Climate Anxiety Counseling: Providence Energy Fair, 6/24/17

Weather: POURING outside. The fair was inside, with big fans.

Number of people: 6 stoppers, no walkbys.

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 5.5

Peanuts references: 1

People who recognized me, and I them, from previous years: 1

Photos taken without permission: 1

Dogs seen: 1

Dogs pet: 1 (this is the correct ratio, if anyone was wondering)

Number of people who asked some version of “Are you a real doctor?”: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $2.00

 

Observations:

This was an event specifically for people who work in energy efficiency, land conservation, and environmental justice, and for people interested in those things. I unsurprisingly get a higher incidence of stoppers whose anxieties are climate anxieties at such events, and that’s how today was.

There were people playing music, and they played “Moonlight Midnight”, a song I love.

I picked up a People’s Power and Light flyer.

Sometimes I try to get people from “weather” or “seasons” to “climate”, when they mistake the second for one of the first two, and sometimes I don’t. This was a time I tried but it didn’t really take.

All places are vulnerable places.

 

Some conversations:

I was woken this morning by notifications for an app that’s not on my phone, and it seems to be propaganda, a fake news website. I’m concerned who that’s going to who may not follow trusted sources. How did this get on my phone? I consider myself a moderate, but I think I know propaganda when I see it. When I think of the reduction of authority of the EPA, another four years of negative environmental activity—whether you believe in [climate change] or not, it’s pollution. I had to wear a surgical mask on my way here.

What do you do when you feel this anxiety?

Working with sustainability means it just adds to the things to worry about. I’m already worrying about my family and my kids. I thought we were going in a great direction, with [the city committed to sustainability measures], and all of a sudden—I resent the commmander-in-chief assigning people who want to take those regulations down to nothing …

In your job, does it give you energy, or does it take away your energy?

It’s definitely a morale killer. I would say it’s more anger than anxiety. A big WTF.

*

I’m anxious that I feel powerless. Whatever I do with my individual behavior, this is so monumental. It’s gonna take everyone. And my other anxiety is that I understand that it’s not everyone’s priority, and accepting that. People have a vast amount of other things that they have to worry about. I’ve seen that conflict between more militant environmentalists and people who maybe don’t care or have other things to worry about … I’m in school for environmental studies, and the determinants for environmental concern are like [socioeconomic status], exposure to nature as a child, certain demographic things.

So is your concern that there’s not enough listening going on between these two clumps of people?

Yes. I don’t even know if I would start that conversation. Who am I to impose this on you? Who am I to shape what they care about? I can give people my time, but I can’t give everyone everything.

*

You know what does make me anxious? The wintertime. I hate it, it makes me stiff, it makes me tired, it makes me anxious. I want to run into a safe warm place. I could be burning and I’m so happy—I’d rather that 50 times than my face being cut open from the cold. Winter’s abusive, it’s abusive, that’s what it is … For my son, I always wanna make sure he’s warm, because for me warm is safe, I wanna make sure he’s safe … I’m from the Dominican Republic, on the borderline of Haiti, and when the hurricane came through it knocked down all these trees so there was no shade, and I still prefer that. I let myself go in the winter—in the summer I wanna vibrate, I wanna shine. When you fly [to the Dominican Republic] everybody’s welcoming, everybody’s so nice, but when you fly into Boston or New York it’s so rigid, everybody’s like go here, do this. Everyone becomes cold. The sun gives you the whole vitamin D of happiness.

*

It’s been so long since I thought about climate change. I’ve just been buried in my work. When Trump was elected I had to focus, so I focused on immigrants, refugees, health care—and climate change was on there but it wasn’t at the top. I did make a list. There’s only so much energy that we all have.

So I guess a question with that for me is, how do we move it up people’s list without saying that the other stuff on their list doesn’t matter?

Finding the examples that are relevant—like the LNG plant … There’s a big learning curve.

*

I think everybody should be anxious. The way this country’s direction is going, denying that there is climate change—I’m just scared about this [political] climate. And the glaciers are melting, and people are ignoring science—not people, but the government. People like us are the people that care. I think it’s gonna take organizations and private citizens, nonprofits, to step up and take over what government has done in the past.

 

*

This company…just contracted to scout national parks, national monuments, protected lands that [the President] would be able to open up for resource excavation. There’s a national monument off the Northeast coast—those sites that people worked so hard to protect were so vulnerable, so much effort made just for those areas, so if they can be attacked, no place is safe no matter how much effort people make. It’ll do irrevocable damage, but it’s also what it means in terms of precedent.

How does it feel to think about this, and what do you do when you think about it?

I feel relieved to share just verbally. What I do is a good question, because I feel very helpless. The main thing I do is posting on social media, which is not effectual. It’s the same, but sort of remote, but maybe further-reaching? I don’t have any steps toward [doing something]. The conversation to have is possibly opening up to more conversations … Where I’m living now, there’s puddling in the yard from the rain and that is a first. With climate change, there’s more moisture in the atmosphere that falls at once. It’s unheard of that the place where I am is affected. It’s not even a vulnerable place.

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