Learning Things

I’m going away for a week, to this, in order to develop a project that uses this as its germinal point. There’ll be more to know about it soon. I hate learning things, but this will probably be good in some important ways.

I won’t be at the Sankofa Market at Knight Memorial Library on Wednesday 7/25, but maybe you can go anyway and get your vegetables. I will be there on Wednesday, 8/1, and at the Sowing Place iteration of the Market (at the South Side Cultural Center) on Saturday, 8/4.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for something to read, this new reflection on pleasantness, the erotic, and more (of) that by Keguro Macharia, and this older interview between Ashon Crawley and Sofia Samatar on the Otherwise, are good to think with and maybe even learn from.

Advertisements

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market/Knight Memorial Library, 7/18/18

Weather: Hot, bright, breezy.

Number of people: 3 stoppers, 2 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 2

People I’ve spoken with before, back for more: 1

Dogs seen: 1

Dogs pet: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $1.00

I didn’t get permission to post any of the conversations I had today. I think they were okay conversations, though, and one of them I hope will make the idea of counseling feel normal and doable to the person I spoke with (a fairly young person) if they ever want it.

Although it was a relatively slow day for me, it seemed like it was a good day for the market in general. People were buying vegetables and—crucially—they were coming prepared to shop, making the market a part of their food plans.

Nonhuman passersby: monarch butterfly, little beetle climbing on the booth, giant black-winged beetle with orange body.

I also took a short shift today, 3-5pm, because my parents were visiting. I couldn’t find my sun hat, so my mom lent me hers. Here it is, with my face under it.

my face mom hat

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market/Knight Memorial Library, 7/11/18

Weather: Hot, bright, breezy

Number of people: 3 stoppers, 2 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 4

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.00

 

Observations:

One of my interlocutors, the first one, challenged my presumptions (or at least, the presumptions that were in my questions) a couple of times and I really appreciated it.

Slow day today, not just for me. I did notice that there’s a lot of vendors buying each other’s things and using each other’s services—getting henna designs or vegetables—and it made me think about the relationships that we’re forming that way.

A honeybee came to visit me at the booth, hovering near my face. A housefly landed on my arm and so did a tiny bug with a pattern like a cowrie shell.

 

Some conversations:

The worry about inequity is kind of central, just ’cause that’s already—anything that reinforces the issues that we already have with imbalances among people isn’t good. It would be—it is bringing us in the opposite direction. And I’m also worried about the despair that accompanies it. When everyone’s like—it’s not so good. Probably no one’s happy about seeing all this happen. If everyone is less happy and more anxious, it’s bad for society. It’s upsetting that this is reflective of respect being breached, respect between humans and each other and between humans and the environment.

Part of my imagination of the situation is the concept of like—is it a question about the future or is it that I haven’t been affected enough to feel like it’s already happening? I have the privilege to feel like it’s not yet upon us. There’s a disconnectedness, us being blinded [sic] to seeing that this is what causes not-tangible things to us. Some people have current tangible things. Other people in the future will catch up to them as well.

What makes you feel connected?

South Side Community Land Trust is a pretty good example. It reflects knowledge of some kind about the surroundings.

How could you get that feeling of connection into other aspects of your life?

I don’t know if how I can improve the connection between me and nature is [the way for me to] deal with some of the more systemic issues.

*

It’s shocking because you openly talk about it. A lot of times when you talk about it people are like, “Oh.”

…I’m afraid of being somewhere where there’s a really bad natural disaster, like Hawai’i. The weather in California is getting so hot that animals are going extinct. I saw this documentary about sea turtles—when they hatch, they think they’re following the moonlight to the ocean and they head for the city lights instead. And like 50% of them don’t make it …

But—so how would you define anxieties?

I guess I would say it’s something that you can’t stop worrying about.

I don’t want to be the victim of modern-day slavery. That’s probably the biggest one that I have. People literally lure people in. And they’re vulnerable in the aspect of dating. You don’t know who the person is, or they can seem fine [when you get together], but people change.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market/Sowing Place, 7/7/18

Weather: Bright, breezy, feels almost cool compared to the past week

Number of people: 7 stoppers, no walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Pictures taken without permission: 1

People I’ve spoken with before, back for more: 2

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island: $0.15

 

Observations:

There weren’t a lot of vendors when I got there. Two came later.

Nonhuman animals: seagulls and pigeons overhead; bumblebees, cabbage white butterflies and a black swallowtail (?! I think) in the South Side Cultural Center’s flower garden.

Normally, I don’t include much of what I say in these conversations. But I had one on this day where I clarified something that a lot of people who talk to me seem unclear about, so I’m including the part of the conversation that has both the explanation and why I think it matters.

 

Some conversations:

I’m concerned about my grandson. When I went to pick him up from daycare, they told me he’s been play-fighting too much. We’re trying to help him learn to make good choices for himself, limiting TV time and time with the phone. And part of the problem is the daycare isn’t an exciting environment. He’s bored. There’s too much reading and sitting still for him, not enough playing … I’m the grandma, so I get him once a week. He wants to fight me! He’s getting bigger, so his punches hurt now. We used to play-fight, but now he doesn’t know his own strength. I wonder if that’s part of why—and then sometimes he goes to his dad’s, and that’s an uncontrollable environment. We just have to keep communication going with both his parents, and be diligent about getting results. I know he’s bored … And he’s good at school, he just needs an outlet.

(I give her a card with “small cranberry” on it.)

Oh, I know cranberries, I grew up on the Cape. I know the cranberry bogs. We used to skate on them, because they flood them in winter, and you’re not gonna fall through, ’cause where you gonna go? We used to try to cut through the bog to other places, but we’d get in trouble for that ’cause we’d be smashing the cranberries. We’re cranberry people. My family worked for Ocean Spray.

*

Why are people not more concerned about long-term change?

Do you have an opinion about it yourself?

Because people are built to live on a day-by-day basis.

*

It’s so pressing, it’s so stressful. I don’t know a lot of the science behind it, but it’s just so apparent—I don’t know how people can still be in denial about it. Look at Puerto Rico—what do you mean, this has nothing to do with what humans are doing? I think it has to happen to these people—the water has to rise up to their doorstep. If it’s not an issue for them, it’s not an issue. Just here in Providence, it’s gonna hit the more affluent parts, but there’s only so much further they can go. And people living in the West End—it’s not like they can go to the next town over—when you come in and take their land because you can? Right now they know that they’ll be fine, because they have the means to put their house on stilts or move somewhere else. Or Seattle’s banning plastic straws, which is great, but it has a lot of issues—you have people who use plastic straws, but then you have huge industries taking up so much. It’s like saying that people are poor because they get Dunkin’ Donuts every week, like there are no systemic issues keeping people poor. And there are folks with disabilities who need to use plastic straws.

Also like—here we are talking about plastic, and a lot of people come talking to me about that, but do you know the connection between plastic and climate change?

No, I don’t.

I can tell you if you want to know, but my point is that we’re all walking around putting these things together but we don’t necessarily know how they’re tied together. I do it too. Do you want to know?

Yeah.

So there are two things: the first thing is that plastic is made out of oil, petroleum, and all the work of extracting and making it uses fossil fuels. And the second way is that when plastic sits around in the ecosystem, it puts a strain on that ecosystem that’s already strained by climate change.

[This person had to go do something else and another person came up and spoke to me (I didn’t get permission to post that); later we resumed our conversation.]

So the plastic bag ban—that’s kind of regressive too, particularly with low-income communities. I definitely don’t want to be that person that’s like, “Every idea is bad,” but—and it’s not something that gets brought up in these conversations. It’s like, “Oh, we banned plastic bags and plastic straws but a coal lobbyist is the new head of the EPA.”

How do you think the conversation could go, or should go?

I guess it would be like: how are you going to address—for every initiative that you do, what are you going to do to change the structures that created a lot of these environmental damages? And the other thing is, what are you going to do to prepare communities that will be of course impacted? … In DC they also have a bag ban, where you pay a fee but they take it and they let you choose an organization to donate to, so it’s not perfect but maybe it’s better?

Yeah, especially if it’s an organization that benefits communities that might be strained by the ban, maybe? What about in the work that you do, where could you see these things happening?

At [WORKPLACE] it’s pretty easy. Like we were applying for a grant, and one of the questions was, “What are the green components of your work?” So I did some research on food transportation, and it made me actually think about it—it turns out food transportation takes up so much energy. But when I think about my other job … I can’t really think of a way that we could incorporate being green in what we do.

*

[These two came up together.]

Person 1: I guess I feel like there’s a downward spiral. As the heat rises, more energy is used in cooling. If we’re not generating that electricity in a sustainable way– I read that they’re trying out Syrian strains of wheat because they’re supposed to be more fly-resistant. They’re from this seed vault in Aleppo. It’s because flies are a much severer problem in the Midwest. But destabilizing our food raising regions is scary and weird. For a while, sure, but when it’s the Sahara, you’re not growing anything.

Person 2: Are you gonna forgo capitalism entirely? And if not, where are you gonna make your changes and set your boundaries? As long as you’re participating in capitalism, it’s a ripple-wave effect.

map 7-7-18

Today, kids decorated the map of Rhode Island with pictures of an angry monster and a more cheerful-looking monster.

Climate Anxiety Counseling at Sankofa World Market/Knight Memorial Library: Short Session TODAY, 7/18

I’m holding a short session today because my parents are in town, but bring me your climate-change-related and other anxieties at the Sankofa World Market, 3-5pm TODAY (July 18th). Come prepared to buy some greens.

Here is some moss that the baby whose hand is in the photo, whom I watch a couple of times a week, wanted me to take a picture of. We talk about plants a lot. That’s my hand under his.

moss and hands

 

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling with the Manton Avenue Project, 6/29/18

The students and teachers of the Manton Avenue Project did me the honor and kindness of inviting me to do a guest workshop with them. As part of that, I did this model climate anxiety counseling session with one of their teachers, and some students asked her questions too.

They’re writing plays about climate change and “saving the world” this summer: you should go see them, on August 2nd and 3rd at 7pm at 95 Empire Street, and on August 4th at 6pm at the Waterfire Arts Center, both in Providence.

*

I look at weather patterns and I start feeling like, sad to the point of angry, because I feel like we’ve known [about climate change] for a long time, but there’s a large population of people that keeps insisting it’s not real, just because they want to keep driving cars and making money the way they’ve always done. I can’t believe we’re so shortsighted, with no sense of [how it will affect] the next generations. Our policies aren’t generous—it’s the policymakers. They have access to experts. They have control over how much information goes out, especially with social media. They should know better, but they’re on the side of a small population of very wealthy people who are probably not grounded in a lot of fact…

Do you talk with other people about this?

Yeah, but all we do is just voice our worries. I talk about it and then I try to get quiet. I try to think: how much space do I personally take up in the world? Even if I’m just one person, how can I pull back on fossil fuels, not live a live full of disposable things? I can write to companies and be like, “I love your product because it uses recycled material,” or whatever. When I talk to people, we’re complaining, but nothing gets done.

What would you like to see happen?

I’d love it if someone could tell me it was going to be okay, like, “Don’t worry.”  … It would be nice to be able to talk out plans and to be encouraged by actions we’re taking so that we can do more.

Can we go back for a second to what you’re feeling?

Sure. Especially about things I can’t exclusively control, I start feeling very alone. … It affects my energy to do things, my energy or willingness to try. I’m an anxious person anyway. When it gets really depressing, like a thing in the news makes me feel sad, I try to be what sometimes people call present. Petting my dog helps me do that—she doesn’t care, she doesn’t have an opinion other than, “Uh, it’s hot.” All they want to do is be with you …

I’m okay for the moment, I’m alright. I’m comfortable, I have clothes, I have food, I have a community of friends, and I realize that I can talk to them.

A student: How are you feeling right now?

I’m enjoying—it’s nice that it’s a nice day. Also the fact that it became summer. It was chilly earlier. I’m always feeling a complicated mix of feelings about that, but the smell of the air and the vitamin D make me feel good.

A student: What do you do to help with anxiety?

I try to look at the things that I feel I’ve been trying to do. After Christmas, for the New Year, I tried to get plastic bags out of my life, see how much I could use paper bags. I have cloth bags I keep in the car. I got compostable waste bags for the dog. So, what have I done [that is helpful]?

A student: What’s the connection between plastic bags and climate change?

It all gets bundled up to how our relationship to the world is. Plastic doesn’t break down when it goes in the garbage. And petroleum products, mining petroleum, those are unsustainable resources, just like the gas we put in our car, the fuel we use to heat our homes.

Me: What’s your takeaway from this conversation?

Taking it and keeping track of some sort of progress will encourage me to keep on with it or to explore different practices.

Climate Anxiety Counseling TODAY at Sankofa World Market / Knight Memorial Library

Come share your climate (and other) anxieties with me at the Sankofa World Market today, outside the Knight Memorial Library (275 Elmwood Ave, Providence), 2-6pm! You can also support the library itself (through their book sale), buy some vegetables and honey, see a cooking demonstration, and possibly hula-hoop if the hula-hoop truck comes by.

If you talk to me you could go home with this fine drawing of a BEEWOLF WASP.

ri organism card front

Climate Anxiety Counseling at Sankofa World Market/Sowing Place, 7/7/18

Tomorrow (Saturday), July 7th, I’ll be at the Sankofa World Market’s collaboration with Sowing Place, out back of the South Side Cultural Center (393 Broad St, Providence), 11am-3pm, to listen to your climate-change-related and other anxieties.

If you come there to talk to me, you can also buy local vegetables, plants and art, take a tai ch’i workshop, and listen to good live music. There’s stuff for kids to do, too. Last time, they made slime.