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



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.


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