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.

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