Climate Anxiety Counseling: Day 24 / Day 2 of Washington County Fair, 8/14

Weather: Sunny, breezy, coolish, gorgeous.

Time frame: 10 a.m.-9:45 p.m.

Number of people: 22 stoppers, 3 walkbys.

Pages of notes: 20, but again, a lot of them were people-watching notes between conversations.

Number of hecklers: Maybe 0.5? (He was around 12 and I’m not sure he was heckling)

People who read the sign out loud in an incredulous, wondering, suspicious or amused voice, without stopping to talk: 7 (that I noted; more about this later)

People who recognized the Peanuts reference: 1

People who took a picture without permission: 1

Money raised for South Kingstown Land Trust: $10.87

 

Fair foods consumed: None

Nonhuman/non-domesticated #RIorganisms spotted: A spider spun itself from my pen to the coffee table at Susana’s.

 

Best non-booth thing I did today: Looked at some domesticated #RIorganisms, including some fancy chickens and a sow and her piglets, with writer-friend Rachel May.

 

Observations:

Today I had help from Rachel Blackman, fellow worker in public/participatory art. You can learn more about the Free Pass Project here and here. The notes she took while sitting behind the booth are indicated below.

 

I added “Is there a place in Rhode Island you love?” to the big standing “Put Your Worries on the Map” map of RI, and people seem really into it. I neglected to take pictures of it at the end of each day, but will post a bunch at the end of this round, with everybody’s contributions.

 

Themes of the day: Lawns, ponds, 

 

Some conversations:

[This person was with his daughter and granddaughters, who drew on the map]

You’re talking about how it’s going to affect these little girls? I think you — I think everybody should be anxious about this. Yes, around here the coastline is very flat. A meter rise would change this world a lot … Major crop failure .. Once insurance companies start playing with the futures market of things like corn or potatoes … [I didn’t totally understand the previous.] I find it difficult to understand how many people are in denial.

 

Why do you think that is?

 

I think we have a very general form of self-protection — we don’t like to believe bad stuff. And in America it’s overlaid with politics. I find that very bizarre. From an outside perspective it makes no sense.

 

*

 

What she loves about Ell Pond: Very intense hiking, a lot of rock climbing, very hands-on.

 

*

 

What she loves about camping in Exeter: The quiet, extra large sites for campers

 

*

[These two were a couple.]

 

Him: I’m a disabled Vietnam vet. I was proud of that at one time, of doing my duty, but now I don’t know.

 

How do you think you can get more people to pay attention?

 

Him: I think it has to be done through TV. Most people need some kind of inspiration — somebody making a difference or who could make a difference. Most people don’t think there’s anything they can do. Sometimes I feel that way too.

[…]

 Her: We were both out of work at one point —

 

Him: — I’ve been out of work a few times —

 

Her: — and I went down to the office to see if we could get food stamps. They said, “You don’t qualify because you’ve got a $16,000 mortgage, but there’s a box of food if you wanna take it.” I said no thanks.

 

*

[These two were friends.]

 

Friend 1: Global warming, is that what you’re talking about? I wonder if it’s real.

 

Friend 2: I know there’s been word that Rhode Island is eventually gonna be underwater. … Nothing annoys me more than to see how dirty the state is. You have kids from the ACI and the training school picking it up every day. I saw a man throw a bag of trash, a whole bag, out of his truck. I hit my horn, I said, “Go back and pick that up or I’ll call the police. Your fingerprints are on that bag.” I do go after people. I got kicked out of 26 schools. Finally the principal of [REDACTED] let me graduate, she said, “I can’t stand another year of you.”

 

Friend 1: Well, the troublemakers change things.

 

Friend 2: Depends on the trouble. It’s good to be open, I think, but you also need to accept other people’s opinions.

 

*

 

We live on a farm — we lease land and people farm it, and we worry that it’s depleting the land. It concerns us, although the people who are doing it do keep track. And you always think of the streams that enter the property, what might be in them …They grew potatoes there for many years, but potatoes got tough so they switched to sod. In a lot of these new homes they just lay lawns, so that might have an effect on the market too.

 

*

 

Walkby, big beardo: You believe in global warming?

Me, after a beat: I know about global warming.

Him: <thumbs up>

 

*

 

I was talking to a climate denier and I just couldn’t stand it, I went off on him and I felt like it was worse than if I didn’t say anything.

 

*

[Rachel Blackman took these notes while I went and looked at pigs.]

 

“70-year-old grandfather / Boston Red Sox hat / worried about grandkids not himself / animals — polar bears, whales / mushroomer … Dad taught him / has changed / not where they used to be / could go back every year and they would be in the same place / types of mushrooms / buttons / chestnuts / oak / seenials [?]

 

Quahogs + clams get further out each year / harder to find them / have to step out further  …”

 

“HS teacher / alternative HS / was with two young women who stayed with her dad until he died / had just gotten booster shots for tetanus + whooping cough / student made a collage out of things that are wrong with the world / headlines — incl climate change — collage image was profile of a sad kid “No wonder we’re depressed”

 

*

 

I worry about my kids, let Jesus take care of the rest. And of course we can do things about the climate too, by doing certain things.

 

*

 

I live in Vermont. It’s cold. I worry about ice melting and flooding, killing plants and animals and on down the line — it’s like a food chain in reverse. So yes, it worries me. I have my own little things that I do — I insulate, I close off rooms in the winter, and I don’t heat my room, I just heat my bed.

 

Do you talk about this with your neighbors?

 

Oh, it’s Vermont, so everybody’s on it. Everybody at the law school is studying environmental law.

 

*

 

Person 1: The potency of poison ivy is supposed to double in the next five years because of global warming. I guess because it thrives in hot weather?

 

Person 2: In all seriousness, I hope there’s never a tsunami — I thought RI was one of the safest states, ’cause the weather’s nice, but it’s been snowing really hard [in winter]. I think about it sometimes — we’d probably all die, ’cause look how close to water we are. That’s the biggest thing. And the little things, I just can’t think of them. I bike to work and school. I like it — it’s really peaceful. [I give her a #RIorganisms card.] I saw a light blue moth. It was on the ground, which I kinda felt bad. It was alive, ’cause I touched it. And I saw a bright yellow caterpillar, and a fungus on a tree — there’s a lot of new species this year.

 

*

 

I love the beaches — Narragansett, Wakefield. I’m used to Narragansett. I like to get in the water. I was living in Texas, but I had to leave ’cause I got robbed. And I have a loved one, a significant other, he’s in jail in California. He’s got six years left. So I’ve just moved back home, my mom’s here. She’s okay. She works a lot, so I mostly have the house to myself. I’m close with my younger sister and we do a lot together. I’m gonna come back here with her tomorrow. Friends — not really. They’re kinda doing their own thing.

 

It sounds like you’re kind of in an in-between place in your life right now.

 

Yes, you could say that. I want to go back to school, I want to be a journalist. I’d like to transfer to the [REDACTED] school, it’s a school in [REDACTED] for people with learning disabilities, which I have. And I’d like to move out to California eventually.

 

*

 

My anxiety is that people don’t realize it’s real.

 

How did you come to realize that it’s real?

 

Intergenerational feedback — people older than me telling me that things are blooming earlier, ponds you used to be able to skate on all winter melt after a couple of days. I’m not old enough to have that multigenerational perspective … It’s become a political football, so what you think about it depends on what political perspective you have: if you’re a conservative, you deny climate change.

 

Do you talk with people about it?

 

I debate with people at work and other places. It’s very frustrating. I don’t think anybody has a longitudinal perspective, like 120 years of observations — you have to use other people’s benchmarks. I think everyone’s looking at it from a business perspective, short-term. But the consequences of petroleum use in the suburbs, for example — I almost feel guilty driving to work.

 

What’s one change you think could make a big difference?

 

Light rail. All the way from Westerly on up [he draws it on the map] — and you could just hop downtown a couple of stops to get groceries. Put it right on the median of 95.

 

How do you think we could get that to happen — what’s the biggest obstacle to it happening?

 

Just put it on the ballot — everyone in Rhode Island always votes yes to whatever’s on the ballot.

 

*

 

I’m in the trades, and the majority of people I work with pooh-pooh climate concerns. I almost feel that it’s a losing battle. I see some progress, but I don’t see the tables turning … the guys I work with can’t wait to get back into their [big pickup trucks]*. It’s a macho thing, and that’s an image that the manufacturers put in. I work for a wealthy summer clientele, and they could care less about conserving — they all have central air, and forget about the lawns. I’ve been doing this for thirty-some years, and when I started, very few had sprinkler systems — now I would say 80% do. To keep them lush and green, you have to have landscapes and fertilizers. And I’m seeing in many local ponds, with the exception of extremely deep ponds like Tuckertown, these algae blooms. Up in Arcadia, that used to be a beach. Beach Pond — that whole pond is covered with vegetation. I used to take my sons up to [didn’t catch the name] Pond, it was beautiful, it was clear, even during the middle of the summer. Now, ugh, my God, it’s awful. That’s the kind of stuff I see as a Rhode Islander. It seems like some people can’t help themselves — they don’t realize, or they’re not willing to give up what they have. On a positive note, the people I work for are installing more efficient, high-end systems, the “latest and greatest”. We’re seeing geothermal systems in expensive homes. They’re not cutting back on their electrical use though.

 

* These phrases are replacements for brand names.

 

*

 

We go to East Beach all the time. It’s a preserve … Snowshoeing up in Gloucester, the management area up there — it’s like a whole different world. My main problem with Rhode Island is the way the towns and city governments work. We should be small and nimble.

 

How could we do that?

 

By combining services. Every town right now has its own regulations and rules, its own charter — this state isn’t big enough for that. County governments could end the animosity between towns. Everybody thinks they’re unique, but we have the same challenges and problems, not very specific problems that no one else could possibly understand.

 

*

 

What they love about Lincoln Woods: paddleboating, running the bike path. Beautiful.

 

*

 

Every day you turn the news on and there’s a flash flood somewhere. It’s just a daily occurrence. In 2010, that 10-foot flood, that was the first to happen. People are aware of it, but people who have the power won’t act.

 

Today’s poem:

The futures market in things like corn

or potatoes when what you’re looking

at with earth eyes unseen moving

unseemly moving seemingly

immovable you can take this as far

as you can without moving

as you want to show up on radar

or as part of a prediction then

you could just be sure you could know

whether to die now or not

you could get on your general self

and ride away into protection from knowledge

just good enough to see another day

to be glad to be good to know

the day if it comes at all will fill

up only with what you already know and fully

acknowledge and the people

and animals you find lovable like an ark

 

The view from the booth: 

 wcf814 - fairgoers from booth

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One thought on “Climate Anxiety Counseling: Day 24 / Day 2 of Washington County Fair, 8/14

  1. Pingback: Alternate Histories: 8/14, 5/17 (A Group Effort from Frequency Writers) | climateanxietycounseling

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