Slight delay on yesterday’s climate anxieties

My shoulder hurts, and I don’t know why, but typing seems to be one of the things that makes it worse. So I’m going to try to not type much for a few days, and I’ll put yesterday’s conversations from the Armory Park Farmers’ Market up when I’m feeling better.

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Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market, 7/26/17

Weather: Hot (but not crushingly so) and bright, with a small breeze

Number of people: 10 stoppers, no walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7.5

Pictures taken with permission: 1

People who recognized me, and I them, from a previous session: 2

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $1.20

 

Observations:

I think I’ve figured out a good sunbrella configuration.

More people overall were shopping at the market today than during the previous weeks I’ve been there.

They mowed the library lawn and the clover, which was alive with honeybees last week, is gone. I saw one wasp butting against a dried flowerhead.

I still need to be better about switching from listening/questioning mode to talking/advice mode—I did it too soon twice today.

At one point, a giant bus with a graffiti painting on the side including “Powered by Youth, Run on Veggie Oil” pulled up and about 15 kids and a few adults got out. A couple of them did come over to talk with me, and many more clustered around to listen to one of the ones who was talking.

In the last conversation, I was out of my depth.

 

Some conversations:

I’ve been thinking about you! I saw you what, two years ago? My life has changed. My brother moved out, so now upstairs is my mom, my boyfriend and me, and downstairs is my sister and her kids, and it’s so much better, because we all have enough space. Now whenever I meet someone who’s going through it, the first question I ask is, “Do you have enough space?” I was ready to push my brother down the stairs and be like, “And don’t come back.”

*

My long beans are not growing this year. I’ve noticed this summer has not been as hot, but there’s extreme hot, like the last few days, and drastic cold. Last year there were so many veggies, but this year things aren’t growing.

*

 

 

I live by the bay and [the stretch where I live] is entirely controlled by Johnson and Wales. We can only go in the summertime. And the JWU students are destroying it, they eat there and then just dump everything on the ground. The blunt wrappers, I’ve seen so many blunt wrappers–When I first moved in, I saw our other neighbors picking up trash, and that’s how I started picking up trash. And now we can only go in during the summer. During the [year] we cannot get in there—and there’s an actual walkway, a state-run greenway … But the students are ruining that place.

*

A lot of the climate stuff I think about is more around food. I totally feel like I hear this all the time, talking to farmers, thinking about the resiliency of—things that people have done for years, start times for things, things that used to be indicators are now out the window. We haven’t gotten to the point where frost dates have shifted, but moisture, temperature, that’s where we’re seeing it, especially people who’ve been doing it for a while. It’s not even “a good season”, it’s just there’s no predictability. … Clearly there are always fluctuations in weather, but when it gets warm and a tree is starting to bud and then it freezes—a late frost will just wipe out the buds.

How do you see farmers reacting to this, are they just like, “We’re going to try to pull out of this in five years,” or are they like, “We’re going to try to figure out how this works…”

I don’t see that community being like, “Throw in the towel.” What’s hard is it affects—you try to look for patterns, but patterns are harder to see now. And for example, if there’s a warm winter, then pest pressure next year is much higher because they didn’t get killed off. How do you adapt to this? There are a good number of plants that can adapt to relative extremes, but they’re still gonna show signs of stress. I guess there’s the human comparison: yeah, we can tolerate it, but there’s these stresses, and at some point you’re gonna start to see shifts. There’s already been some talk of [growing] zones shifting, and then also we could see invasive [species] that [currently] can’t survive in New England—The plant profile will change. There’ll be stressors, and then at some point certain things won’t bounce back or won’t be able to survive in this microclimate. That, to me, is always the interesting one—you can say it’s “natural evolution,” but what’s hard is, it is not exactly a natural transition. It’s much more of a shock transition.

*

Oh, I’m anxious about everything today really. I just have to stop paying so much attention to the news. Today I’m anxious about transgender rights in the military. I heard an interview with this woman, she’d been in for 18 years, she was a staff sergeant. That’s her whole career. It’s tragic on a personal level but also for morale, for the people in the military who feel that they themselves could be the next target. It could be any group, anything. My dad was a military officer, a decorated pilot in the Second World War, so I grew up in that whole atmosphere. But you can’t let it ruin your day. There isn’t much I can do about it.*

… [My dog] Lucy has end-stage heart disease, and her medicine is so expensive. It’s been the best year of my life, having this incredible animal. I had to go all the way to Massachusetts today for her medicine—touring the countryside for dog medication.

*Doctor’s note: I wrote out a version of the list in this thread for her.

*

Education and school. They give us too much work, there’s too much pressure. They want us to get all As.

Why do they say they want that? I mean, why do they say that’s important?

They say, “Oh, if you don’t do this you gonna be like the people on Broad Street.”

They say that?

They don’t say that, but that’s what it sounds like. “Oh, you’re not gonna be anything, you’re never gonna succeed. Oh, you’re not gonna go nowhere in life.” It’s not me, they say it to other people. But they don’t know what’s going on in their daily lives.

*

My parents dying. Growing up, me and my parents don’t get along, and now I’m starting to get along with them, and I start thinking about how they’re not gonna be here. How when I need someone to talk to, they won’t be there. I have anxiety and I have depression, and I get panic attacks. Once in a while I try to commit suicide.

Do you know what brings the panic attacks on?

It just comes. I freeze and I just start crying, then I randomly just start laughing, like a crazy person. Then after it passes, I take deep breaths and listen to some music and just stay there, just frozen. And just thinking.

Do you see a counselor?

I went to the Providence Center, but they had no interpreter. I like to talk in both Spanish and English. I went to the guidance counselor at school, and they took me to the vice-principal and he said he would try to get me a therapist for the fall.

That’s great. Is this something you would tell your parents about or do you want to keep it private?

I keep it private. I only have two or three friends who try to keep me calm … I call my friend, and he breathes with me and talks with me. What I like about him is that he listens and he tries to help the best way he can. Not a lot of people would do that, they would talk about it. He keeps it to his self.

Climate Anxiety Counseling at the Sankofa World Market TODAY, 7/26, 2-6pm!

Come and see me! The market is outside the Knight Memorial Library, 275 Elmwood Avenue in Providence. I’ll be there to hear your climate anxieties and other anxieties 2-6pm today.

In other news, if you live in the U.S. and you want people to be able to get actual mental (and physical) health care and not just well-intentioned listening from some lady in a booth made of cardboard and plywood, call your senators today. You can also encourage other people, in states where a senator’s vote might be moved, to call theirs.

Providence Resolution to Block Sale of Water to Invenergy: City Council Vote TONIGHT

From RI Future:

Providence City Councilor Seth Yurdin(Ward 1) wants the city to fight the sale of Providence water to Invenergy, the company that wants to build a $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant in Burrillville.

“The proposed gas-fired power plant is a serious threat to local Rhode Island communities and our climate.  The Providence Water Supply Board needs to join the Conservation Law Foundation‘s lawsuit and work to prevent the improper resale of water for use in this harmful project.,” said Providence City Councilor Seth Yurdin (Ward 1) about his resolution, being introduced tonight.

The resolution seeks to realign the positions of the City of Providence and the Providence Water Supply Board (PWSB) from defendants to plaintiffs in the case of Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) v Clear River Energy and the Town of Johnston.

This is a little confusing, but basically, it could be part of a strategy for blocking new fossil fuel infrastructure in RI, which is (part of) what we want. Show up TONIGHT at 5:30 pm, at Providence City Hall (City Council Chamber, 3rd floor) with signs!

Some sign ideas:

Be good neighbors / Protect air and water / Reject Invenergy

RI Needs Clean Water & Clean Energy / NOT Fossil Fuels

Good Jobs in Healthy Communities

 

 

 

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market, 7/19/17

Weather: Sunny and hot with gusts of wind

Number of people: 4 stoppers, 1 walkby

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 5.5

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Pictures taken without permission: 1

Dogs seen: 3

Dogs pet: 0, even the one that was right next to me!

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $2.16

 

Observations:

It was nice to see vendors I knew from last year.

The sun was so hot that I put up my umbrella, and then the wind was so fierce that I took it down. Repeat. Other vendors were very sweetly concerned for my well-being, and the market manager shared some raspberries with me.

I took a break 3:10-3:30 to call someone I have promised to call every day, and a break around 5 to get money from a nearby ATM to buy vegetables with.

Food was a major theme in my conversations as well as in what I did. Another theme: the power and the limits of personal habits / “lifestyle changes.”

 

Some conversations:

 

[These two knew each other; Person 2 came up a few minutes after Person 1]

I was watching What the Health on Netflix, and the number one vision, the thing I can’t get out of my head, was these floating dead fish on the edge of the shoreline. How the ocean’s environmentally been affected by our poor living habits. … I could close my eyes right now and see those floating dead fish on the edge—it’s real. All my life I’ve been a meat eater, but I haven’t eaten any meat since [last] Wednesday.

Have you talked about this movie with anybody?

Yeah, I’ve been going back to my staff members and colleagues–[Person 2, a colleague, came up]. I’m talking about that movie What the Health.

Person 2: Oh my God, I saw that! It freaked me out. I was already like, I’m gonna stay aaway from red meat, but at least I can eat chicken, and now I’m like, what the hell do I eat? What’s in the foods we eat? I don’t know as much as I need to.

Person 1: The other thing is, Providence has one of the largest lead contamination problems in the country. … [A MUTUAL ACQUAINTANCE] tested the lead in the ground in Dexter Park and there’s lead there, lead where the kids play. Probably not more than you have in your backyard, but–

*

I’m from New York, but the suburbs. Living in Providence, it’s kinda anxiety—being away from my family.

What do you do when you feel that anxiety or that frustration?

I just play some music. Or I cry a lot. I talk to my family on the phone, or texting. It feels good but not the same as face-to-face contact.

Is there anything good about being here?

Independence, and being away from everyday life back home. Getting to make my own decisions and mistakes without like, “What are you doing,” instead of getting in trouble. I’m not gonna be stupid about certain things. They would have screamed at me about it. I can deal with me screaming at myself, because it was my decision.

… Global warming is real, by the way, I believe in it. I think [people] don’t want to come to terms with the way life is and reality. If you’re not anxious about something, you’re not really living your life—are you just sitting at home and watching TV and not feeling anything? You’re not like, “Oh, I’m sad about this but I’m gonna make it better.”

For a lot of people who talk to me, the thing they have trouble with about global warming is they don’t know how to make it better .

You gotta get in the community and help, try to see what you can do for others. Speakers in schools, encouraging young people to do the right thing—I enjoyed that in school. That educated me more than my teachers. I wanna hear it from the expert: “I saved a million animals,” or whatever.

*

There are a lot of things I do that aren’t the most eco-conscious, because I have no other option. As much as I want to help put my part in, I don’t think the individual actions matter very much. I don’t have as much power in changing anything.

What do you think would have that kind of power?

Changing the social norms of how we interact with the world? I don’t know. To be more friendly to the Earth. I’m tring to fight this ingrained lifestyle and worldview that I’ve been brought up to live in. And being from an immigrant family means I’m struggling with that too—I’ve tried to get my mom to use reusable water bottles, but it’s just so normal to her to use plastic water bottles, so there’s that too. How do I respect her background? There’s a lot of—maybe not solutions but progressive things that people are doing but it’s hard to access it. So I guess more access? More education?

I guess another question is, if we’re not trying to stop it or slow it down, what are the things that we’re trying to do?

I guess talk about it? Have a discussion? I keep going to this question, “Is that enough?” But if you’re not looking for a solution, it could be. Anything that you can’t really change, you can at least be with people and process it. If all the humans just die, we release all the gases and destroy the planet anyway.

Climate Anxiety Counseling at the Sankofa World Market TODAY, 2-6pm!

Bring your climate anxieties and other anxieties to me at the Sankofa World Market today, outside the Knight Memorial Library on Elmwood Avenue, 2-6pm today.

You can also buy delicious vegetables, get information about health programs, buy books from the library’s book sale, and maybe catch a glimpse of the adorable baby I got to hold last week.*

Come talk with me, get a little card to keep with a Rhode Island organism on it, and learn about some local work you can do to help.

*I’m nothing if not predictable.

Rally for Action on Climate Change at Governors’ Meeting, TODAY 12:15pm

The governors of 30 states, and also Elon Musk and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, are meeting in downtown Providence. Let’s tell them we need urgent, swift, effective action to reduce carbon emissions. Meet us at the corner of Sabin and Mathewson Streets (across from the convention center)–look for the big blue banner–at 12:15pm today. Details here.

This is the banner we’ll carry–a Portable Sea Level for 2100.

IMG_2838

Climate Anxiety Counseling at the Sankofa World Market, 7/12/17

Weather: Started out sunny and hot with sporadic showers, then POURED

Number of people: 3 stoppers, 0 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 5

People who recognized the Peanuts reference: 2

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $1.00

 

Observations:

As in previous years, I don’t get as many walkby comments at the market as I do in Kennedy Plaza. If people are going to interact, they stop. At the market, I also look more like the things around me—other people have tables, signs, etc.–so I’m less of a visual surprise and it’s easier to just kind of skip over me.

Also, nobody (other than the vendors) has to be at the market, so the total number of people around tends to be smaller. This was especially true today, when the torrential rain kept a lot of people away (and made most of the vendors pack up early) …

… but I didn’t even care because the vendor next to me allowed me to hold her 9-month-old, and I sang to him while she went to buy some sweet potato greens, and he fell asleep in my arms.

Should I start asking people what they think they’ll take away from the conversation? I did that today, but it was with someone I know.

 

Some conversations:

I used to, but then I got over it.

*

Because it’s long-term, I think we miscalculate the impacts of some of these things. We tend to deescalate some pretty seismic shifts—famine and disease and resource wars. But it seems so distant still. I think we minimize and don’t face hard or tough decisions: “If I stash this away, it won’t affect me.” …

Do you picture it?

I can picture a couple neighborhoods in Providence flooding, a couple neighborhoods in Chicago. There are those days in winter where it’s unseasonably warm. I don’t really think about changes to crop rotations, food supplies.

You clearly know about them, though. What’s the difference between knowing about them and thinking about them?

I’m really disconnected on average from where my food comes from. I know that data is out there, but it hasn’t been in front of my face. I don’t see that information about how this is gonna change how we raise crops. And even things that people don’t think of—terrorism and terrorism recruitment. I’m pro-refugee, but an increased refugee crisis …

I did debate in high school and college, and climate change was the basis for lots of arguments about issues that are gonna come up. The recent EPA secretary is atrocious. After Trump pulled out of the Paris Agreements, I know all these mayors and governors have gotten together, and it’s defnitely endearing but it might be too little too late, sad to say.

Is it? I mean, are you sad about it?

Maybe sad is the wrong word for me to use. Disappointing wouldn’t be right either. But it’s-we’re all on this globe together. You’d think we could agree to—not “save the planet” but at least work to make it habitable. Like, what are we really here for?

*

I work in forests and forestry, so I think that’s something that can help be part of the answer. I work with the Rhode Island Woodland Partnership, so we work with professionals and woodland owners on land conservation, recreation, water supply. Forests can be a source of oxygen, they can counter heat islands. We just put out a position statement on the value that the forest brings [to the state]. Rhode Island is the Ocean State, but we’re still 50% forested, and we want that to be at the table along with coastal communities and energy.

Is it okay to put this up online?

We have a website that expresses it more eloquently than I can do right now. It’d be great if you could link to that.

No LNG in PVD: Public Information Session Thursday 7/15

National Grid wants to build a liquid natural gas processing facility in a flood zone, near the homes of people who are already suffering from environmental injustice, and increasing Rhode Island’s commitment to fossil fuel infrastructure. The people who live near the proposed site–Fields Point, Allens Avenue and South Providence–have been fighting to keep National Grid from building this facility.

National Grid, under community pressure, has agreed to hold a meeting about this on Thursday, 7/13, 6-9pm–but is holding it at the police station, where many people in the community most at risk from this project feel unsafe.

It would be very good to show up and show strong, numerous community objection to more fossil fuel infrastructure, even if it’s not in “your” neighborhood. If you are one of the people who has spoken to me about feeling helpless in the face of climate change–this is a concrete thing you can do to help there be less of it, and to stand with your neighbors.

You can RSVP here and learn more about why Providence doesn’t need or want this facility. Hope to see some of you on Thursday.