Climate Anxiety Counseling: 5/11/16

Weather: Warm, sunny, breezy, perfect in the shade at the beginning, a little chilly toward the end.

Number of people: 13 stoppers, 7 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0! One walkby might’ve muttered “it’s not real” but I can’t be sure.

Pages of notes: 8

People known to me, and I to them, from past seasons: 3

People who commented on the Peanuts reference: 1, returning from last year

Picture-takers with permission: 2

Picture-takers without permission: 2

Number of dogs seen: 2, belonging to a friend

Number of dogs pet: 2

Number of times people called me “honey” but not in a way that made me want to kill them: 2

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $2.50



Still not always remembering to do these things.

Pushing the handtruck (for new readers, I pack the booth in and out on a handtruck) was surprisingly not that hard.

Not a lot of people talked about climate anxieties directly, but quite a few people brought up climate change, extreme weather, ecological degradation, as if incidentally, while talking about their primary anxieties.

13 stoppers in one session is actually a lot (comparatively), and I’m wondering if this was because it was the first day in a long while–I was a novelty. We’ll see.


Some conversations:

I get anxious on buses. I start coughing, breathing heavy. I used to be on Klonopin but they took me off it now, I don’t know why. They got me on some other pill that doesn’t have a [word I didn’t catch] effect.

When you start to feel it, do you have to get off the bus?

I want to, but I have to get to my destination. If there’s somebody I know on there, I talk to them. Or I talk on the phone, I call people. Sometimes I pretend to talk on the phone when nobody’s there. I’ll say, Hi ______, that’s my daughter.


I love biking, I love working in my garden. Love kayaking. I’m planting celery, melons, some kale. Not doing tomatoes this year … I live in East Providence and we have a lot of squirrels, so I planted onions around everything. If you plant onions, they don’t like that. Or you can use pepper and water. I’m from down South, growing up we didn’t have pesticides, so you just put pepper and water in a spray bottle and spray it around the garden. It kills the grubs and things.

[Talking about fishing from a kayak]

We don’t kill the fish ’cause the fish have toxins in ’em by the time they come up this far. I tell people not to eat ’em. I tell people, there’s three discharge stations up there, three. … We just put ’em back. Stripers, if they stay out of the water too long, they get stressed and they die.



There isn’t much we can do about the climate, honey. That’s all in God’s hands. But the government here in Rhode Island needs a shakeup. Communication, communication is just horrible in this state. I moved here after losing my home in Sandy and I had to go through six months of hoops just to get an ID. I’m a veteran, and they put all the veterans in one box: either you’re full of drugs that are given to you legally or you’re just brushed off … the capitol is right here, and I don’t see the people up there

Have you been talking to people about this?

I’ve been trying to connect with veterans and servicemembers. I got my resume done over at Amos House, and they asked if I had a history of mental illness, and I said, Other than the emotion of losing everything from the storm, from having hundred-mile-an-hour winds pick up my car and drop it…


I get anxious because I’m not anxious–because when you walk around on a beautiful day like today, there’s nothing to remind you of it. When you hear the scientific spokesman for Congress saying there’s nothing to worry about, and then most of the scientific community does say there’s something to worry about–We went to see a movie where this guy took a photo in the Arctic every day and you could see the ice disappearing.

But does that feel close to you?

No, it’s just like watching a war, it’s all happening on TV.

Have you noticed any changes that have to do with the climate since you’ve moved to the States?

Well, this last winter was the most unusual winter since we’ve been here.


I need help. I feel like the fumes from the buses are making me sick. Not only that, but you can’t see the stars from Providence anymore.

Did you grow up here?

No, I grew up in New Hampshire, but it’s troublesome to me that you don’t see the stars. Today I woke up a little sick–I’m biking in Downcity and I feel like the fumes kinda cluster at the lower levels. It makes it difficult to breathe sometimes. I know they’re supposed to be clean engines or whatever, but when a big burst of it hits you right in the face–I worry that it’s shaving years off my life, like when I’m 76 I’m gonna lose a week with my grandchildren … I understand that RIPTA–they’re trying to help people [drive less], it’s not RIPTA’s fault. But I love nature and I love the birds and the trees. I wanna be on earth as long as I can.


[Person 1 started out as a walkby, then Person 2 came up and Person 1 decided to stay a bit]

Person 1: Honey, you would charge a hundred dollars for what I’d have to tell you.

Tell me a nickel’s worth.

Person 1: Three dead husbands: diabetes, diabetes, suicide.

Person 2: This is cool, what is this?

[I explain that I want to know what people in Providence are anxious about, whether it’s climate change or something else]

Person 1: Oh, in Providence.

Person 2: Homelessness, unemployment.

Person 1: Thank God I got a job, thank God I got a home. There’s a lotta issues here and it’s too bad, because it’s a great city, it’s a beautiful city. I have some really good people in my life, and I have my kitty cat. [He tells her story.] My partner and I, we were on the street for three years, I don’t know how we ever survived. It was not a good time. Then we got an apartment–four months later, I crawl into bed and I realize he died. Diabetic shock. Then our upstairs neighbor, who was a crack addict, decided to burn the house down. … I have some great people in my life and I’m lucky because they keep my heart open.

[I give him a card with a hermit thrush on it.]

Oh, I know these! My mother lived in Jamestown, she had a flock of those. They’re buggers. They are buggers.


Today’s poem:


Three dead husbands

Homelessness, unemployment

Three hundred dead husbands

Homelessness because there are no homes

Unemployment because everything is undone

Under the bodies of someones

Who tended someone elses at one point

Undertake, overwhelmed: the number



One thought on “Climate Anxiety Counseling: 5/11/16

  1. Pingback: Alternate Histories: 5/11, 5/17 | climateanxietycounseling

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