Climate Anxiety Counseling at the Sankofa World Market TODAY, 2-6pm!

Bring your climate anxieties and other anxieties to me at the Sankofa World Market today, outside the Knight Memorial Library on Elmwood Avenue, 2-6pm today.

You can also buy delicious vegetables, get information about health programs, buy books from the library’s book sale, and maybe catch a glimpse of the adorable baby I got to hold last week.*

Come talk with me, get a little card to keep with a Rhode Island organism on it, and learn about some local work you can do to help.

*I’m nothing if not predictable.

Climate Anxiety Counseling at the Sankofa World Market, 7/12/17

Weather: Started out sunny and hot with sporadic showers, then POURED

Number of people: 3 stoppers, 0 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 5

People who recognized the Peanuts reference: 2

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $1.00

 

Observations:

As in previous years, I don’t get as many walkby comments at the market as I do in Kennedy Plaza. If people are going to interact, they stop. At the market, I also look more like the things around me—other people have tables, signs, etc.–so I’m less of a visual surprise and it’s easier to just kind of skip over me.

Also, nobody (other than the vendors) has to be at the market, so the total number of people around tends to be smaller. This was especially true today, when the torrential rain kept a lot of people away (and made most of the vendors pack up early) …

… but I didn’t even care because the vendor next to me allowed me to hold her 9-month-old, and I sang to him while she went to buy some sweet potato greens, and he fell asleep in my arms.

Should I start asking people what they think they’ll take away from the conversation? I did that today, but it was with someone I know.

 

Some conversations:

I used to, but then I got over it.

*

Because it’s long-term, I think we miscalculate the impacts of some of these things. We tend to deescalate some pretty seismic shifts—famine and disease and resource wars. But it seems so distant still. I think we minimize and don’t face hard or tough decisions: “If I stash this away, it won’t affect me.” …

Do you picture it?

I can picture a couple neighborhoods in Providence flooding, a couple neighborhoods in Chicago. There are those days in winter where it’s unseasonably warm. I don’t really think about changes to crop rotations, food supplies.

You clearly know about them, though. What’s the difference between knowing about them and thinking about them?

I’m really disconnected on average from where my food comes from. I know that data is out there, but it hasn’t been in front of my face. I don’t see that information about how this is gonna change how we raise crops. And even things that people don’t think of—terrorism and terrorism recruitment. I’m pro-refugee, but an increased refugee crisis …

I did debate in high school and college, and climate change was the basis for lots of arguments about issues that are gonna come up. The recent EPA secretary is atrocious. After Trump pulled out of the Paris Agreements, I know all these mayors and governors have gotten together, and it’s defnitely endearing but it might be too little too late, sad to say.

Is it? I mean, are you sad about it?

Maybe sad is the wrong word for me to use. Disappointing wouldn’t be right either. But it’s-we’re all on this globe together. You’d think we could agree to—not “save the planet” but at least work to make it habitable. Like, what are we really here for?

*

I work in forests and forestry, so I think that’s something that can help be part of the answer. I work with the Rhode Island Woodland Partnership, so we work with professionals and woodland owners on land conservation, recreation, water supply. Forests can be a source of oxygen, they can counter heat islands. We just put out a position statement on the value that the forest brings [to the state]. Rhode Island is the Ocean State, but we’re still 50% forested, and we want that to be at the table along with coastal communities and energy.

Is it okay to put this up online?

We have a website that expresses it more eloquently than I can do right now. It’d be great if you could link to that.

Climate Anxiety Counseling at the Sankofa World Market! Wednesdays July-September

Starting tomorrow, I’ll have the Climate Anxiety Counseling booth at the Sankofa World Market, Wednesdays 2-6pm, outside the Knight Memorial Library on Elmwood Avenue in Providence. Come and see me, especially if you live around there, or missed me when I was downtown.

You can also buy some vegetables–a lot of neighborhood farmers have stalls at the Sankofa Market, and it’s part of a path to food justice and food independence–or, you know, go to the library. There’s often music and stuff for kids to do.

Hope to see you tomorrow, or if not tomorrow, a Wednesday after that.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 7/1/17

Weather: Hot and muggy turning cool and muggy

Number of people: 6 stoppers, 3 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7

Pictures taken without permission: 1

Dogs seen: 2

Dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $3.11

 

Observations:

A thinner crowd today in Kennedy Plaza and the park overall, and fewer people talking with me.

Lots of people wanted to tell me their ideas about things today. A former printer and sign-letterer and self-declared Trump voter talked to me for around an hour today (mostly to, not with) and ended up by outlining his idea for taking money from wealthier towns and giving to poorer towns to pay for health care.

Much less overt police activity today. I noticed one car parked at the Dorrance Street end of Kennedy Plaza at 4:22, but it could have been there for much longer.

I ran into someone who talked with me earlier in the season and I was able to give him some information I forgot to give him the first time, but he also asked me, “How are your anxieties?” and I didn’t tell him how grateful I was that he asked me, so: C, I am so, so grateful. And the moral of this story is that even when you get a second chance, sometimes you need a third one; and the moral of this story is that so much more could happen if we all had and used the chance to know each other, slowly, over time.

 

Some conversations:

I have United Healthcare. It’s not easy with this Affordable Care Act—a lot of people can’t get health care at all. You shouldn’t force people to get health insurance. But this what they’re doing, it’s the baby with the bathwater. Adjust it, sure, it could use adjustments, but it seems like it’s gonna make it worse. Seems like every word out of Trump’s mouth is a lie.

What would you like to see in a president? What would make you want to vote for someone?

It seems like they all kinda lie a lot. They make promises and they know they can’t keep it, they have no intention of keeping it. Donald Trump lied about his belief system, and a lot of evangelical Christians bought into his lies. My old pastor is in Dallas, I still follow what he’s doing, and I’m shocked at how much he supports him. People hate Hillary so much that they become blinded. Hate blinds us, we become blinded. [Donald Trump] believes greed is good …

*

I think it’s terrible, I think the climate change is terrible. I don’t know much about it. I’m an ex-garbageman, and I saw how in New York what they do with all their rubbish—the just drop it in the ocean! That can’t be good for the climate change. [Holds up the cap to his water bottle.] Plastic. Plastic will be here for millions of years. It’s the only thing we’re gonna leave that will be here for millions of years. I ran a rubbish business for nearly 30 years, and I came up with the recycling program [for my company]. I started with cardboard, paper, newspaper, and I made them $1.2 million in the first year. I liked my work. I came up with the idea. They didn’t stick with it–$1.2 million was not enough for them to keep the recyclable part of it … I hate [climate change], I don’t like it, and I’d wanna fight it if I can.

*

[These two are friends with each other, and also friends with me. They came up together.]

Person 1: [Person 2] and I were just over there smoking a cigarette, and I was thinking about the policies of smoke and secondhand smoke, and the recent criminalization of smoking.* Whose interests is that in? Smoke is so complicated. The people who manufacture cigarettes are the worst people in the world. Cigarettes are targeted toward the most vulnerable people—I was reading how they’re targeted toward queer youth. They’re simultaneously really bad and really important to many people’s survival. [My partner] always carries a pack of cigarettes and they’re mostly to smoke, but they always give one to anyone who asks. It’s awful to be addicted—I’m not addicted, I don’t smoke that often—but it also feels like an act of resistance [to smoke and drop the butt], even though I’m complicit in the destruction of this greenery, against this demand that I take part in beautifying this space, this system of beauty that’s a way of reifying whiteness and [keeping] this park for the rich.

Person 2: And the law is directly aimed at people who are waiting for the bus.

Person 1: Which directly impacts poor people of color and people with disabilities. Whose environment is it? Why should I protect the environment for rich people? The law isn’t there to protect you, it’s there to target you.

Person 2: [I’m worried about] constant expansion. Specifically, “Oh, we’ll just add one more thing, that won’t detract from the wildlife.” Until you have a million new things and then you have a city. My older brother lives in [REDACTED] and there’s a little bit of swampland in our backyard, and the neighbors dumped construction refuse into the mineral spring that feeds into it. It’s turning into a meadow slowly. When I was up there, I went around collecting all the garbage, but I know other houses on my block have been actively littering. The biggest thing I found in there were these kids’ motorized fake plastic motorcycles. Bottles and cans, lawn stuff, like the tubing for gutters—just a ton of stuff …

Person 1: Who does that?

 

*Doctor’s note: There’s been a smoking ban in the park for a while, and there is now a ban on smoking outside it but near the fence.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/30/17

Weather: Hot, bright, breezy, cooling and graying toward the end

Number of people: 6 stoppers, 5 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 8

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $3.11

 

Observations:

At 2:13, two cops in uniform and a cop in button-down and tie demanded ID from a man resting in the shade. They looked at his ID, then left. At 2:50, a cop in a suit and a cop in uniform walked by with a man in handcuffs between him, and the person talking to me told me that the man they arrested had exposed himself to a kid—I don’t know how they knew.

So far my booth repair—a new piece of cardboard to firm up part of the sign so it can hold the other part of the sign in place—mostly works, except in a sharp gust of wind.

A non-zero number of people read the “¢” on the sign as “$”, and I don’t know why.

 

 

Some conversations:

 

I feel like I’m chasing my tail. I’m shoveling shit against the tide. I’m trying to get back with my family. I went up to DCYF today and I stayed for an hour, I ain’t no deadbeat dad, but my appointment never showed. I’m trying to get back with my girl. I just got an apartment, but I’m on SSI and SSDI, and it takes almost all my money for rent. I have to struggle, I’m struggling.

What would make a difference?

If my girl dropped the restraining order. But her mother don’t like me, and she’s holding the house over her head.

Like, “You can’t live here if you get back together with him?”

Yeah. I got a one bedroom apartment, but there’s a parlor that could be made into a bedroom. I don’t think she wants to live in [REDACTED]. We were living in [REDACTED], then [REDACTED], then I went to jail, came out. I’ve met her on the DL a couple times. People are barking down her throat about me. I told her, When two people are in love, a lot of people are jealous. It’s easier for her to just rise out of the [can’t read what I wrote] and just patronize her mother. When the cops came and DCYF came, she lied to them for me—I didn’t ask her to. She says she’s proud of me, but she changed her number, or she didn’t pay her bill. I haven’t talked to her in over a week and I’m starting to get worried. My little boy is with her, and she already lost him once, drinking and not thinking. She drinks, she goes to AA meetings and to a group, but she still drinks. It’s not fair to my little boy, it’s robbing him of his father and mother.  … My [other] son’s in for ten years for gangbanging. I let my first son down—he got in a fight, he retaliated, and I’m sitting in the ACI. I wanna be there for all my kids …

(Seeing that someone marked the park’s beech tree on the map of beloved places yesterday)

I been going under that tree since I was a little boy, 7, 8 years old, when I started riding the bus. I got a history with that tree.

*

That fricking global warming shit is crazy. How much it’s changing! All the smoke that goes in the air, it does make a difference. I watched a movie about global warming. The South Pole already dropped so much—who knows if it’s gonna flood, if the North Pole is already breaking up. Look at all the stuff that’s going on already.

*

What are you anxious about today?

Money. I’m so stressed out about money. I wanna start school but I don’t wanna put myself into debt. I wanna be a teacher. My parents don’t have college funds, we’re regular middle class, we struggle sometimes. I get good grades but not enough for scholarships. I wanna go to CC[RI] but I didn’t want to ask my parents for help. I can’t even afford a car. Insurance is so expensive. How are they saying you have to have a car, pay taxes, go to school—How? How? Don’t even get me started on health insurance.

Now I’m gonna get started on health insurance. My parents are immigrants from Portugal. They didn’t have papers at first, and the process takes decades. They’re still waiting on their papers and they’ve been here since I was two. People are like, Why don’t you try to get papers? We have been trying but there’s millions and millions of people! My mom’s paid a lawyer thousands of dollars to move us up on the list and we still have to wait five more years. So they’ve been here almost 20 years and they haven’t had health insurance. My mom’s teeth are falling apart, she’s in pain 24/7, it would cost thousands of dollars to fix. She had one cavity, and to fix a cavity it costs $454.67. That was both my parents’ paychecks for one cavity, and she had three young children. That one created another cavity and another cavity, and now her mouth is decaying. And now I have a cavity and I can’t afford to fix it.

… So when my parents came here they signed me up for DACA. I get a social security card, I can get a job and a license while I’m waiting for my papers. But it doesn’t give me health insurance! If I get sick, I can’t miss a day of work because I can’t afford to go to the doctor. I can’t afford birth control. I went to the pharmacy, they said I had to go to a doctor. I asked what could they give me over the counter, it was thirty bucks for a month’s supply. I know that doesn’t sound expensive, but when you have to pay for food and bills and Ubers every day–

… When you’re an immigrant you don’t tell people. You’re scared 24/7. I got pulled over, and I have a license, but I was so scared, because if you’re an immigrant they can send you away.

… My mom started her own [REDACTED] company, under the table … She’s my biggest role model. She’s the biggest entrepreneur that I have ever known … After we got here, my dad was the family’s only source of income, so if dad’s not working, we’re not eating. My mom was like, I gotta do something. So she built up her client base, she got references. Now she just hired two girls to work for her. She’s becoming a boss a little bit. As soon as she gets her paperwork she’s gonna make her business legal. My mom dreams of owning her own house one day. My dream is becoming a preschool teacher.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/29/17

Weather: Cloudy, very windy, lowering heat at first, then cool

Number of people: 8 stoppers, 6 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0! Except 1 sort of by proxy? I didn’t get permission to post that conversation, so suffice it to say that it was weird.

Pages of notes: 10

Peanuts references: 2

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Dogs seen: 1

Dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $1.11

 

Observations:

To the kids I didn’t get to talk with, but who wrote “The big tree to the left” on the map of places in RI they’d like to protect: You rule.

I need to fix the part of the booth where my signs fit together—the wind kept blowing it over and I had to use one hand to hold it the whole time.

I’ve changed my spiel slightly: “Climate anxiety is short for the anxieties people might feel about climate change,” I begin. It seems to work a little better to give context.

Two cop cars drove through with flashers and sirens at 3:37. Two cops walked through the park, one leading a man in handcuffs, at 4. Two (different) cops walked through the park at about 5:45.

 

Some conversations:

Climate. Yeah. Too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels, global warming.

How does it feel, to know that?

It doesn’t affect me. Glaciers, rising sea levels, more tornadoes, polar bears, species losing habitats because everything is shifting and animals can’t adapt, plants and animals can’t adapt.

I think I asked the question badly. I mean, you have all this knowledge of what’s happening, how does it feel to live with this knowledge?

When I see more and more cars on the road and not enough people taking mass transit. And cities and states not making that a high priority.* Physically, for me, getting caught in traffic every day. I look out the bus window and I see cars filled with one person. There’s no incentive for people to carpool. I can’t say everybody’s gotta take the bus, because people’s needs are different.

*Doctor’s note: Rhode Island is currently preparing its Long-Term Transportation Plan, dealing with every aspect of transportation in the state for the next 20 years. If you want to let the Division of Planning know that good public transportation, carpool incentives, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions are important to you, you can leave a comment here. (Get in touch with me at my gmail address, publiclycomplex, if you want some talking points.)

*

People worry: are we going to war? Everybody’s worried about war and terrorists. And inequality, capitalism going on—this new gig economy, start[up] economy, everybody has to adapt to survive.

It’s also like: who is it who wants us to adapt.

The elite! “Adapt. We’re all set, we made our money.” I don’t have anything against capitalism, but there’s a difference between capitalism and just—heartless. Draconian. “Get out of my way our I’ll step on you like a bug.” You can’t afford to go and buy local because you’re on a fixed income. … I’m from Brazil and Brazil is a mess right now. People are very rebellious, they’re not taking capitalism anymore.* People are fighting all over the world for their rights to exist and live a good life. … I don’t hate rich people, they do good things, we need no poor hating rich, no rich hating poor. We gotta come up with something to help each other, because that’s all we got.

*Doctor’s note: I haven’t checked these statements.

*

[This person was one of the first people to speak to me at the booth on my very first day in 2014. He’s the second person down.]

How many people have anxieties about the climate? I think I was more hopeful before. But a lot of people have gone beyond the “it’s a hoax” thing and recognized that this isn’t something we’ve seen in our lifetime. It’s just gonna make things harder, the whole human experience in general.

*

 

 

 

 

There’s a lot of animals that are gonna be extinct soon. Maybe one day we won’t have any animals. I hope not. But it’s like a ripple effect. I don’t know how it would be—it would be weird. We don’t even know all the animals that were here.

But I think change can be good. One you know how change is, how you don’t have control—well, you have some control, but you can’t be mad if things don’t work out your way. Don’t be stressed. Try and keep looking at something else you might wanna save. In life you lose and you get. You shouldn’t be messed up about it, you shouldn’t dwell on it ’cause then you’ll be sad all the time.

*

I’m here with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, so I meet many people with many anxieties. And I agree. I love the Earth. Climate change is dreadful. But Jehovah’s gonna stop it very soon and get rid of the people who are harming the Earth. There’s a scripture, I don’t have my Bible with me, but it says, “He will bring to ruin those who are harming the Earth.” I look at the ice caps and what’s happening to the oceans and I can’t stand it. I think the difference between you and me is that I have a hope for the future, because I know God’s gonna fix it … I know it’s gonna be soon, because it’s getting so bad. We will ruin the Earth to such an extent that it will be unlivable.

… I feel bad for people with children, and its’s one of the reasons I haven’t had them. It was a conscious decision. I couldn’t bring them into this world. In the new world, when it’s Paradise, I’ll have a football team. They can climb trees, they can roll in the grass. Take a look in the Bible. He made the earth and He’s gonna fix it. And then maybe you and I can climb trees together.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/28/17

Weather: Warm, bright, breezy

Number of people: 8 stoppers, 1 walkby

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 10

Peanuts references: 1

People who recognized me, and I them, from previous years: 2

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $2.25

 

Observations:

I need to be more mindful of and purposeful about power dynamics in the questions I ask and the possibilities I raise—both between me and the person I’m talking with, and between the person I’m talking with and other people in the situation. I had a conversation today about a bad situation where I don’t think I made anything worse, but I missed the chance to point out a power dynamic that—if the person I was talking to recognized it—could’ve made things less worse for someone who wasn’t there. (I know that’s vague—I didn’t get permission to post this one. But I think making it vague is also good because it can help me to remember to apply it to other situations.)

Today was really busy, especially toward the beginning. I don’t know why, except that it was beautiful out. Because of the busy-ness, I didn’t notice much in the way of police activity, other than seeing two police cards parked at the Dorrance St. end of the park as I was leaving.

One person who spoke to me was really happy about the restoration of free bus passes for elderly and disabled people, and gave me detailed instructions for how to get one if you’re eligible and don’t have one. I want to check these and make sure they don’t leave anything out before posting them here, but I will post them in case any of you knows someone who could use one.

 

Some conversations:

I’m not anxious about climate change because I feel like it’s pretty inevitable. There’s nothing we can—well, there’s some things we can do, but there are so many people contributing to it, you can’t change everyone’s mind. I don’t get anxious about death. I’ve come to grips with the idea that everybody dies. If you’re just worrying about death all the time it’ll prevent you from living. But what I am anxious about is the everyday struggle of getting through life, working your life away in order to get somewhere.

Where is that somewhere, for you?

To live in a home and know that my work fully covers my expenses. Not living paycheck-to-paycheck in order to support myself. I’m not talking about a luxury home, I’m talking about a one-bedroom apartment and being able to eat, what everybody has—well, not everybody.

What everybody needs, anyway, and some people don’t have that, and some people have way more than that.

My own father is an example. He makes over a hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year, and he wouldn’t let his own son live with him. He was scared that my mom would start coming around to his house.

Do you take care of her?

No. If she needs food, I’ll buy my mom and my siblings food, I’m not gonna let them go hungry. But I don’t support her. But my dad still didn’t allow me to stay in the house because I have contact with her. I even offered to pay my own rent … He works very hard, sixty hours a week. So I got the hardworking side from him, but other than that, I haven’t really gotten anything from having him as a dad. All he does is work and money’s more important to him than family. He takes one day off a week, and I maybe talk to him once a month. He asks how I’m doing, and I tell him I’m able to get by and that’s about it.The funny thing is, he’s in counseling for that stuff—to be able to connect with people, especially people dealing with drug abuse. My older brother’s an addict. [My father] took classes to try to change himself, but it did nothing. He looks like a stone brick all the time, he always acts the same. My grandfather was an alcoholic, and he didn’t give my father any love or any attention, so he doesn’t know how to give it himself.

Do you feel like you’ve been able to give love to the people in your life?

Yes. I have the example of my mom. She doesn’t have much but she’s always able to give with her heart. Then there’s the opposite end of the spectrum with my dad. I think I’ve learned a happy medium.

*

I work in the [REDACTED] library, and there’s a guy who comes in who’s majoring in something to try to make [climate change] better. Sometimes he comes in and we look at each other, and we don’t really speak but we know each other’s thoughts. A lot of people don’t even really want to talk about it, because what are you gonna do? I mean, there’s a lot to do but there’s so much, it’s overwhelming. We need specific ideas for specific things to do… And there’s another issue I have, well, there’s so many issues, but some people don’t have hope for their own life. So what are we doing asking them to have hope for the future? You need some hope, some connection to family—they need to associate some kind of hope for the future, for the earth, because a lot of people don’t even have hope for today. How do you get somebody out of where they’re at right now?

…And then like, let’s say I have something to recycle, and it’s dirty. Do I waste the water to clean this can, or what do I do? It’s a lot, man. I think people do want to work for a better world…the way we’re living, it’s just not a sustainable thing. We will die if something doesn’t change. That’s a fact, and we know, and we look at the [can’t read it]. You go down here and try to breathe, it’s not good air. I didn’t want to breathe down here! Do I bring my daughter down here? And I think about how life expectancy in my family isn’t that high. What is it in the water, in the air, that’s making us die so soon?

*

I’m worried about my hip.

Are you gonna get surgery on it?

I’m debating on that, but I think I’m too old. I’m 68. And I can get along, but if I do that surgery, a whole hip replacement, I might not be able to get around at all. I don’t want to be confined.

Does it give you a lot of pain?

No, no. Only in the bad weather, you know when it’s bad weather—I can tell when a storm’s coming. I got my cane, but I never shoulda picked up this cane, now I can’t get along without it. I don’t wanna get stuck down here with no way to get home.

*

My family’s in the construction business. And I have a problem, because the company is an asphalt company and asphalt is a petroleum product, there’s gonna be runoff, it does damage. But it’s money, and you gotta live. And I love trucks, I wanna buy them and drive them. But I feel guilty. When I charge my phone, I feel guilty. But you need it, it’s a necessity, but when I charge my phone I’m like, I’m fucking it up. I’m actually thinking about changing my career, being an electrician and doing solar panels. It’d be easier on me, but you can’t make as much as fast… But everything always has some type of negative outcomes.

I think a lot of the time that’s true, the way things are set up it’s hard to do anything without doing some damage. So sometimes I ask people: what could you to do sustain and help the natural world and the natural systems that you depend on?

Swallow your pride. It’s demeaning to be a guy ’cause you’re brought up—you don’t just have to pay for dinner, you have to pick her up in a truck. I take the bus ’cause the bus is easy, but [can’t read my own writing] for a guy in a Prius, compared to a lifted Chevy. If you play video games, it’s not enough to just get the Xbox, you have to buy all the new things that come with the games. We have too many accessories … Nobody wants to live in a big apartment building, they want the white picket fence, the two-car garage, I know ’cause I want it too.

*

I basically talked to you [last year] during the peak of my veganism. I’ve calmed down quite a bit. There’s definitely a lot of things about climate change that aren’t being addressed and need to be talked about. I’ve traveled the world this year. I went to Albania for a school project … on the Vjosa River, the last undammed river in Europe. There’s like four thousand species of plants that grow along this river and 250 of them are found nowhere else. The natural beauty was healing.

Do the people there feel proud of it?

They do, but they also take it for granted. We took a ferry ride through a gorge, and all the tourists were outside taking pictures, and all the Albanians were inside, they were commuting to go to work. The government wanted to put a dam on the river and this organization, Eco Albania, was like, People’s lives depend on this river in its natural free-flowing state. They fought against it and they won.* There are no dams on the river. They work harder than anyone I’ve ever encountered. I’m studying biomedical engineering and after I pay off an enormous amount of loans I want to go into nonprofit work and feel like my work matters.

*They may have another fight on their hands.

*

 

[These two came up together.]

Person 1: Yesterday there was supposed to be a hailstorm. Last night there was this dark cloud, the sky went from pink to black. There was all this thunder and lightning. There’s mudslides and tornadoes–

Person 2: Those gaping holes, sinkholes–

Person 1: It gives me anxieties. And the water in Pawtucket is disgusting. My friend drank the water and he threw up for 45 minutes. The air quality, if the water is like that, what’s the air like? Kids, asthma. … In 10-20 years our weather’s gonna be like Florida. There’s gonna be a lot more water everywhere. It’s gonna rise up. It is scary.

What do you do when you feel that scared feeling?

I just act like it’s not gonna happen to me. That’s the only way I can get out of it. My safety is at risk, but it’s not gonna happen to me. Oh, it’s gonna happen somewhere else.

Climate Anxiety Counseling in Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park this week!

I’ll be downtown with the Climate Anxiety Counseling booth, in Burnside Park across from Kennedy Plaza, today through Saturday, 2-6pm.

This week will be my final week of the summer in Kennedy Plaza. Starting on July 12th, I’ll be at the Sankofa World Market on Wednesdays, and I’ll show up a couple of other places that I’ll let you know about here. But if you’ve been waiting to see me in KP, this is a good week to come down. I’ll listen to your anxieties–climate-change-related or otherwise, and give you a little piece of art to keep, featuring a Rhode Island organism.

Today I drew a warbling vireo. Last week, I gave a flying squirrel drawing to a kid, about five or six years old. Another kid about the same age saw me do it, did some quick mental calculations, and came up to the booth with an expectant look on his face. If there were animal drawings being given out, he wanted in. I gave him a drawing of a chipping sparrow.

Come and visit me.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/24/17

Weather: Hot and bright

Number of people: 4 stoppers, 2 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 3

Peanuts references: 1

People who recognized me, and I them, from previous years: 1, a very special one

Photos taken with permission: 1

Dogs seen: 1

Dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.25

 

Observations:

Occasionally, I got sprinkled or plopped on by leftover raindrops from the sycamore whose shade I sit in.

In the park, this season, it’s mainly masculine-presenting people who’ve come up to me.

This was the first Saturday stint this season, and the Kennedy Plaza crowds are definitely thinner.

Because it came up today, I might as well say unequivocally that I think Burnside Park should be for everyone, and that people who are homeless temporarily or more-or-less permanently should be able to be there.

 

Some conversations:

My biggest fear is a dead ocean. I understand that the ocean is vital to life, it’s the womb of life, and a lot of important things happen there that affect life on the surface. I do imagine it, but I don’t really do anything [when I think about it] other than try to think about something else. … To me that’s a nightmare, every living thing in the oceans, dead. I try to inform as many people as possible, because sitting around and doing nothing is something I can’t do. I adore fish … I believe that it is best for humans and sharks to not have interactions,but they’re very important to their ecosystems, just like grizzly bears are important to their ecosystems. I believe that God put us in the world to be caretakers of the Earth, not dominators.

*

Whatever you think about it, whether it’s cyclical or whether it’s man-made, and in my opinion it’s a mix of both–I was talking to a guy down on Narragansett Beach, he’s Native American and he’s lived here his whole life, he’s 72 years old. And he was telling me that on all the way on the right side of the beach, past Chair 1, that used to be sunbathing territory. Now it’s one and a half feet deep at high tide. It hits the seawall. Even at high tide there used to be 50 feet of beach there.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Providence Energy Fair, 6/24/17

Weather: POURING outside. The fair was inside, with big fans.

Number of people: 6 stoppers, no walkbys.

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 5.5

Peanuts references: 1

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

Photos taken without permission: 1

Dogs seen: 1

Dogs pet: 1 (this is the correct ratio, if anyone was wondering)

Number of people who asked some version of “Are you a real doctor?”: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $2.00

 

Observations:

This was an event specifically for people who work in energy efficiency, land conservation, and environmental justice, and for people interested in those things. I unsurprisingly get a higher incidence of stoppers whose anxieties are climate anxieties at such events, and that’s how today was.

There were people playing music, and they played “Moonlight Midnight”, a song I love.

I picked up a People’s Power and Light flyer.

Sometimes I try to get people from “weather” or “seasons” to “climate”, when they mistake the second for one of the first two, and sometimes I don’t. This was a time I tried but it didn’t really take.

All places are vulnerable places.

 

Some conversations:

I was woken this morning by notifications for an app that’s not on my phone, and it seems to be propaganda, a fake news website. I’m concerned who that’s going to who may not follow trusted sources. How did this get on my phone? I consider myself a moderate, but I think I know propaganda when I see it. When I think of the reduction of authority of the EPA, another four years of negative environmental activity—whether you believe in [climate change] or not, it’s pollution. I had to wear a surgical mask on my way here.

What do you do when you feel this anxiety?

Working with sustainability means it just adds to the things to worry about. I’m already worrying about my family and my kids. I thought we were going in a great direction, with [the city committed to sustainability measures], and all of a sudden—I resent the commmander-in-chief assigning people who want to take those regulations down to nothing …

In your job, does it give you energy, or does it take away your energy?

It’s definitely a morale killer. I would say it’s more anger than anxiety. A big WTF.

*

I’m anxious that I feel powerless. Whatever I do with my individual behavior, this is so monumental. It’s gonna take everyone. And my other anxiety is that I understand that it’s not everyone’s priority, and accepting that. People have a vast amount of other things that they have to worry about. I’ve seen that conflict between more militant environmentalists and people who maybe don’t care or have other things to worry about … I’m in school for environmental studies, and the determinants for environmental concern are like [socioeconomic status], exposure to nature as a child, certain demographic things.

So is your concern that there’s not enough listening going on between these two clumps of people?

Yes. I don’t even know if I would start that conversation. Who am I to impose this on you? Who am I to shape what they care about? I can give people my time, but I can’t give everyone everything.

*

You know what does make me anxious? The wintertime. I hate it, it makes me stiff, it makes me tired, it makes me anxious. I want to run into a safe warm place. I could be burning and I’m so happy—I’d rather that 50 times than my face being cut open from the cold. Winter’s abusive, it’s abusive, that’s what it is … For my son, I always wanna make sure he’s warm, because for me warm is safe, I wanna make sure he’s safe … I’m from the Dominican Republic, on the borderline of Haiti, and when the hurricane came through it knocked down all these trees so there was no shade, and I still prefer that. I let myself go in the winter—in the summer I wanna vibrate, I wanna shine. When you fly [to the Dominican Republic] everybody’s welcoming, everybody’s so nice, but when you fly into Boston or New York it’s so rigid, everybody’s like go here, do this. Everyone becomes cold. The sun gives you the whole vitamin D of happiness.

*

It’s been so long since I thought about climate change. I’ve just been buried in my work. When Trump was elected I had to focus, so I focused on immigrants, refugees, health care—and climate change was on there but it wasn’t at the top. I did make a list. There’s only so much energy that we all have.

So I guess a question with that for me is, how do we move it up people’s list without saying that the other stuff on their list doesn’t matter?

Finding the examples that are relevant—like the LNG plant … There’s a big learning curve.

*

I think everybody should be anxious. The way this country’s direction is going, denying that there is climate change—I’m just scared about this [political] climate. And the glaciers are melting, and people are ignoring science—not people, but the government. People like us are the people that care. I think it’s gonna take organizations and private citizens, nonprofits, to step up and take over what government has done in the past.

 

*

This company…just contracted to scout national parks, national monuments, protected lands that [the President] would be able to open up for resource excavation. There’s a national monument off the Northeast coast—those sites that people worked so hard to protect were so vulnerable, so much effort made just for those areas, so if they can be attacked, no place is safe no matter how much effort people make. It’ll do irrevocable damage, but it’s also what it means in terms of precedent.

How does it feel to think about this, and what do you do when you think about it?

I feel relieved to share just verbally. What I do is a good question, because I feel very helpless. The main thing I do is posting on social media, which is not effectual. It’s the same, but sort of remote, but maybe further-reaching? I don’t have any steps toward [doing something]. The conversation to have is possibly opening up to more conversations … Where I’m living now, there’s puddling in the yard from the rain and that is a first. With climate change, there’s more moisture in the atmosphere that falls at once. It’s unheard of that the place where I am is affected. It’s not even a vulnerable place.