Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market, 8/9/17

Weather: Warm and bright

Number of people: 2 stoppers, 3 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Number of children: Approximately 1000

Dogs seen: 2

Dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.05



A good day for the food part of the market (which is important!), a slow day for me. I’ve asked if I can put my booth nearer the front to see if more people will see me and stop to talk.

I could smell the clover. And when I bought parsley, collards and limes, a wasp came to investigate them.

Wiser people than I have written about the flaws in the most common understanding of overpopulation, but of course I didn’t bookmark the places where they did it. If I can find them, I’ll come back and link.


Some conversations:

I was thinking about this because I knew I’d be able to make it here today. It’s not anxiety. It’s sadness, just a lot of sadness. I’ve been trying to focus on it more since November. It was never my thing, I was in land use and conservation—it felt like there were enough people interested in the climate thing. A lot of the dialogue is in terms of human goods, and conservation is a harder sell. Since November, I’ve had this feeling of, “I just need to be with people doing something.” I was never sure that we would get it together, but it seems so unnecessary that we would take over all the resources in the world for human benefit. I mean, there’s a conversation that needs to be had, but “Why wouldn’t we boil ourselves to death”–except for billionaires–I don’t understand your game theory here, people.

I’m not in denial but I’m in avoidance. Someone made the point that I’m not in the category of people that’s gonna be most affected. It’s going to be be incredibly harder and less avoidable for the majority of other people. And the social problems that’s gonna cause, I can’t contemplate that—I’m baffled and sad that people would make the world meaner.

… I don’t stay with the sadness very often. It took a lot of thinking for me to get to naming it as sadness. That wasn’t conscious. I became more interested in looking at the maneuvering and social capacity for change. I worked on policy and legislation, and it started to feel like banging my head against a wall. I don’t wanna be banging my head against the wall, talking to a different version of the same city councilor! How can we increase the social capacity for change in other ways? I don’t mean I accept it as inevitable—I very much hope it isn’t—but things are already happening and they are going to keep happening. Even without climate change, there’s this inequity of access to opportunity, the resources of living in a way that’s possible and pleasurable. …. I acknowledge that humans as a category are already using too many resources, so it’s a question of fairer distribution, which seems pretty easy. But what do we do when we start coming up against the resource limits?

What are the things you’re saying people should have?

A place to live that feels nice and safe. Good food. Knowing that there will be continued and sure access to good water. To be able to relax—not just be fighting through trauma, not having that take away your opportunity for something more. People don’t have to do more than survive. If we continue with the orientation of US society– “We will give you fertility drugs and food, but not birth control”–it’s not reasonable for an ever-increasing population to have everything that everyone would need. We need caps on population and if they’re not self-imposed, they need to be externally imposed. …

[What I’ve been drawn to is] “This is where we focus on the community that we have here”–organizing for a generative purpose. Speaking up, being heard, that’s important, but it doesn’t feel like a whole answer. I want something more like, “We’re gonna clean this space, we’re gonna grow food.” My big project that I come back to is: how does one respond to someone else coming in and claiming space that you don’t think should be claimed? “Don’t mine the fossil fuels, this is a preserve, this is off limits.” How do you do that? Is there a way to do it?

One way to do it is what we’ve seen with water protectors, at Standing Rock and in other places.

Yeah, but when the other side wants to obliterate them, is willing to—I mean, maybe that’s what it takes, you keep doing it and you keep showing up, maybe you just need more people. But what does that look like for people who don’t have the physical ability or the transport abilition to be there and show up?

A question that I’ve been asking is, what are we holding back and what are we willing to give up?

That assumes you’re holding back, or that you have to give something up rather than gain something. It depends who you’re speaking to and why … It’s not about people feeling the lack of things so that we can survive, but there can be a limit on where we settle, a limit on population growth. Historically these have come in the form of resource limitation—fasting and amenorrhea, for example—or resource non-use, like marine protected areas where there are stories about that being a cursed place where you don’t fish. Things built into how we live, not a penance. … But in terms of giving up—I use fossil fuels to go see my family, but cutting myself off from my family that way is not where we necessarily are. And then—my husband just got his greencard renewed, and so I’m thinking twice before doing things, or even tweeting things—we just found out that he’s eligible for citizenship, and until he has that—on one hand, it’s playing into exactly the reasons that people do it. This is the person I have my life with, and I don’t want to put that in jeopardy. Even though he’s among the least likely to be targeted and stigmatized. Is that selfishness? I wouldn’t go lie down in from of an ICE truck. Is it reasonable for this to take space in your like? I don’t feel like being me and living my life is compatible with going to pitch a tent. One of the things that troubles me about the two sides is that the money and oil powers get to have proxies. They have the police, they have the army. And the expectation on the other side is that everyone to be fully involved should bodily be there. And that’s not fair. What are we really weighing or examining?

What our responsibility is to our fellow creatures?

I want that question to go with “…that works for me also? That respects myself?” If it’s not going to, what’s the reason? That’s just this incredible choice between self-harm that’s chosen because you have the compelling goal to reach and self-harm that’s chosen just to harm, and harm that’s imposed. … This feels really important to me for someone who has to be goaded into thinking about it: what’s the best use of you? My hope is that it can be a moment of recognition, not an imposed asking. It’s a matter of people, in dialogue or because of realizations, saying, “This is not the best use of me.”


Sometimes you get overwhelmed. Every little thing is like maximized. I come home from work, and I’ll hear the water running or something, and out of nowhere I just get overwhelmed.

How does that show up? What do you do when you get overwhelmed?

I lash out, I scream. I feel hot.

What do you do after that happens?

I try to make myself change the mood.


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