Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/16/17

Weather: Light drizzle increasing to pouring, steady rain

Number of people: 4 stoppers, 0 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 6.5

People who recognized the Peanuts reference: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.35

 

Observations:

Unsurprisingly, very few people stopped to talk to me when it was pouring. There was room under the umbrella—it’s a big umbrella—but the lie of the land had a little muddy stream running down right in front of the booth where they’d have to stand. I rigged the umbrella by bungee-ing it to the handtruck, which worked fine only because there was very little wind.

The stream behaved like a stream, with patterns of currents that were revealed by patterns of pebbles and silt, even though it was tiny and temporary. That was cool to me.

People’s rain behaviors—especially, the way they covered themselves, and their walks—were very lovely. I spotted at least two people using plastic store bags as rain shields for their hair, some hood-stretching and jacket-ducking, and lots of variations of scuttling, determined striding, hunching, and plain old running.

Themes of the day: farming, convenience, reasons why people do or don’t do things.

 

Some conversations:

I started getting anxious about it around the time that An Inconvenient Truth was released. Before that I was like, Eh, you know, it’ll happen sometime soon, and that was like, Nope, it’s happening now. I started looking into little actions I could do, but it’s difficult to keep from having a sense of despair. Every once in a while—I own a house in Providence and it’s 150 feet above sea level, but this area right here is 10 feet above sea level. Half the economy of Providence is 10 feet above sea level.

Can we go back to—you used the word “despair”, which is a really deep-down word. What do you despair of?

That people are willing to make difficult decisions to do something about it. It’s a long-term problem, it’s been building and building, and each year it gets incrementally worse …. You can see it right now. It’s been sort of real—with Hurricane Katrina, it was like, It could have been made worse by climate change but we don’t know, and with glaciers it was like, Well, glaciers come and go. But the moment when I was like, This is it, right now, was the March heat wave we had in I think 2012. It was in the high 70s for a week, 10 days, and people were like, Oh, it’s so mild and pleasant! And I was like, No, this is 20 degrees out of normal. This shouldn’t happen, it’s such an unusual—Oh, we’re screwed.

…I got rid of my car. I was completely vegetarian for a few years, now I eat meat maybe once a week, or less. But at one point I was like, Fuck it, I’m gonna do whatever the hell I want because it doesn’t matter anymore. I didn’t want to say completely fuck it, get the biggest car I can and live in the suburbs, I had a week of saying fuck it and then I went back to doing what I normally do. I like my bike for transportation. It’s cheaper—I save $1000 a year just by not renting a parking place, and I think something like $8000 a year by not having a car at all. And it’s fun, I like riding my bike, it’s fun to do. Same with the mostly vegetarian diet: It feels better, it’s easier to cook, you don’t have to worry as much, it’s cheaper. I could spend thousands of dollars to make my house more efficient, but I haven’t looked into it.

… I follow the Audubon webcam with the falcons. It’s like a streaming media service for me. I’m always happy to see the hawks. I ride out into Scituate and Gloucester—and that’s another thing, you can really see the g*psy moth boom. You can hear it, it sounds like rain. Last August, it felt like April—the trees were mostly bare with just a little green, but it wasn’t because they were budding, it was because they were eaten. When I was in the fuck-it state, I was thinking about how I buy produce from the farmers’ market, and it’s two times as expensive: why am I paying two times as much? But I like to ride my bike in Foster, and I’d rather ride my bike by a farm than by an exurban development. If I want there to be a farm, I need to buy that produce.

*

 

I think about icebergs. I think about the extinction of some of our wildlife—and the human race, too. I’m a chef, so I think about plants. I think about the ocean. I’m not too knowledgeable about climate change, but I know that one of the problems is going to be a very serious lack of water … Last summer I couldn’t get butternut squash, I couldn’t get golden zucchini. Oysters come from the ocean. It’s pretty big. But I don’t see it, I hear about it through word of mouth, from news broadcasts—it’s not the same.

… I try to teach my five-year-old to be environmentally friendly, but I can’t be environmentally friendly. Coke, Sprite and everything, they give you this recyclable bottle, but do you see any recycling cans down here? So it’s the city, it’s everything… I can’t just go into the 7-11 and ask for a cup of water, or a spigot, because you can’t trust the water in your city. No matter how much you wanna be environmentally friendly, unless you’re a millionaire, unless you can afford to live that lifestyle you can’t live it… I argue with my brother all the time—he says organic this and free range that, but “free range” just means they spend one hour in the field, the rest of the time they’re stacked up in cages, thousands and thousands, they’re still in the cage unless you’re spending like $9.99. What exactly is free range, what exactly is “support your local community”?

…But I don’t have anxiety about it because it’s not directly affecting me. But I do have a five-year-old son, and I worry about what he’ll be dealing with , and his kids.

What would make it feel like it was directly affecting you?

The extinction of a lot of ocean animals. We live in the [food chain], you need the orca to eat the dolphin, the dolphin to eat the shrimp, the shrimp to eat the algae. … There goes my striped bass, if I want that striped bass, if I want that tuna—we’re the ocean state, but they’re just gonna migrate, I’m not gonna be able to just go to my usual spot. So then it costs more for gas, fuel for buses. But I wouldn’t say I’m anxious about climate change because I’m getting everything that I want. Everyone turns a blind eye if it’s not affecting them.

You talked about your son, and being worried about the future for him—do you show him how to care about things that aren’t affecting him directly?

Oh, yeah. For him, yeah. I’m a victim of society. I’m set in my ways—I’m 33. But we watched [Garbage Island] together and I’m like, This is important. Now he doesn’t wanna go in the ocean because he thinks it’s dirty, but we’re working on it, we’re getting back in the water. The other cool thing about the ocean too is there’s so many animals we haven’t even discovered—oh! and that’s kinda sad, right?

 

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