Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/14/17

Weather: Hot, bright, breezy

Number of people: 11 stoppers, 4 walkbys, 1 bikeby

Number of hecklers: A man tried to get me to admire his (clothed) butt?

Pages of notes: 8

People who recognized the Peanuts reference: 1

Conversations between people who didn’t already know each other: 2

Pictures taken with permission: 2

Pictures taken without permission: 0

Money raised for the Environmental Justice League of RI: $4.71



This was my first non-event booth day of the year—nothing particular to draw people to the park except what usually draws them there.

Because of food trucks and municipal plantings, I’m now inside the park fence (I used to be outside the fence at the entrance). People waiting for buses and I can’t see each other as well as we used to.

A few of the stoppers didn’t talk about anxieties at all—just wanted to chat. Others did talk about anxieties, but I wasn’t able to get permission to share them here (or didn’t feel like the person was in a state to give that permission).

One cop walked through the park at 2:27. There were emergency vehicles on the far side of the bus station at 2:53 and a cop car at the Dorrance St. end of the bus station at 4:25.

My dry-erase map invites people to mark places in Rhode Island they’d like to protect. One person today said, to me, “Shouldn’t it be the whole globe?” Another person said, in passing to their friend, “Like to protect, I’d like to send Rhode Island to fucking hell.”

I mashed a defoliating caterpillar that was crawling on my sign.


Some conversations:

There’s this big yellow snowflake in Washington.

Are he and his administration the source of your biggest anxieties?

For climate, yeah. It’s not what they’re doing, it’s the lack of it. And I guess they’re selling off land to all the big companies that drill and mine. But that’s good for all of us, right?

Does the sarcasm help?

Yeah, sometimes.

Do you talk about this with people?

On Facebook. Sometimes in person—I got a brother-in-law who’s a complete Trumpkin, or Trumpette, he doesn’t think it’s caused by humans. “Oh, a volcano adds more to the atmosphere…” I don’t think I’ll ever get through to him—he kind of just talks and talks …

… I biked here from West Warwick.

[I give him a card with a hickory tree on it]

You might see this on your ride.

I see ginseng all the time. In late August, there’s this cluster of red berries between the leaves, and that’s the root that holds all the power. The trouble with finding that particular one is that it’s associated with poison ivy and wild roses.

It’s probably protecting itself! I know it grows here but I’ve never seen it.

It’s all through the woods in Rhode Island. Get on the bike path and go west.


[These two came up together.]

Person 1: Tyring to quit smoking. I’ve been trying to quit on and off for ten years—but recently, I haven’t smoked since yesterday morning.

What do you do when you really want a cigarette?

Run, walk, hug her, kiss her—anything physical that keeps my mind going.

What about when you smoke when you’re trying not to, how do you talk to yourself about it?

After an hour or two of being pretty upset at myself, disappointed in myself for not following through, I can usually move on.

Person 2: When I was trying to quit—I have depression and anxiety, so sometimes I would go a few weeks or a month and then I would start back up, but I would be like, “Tomorrow is another day.”

Person 1: We tried quitting together but it didn’t work out.

Person 2: When you’re both on edge, it’s not so easy. I had a panic attack earlier today. I have a fear of being out in public in a closed-off area. It just hit me out of nowhere—my heart just dropped, I was having trouble breathing. … And the other thing is I have a fear of death itself: Last year I suffered the loss of someone very important to me … and now my mind just runs. Sometimes it’s hard to stop. I have this indescribable need to try to understand why certain things happen, not to prevent them but to try to slow them down. And then I think this isn’t a normal thing for a twenty-one-year-old to worry about, and that makes me worry even more.

What do you do when your mind is running like that?

I do a lot of artwork, try to sing, take a walk, call him (indicating Person 1). But it’s hard to focus on doing what I wanna do. I’ve flipped out on him, I’ve yelled at him. I get really angry—normally I try to be calm and composed. I was raised around being calm, and when I feel like I’m doing the opposite, I feel like there’s something wrong with me and I try to fix it right away. I try to read about what I’m diagnosed with, and if I catch myself it’s easier to handle myself. But the only time I have complete peace is when I’m sleeping.

… I do kinda punish myself when I do something like that [getting angry]. But I feel like I’ve gained acceptance of the suffering, and when I go through it it’s just part of the process, an everyday part of the solution. Trying to find the right medication is very difficult. My dad used to tell me I didn’t need medication, I could do it myself. So when I start taking it I never finish it, I don’t see the change and I just stop taking it. And a lot of the time I can do it myself—I think that not taking it is part of the reason I have the control that I do.


The money. People who actually need it aren’t getting it, and people who don’t need it have too much of it. I work in retail, and when we get a quality assessment, even if it’s positive, we don’t get the bonus, the top heads will get the bonus. Not the people who’s actually doing the work—they don’t get credit for it … Every company’s owned by a family, and they have the people who they’ll pay and then minions, let’s say minions, to do all their work. And then if you’re trying to sell something, let’s say you want to sell something out of your house, you need a license, you gotta pay for a license, you gotta follow their criteria if you wanna try to go legit. I was making these little bikes, repairing people’s bikes, I don’t have a shop so I was doing it out of my house. And they said, “Oh, you need a license.” ‘Cause they don’t get a cut.


The fact that it’s getting so hot at a time of year when it shouldn’t be so hot means that the world is probably falling apart, and it also means that there are a ton of pantry moths in my house.



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