Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market/Knight Memorial Library, 6/20/18

Weather: blue blue sky, veils of cloud giving way to hot direct sun

Number of people: 5 stoppers, no walkbys [? check]

Pages of notes: 4

People I’ve seen before, back for more: 1

Dogs seen: 2

Dogs pet: 2 (this is the correct ratio)

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $1.71 plus a penny from Guyana

 

Observations:

This was the first instance of this market this season. I left halfway through to go to the rally for immigrant families, and when I left the crowd was just picking up.

I invited vendors to come and mark the map.

Nonhuman animal presences: brown cowbird, chimney swift, sparrow, bumblebee, honeybee, cabbage white butterfly.

Four kids whom I recognized from last summer at this site came to the market, but didn’t stop and talk with me.

I forgot the goddamn fucking Narcan and talked with one person who could potentially have used it, and I was supposed to have made a plan with a Spanish-English interpreter by this day, and there was at least one and possibly two people who would have been able to talk with me if I’d gotten it together.

 

Some conversations:

[After marking “affordable housing” on the map] With Boston moving down here, we’re moving in the direction of all this urban sprawl, but the pay doesn’t increase here. Ten to twelve dollars an hour is not a living wage, so if rent’s gonna constantly increase—when we were looking to move, everything that we looked at was either slummy or too expensive. I don’t think it’s gonna get better. And it’s also applicable if you have a business in mind—there’s no incentive for them to keep prices down. I feel like wages and respect for people’s lives just never keep pace with housing costs and food costs. And I—I mean, I did it all myself but I have a lot of things going for me. English is my first language, I’m a white female so that helps—obviously it’s worse for people who don’t have those advantages.

*

 

The mounting racial tensions in this country. Everything is so amplified by the media, and it’s bringing out emotions people didn’t know they had, unconscious bias—you learn things about people you know, people you thought you knew. It’s also, for me—I’m in a biracial marriage and it’s really coming out how opposing our families’ views are. We’re not always prepared to deal with it. [Between the two of us] there’s a lot of topics we don’t talk about, because we get so emotional. It’s hard when someone can’t see it your way.

And also, it’s not exactly the same for each of you.

Yes. And to talk about the unfair advantage—you know, you love your husband so much, and you also know he’s had this advantage over people who are just as deserving, but if you point that out you’re diminishing his accomplishments. Or things that they consider massive trials are just a walk in the park for some people … There are these questions in relationships that weren’t there before. It’s exhausting even though it’s important.

*

 

[This person helped me carry the booth to my car when I had to leave.]

I’m definitely worried about climate change and sort of what we will do as the water rises and people have to leave their homes. All the cities that I love are on the coast. In Miami, they have to pump seawater out of the streets. And yet there’s a huge development boom there. It’s unsustainable. But how much time do we have to relocate people and where do they go, especially people with less means—are we gonna have this huge refugee crisis?

… In Houston they had these floodplain maps and they knew they weren’t developing responsibly. They knew all the possible bad things that could happen. And the houses that got hit the worst there were owned by low-income people, who were tricked—I mean, the American Dream is buying a home, for some people this was maybe their first home, or they were the first ones in their family to own a home, it was exciting, and they were exploited.

I’m trying to learn more. I read about this in a couple of news articles—it’s different in Miami and in Houston and I want to learn more about that difference, focus on specific communities, learn more about community-specific issues and policy proposals by people who know more than I do. We need to have big conversations about tribalism, and how the way something is phrased to you tells you what you’re supposed to think, so people [repeat the things that their group says and] don’t learn that much about the nuances of specific issues … But I’m not going to talk to a climate denier and be like, “Let’s see what they have to say.”

map 6-20-18

On the map of worries, people wrote:

drought and food shortage (a seed from me)

Lincoln Woods

Affordable housing

South Beach

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Climate Anxiety Counseling, Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/15/18

Weather: Gray and cool

Number of people: 8 stoppers, 5 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 8

People who got the Peanuts reference: 1

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Pictures taken without permission: 2

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

Dogs seen: 1

Dogs pet: 0

Naloxone distributed: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice league of RI: $0.90

 

Observations:

Last day of the season in this location! I put a sign on the booth to that effect.

No food trucks upon arrival. The first one arrived at 11:13 and parked on the east side of the park entrance, followed closely by the second which parked on the west side. I was facing east.

A security guy walked through at 11:37.

A leafhopper of some sort visited the page I was writing on, and a teen starling ran by very close to me.

Semi-relatedly, I like seeing the teen human skateboarders sail around like swallows.

 

Some conversations:

 

Past experiences. The future. I deal with it every single day.

Is it the same anxiety or are they different things?

Two different things. Stuff in the past is what gave me anxiety about what I’m gonna do and how I’m gonna get there. I wanna go to school to be a doctor, a pediatrician. So I’m gonna go to CNA classes for 6-8 months, then after I become a CNA I’m gonna work with people a little bit and then I’m gonna go to nursing school, and then I’m gonna go to school to become a doctor. I’m anxious about finances—I don’t have much. It consumes my life. I got problem on top of problem. I have really bad depression too. Everything piles on top of each other…

Do you have a way to see a real counselor right now?

I go to Day 1 counseling two days a week. She’s amazing. I don’t have family, so I’m kinda dealing on my own. So many people are like, “Oh, well, you control your destiny,” and that’s bullshit. I’ve had so many suicide attempts. Depression kills people. That’s where I’m at right now, a couple days ago. But I was like, “Fuck you to the people who are kicking me when I’m already down.”

… [With my counselor] I’m mostly figuring out trauma in the past and how to face it head on and not ignore it. It kind of comes on sudden and random, so I want to work on that part first. We talk about how there’s different parts of yourself, like the Firefighter—I call him Bob, Bob the Firefighter, he’s the one who wants me to use drugs, drink alcohol, hurt myself. So I try to get in touch with my emotions, to say, “I see you, I know you wanna do that.” I’ve had a lot of therapists, but some of them had a hard time understanding and they weren’t so good at teaching. It took a little over a year to lead myself into trusting her. She’s like, common-sense smart. She has a good way of describing things.

… CCRI has a lot of programs [for CNA training] but I’m afraid to do presentations. I’m scared of talking in front of a load of people. I get—not really mood swings, but I go through phases during the day, a few hours anxious, a few hours sad or angry, and then in the middle of the night—it’s just constant battering, fighting with myself. Helping people gives me a little bit of a purpose and a reason to stay, but sometimes I just want it all to go away. When you start feeling disconnected—My boyfriend, because of my past, he can’t touch me, and I’m just like, how come I can’t work, how come I can’t do anything. That word “anxiety” is such an understatement.

 

*

[These two came up together and may have been family.]

Person 1: I’m worried that Trump is gonna end the world because of his narcissism and delusions of grandeur.

Person 2: Lies.

Person 1: Lies and admiration for dictatorial regimes. His relationship with Russia and North Korea is absolutely disturbing. Starting fights with Canada is insane. Taking his anger out on children.

What do you see as the potential outcome of all of this?

Do you work for the government?

No.

I’m concerned that he’s been assigned by foreign heads of state to break the union. They’re gonna feed into his delusions of grandeur.

What would their goal be in that case?

To remove us from the playing field. Divide and conquer, so they can run the world. Take our land, take our money, take our kids. Take Alaska–

Person 2: They can have Alaska.

Person 1: No.

So the nightmare for you is this takeover?

No, the nightmare is atomic apocalypse. Someone sparks a nuke and everyone else freaks out and sparks theirs.

Person 2: His narcissism is so overwhelming that it allows other people to control him through flattery.

Person 1: Just a big chicken game, so that under threat of apocalypse we’ll be forced to submit to the settlement of the US. Republicans used to understand [what???] but no more.

How do you feel, when you think about these things?

I feel inspired and I get to know people around me, in my community. It’s the only good choice—really ever, but now epecially.

Do you talk with them about this stuff?

I’m usually more toward listening. I think there’s an appropriate time to vent.

*

 

The lack of concern. Everyone’s going about their days like they don’t feel a difference. And then the [federal] administration is saying it doesn’t exist. When someone with that kind of power does that, how can anyone else make any changes?

… If you watch Planet Earth, you see how it’s so beautiful and how it has a system, and we just come in and mess it up.

How do you feel when you think about it?

Kind of hopeless. Helpless. You can only do your small part to try and reduce your ecological footprint.

A lot of people say that, and I mean, absolutely, do those things, but people don’t always think in terms of doing things together.

I almost interned with this water project, they have an office right next to Classical. It’s like a grassroots organization, they teach people. You’re right, it’s not just individual, it’s collective—but you do feel very alone.

[I mention the No LNG in PVD campaign.]

What do you think about that wind farm?

I mostly think it’s a good thing. It’s not perfect—they still have to build those turbines out of metal that they have to dig out of the ground, they still have an impact, but we really need them.

I worked for a person in the governor’s office and I saw people protesting about that installation in South Providence. And yeah, absolutely, but I also think we need resources to make the transition.

[We talked a little bit about the need to combine new renewable sources with getting rid of fossil fuel sources, but I didn’t write that part of the conversation down.]

*

 

 

My only thing, and I think I learned this from you, is just to be as aggressively local as possible. Everything else feels so nebulous. For a while that was my thing with literary communities. The day of the gun rally, the kids and I just stood on the boulevard with our signs. … I have these neighbors in my sights, I want to change them. They’re Catholic, and there’s so much social justice in that! [They] just forgot because [they] got rich.

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/14/18

Weather: Warm and bright, breezy.

Number of people: 8 stoppers, 6 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 10

People who got the Peanuts reference: 4

People I’ve seen before, back for more: 4

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.45

 

Observations:

No food trucks upon arrival; set up facing east. Super caffeinated. Wind is more intense when I’m sitting on this side. Security-looking guy in the park around 11:40.

Nonhuman animal presences: pigeons and sparrows, a robin, a grackle, starlings, a wasp. A few plane tree seeds landed on my notebook.

Sometimes while I’m sitting at the booth I see people passing by who are just so satisfying to look at.

The wind blew my handtruck over twice today and blew the “IN” sign right off. Someone in the park handed it back to me.

 

Some conversations:

 

[After I removed an inchworm from his shirt and put it on the ground]

I don’t like to kill nothing. I let ’em go. I don’t want ’em on me, but I try not to kill ’em, even the grass. We need them. Certain things kills other things—they all kill each other.

*

 

Well! That Washington Post article about Antarctica.

What did it say?

It’s melting three times faster than expected.

What are the things about that that make you anxious?

Flooding. Coastal areas are gonna be in trouble. I’m okay, I’m 400 feet up.

Obviously you’re worried about it even though you’re gonna be okay.

Well, there are gonna be issues because people are not gonna be ready, and they’re not gonna know what to do. Look it up.

*

 

If we’re on this course, things aren’t gonna be good. I feel like our only hope is if technology catches up with it. Like I saw this thing in the ocean that just collects plastic, it just scoops it up.

Why do you think technology is the only hope?

It seems like it’s human nature to not try to solve a problem until it already happened .. They didn’t put up the hurricane barrier until after the hurricane of ’38. And those are smaller scale. Some people don’t believe in it. You’d have to get every nation on board, and preventing it is gonna be hard because of obstacles—by the time everybody gets on board it’ll be too late. People don’t trust science the way they should. So you get someone saying, “I don’t really believe in that,” and it’s like, what data or what facts—you can’t not believe it just because you don’t want to believe it.

It sounds like you’re having some of these conversations. Who are you mainly having them with?

My parents. They’re skeptical of it, they’re like, “They just want you to buy green lightbulbs,” like it’s part of some huge agenda. They’re starting to move now. The overwhelming scientific consensus, if that’s actually facts, which I believe it is—People who are skeptical don’t passionately believe it doesn’t exist, they’re just apathetic. Probably they’re Republicans, so their main concern is the economy …

 

How do you feel about these conversations?

It doesn’t anger me or anything. These are people I know, it’s not like they’re policymakers. I scoff a little bit. If you’re trying to look into it with an open mind you’d understand that that’s how it is. Some people are saying we’re already doomed.

Do you think that?

No. I think I have a sense of being like a teenager, where I’m invincible. It’s hard to imagine, so it’s not gonna happen, at least in my lifetime. Of course I believe in it and think steps should be taken, but I haven’t seen anything that shows me I should be concerned with my well-being. I read articles about ice melting, melting faster than we thought, and they worry me, but I feel like I’m never gonna understand it fully—the dangerous levels of ice that are in the ocean. I never click, I just scroll past the headline on my phone.

…I spend more time arguing about politics. I don’t consider myself a political person, but I’m against the sitting president, and I think that’s taken the place of climate change [in my consciousness]. When he comes up in the news, some issue or gaffe, or if I hear someone champion the president, I’m like, “Whoa, let’s pump the brakes.” But no one in my daily life is coming up to me and saying, “Climate change isn’t real.”

*

 

 

I’m going through a lot right now with school and work. It’s stressful because I’m halfway through it. I just took my third test, there are four in all. The problem with work is it’s a dead-end job and I don’t want to be there a long time. I have a fear of failure. I want to get into the military, but getting in is not easy. There’s the first test, the ASVAB, and if you don’t pass it you’re not in. It’s got math on it, science—I took it once and I’ve been practicing online, improving it. It’s rough … I’ve tried combat breathing, exercise, vaping, weed, walking—there’s so many things I’ve tried—but the thought just won’t escape me. I just feel like an utter failure. You take it once, then if you don’t pass you wait a month. The third time you have to wait six months. That’s a big time barrier. Things in my life are constantly shifting. Four months ago I had no job, I was sleeping on the couch. If I pass it, I’ll be the happiest person in the world, because I did it. I have issues with social anxiety and self-esteem. There are times when I do believe in myself.

Who else believes in you, that maybe could support you?

My parents, but they live so far away. I talk to them almost every day. They encourage me to follow anything I want–“Oh, you wanna do this? Go for it.” They don’t pass on so much wisdom about it. I was so happy to find a thing I wanna do, a thing I wanna be, because of my anxiety, my confidence, my self-esteem, but there’s just so many unfortunate obstacles. I don’t wanna give up, but it depresses me. I see myself as a good soldier. I just need a chance to prove myself …

Just wearing that uniform of something so honorable and noble. They make you fearless, hard as a rock. I always wanted to be like that because everything in my life is so discouraging. Everything else, it doesn’t seem necessary. Work, relationships, friends—I’ve always been moving from place to place, saying goodbye a lot to friends, girls I’ve cared about. I don’t want to make friends anymore because I’m always going to say goodbye eventually. I don’t want a break. Maybe when I pass this test, then I’ll be like, sit down on the porch, “I did it.”

map 6-14-18

I seeded the map of vulnerable places in RI with “Erosion + flooding” along the south coast.

Someone added, “WATCH HILL WESTERLY PROTECT PIPING PLOVERS.”

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/13/18

Weather: Cool, gray, breezy, sprinkling rain; later sunnier and windier, then back to sprinkling

Number of people: 8 stoppers, 2 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 4

People who got the Peanuts reference: 1

Pictures taken without permission: 1

People I’ve spoken with before, back for more: 3

Dogs seen: 2

Dogs pet: 0

Money raised for the Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.15

 

Observations:

Today, artist Becci Davis ran a beauty shop in the park as well.

I made some janky repairs to the booth—replaced the “IN” sign for “THE DOCTOR IS IN”, repaired the big lower sign piece with duct tape, replaced a broken dowel on the small upper sign piece.

Over the years, I’ve noticed a slight rise in people saying, “I have anxiety,” instead of, “I’m anxious about…” (The number of people who mentally edit out “climate” from the sign and just see “anxiety counseling” is about the same.)

I noticed the horse cop in the park behind me at 12:24, but I don’t know when he got there. An older Black lady asked the cop how old the horse was. A park ranger drove by at 12:50.

Someone asked me, “What is anxiety?” on this day, and I should have asked, “Do you have anything you want to talk with someone about?” On the other hand, “I’m not a real doctor, I just listen” is a pretty good short version. Also, I need to remember that while the form of the question matters, there is no magic unlocking question.

 

Some conversations:

 

I just got a job at Wal-Mart. My mom, when I called her to tell her, she was so happy for me, I never heard her so happy. … I gotta not drink vodka. Sometimes I drink vodka to deal with the anxiety and to forget things that happened to me. But then I wake up with a headache, my stomach hurts, I’m vomiting, my stools…

What are you going to do if you want to forget and you can’t drink vodka?

I can text or call my friends. But they’re busy, they have things to do. I can drink a beer. Beer doesn’t have as bad of an effect on me … I want to save some of my money, not for drugs and alcohol but for like, soap and stuff. And I want to give. If I see someone in need, I want to give them money for food, or buy them food. If I had sacks of money under my car, I’d wanna just stop by a person with a sign and give them $900–$500–let’s say $900, and I would say, “Here you go, have a good day, a blessed day.” My friends and I, we give to each other and we give to other people. It makes me happy, too. It feels good to give.

Is it okay to post our conversation online? 

Yes, absolutely. If I had a website I’d put that up there.

 

*

 

[This person has spoken to me before.]

The plastic cleanup continues! You know what I’m thinking about today? Those fluorescent nip bottles. They got like a prismatic thing on them. And here comes a pod of Wright’s porpoises, the babies are gonna eat that and it’s gonna kill them. I took a fishing pole and I threw one in among the lily pads—everything that was alive in that pond came to see what it was about, because of the color.

But I was down in the Bay at low tide and I saw species I haven’t seen in years. Bay scallops! [He makes the size of them with his hands: about as big as an Oreo.]

*

 

 

What anxieties do people have about climate change?

There’s a really wide range. Some people talk about flooding, sea level rise, stuff like that, because we have so much coastline here. Some people are worried about the way it’s going to affect the way we get our food, because of the way changes in the weather are going to affect food production. Stuff like that.

What’s your main anxiety?

Honestly? Ecosystem collapse. That so many things will die that the ones that are left won’t be able to keep going.

That’s something to be anxious about. What should we be doing?

Well—there’s a lot of things to do.

What’s the easiest thing I could do?

Okay, so, none of it is all that easy, but to know what’s going to be easiest for you I have to ask you a couple of questions. Is this something that’s been on your mind a lot?

No, not really. Ten years ago, when Al Gore was making a big deal about it…

Is there something you would like to set right?

Yes. I’d like to see equity across all genders and races.

 

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/12/18

Weather: Warm, bright, stiff breeze

Number of people: 7 stoppers, 3 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 3

Pictures taken with permission: 2

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

Dogs seen: 3

Dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $2.03

 

Observations:

I didn’t get permission to post any conversations today, which is rare. Some things that happened: I ended up in a surprise couples counseling session, to which I was completely inadequate, and two very sweet excited women on their way to the movies stopped and took cards. “There should be more of you,” one of them said. “Are you the only one?”

Nonhuman animals: pigeons, one limping, one pinto, two having sex; sparrows, one juvenile that landed very close to me. Ladybug on park fence.

Facing east this day. No food trucks upon my arrival; one came at 11:30.

Security guy (not a park ranger) wandering about the park 11:10-ish.

There are far fewer altercations this season—much less yelling and no physical fights that I’ve seen at all. I don’t know if that’s partly the time of day (earlier, 11-2 instead of 3-6) as well as the increased policing.

Climate Anxiety Counseling at the Sankofa World Market! Rally to End Family Separation!

I’m holding climate anxiety counseling sessions at the Sankofa World Market outside Knight Memorial Library (275 Elmwood Ave, Providence) starting tomorrow (Wednesday, 6/20), and Wednesdays thereafter with a couple of exceptions, 2-6pm.

Tomorrow is the market kickoff, and there will be extra music, activities for kids, and more, as well as vegetables and crafts from local vendors. Cash, SNAP/EBT, WIC, and credit/debit cards are all spendable at the market (it’s free to be there, this is just if you want to buy food or objects), and SNAP users receive a dollar-for-dollar bonus for fruits and vegetables–a fantastic deal!

Before you come and see me at the market, I encourage you to rally at the Rhode Island Statehouse to call for the end of ICE’s cruel, punitive, racist and traumatizing practice of family separation. If you’ve been reading this particular news with horror, this is a chance to speak up. Bring a child’s toy for visual impact. (Other states have issued state orders blocking the use of any state funds for this practice, and/or refused to send their National Guard troops to the border. Rhode Island should do this too.)

Then come to the market and celebrate Providence’s lively and strong community, and support the people of all origins who make it so.

 

 

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/9/18, PVDFest

Weather: Hot and bright, then hazy

Number of people: 14 stoppers, 4 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7

People who got the Peanuts reference: 3

Pictures taken with permission: 2

Dogs seen: 28

Dogs pet: 1 (this is obviously a bad ratio)

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $7.05

 

Observations:

This booth session took place during PVDFest, and most of the events in the park were events for kids. This meant that the music that made it hard to hear people talking with me was also incredibly irritating to adult ears. There was a ton of foot traffic, including many apparent out-of-towners, and I think the festival situation with many attractions meant that conversations were shorter than they otherwise might have been.

I saw a cop walk by at 1:05 but I’m sure there were many more around, even more than usual.

A bunch of people were out collecting signatures for candidates, and one of them said to me, “I’m feeling hopeful. Keep up the good work.”

A sweat bee and a tiny ant both visited my hand.

 

Some conversations:

India Point Park—at a corner of the park, we’re losing that to the water, and it doesn’t seem like anyone’s doing anything. I’ve been watching it over 24 months getting worse and worse. I would be surprised if [the city] doesn’t know about it, because it’s very obvious. Two-three years ago, I saw a pile of papers—books, looseleafs—fell in front of the [bus] tunnel and nobody cleaned it up. It took two-three months for the weather to work it out. Nobody does anything about that. All these events make me believe that the city needs to have better leadership, because it doesn’t cost a lot of money to do something about an obvious problem. But I’m a guilty person—I have not tried to do anything about that.

What would you do, if you did do something?

Maybe I would call the Parks Department, or the City Manager. But it’s crazy for them to need me to contact them. Also, because I was here as a new person, so I didn’t have that attitude I’ve been here for four-five years, and my attitude in the first years was I was an outsider, it’s not my problem. But now that I am no longer a tourist—if I were still a tourist, I wouldn’t even have stopped to talk to you.

*

I live down in Narragansett, and I’ve been trying to figure out some good groups that are more local. There’s the Surfriders, but I don’t surf. There’s also the Unitarian [Universalist] church in Peacedale—I did a march down with them in Wakefield against the Dakota Access Pipeline. I’d like to see a ban on plastic bags in Narragansett. There’s a lot of other stuff going on. I know—excuses, excuses.

*

Water. Water purity and cleanliness … I’m looking at offshore drilling, and also local swamp infrastructure. I’m from New Jersey, so there’s a lot of inland development—it’s not what some people are focusing on.

What do you feel when you think about these things?

Equal parts frustration and despair. Everyone recognizes it as a problem, but I don’t think there’s enough of a will. It doesn’t affect a large enough part of the community, and the people it does affect are relatively poor, people of color, on the outskirts. You get lip service from whoever’s running for Congress, but when you’re not in power, what are the things you can do? I’m not in a place where I even know who to talk to.

 

*

[These two came up together.]

Person 1: I’m very concerned about climate change and I just love this. As Darth Vader I live in space, but as [THEIR CIVILIAN IDENTITY] I’m very concerned. When people ask me how Providence is, I say, “It’s falling into the ocean.”

Why do you say that? I mean, why is that the thing you say? Or what reaction are you hoping for?

Well, people ask you something, and then you disrupt their pattern of consciousness.

What about your consciousness? Of the falling into the ocean thing?

My everyday experience is influenced by that understanding.

Person 2: I have a lot of fear about what the future’s going to bring. A fear of what politicians are gonna do. A lot of deforestation.

Person 1: They’re saying the Syrian Civil War was due to instability caused by crop failures. So, also, resource scarcity in areas that don’t have them.

Does that feel close to you, though, or far from you?

Person 2: It fees more far. Because it’s physically remote, not immediately visible.

Person 1: But sometimes it is, and people ignore it. Like after [Superstorm] Sandy, in New York, everybody was like, “We need to do this and that,” but the city didn’t change anything that it was doing.

Person 2: I don’t think as much about stuff that’s further away. But like, Miami Beach is flooding, Cape Cod’s gonna be underwater. It’s not on my brain for a long period of time but I suppose it’s in the back of my mind.

*

I’m one of these Luddites who don’t believe in global warming. I think the planet’s been around for millions of years and we have such a tiny snapshot of what’s what.

*

Natural disasters coming all at once. I don’t have anxiety over it because I can’t control it and I don’t worry about things I can’t control … I’m an importer, I import from China. I used to be only made in the USA but you can’t do that anymore. I have to make a living.

*

Person 1: Right now? The impact of returns on online shipping, the financial and the climate impact. It’s poignant for me because I’m finishing my basement, I live in Chattanooga, and I bought an air conditioner online, and it was the wrong size. And they’re so heavy, you can’t even ship them UPS. I almost used it, even though it was the wrong size. I was like, “Why would we keep it,” but it weighed on me so heavy.

Person 2: There’s context that can completely negate what you think you’re doing. And you can do your research, but it’s a lot of time.

Person 1: If you’re gonna stay in the system, you have to make these decisions.

*

 

 

I don’t know if it’s anxiety, but concerns. What are our children’s children going to be dealing with—what’s gonna happen? And the loss of beauty.

Do you picture it?

This is just worst-case thinking. I don’t picture anything. I watch movies and that makes me go, “Oh my God.” I do a ton of research on current events as it pertains to clean energy—I own a solar company, so I’m doing everything that I can to change it and encourage other people to do the same thing. There are a lot of people who somewhat know it but they’re not convicted enough to take action.

map 6-9-18

On the map of worries/places in Rhode Island they’d like to protect, people have written:

STOP THE FRACKIN’ POWER PLANT!

Lanking [Lincoln] Woods

Stop violence and the shooting of people

Erosion at India Point Park

Johnston Landfill is getting too big

Jenks Point

BEACH

Blackstone Valley Bike Path

SAVE FOREST FROM SOLAR PANELS

Save the climate + beaches: allow windmills along the windy coast

[Next to Block Island] Underwater in 20 years

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/8/18

Weather: Warm, bright, sometimes breezy, sometimes heavy.

Number of people: 7 stoppers, 1 walkby.

Number of hecklers: 0!

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

Dogs seen: 8

Dogs pet: 0

Cats seen: 2, in a stroller

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $10.25!

 

Observations:

I forgot my notebook, but people I know who were working in the park shared some paper with me.

A cop car drove through at 11:44, and one that might have been an unmarked one was parked by the old Greyhound stop.

Seeded the map with “asthma in South PVD.”

I was a bit late starting because I stopped to chat with two friends. The first food truck arrived at 11:30, soon after I did. After some deliberation, at noon I switched sides, west-facing to east-facing.

Things I couldn’t help with today included the location of the barbecue truck and the high enzymes in someone’s liver.

I swear that the second conversation down is not secretly a dialogue with myself.

 

Some conversations:

 

 

 

I’m generally a person who has anxiety about things outside of my control. I keep it at bay through relaxation techniques: stepping back from events, looking through a lens other than time. Am I anxious about climate, yes. Is it as intense as my other anxieties, no, ’cause it’s so gradual. It’s not like there are that many days where the heat is so intense. It’s so hard to feel something out of your own personal experience. It’s the same reason that the world has no empathy for each other.

… I have this unrealistic and yet very overwhelming expectation to do everything right all the time—a certain unrealistic way of organizing one’s life. [It comes from] a very superficial set of learned rules from when I was a child. It takes active unlearning in how I’ve got to operate. In my later life, the ways in which I’m trying to carve new ways and understandings of doing things—it has some opposition with some of the other ways. … I’m good at thinking, but that plays into my anxiety. How much thinking do we spend on things that don’t require thinking?

*

Definitely climate change is at the top. Plastic particularly. I’ve been feeling guilty this week concerning plastics. I’m really busy right now, so I eat on the run, and I was cleaning out my car and there were five-six different coffee cups all with straws. It’s not right, and I need to do something about that.

I hear you on the plastic but I want to talk about the busyness for a second, can we?

Sure. I overcommitted myself. I have a hard time saying no. I can get things done and I’m pretty good with the stress of managing things, but different things overlap and I’m pulled in all different directions. I didn’t acknowledge it until I became an adult. I said yes to one thing, and then something happened that I couldn’t say no to. So that was two big things, then I just kept going, “Oh, you need this, and this.” And these are all things that I love to do! I want to do them! I have a stake in it. It was clear in the beginning what the parts were, but the rest of it came from being a perfectionist and adding more things on, [and] then I have an idea so I want to follow that through. But I cannot follow all of these. I need to collect them and do them at a later date. But I got to the point with these where it was too late for that.

What’s something you think you might take with you from everything you’ve just been telling me?

To try to do more planning ahead. To be more organized earlier on rather than doing crisis management. Taking a minute to sort things out, doing what’s right in front of me.

*

I work by the river, right where they put in the new footbridge, and after Waterfire there are these weeds that catch everything. You know that big silver sculpture, and the steps where the ducks are? … There’s graffiti down there, too, it says, “Where will we go when the water rises?” and sometimes it’s covered a bit.

*

I worry about [the cats], I worry about the noise—just constant worry. I had a cat that was sick and died two years ago, and that may be why I worry a lot with them. If they don’t finish their food I get shaky and nervous, I get irritable. They’re working on our building, and there’s all this noise, and men going up and down. I was worried about how they’d react to it, but they seem pretty good.

*

 

 

I’m an environmental educator, and something that comes up a lot for me is hearing in people the resistance to learning anything about climate change, or resistance to doing anything. I just moved up from the South. People in the Northeast are more informed.

What age of people do you work with?

People my age to their 60s. They tend to be pretty informed. And then with students, 15-18. It’s hard to identify what everyone is resistant to. People have twenty different things they don’t want to know, or care, or spend time learning about. It’s easy for me to see that I’m not alone, so I’m trying to get them to join in any movement—even recycling—then they wouldn’t be alone. If they spent a portion of every day of their lives thinking about climate change, maybe we could do something about it.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/6/18

Weather: Cool and gray, on the chilly side

Number of people: 9 stoppers, 1 walkby

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 5

People who got the Peanuts reference: 3

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Dogs seen: 2

Dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $1.54

 

Observations:

One food truck was there when I got there; another one showed up at noon, both on the west side of the park entrance, where I was too. I’ve also noticed that when people talk with me while waiting for their food, they disappear as soon as their food is ready, which makes sense if they’re hungry/on a timed lunch break.

Two cops biked through the bus station, and then through the park, starting at 12:07. There was also a cop car parked at the old Greyhound stop—I noticed it at 12:20 but it might have been there longer.

I seeded the map with “clean water.”

In one of these conversations, the two interlocutors—who came up together and are friends—were talking to each other as much as or more than to me, and I wish I’d asked them if they’d talked about these things together before.

People often come up with some version of “Don’t sweat things you can’t control” (as one of my interlocutors) and I would like to figure out an inviting, non-condescending way to point out that we are often wrong about what we can control and what we can’t (particularly when we act together).

 

Some conversations:

 

 

 

[These two came up together, and are clearly friends.]

Person 1: Your sign reminded me that it astounds me that people are still having children when we’re not certain that there’s even going to be a world for them.

Person 2: I think about that most days. Whether to have kids—the climate and concerns about what will be here, and also do I have the money, what does my job allow me to do.

Person 1: Or will North Korea nuke us before then.

Person 2: I also was thinking about the polar bears this morning. You see those individual images, but if you think about the scale … There’s just this confusion and this concern—I don’t know how to get past the conversation of, “It’s terrible and we should do something.”

Person 1: No matter how much I can do to do my part, if everyone else doesn’t do it it doesn’t do anything … You hit this place of uncomfortable complacency, and it doesn’t feel good.

Person 2: In 9th grade we had to each cover some animal that is endangered, and I [chose the Florida panther and I] learned so much about how we’re fracturing natural habitat. I love cities, I love skylines and lights and people, but … And then there’s this endless emphasis on recycling …

Person 1: And even with recycling—so I was with this group in college, we were trying to educate people, we put all these bins all over campus. And we ended up running into so many society-structured roadblocks. The facilities people still put everything into one bag, and the waste system was allegedly Mafia-run—any time you would call any of the separate landfills it would always go to the same voicemail. We worked so hard on those.

Person 2: I feel like recycling is a big smokescreen. [People are] getting mad at maintenance workers instead of big polluters. We’re all very vulnerable to people who are interested in their own benefit.

*

Old age is better than I could have imagined. I have very little anxiety because I’ve learned: don’t sweat things you can’t control.

map 6-6-18

“Clean water” comes from me, because people don’t usually mark the map if their mark would be the first one.

The person who marked “Rocky Point” marked it as a place they love, although they had no anxieties.

The person who marked “Providence” said as they did so, “It’s gonna be underwater, right?”

Someone wrote “Warren” and someone else wrote “the Bay” with a little heart.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/5/18

Weather: Warm, breezy, delightful, bright with gathering clouds

Number of people: 4 stoppers, 1 walkby

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 10

People who got the Peanuts reference: 1

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Pictures taken without permission: 1

Conversations between previous strangers: 2

People I’ve seen before, back for more: 1

Dogs seen: 2

Dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island: $0.10

 

Observations:

Nonhuman animals: many a pigeon, sparrows, a small flying ant (?) that landed on my hand.

Faced west. No food trucks upon arrival; also no Del’s. First food truck arrived at 11:20. I left 45 minutes early today because of the rain.

A police car went by around 11:15. I try to note police presence (city/state police and other roles like park rangers and parking officials) but I’m also aware that it’s different for me because my safety doesn’t depend on noting them, and I do miss some.

To people’s recycling obsession from previous years I’ve noticed an addition of a plastics obsession in general, which is probably material for its own post?

 

Some conversations:

 

 

[This is the person I handled a conversation with badly on this day. I still want to write about our two conversations at greater length; in the meantime, here are excerpts from the second one. For new readers, the italics are me.]

 

I want to apologize.

Me too, I was a real jerk last time.

I was thinking about our conversation, and I wanted to ask you: what do you do with the knowledge you have, how do you live with it?

If I didn’t have some sort of spiritual life, I don’t know what I’d do. I’d probably be a serious environmentalist—but I don’t think collecting plastic bottles is gonna help much … A lot of stuff that’s going on is not necessary, [and] it can become a little bit hopeless. I have outlets for my epistemology but I mean—the report yesterday by the Washington Post, or maybe the New York Times, they actually want to change the scaling for hurricanes. It goes up to 5 and they want to add a Category 6, because they’re expecting what they’re calling superstorms. They’ve known this for ten years, but you’re starting to see it drip into the mainstream news. The government’s preparing people for this with Hollywood—movies like San Andreas–[the] New Madrid [Seismic Zone] is gonna go. It would be illogical to think that Yellowstone is immune, and if that goes, we’re all in deep shit. The government is worried.

So you mentioned Hollywood as a way of preparing people. How do those stories usually go?

They sort of rally you around certain heroes. And then you’re happy when those people survive, never mind the fact that 250,000 people died. Like, don’t you see all those dead people?

There were two asteroid impacts last week, and this is coming from something that is disturbing the asteroid belt. We’re in a massive ecosystem—the earth’s weather is not caused by the earth. That’s something the weather report—they don’t get into that. This is solar weather. So what do you do with all that? I don’t know. You make your personal peace.

You also share this information, though. Why do you do that?

I do it for spiritual reasons. Really for me it’s about the individual. The individual should know and be able to make their spiritual peace with it. … I have faith. I don’t think the world’s gonna end. But … you ask some people now, they’ll say, “The world ended. My house got swept away by lava.” Some people are forced to do that. It can show [you] how transitory and fleeting life can be. Don’t hold onto the basket too tight.

… Yeah, I’m a little concerned. I’ve had dreams of my town completely underwater. I had to swim for a while to get to it.

*

Plastic. Tons and tons of plastic. Car tires dissolve faster than plastic. I’m a professional diver, I go out, I see bottles half-full of water floating on the surface. Plastic so thick in the river it’s rolling, the surface is rolling. I mostly dive off the West Shore, also out by Prudence Island—it’s disgusting. It’s gotta stop. … But the good thing is, I’ve seen species rejuvenating that I haven’t seen for 20, 30 years. Starfish are coming back. Baby lobsters. But then when the water’s cleaner, the invasive species come in. By 2052 there’s gonna be more plastic in the ocean than fish.  … The bottles get flattened in the streets and go through the storm drains. There’s nothing down there to catch them, and if there was, within a week there’d be at least a ton. They find their way into the ocean and into the mud. I’ve been a commercial fisherman since 1984 and already, as far as Georges Bank and Hudson Canyon, you’d see these gallon milk jugs, and we wouldn’t tow ’em out. They need to go back to wax cartons. You try to dig quahogs and you get a tampon applicator. … If I was to take it to the Bay Commission they don’t wanna hear it—too much money involved.

*

[Person 1 was talking with me for a while before Person 2 came up.]

Person 1: You can’t do much. In terms of taking care—you got all these plastics. When you go to Dunkin’ Donuts for an iced coffee, around the cup they give you another styrofoam cup. And then you get this beautiful long straw that ends up in the ocean. I try to help out in any way I can. I take caution, but not too much—I wish I could be more cautious when it comes to buying stuff. Companies and businesses are not concerned. With those plastic water bottles, they’re like, “Oh, don’t reuse it.”

… I call myself “boots on the ground.” I see what the person behind the desk talks about and makes the changes, but just because it’s on paper doesn’t mean it takes place on the ground. They talk to make people feel good, but action speaks a lot louder than words. … Okay, maybe there’s a fee associated with [littering], but is there the manpower to take care of all these laws? …

We could have cows. They take care of the grass, then there is no manpower. How many cows can you put in a park like this?

… What’s needed is for each individual person to take action. These people that you’re reaching, get them all together—you have your family, you have your kids, you have your friends. …

[Person 2 came up at this point.]

What are you anxious about today?

My job. I have to give free phones to people, and to make my numbers I have to work nonstop. … It’s harder when people aren’t really interested or eligible. They tell us to get these numbers, but I have an issue with talking to people—it gets to me, I need to take a breather. I got dropped off today with ten phones. … As a salesman, I don’t take no for an answer, but I don’t want to keep prodding them to do it—it just makes you look bad. I get paid $7.00 an hour, I’m supposed to sell ten phones. To keep my base pay I have to sell six phones a day. People don’t adhere to me—they’re like, “It’s just a salesperson.” … It’s hard to hit those numbers and be held accountable. The convincing part is terribly difficult. I’m losing my hair—I was taking a shower and big clumps fell out.

[Person 1 made a couple of suggestions about sites to try selling, and timing, based on their observations. After Person 2 left…]

 

Person 1: We’re all humans and we depend on each other and that’s how it should be. If you can lend a hand to someone without jeopardizing your well-being, then why not?

*

climate change diagram

I drew this picture to show someone the way that greenhouse gases work, but upon reflection I’m wondering if their repeated “Why is that?” was less about how it works and more about why people allow other people–relatively few people–to keep doing it.

map 6-5-18

On the map, one of the people who talked with me about plastic drew one of Rhode Island’s watersheds and the places that plastic collects within it.