Climate Anxiety Counseling at the Providence Fringe Festival (Day 22)

Weather: Cooling off from a hot day, humid, gusty at first then calm

Number of people: 16 stoppers

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 9

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

Conversations between people previously unknown to one another: 1

People who recognized and commented on the Peanuts reference: 1

Number of business cards or flyers proffered and received: 2

Leftover packages of Small State Seeds given away: 4

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $7.80. Thanks to whoever put in the 5-spot!




Many fewer people passed by than when I was in KP / Burnside Park. Could have been the location, could have been the time of day (6-9 pm as opposed to my usual 3-6).


There also weren’t a lot of walk-by commenters. Because traffic is slow on Westminster St., I could see a lot of people rubbernecking the sign from their cars.



Lots of couples. There was a weird pattern of one member of a couple volunteering the other for counseling, which is not allowed, so I had to re-ask the person if they actually wanted to do it.


Questions people asked that were not about the booth:


Do you have any money you could spare?

Does anyone think this is about Scientology?

Is there anyone in there? Is the door open?

Is it free parking here at night?

When does the show start?

Do you know of a place called DV8?

Do you know where Civil is?

What time does it kick off in there?


Some conversations:

[These two were a couple.]


Person 1: Recycling. I do it, not just bottles and stuff but old things being used again. not thrown away.


Person 2: Water. I worry that it’s not clean enough. There’s places in RI where it’s filtered, and places where it’s filtered less. 




— I think there needs to be a radical shift and I don’t think it’ll happen soon enough, because it’s people in power who will be least affected by a change in climate, or any change, and by the time it affects them it’ll be too late. People are already being affected, animals are being affected, but it’s not noticeable enough, and we don’t see things changing quickly enough. People’s rights are being ignored. Even something like these changes to the bus routes is affecting people, people are standing around and not being able to get places. But somebody has decided that it’s a good thing, so they just do it. It’s even affecting me, so imagine if I was someone who had five jobs, and I was trying to get to work. It’s noticeable when it’s you, so imagine how it is for people who have less privilege than you do.


How can people who don’t have much status take care of each other?


By spending the time that you have to help other people. I think there’s a problem, with environmental issues, where there’s an expectation that everyone should do the same amount. People should just take any time that they have. Like with the bus, if you see that a person is confused, you should point the way, if you know it. Share the information you have that someone else doesn’t. But I don’t really expect that of people. 


Do you expect it of yourself?


Yeah, but I don’t always live up to my expectations. If you have the time and the means–if you have privilege, use what you have. There’s that problem of people going into places and being like, “I’m trying to help you.” I think we really need a non-hierarchical society, but not anarchy. Democracy could work if it wasn’t tied to capitalism — we do need some sort of structure, some idea of what society should be.




I try not to worry about anything. And I’ve lived in RI my entire life.


Can you say one thing you love about RI?


It’s comfortable. I don’t have to think about it.




How to get a job — how to change my job. I recently quit a job on a cruise ship, it really wasn’t for me, and I have a bunch of questions, like, “Where the hell am I going?” I’m thinking about school, thinking about working for a nonprofit but that’s down the line … I took the cruise job, but it wasn’t what I thought it would be, and I’m like, “Am I gonna just keep picking things up and dropping them?”




I’m anxious about long-term goals, 20-year goals. Like, I can’t have kids, we’re all gonna be fighting for water!


How do you think people could take care of each other in a time like that?


I don’t know. People’s jobs right now aren’t set up for a future where we share more things. A lot of skills for jobs, if the systems we have now fall down, people won’t have a way to like grow food, or share food. I’m really glad my partner is a farmer, but I think, what if we ever break up? And not just survival, but leisure activities — people won’t be able to go to the cinema, or get Netflix. People will have to rethink the way they have fun and relax.




[These two were parent and child.]


Person 1: I have a friend with coastal property, and I was asking her, “Are you concerned about climate change, and she was like, ‘No.’ Just, ‘No.'”


Did you get into it with her?


Person 1: Well, we were drinking rose by the gallon, so no.


I think a lot of times people don’t want to be the one who pees on the conversational parade.


Person 1: Oh, no, we have these discussions with people.


Person 2: I had an issue with my roommate — they’re up here to help me move into a new place. She had so many plastic bottles she had her own gyre in the ocean. She bought bottled water by the case. And when I tried to sort it out for her, like trash, trash, recyling, she was all, ‘Are you going all Martha Stewart on me?’ How do you get through to people like that?




I just wanna vent the fact that we’re killing all the animals and there’s just so much fuckin’ garbage and it scares the shit out of me — the thing that hurts me is what we do to these poor fuckin’ animals, we kill the animals so we can be fat and ignorant, so I can sit and watch a football game and cut it up and be happy …


I really appreciate and am grateful for you saying, “This hurts me, this pisses me off.”


Well, with all the devastation, you’re gonna find people who are at the opposite extreme.



[These two were a couple; Person 2 joined the conversation later.]


Person 1: I actually work in solar — I do everything but install. I was just at this 3-4 hour regulation meeting about distributed generation. There are people who are spending time processing a path to a solarized RI, and I’m from just over the state line in MA, which has one of the top 3 state solar programs in the country.   I’m primarily a filmmaker and a painter, my greatest love is making things, but it’s hard to combine that with engendering any kind of change in a really pragmatic way. A lot of it is grunt work — any business has its finding, minding, grinding. And solar is a kind of Wild West. Rules change, and you have to relearn everything each time, and a lot of it seems obstructionist. But if you have part of a brain, you can apply that brain to power. The only thing is that you have less time, less energy, for making art, and at the end of the day you’re a nutjob. The most concerning thing for me is just human nature. It’s shocking that the species has survived at all …


Person 2: I have hope for the planet.


What’s the source of your hope?


Person 2: I don’t know what the source of my hope is. I try to be optimistic — I think that — yeah, I don’t know why. Maybe I’ll be different — represent the hope side a bi. If you don’t hope, why do anything?


Person 1: He balances me out. I’m kind of the Eeyore in the relationship. 


Person 2: I think I’m more Pooh. Eat honey, try to cheer up Eeyore when she’s depressed. Also, I have a daughter, and I would like her to have a world that’s okay.




[These two were a couple.]


Person 1: I commute to Boston, and I try to take the train, but it’s not a good experience. It doesn’t seem very healthy. I prefer to take it, but sometimes I wish I could just drive. It is nice to just be able to sit, and I feel good about not having to rely on a car for transportation. And once you get into Boston it’s not hard to get around — they have that bikeshare … Sometimes it does come down to convenience — sometimes it’s more convenient to drive.


Person 2: What’s that saying, when the pain of staying the same is more than the pain of changing?


I think one thing I worry about with climate change is that by the time the pain of staying the same reaches people, especially people who make big decisions, things will be really really bad.


Person 2: Yeah, ’cause it does feel abstract. We’re conditioned to be able to change the way we’re thinking about things — we always rationalize it. And then people feel safe, like, “Oh, the weatherman said it was okay.” It’d be interesting to do something about the rituals people do to make themselves feel safe. Sometimes it makes me feel safer to point out other people’s problems — like, “Look what they’re doing!” or, “Well, if I think about it, that will protect me against it …” When there are extreme arguments, it makes me feel like I’m being scolded, and I start getting defensive and thinking, “It couldn’t be that bad!”


What would give you the opposite reaction to that?


The option to do something practical. An article that’s like, This is how you can garden at home: “Oh, I can be a part of something.”




I’m worried about getting through the weekend. I’m working the whole festival, I’m performing, so I’m worried about how’s the performance gonna be, is the acting and writing gonna be good, are people gonna show up, what if something goes horribly wrong?




My biggest concern that nobody’s talking enough about is the change of crop patterns. I heard somebody talking about changing crop patterns on the radio, but I’ve really heard very little about it, and I’ve been concerned about it for 20 years. The breadbasket of our country is gonna move to Canada and our economy’s gonna be shot. Whether people believe it’s manmade or not, what can be grown in our country is gonna change, and people can’t just rebuild infrastructure. Land rights, water rights, everything’s geared toward the existing infrastructure. I mean, that’s just one thing. You read about it happening in other places. In the developing world, changes in insect patterns, malaria mosquitos showing up in areas that used to be safe. It’s not just that the water’s gonna rise, or we’re gonna have storms … There was one project that started 10, 15 years ago — I think the Ford Motor company was involved with it.


That’s funny.


It’s not funny. It was amazing that people at Ford were so concerned. It was called Ceres, an initiative out of Boston, and they were pulling together people, industries, investment funds to look at climate change and make the case that if you don’t divest from industries that put a lot of carbon into the air, then it’s going to come back to bite you. Quite a few pension plans were on board, city and state pension funds, and reinsurance companies — the insurance for the insurance, because insurance companies were saying, “We cannot continue to insure against storms, storm damage.” People doing some big-picture work that you didn’t think was possible. One thing I think is good that comes out of RI right now — this could be because of the lack of good-paying jobs — is the attention paid to urban agriculture. That seems to be growing in this area, cropping up more and more.


I have a car in Providence and I don’t really need one. In a lot of ways Providence even makes it hard to have a car. You have to fight for parking spots, you have to pay for parking. It’s bad for the environment and for your personal economy. I got one because I thought it would be hard to get around without one, but it really isn’t.


What do you use it for?


Grocery shopping. And to help other people move their shit, so me having a car is good for other people. Maybe I could share a car — some friends of mine were talking about that. I used to pay for a parking spot, but now I walk to work. It takes longer, but it’s nicer … What else?  It’s not so easy to compost in RI. Isn’t it illegal?


No, I think there’s a service you can hire to pick it up for you.




The day’s poem:


Didn’t you used to be a bruise

years ago what were you thinking of

leaning over your educational materials

from burnished to burning

the sun and the grain

we don’t grow here

we don’t crop up

along the roads

tough flora coated in oil

a list of acts past and gone

will you look at it again

will you ever look at it again

under your own steam

on your own dime

like a lie of the land





One thought on “Climate Anxiety Counseling at the Providence Fringe Festival (Day 22)

  1. Pingback: Public / Participatory Art Post #1: Wanna Make Something Of It? | climateanxietycounseling

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