Speaking for myself, I have huge climate anxiety. 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 …
Do you talk to people about this?
People I know, or people I don’t know?
I have conversations, but about small stuff, like recycling. To people I know, I talk about it a lot. I go to a Unitarian church, many of whose members are left-leaning. But the church can’t even get recycling right. I’m discouraged on a personal and political and countrywide level. They say gas is cleaner, but if getting the gas requires the kind of stuff that’s going on in Canada — I think if we devoted sufficient money to alternatives, in 10 years we could prevent a catastrophe, but we don’t have the will.
The next day, U signed up to work with the Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth‘s divestment branch. She begged for donations from people and from businesses, citing black lung and exploding oil rigs; she helped congregations run the numbers for reinvestment programs like Ceres Investment Group. She took over secretarial duties while the church administrator went to an interfaith conference on sustainability. She talked with the Department of Health about setting up the church, with its thick brick walls shaded by large trees, as a daytime heat shelter as well as an emergency shelter. All motions seemed slow. The winter came down like a hammer and the congregation stepped up its work of helping people survive from day to day.
In spring, she read of the plan to expand a gas pipeline running through southern New England. U said to the congregation, “The emergency is now.” The Providence, Fall River and Newport churches became training sites, childcare centers, clearinghouses for bail funds, food banks. U worked with the Parks Department to get camping permits for the Little Compton and Tiverton land where Spectra Energy wanted to build the pipeline; camping stores donated tents; nearby homes opened their doors so that people blocking construction could use their bathrooms, and shower; the University of Rhode Island’s horticulture department helped plan to restore, as best they could, damage to the grasses from people camping on them or standing on them or being dragged across them by police officers.
The summer wore on, flaring hot, cooling slightly, flaring again. Donations of food and blankets, groundsheets and water bottles poured into the two churches, who shared them with ordinary homeless and suffering people as well as the protestors. Representatives of other churches and a temple led services, broke up fights, offered counsel. The days grew shorter, wetter, grayer. U wondered what would happen in the winter, when people remembered what the pipeline could bring them, when they needed to stay warm. Sweaters and gloves and boots–all useful, all wonderful, but not enough to keep anyone alive outside in another winter like last year’s.
I don’t know what happens next in this story, either.