reading! Yes, there’s a big (and intentional) gap between people and companies who contribute to, and profit from, carbon-generating and polluting activities on a large scale, and people who participate in smaller ways in the economy those first people create.

      I think people do the smaller things you mentioned (and also small generous things like driving less, buying local produce, etc.) partly because they don’t know how to get across that gap and stop or slow down the people who are most actively damaging the world in the long term (in order to profit in the short term).

      I am hoping to find some ways to get across that gap, and any ideas you have would be wonderful to hear.

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

  3. Pingback: Alternate Histories: 5/31, 4/19 | 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