Climate Anxiety Counseling: Armory Park Farmers’ Market, 7/27/17

Weather: Gray, warm, damp, then straight-down rain thinning and thickening throughout the shift

Number of people: 6 stoppers, 1 walkby

Pages of notes: 7

People who got the Peanuts reference: 1

Photos taken without permission: 1

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

Dogs seen: 13

Dogs pet: 2

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $2.50

 

Observations:

It’s insulting of me to be at this particular market, a busy one where a lot of people attending speak Spanish more than English, without an interpreter. I apologize for this and will reach out to someone for my next stint here, in late August.

I asked a couple of good questions– “What do you already know about yourself that could help you?” and “What do you already know about the situation that could help you?”–that I want to make sure to use again.

One of the dogs I pet also lay down on my foot, which is a nice place for a dog to be.

One person who spoke to me mentioned current and upcoming attempts to clearcut Rhode Island forests to build solar farms. I think this is something that I need to talk about here, but I need to learn more about it first.

 

 

Some conversations:

I had a meeting today that was set up for me, but the other participants hadn’t been notified. I started crying at work. It’s a new job. I have a problem with crying at work, not ’cause I’m wimpy, it’s just the tears—I find it very difficult, especially in situations of authority.

What do you know about yourself that could help you prepare for these situations, like if something like this comes up again? How could your self-knowledge help you?

I get frustrated and I can’t blindly follow someone I know is doing the wrong thing. I get very angry, I get very upset when I’m not taken seriously.

Okay, and what do you know about the way this office works that could help you kind of prepare for these situations?

I don’t work in offices very often. I’m a chef, and I’ve mostly worked in kitchens, and you’re right, I don’t react like this in kitchens. They try to make you do dishes if you’re a woman, and they’re always ready for a fight. I have techniques to get past that moment without making me cry. You can’t let anything stop you. In an office it seems like all anyone wants to do is correct other people’s behavior, impact other people’s behavior. I’ve avoided working in situations where I have someone who’s my boss. I really bristle at people trying to take authority. I live a righteous life, there are certain things I do not do, and people think I think I’m better than other people, but I just don’t give a shit about what other people thing. I don’t think I’m better than other people. I think I’m pretty broken.

*

Living in a toxic relationship [and having] a child. Believing that it’s my reality. I never thought that would happen.

*

I feel like I’m getting used to the idea that the world is falling apart. I’m less reactive, I’m more complacent. I was wanting to talk about it more and be more active in different ways, to do stuff with organizations and change my behavior to be more conscientious about it. But more and more I’m just feeling like we’re fucked. I don’t have a lot of hope. It feels like numbness, like complacency. … I want more to take care of myself and take care of my community in whatever capacity I can—I’m drawn more to local efforts, hyperlocal, I’m less and less wanting to look at the news. I open it up and I’m just like, “No.” I’m seeking out tangible things—it’s too overwhelming to tackle the coral reef and the melting of the ice sheets. My ecosystem that I can impact is a hyperlocal one.

I think there’s a burnout. It’s difficult because in order to get things done, you need a good dynamic, you need to be able to put ego and personality aside—which is ironic because that’s why we’re in this mess to begin with! Even when there’s really good intentions, there’s a lack of accountability—people need to be pulling their weight [and] caring about the relationships, and the thing you’re not doing might add stress to [someone else’s] life. Even though it can be seen as kind of frou-frou, I think those things like team-building, spending time, can be really—Do senators have any relationship with each other? I feel like in the center is a huge ego. So many of us get distracted by ego …

It does spiral me downward. Some of my friends, and my sister, are thinking of having kids, but they don’t want to raise a child in this world because it’s going to be painful. After the [2016 US presidential] election, I would see a pregnant belly or a newborn baby in this grayness, this cloud that was cast over us all, this new life in such a somber setting. And I’d think about the shit hitting the fan for this fresh life who’s totally naïve to everything. It’s kind of mindblowing to me. One friend spent years saying she wants a kid, and it’s like, “What, are they gonna die of dehydration? Malnutrition?”

We don’t know even for our generation what it’s gonna be like, and I don’t think I’m being dramatic, I think I’m being extremely realistic. We’re looking at a pretty steep decline once we hit a certain point. The ecosystem, whatever it is that’s holding us together, is gonna crumble. My sister was visiting and one morning we woke up, we’re making eggs and toast, having a nice morning, and I’m like, “I wonder how many more mornings like this we’re gonna get to have.” Especially if you’re privileged in certain ways—are things gonna blow up in our face? How much longer are we as humans gonna have access to all these things?

… We have to say something, we have to think something. I used to climb a lot, and I’d see trees growing on the side of cliffs and be like, “How are you even doing this?” Like they’re saying, “You can’t tame me. This is where I’m meant to be.” How do we embrace it?

*

My worry today is that there’s been a lot on the news about [Secretary of the Interior] Ryan Zinke reducing the borders of national parks and monuments. You keep hearing and seeing things and it’s like, “Oh, almost forgot about that.” We don’t have enough untouched and wild land to begin with. I was just out in Colorado and Utah and I spent some time in national parks there, and it’s alarming that anyone thinks there’s too much of it, or they just see it as potnetial for more human exploitation.

What do you feel when you read those articles?

First I feel despair: what can I do, just me? It feels pointless to even react. It’s a full-time job just to react to everything. I have been writing to senators and congresspeople who are representing my interests– “Thanks for standing up to the administration”–and that makes me feel like I did a little something. My sister is in Colorado, my cousin is in Pennsylvania—I wish I was closer to people in red states.

*

I’ve been anxious lately not about the natural world but the built environment. If you look at downtown Newport, there are these structures from the 1600s that are gonna be underwater. They’ve been there such a long time—it’s such a stark thing. If you look at the sea level rise maps, the whole historic district in Newport—when you think about sea level rise along the coast, the beach, it’s not as tangible, but when you see 300 buildings that have been there for 400 years—that’s where I feel it. …

The natural environment is resilient in a way that the built environment isn’t. In the pre-settler time, hurricanes came through, and there was a certain level of impact—but now all the systems we depend on, pipes, utilities, raw sewage, buildings are facing utter destruction. My family has gone to Block Island since I was a kid, and I haven’t seen the maps that combine coastal erosion and sea level rise with additional wave action and storms. This has the power to erase our past—things that have survived for so long as permanent things in our history.

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