Climate Anxiety Counseling: Father’s Day 2015

Here are some anxieties that people speaking as fathers have shared with me. Support the fathers in your life; help them be good at a task the world makes hard for them.

5/16/14

I have a daughter who’s three. What sort of world she’s gonna live in. Outbreaks of violence — shortages of water, shortages of food, competing for scarcer resources. People are aware of and willing to make changes, live a more sustainable lifestyle, but the political system is gamed against any kind of change. They stop, they slow down any kind of meaningful action. I’m afraid we’ll run out of time.

*

5/20/14

I have a 3 1/2 year old daughter. I worry if she’s gonna be able to breathe by the time she’s 20. I had a friend who used to work with Greenpeace, she doesn’t anymore, and she said that there are these piles of plastic, 2-3 feet deep, in the ocean, the size of Maine. Fish get caught in them, animals get caught. They’re never gonna be gone, they’re never gonna be clean.

*

5/21/14

We’re the closest to the ocean, the Ocean State. How much is gonna be under water? I don’t understand why people don’t believe it … Just take the precaution! I have a son, he’s turning three in a week and I worry about what kind of life he’s gonna have. I don’t have time to put any thought into my future, I’m too busy thinking about his future … People [object], then they get caught up with something else like in 3 years. How do you not at least care to not make it worse!

*

5/29/14

Social unrest and collapse because of food and water shortages. They’re saying corn is going to be a luxury. Especially with kids, it’s very concerning. If I were alone I wouldn’t mind so much, I could just jump in the river with rocks in my pockets.

Why is killing yourself better than dying in one of these other ways?

I think it’s a fear of what’s gonna happen. You can say well, we all die anyway, and if we die in a flood, we all just go at once, you don’t have to grieve … Part of having a kid is it’s forcing me to become more aware in the moment, more present, more spiritual, and consider spirituality even more. I think of spirituality as the bigger picture, bigger than economics or politics — it encompasses everything. I keep hoping for this worldwide awakening.

*

5/30/14

I worry about the future. More than the weather, I worry about the population getting out of control and causing effects on the planet. There’ll be more people to provide for. For a while, I didn’t even know if I wanted to have kids.

*

8/14/15

My son sent me over here. How do we convince the masses to be more aware of climate change issues? … I drive a [small efficient car]*, I don’t take as many unnecessary rides. 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. My youngest son rides his bike everywhere — he drives only if there’s surf.

*

8/15/15

I can’t get a job because of panic attacks. It feels like I’m swallowing my tongue. Once it starts, it’s going, and I have to go to the hospital. Anything can set it off — we were watching a movie, a comedy, we were laughing. I’ve had ’em since I was 15. I had to drop out of school, I can’t keep a job. I’ve [looks at kids, lowers voice] thought about suicide. I’m worried my kids will get it, I’m worried about what’ll happen to them when I’m having one. [Indicates gf] Her and me fight all the time.

*

5/5/15

I’m worried about the future, my daughters–I have two daughters. The kids are gonna have a lot harder time than we’ve had it, my generation.

What kind of future do you want for your daughters, what could we do now to help make that future?

There’s so many things. Certainly that people wake up, especially about the climate.

*

5/6/15

My daughter’s 12, and she said to me, “Dad, I wish I was your age so I didn’t have to worry about climate change.” And I worry that she’s inherited a terrible world.

Do you guys talk about it together?

We talk about it a lot. And I always have to be careful how we talk about it, because I want to share my work with her, and I want to talk to her about the worrisome parts, but I also want to talk about the positive things happening, the hope I see. When she said this, I said, We’re going to solve this, because we have to. I still have some hope that we will.

*

5/27/15

Bringing my son out to swim, which he’s been wanting to do. He’s autistic, and I get anxious when I wanna bring him outta the water–I had a lot of problems with that today. And last night we had a little trouble sleeping ’cause we have no electricity, so no A/C. I had to take like a wet rag.

Any chance of getting it turned back on soon?

I’m hoping in the next six months. I work over here at the mall and they’re not giving me enough hours. Matter of fact, climate change messed up my hours at work. I work at [REDACTED] and no one wants to be inside playing games.

*

5/28/15

Fear. General fear of life closing in–worrying about life closing in on top of you. Not being able to provide and show up every day. I have important people depending on me–my son. If I don’t get out of myself, if I don’t start helping other people, I’ll be consumed by my own problems.

*

5/29/15

My kids and their future. Just the way the world is going right now, what is their future gonna look like? Terrorism, people killing each other.

When you imagine a good future for them, what does that look like?

College, becoming something that’s worth something. Not having to worry about being shot in the street. I never had to grow up with that, but my kids are gonna have to deal with it.

What would get us toward that future you want?

Everybody, every day, do something kind. You see high school kids on the bus, they won’t get up for elderly people. Little things, like picking up trash–I think little things add up to big things.

Who taught you to be respectful to people?

My mom and my grandmother, and they’re still the leading ladies in my life, they’re still teaching me. I try to do that for my kids too. I have a son who’s seven and a daughter who’s two and a half. It’s hard with the age difference but I’m trying. And they see my mom and grandma too, every single day. We’re Dominican and Lebanese–family’s important. My son is at that stage where I’ll tell him something and he’ll say, “Dad, I know that,” and I’ll be like, you don’t know, you know but you don’t know. But I was the same way. My grandfather was the main person in our family, and he passed away from cancer. It took time for me to move on, not get over it, but move on, and what he taught me, I’ll never forget it. He taught me to always say “Thank you, sir,” and “Yes ma’am”–you’re not just saying it, you’re giving respect. Your respect and your word goes a long way in life. Say you have it easy–you’re gonna be naive unless you have somebody to teach you the right way. If you have [a] choice, you have the decision to be kind or be the other way. I went to school for psychology and I did a paper on this–I asked a lot of people. If you have kids and never grew up in a rough situation, it’s tough for you to teach them about the world. I’m telling [my son] this, but do I really know? Everything he wanted, he got, and he never had to work for it. Now he has to do chores for his allowance, he has a puppy and he has to walk it, take it out. I do volunteer work, I feed the homeless. My grandma cooks and she brings food down, she collects extra clothes during the week and everybody can have something, and he’s been down here with us passing out food. I want to teach him he has it good. There’s people down here digging through the garbage–I’m not gonna give them $10 but I will buy them something to eat. This is America, nobody should be hungry. Before I had my kids I was so naive it was ridiculous–now I notice everything, where I bring my kids, what I see around me.

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