Climate Anxiety Counseling: 5/13/15

Weather: Cool, sun & clouds, starting windy, turning calm

Number of people: 6 stoppers, 2 walkbys, 1 person driving right through the middle of the park

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 6

Alternate Histories: 0

People who commented on the Peanuts reference: 2

People who remembered me from last time, and I remembered them: 3

People who remembered me but I didn’t remember them: 1

Flyers for other concerns handed out and accepted: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $1.25

Observations:

Once again, thanks for recording assistance and patience from Dorinda Fong!

One white person said with their actual face, “My grandfather would say the N-word, I would never say that word, I don’t even know that word,” and then used the word itself about three minutes later to refer to a Black person they were angry at.

Sometimes the people whose attitude and understanding are most similar to my own are the people who frustrate me the most, and I don’t know why.

The new bus configuration means that people are often walking fast through the park, or even running, to make their transfer.

Lots of cops around again today, on foot and in cars.

Smells of today: patchouli, some kind of very clean musk perfume, cigarette smoke

Hair colors of today besides the usual ones: medium purple, bright pink, orange-and-brown ombre, turquoise, very close-cut maroon.

Some conversations:

My biggest concern is the impact it’s gonna be having on populations already impacted by environmental problems, especially poor communities of color. Neighborhoods with extremely toxic conditions, and on top of that, worrying about the other effects of climate change–erratic weather, changing shorelines, people on the move, the effect it’s gonna have on their well-being and livelihood.

What do you think is already present in the communities you’re talking about that they could enhance in order to survive?

People in the community coming together to make things happen for themselves. Things like food…but also issues of housing and work–trying to form collective powers with control over these things a little bit more. Tenants fighting to make sure their apartments and buildings aren’t falling apart, for living wages at work–but more than that, to have a say in the running of it, demanding control over these sorts of things. A participatory society, which is something we profoundly lack, and a community of care–at the basic level of households and neighborhoods and moving upwards. People do care about the well-being of other people, but the structures that are set up make it difficult to actively have a community of care. There’s so much bureaucratic procedure that gets in the way. If we wanted to make the environment better, we could choose to, but there are these bigger forces that say, “You can’t make that choice.” More autonomy as working people means a confrontation with those bigger forces–we can’t walk out of Planet Earth.

When you say “we”, do you mean you, too?

Yeah, I’d say this is a material thing in my life. I moved back to Providence in 2010 and I lived on Federal Hill. The landlord was all right, but what struck me is that when we were living a couple streets over, we found out that the building was covered in lead paint. We had no clue. People are always asking me, Is it okay to drink from the tap? And I’m like, Well, the Scituate Reservoir is really good, but Providence pipes can be really bad, and the landlord didn’t go out of his way to tell me if our pipes were lead or not … There are lots of moving parts, a matrix of these different issues. You can’t say that one is the pillar, they’re all connected.

*

Staying clean. I’m very open about this stuff. I’m one week sober, all drugs, and I’m actually very proud of that, but it’s tough to keep that up.

What helps you keep it up?

Not this job, which would be a lot more enjoyable if I was drunk. Counseling–I go to group counseling, which is better in my experience. Everyone is there for alcohol and I’m also there for cocaine addiction. What’s interesting is my core group of friends right now lives in a drug house–one roommate’s smoking pills, we play cards with the two guys who smoke weed, and half the guys drink, and every couple times a week there’s coke on the table. And there’s one guy who doesn’t do any of that. But they’re very accepting, and they don’t ever offer it to me. There’s one guy who probably will have to stop drinking eventually–I told him it’s kind of an issue but I’m not gonna pressure him, and he’s not gonna pressure me. Also I’m a musician, I play the guitar, bass, and drums, so I’m always gonna be around alcohol if nothing else. We play in bars, and I’ve done it when I’ve been sober, but … It does feel different this time. I quit everything. Last time I quit drinking but not cocaine. Sometimes just passing by a liquor store, like yesterday, it was hot, and I just wanted a drink–like any kind of drink, but I caught myself thinking, “A beer would be nice.” I laughed at myself, like, “Uh, yeah, that’s an option.” … Knowing that it’s right there is part of saying no to it. When something does bother me, it’s not gonna push me over.

*

It’s destroying a lot of things, and a lot of the problem is us. The weather’s changed over the years. I do landscaping, and I see it. We’re definitely the biggest problem. If people started worrying more, then things would probably change–I would like it to happen but I don’t see it happening.

What do you think would help with that?

If people would notice what they were actually doing, but to get the point across to everybody–I don’t know where you would get your point across. I’m redesigning the park, giving back to nature, and if we don’t do that, it’ll go to shit.

*

The winter went longer, do you think the summer’s gonna go longer? [Climate change] isn’t a source of anxiety, but I believe in it. Ask me a really weird question.

What do you think we can do for each other, to make things easier for each other?

Give each other space when another person seems like they need space, give people support when they need support. Like that woman that just ran by, you saw me ask her if she needed help. I would whip out my whole wallet to give her change, but not my whole wallet, but I would whip out 50 cents, but let’s say I had a thousand dollars in my wallet, nothing but big bills, I wouldn’t whip it out around here.

What do you think a fair world would look like?

We would not have huge skyscrapers. Everything would be equal. Houses, all the buildings would look the same. …You would have your own mural you put on them yourself, your own thing that you did, your work–maybe if you worked hard at your job, you would have more money and have a bigger house, kind of like now, but you would never look down on anyone.

*

I’m worried that I don’t know enough to know what I should be worrying about.

Today’s poem:

With anger

what you do you do

do you roar weakly upward

representative

feel your length leaking

out through your clenched teeth

dragged in half where

do you build your angry altar

distort your course take your toll

till it transforms you

when whoever’s closest

your rage reorders

with no reward

you are war-torn

unrecoverable

how can it be resource

I know it too well

I store it too whole

numb and robust

a robot of grief and more

and more hoarse under

a big political face

anger without reach

distrust and dismissal

shits its bed like a river

breaks its banks for nothing

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