Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market, 9/1/16

Weather: Coolish, muggy. Rained earlier so everything was soggy. Sun came out and stayed out, mostly, around 4:15.

Number of people: 11 stoppers, 9 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0! I think one guy was messing with me, but not in a mean way

People who recognized the Peanuts reference: 1

Dogs seen: 21

Dogs pet: 2

Ferrets seen: 1, on a leash

Ferrets pet: No

Money raised for the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island: $6.35

 

Observations:

Maybe this is a good time to remind readers that A) I don’t call out to people from the booth–they choose to come up to me or not; 2) people can talk to me about whatever’s pressing most on their mind, even if it’s not climate-change-related; D) I try not to argue with people at the booth, though I may try to get them to see something from an angle they haven’t previously considered.

This market was extremely rich in both kids and dogs. There’s a playground in the park, and the fields of the park itself; lots of playing, running around, shrieking, and so on. One kid stood rapt as a human threw a frisbee for a dog and the dog caught it in the air.

I heard enough people speaking Spanish to each other that I think the next time I’m in this spot, on 10/6, I’m going to try to line up an English <–> Spanish translator.

An unusual number of people, including lots of kids, marked a map of the state with a place in Rhode Island they love and would like to protect. Some places they marked on the map: the coast (x2), the park (for riding her bike), the zoo, Block Island, CityFarm, Dimeo Farm and farmland in Johnston, Burger King, Brockton (Massachusetts, where her family and friends live), salt ponds, farmland in Portsmouth and Newport, his house. A kid with an orange slushie circled the whole state.

 

Some conversations

Kid 1: Are you a doctor?

No, not really, but I talk to people about their worries.

Kid 2: Can we talk to you?

Yeah, you can talk to me. 

Kid 2: [Throws me an extremely suspicious look, leaves]

*

[These two came up together; the first speaker is the second speaker’s son.]

Person 1: I’m waiting for a kidney transplant. I’ve been waiting for two years and eight months. My friend’s finishing up with the testing and it looks like it could be good.

Person 2: We’re hoping that he’s gonna be a good recipient and that she–that it’s gonna go well for both of them.

That is a transplant they do a lot.

Person 1: Yeah, you don’t realize it until you’re in the situation. Everyone at the party has had it … I have dialysis Monday, Wednesday, Friday. I’m grateful for the help that I’ve gotten, I’m happy to have Obamacare, I don’t care what anyone says. My medicine would be $2000–it would be $44, 000 a month for dialysis.

*

I worry about my children. They don’t do anything bad, it’s just concern. Like in school, are they okay, are they gonna be okay in the future in school, are they gonna be okay if they go to college, how will they deal with it? One goes to [NAME OF HIGH SCHOOL], one goes to middle school. I wonder if they put pressure on themselves. The one in high school, she’s gonna take three advanced classes, she’s just gonna be a junior–is that a lot of pressure? She says she likes the challenge … If they don’t get what they want are they gonna be disappointed in themselves, are they gonna be something wrong? She’s a cancer survivor when she’s four, now she’s sixteen and she says, “I want to be a doctor, a children’s cancer doctor,” and you don’t wanna say, “It’s kinda hard,” but … How do you approach that? Once they become adult, they don’t talk to you. She brings me her report card, in calculus I think she got a C, she said, “Oh, you gonna yell at me? You can yell at me, I’m already mad at myself.” I’m not gonna yell at her!

I teach college and I’m also an advisor for students, and a lot of students, especially if they’re the first generation in their family to go to college, they worry about making their parents proud, about giving back to their parents.

But that’s not what we want. We want them-we know how it is to survive, we don’t really care what we are. For us, we start with nothing, we want them to do good, not for us, not to help us, it’s more for themselves. We just want them to have their own easy life.

*

Black people being shot by angry white people, ’cause nowadays everybody seems to be shooting Black people. Education and job security for my children. Saving Black babies here in Rhode Island–maternal and infant health. I run a cloth diaper service, I’m trying to help the environment.

*

Smaller Sister: I’m scared of something.

What are you scared of? 

Smaller Sister: I’m scared of poisons, poisonous spiders.

Slightly Larger Sister: I’m scared that somebody poison my food and make me eat it.

[A few minutes later, Smaller Sister comes back with Smallest Sister]

Smaller Sister: She’s scared of dogs.

Little dogs or big dogs?

Smallest Sister: Big dogs.

*

The word, “Anthropocene.”* The idea that an entire stage in the planet’s existence could be defined by human destruction. I read this headline, “Scientists define the Anthropocene,” and that really made me anxious … When I was a kid I had this Reader’s Digest atlas, with all sorts of information in the back, and there was a list of geological epochs, and I always think of the Holocene as being the geological epoch in which I live. And that we’ve changed things so fundamentally that we can never go back to living in the Holocene–

How does that cause you to approach the world, how you perceive things?

Even if we get to the state where we’ve reduced emissions so that temperatures are back to what they were during the Holocene, we won’t be able to go back. We’ll have changed so much. I still have that optimism–it’s just who I am, the belief that millions of people will change their minds, that something will bring it home to people. But it’s so definite–one era ends and the other begins. It implies a tipping point. I suppose that’s why they use it.

*Doctor’s note: I hate this word too, but for different reasons, which I might outline here or somewhere.

*

I wanna be an adult and buy property, but I’m worried if I go too far south it’s gonna be dry, and I don’t wanna move too far north. I don’t wanna buy property along the coast. Should I think more about farming my own sustenance?

It sounds like you’re worried that you might not be able to have the life you imagined.

Yeah. The old models that my parents used to plan their future don’t apply anymore.

 

 

 

 

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