Remembering the Arctic Ice Cap: A Celebration of Life

Ever since I started offering Climate Anxiety Counseling, I’ve gone back and forth about mourning the places and people–human, nonhuman–that we know climate change will not just hurt, but kill, before they’re gone. It seems like ill-wishing them–pre-grieving, shooing them out of the world, walking over their graves. And it also seems like something that you’d do instead of trying to keep them alive.

This summer, in Newport, RI–which is admittedly a very odd place–they held a funeral for a beech tree that’s reaching the end of their life (fernleaf beeches usually live for 150-200 years–I’m not sure how old this one is or was, and I also don’t know if they’re still standing). I changed my tune a little bit. The tree was dying; this gave people a chance to appreciate it and acknowledge them while they were still alive.

And now, my friend Maya Weeks is holding a memorial and celebration for the Arctic Ice Cap: She writes, “As we anticipate losing year-round sea ice as soon as 2018, we are taking this occasion to gather and process our feelings about this changing ecosystem together. We will gather to say goodbye to the sea ice algae and the Arctic cod and the polar bear. Please feel free to bring candles and loved ones to the Mosswood Amphitheater [in Oakland, CA] at 2pm on Sunday, December 18.  Please feel free to say a few words if you would like. This is an outdoor venue with a ramp for accessibility.”

This comes just after another group of literal and figurative deaths in Oakland: people living and celebrating at the Ghost Ship, which burned, and the way of living and being that was possible there. You can donate to the relief fund here, and to funeral services and end-of-life costs for the trans women who died at the Ghost Ship here. When I donated to the latter, I also donated to the Trans Assistance Project’s main fund, which “exists to finance legal/ID changes and healthcare for trans folks in need,” because the living and the dead both need care, but in different ways.

Other living beings don’t necessarily do peopledom the way human people do. A forest might be a person; a jellyfish might be a community. And equating human and nonhuman death is full of bad logic and bad history, especially when the human who died died at the remote hands of structures of power and capital and cruelty. Who gets to die like a person, and who like a plant; who is a martyr, a casualty, a throwaway–these are all mediated by the structures I just mentioned, and I’m not looking to draw a comparison that isn’t there or isn’t right.

But one thing that the dead share is their absence–even if we, the living, are in communication with them or take their advice, we mostly recognize that the way they are is different from the way we are. And one thing the nearly dead share with the living is their presence, their ability to be touched and known. I’m still on the fence about mourning the still-alive. But I don’t think that sorrow and anger for one kind of loss needs to displace sorrow and anger for another kind, and I think that mourning the dead can help the living to fight like hell for each other.

 

Philly Climate Story

Through my friend Christina at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, I just found out about Philly Climate Story: they’re collecting people’s stories of climate change, in part to demonstrate to Senator Toomey of Pennsylvania (who has not acknowledged that climate change is human-caused) that Philadelphians are aware of and worried about climate change.

Philadelphians can share their stories, and anyone else can read them.

Providence 2050

The Providence Public Library, a place and institution that I love so much, invited people living and working in the city to imagine it in 2050, and this is what we said. I’m in there (though I don’t know that I would call myself an “emerging leader”) and so are a lot of people that I also love, and some I don’t know.

Thanks to Kate Wells and the PPL for inviting me to be part of this story.

Letters from Earth: Poetic Eco-Journalism by Aurora Levins Morales

Aurora Levins Morales is getting set to do a project similar to Climate Anxiety Counseling, but more mobile*. She says:

“Letters from Earth is a poetic journalism project, part travelogue, part documentary, an exploration of the impacts of environmental injustice on our land and our bodies.

Starting in early 2016, I’ll be traveling around the country in my tiny house on wheels, specially designed to be non-toxic, accessible and semi-sustainable, visiting the individuals, front line communities, and wild habitats most affected by our extract-and-consume economy, and writing and recording my most powerful poetic prose to tell their stories and my own.

I want to inspire people to understand and act on both the urgency and the potential of this moment.

Environmental injustice falls most heavily on people who are already facing multiple kinds of injustice in their lives, so Letters from Earth will center their lives, their bodies, their stories, and their leadership.

My audio blogs will be broadcast nationally on Flashpoints, on listener sponsored Pacifica radio.   Text versions will also be posted on my website, and I will post calls to action for each edition of Letters from Earth, as well as links to further information.”

If you have a little money to share, consider sharing it with her.

* Similar to Devi Lockwood’s One Bike One Year.

Fracking and Ecologically Motivated Art at the Providence Athenaeum, Half Life at the Columbus Theater

I can’t go to Cloud Eye Control’s performance of Half Life at the Columbus Theater tomorrow (Saturday) night at 8pm, but I wish I could. It’s “a mix of projected animation, theater and music that examines the psychic fallout of global disaster.” Tickets on a sliding scale, $10-$30. Before the show, Ju-Pong Lin will be there with her conversation project Wicked Questions.

The Providence Athenaeum, with ecoRI News and FirstWorks, are holding two events that readers of this site may want to know about. I’m in the second one. Both are free in money.

Friday, 11/20 (that’s tonight), 5-7pm: While fracking has lowered current gas prices and made us less dependent on foreign oil, it has some negative consequences. Ground water can be contaminated, and a dramatic incidence of small earthquakes has resulted from the injection of waste fluids produced by fracking. For example, Oklahoma now has more earthquakes than California. The potential for more, even larger man-induced earthquakes looms as the Department of Energy begins “carbon sequestration” – pumping carbon dioxide down disposal wells to attempt to reduce future climate change. Join Brown University Professor of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences Terry E. Tullis, Chair of the National Earthquake Prediction Evaluation Council, to discuss the potential effect of our present practices on our future.

Friday, 11/27, 5-7pm (this is the one I’m in): As demonstrated in the Cloud Eye Control performance on 11/21, artists have always engaged with, responded to, and reflected their environment in their artwork, whether inspired by pristine wilderness or the densely built city. Join us for a conversation with RI artists, including photographer/sculptor Scott Lapham and writer Kate Schapira, whose work addresses a variety of environmental issues and instigations, and learn how they use their work to calibrate, celebrate, test, and protest the evolving consequences of human interaction on the physical environment.

When the program coordinator wrote to invite me, she started the email, “Hope you are well in this beautiful weather and terrible world.”

Points of Service: Responsive Art-Making and Intimate Public Discourse

I am “giving a talk” tomorrow. It’ll be about Climate Anxiety Counseling, vulnerability, boundaries, low-gatekeeping mental health care. It’s open to the public, which is you, and it’s at 5:30pm, Wednesday 10/14, on the Brown University Campus (Pembroke Hall 305). Mild, non-obligatory audience participation. I hope some of you can come.

points of service

Also tomorrow and Thursday I’ll be at the Alliance of Artists’ Communities conference, in association with ARTCOP21, doing Climate Anxiety Counseling there. And ALSO on Thursday the booth and I will be in our favorite spot, the Washington St. entrance to Burnside Park, 3:30-5pm. Please visit. I’m always glad to see you.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Some Links and News

The Climate Anxiety Counseling booth, plus some extras, will be at the Alliance of Artists’ Communities Conference on October 14th from 11:30 to 1:15 and on October 15th from 8:30 to 3.

This booth session appears, along with other performances and activities and actions, on ARTCOP21‘s map of events leading up to the climate change conferences in Paris in December (video autoplays at that link). You can look for something near to you.

Because it costs money to get into the AAC conference, I’m also holding a booth session in the traditional Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park location on October 15th, from 3:30 to 5pm, while the Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy sets up and starts its Beer Garden. It will only cost the normal nickel to talk to me there.

Also on October 14th, at 5:30, I’m talking about Climate Anxiety Counseling, responsive art-making and intimate public discourse as part of the Creative Medicine Lecture Series (scroll down a bit). It’s open to the public, which is you.

More people are talking and writing about the weight that the knowledge of climate change and its effects can exert on our bodies and minds. I’m in this article; here’s another one; here’s a whole website.

For those who want to act as well as feel, have a look at the Climate Disobedience Center–they’re new, so let’s see what they’ll do, and let them know if we want them to do something more or different.

Maps of Concern: May and June 2015

Before I went down to Washington St. for the Providence International Arts Festival, I took a picture of the whiteboard map that’s part of the Climate Anxiety Counseling booth. Adorned with a map of Rhode Island (carried out in electrical tape by James Kuo), it invites, “Put your worries on the map,” and asks, “Is there a place in RI you love?” and is equipped with dry-erase markers.

may map burnside park

That’s an Illuminati pyramid at the bottom. Like all opportunities to write on a vertical surface in public, it gathered its share of apparent irrelevancies that were in fact important (or at least appealing) to the writer at the time of writing.

may map soon to be soldier

People also accepted the first invitation (for worries) …

may map winters shorter

… and the second (for beloved places).

may map galileemay map still house cove

When I explain the booth, which is usually the first part of an interaction with a stranger, I often refer to Rhode Island as “on the coast” as a way of talking about sea level rise and its relationship with storms. It’s just as true to say that the coast is in us–if you look at a more detailed map of the state, you see land and water interlaced like the fingers of two hands.

For the Providence International Arts Festival, special guests Thompson Webb III and S. Hollis Mickey helped design a timeline of notable storms, to which we invited passersby to add storms they remember and storms they fear.

june storm timeline alljune storm timeline 1815

june storm timeline 1938june storm timeline woonsocket

Resilient Rhode Island, among others, stresses the interaction between storms, sea level rise and flooding as major ways Rhode Island is likely to suffer from a warming climate and its effects. Tom brought and showed a picture of post-hurricane flooding on Dorrance Street, a block away from where we were standing.

Visitors to the booth also marked the map.

june map washington st

They drew two kinds of ticks, WBRU (?), a nuclear research site, and ponds they love.

june map 2 ticksjune map mainly ponds

They marked more abstract fears and frustrations, too.

june map bordersjune map dirty and angry

In the right-hand image above, you can see the Biltmore Hotel reflected–the same place that the hurricane image showed with water up to its knees. On the maps, love and fear, preoccupation and distraction interlace, like the water and the land, like the fingers of hands.

Climate Anxiety Counseling at the Providence International Arts Festival, TODAY!

Regular Climate Anxiety Counseling Sessions 1-8pm

SPECIAL GUESTS: Interactive storm timeline with paleoclimatologist Thompson Webb III & artist S. Hollis Mickey 3-4pm

PERFORMANCE by S. Hollis Mickey 4pm SHARP

On Washington St. near Matthewson St., downtown Providence

Leave your mark on the timeline of storms! Find out the difference between “weather” and “climate”! Share your anxiety! Take home a picture of a red-breasted merganser for hairdo inspiration!*

red-breasted merganser

*Doctor’s note: Actually only one person gets to do this. WILL IT BE YOU?

Climate Anxiety Counseling plus SPECIAL GUESTS at the Providence International Art Festival!

Climate Anxiety Counseling is part of the Providence International Arts Festival!

The doctor will be in, 1-8pm, at the corner of Washington and Mathewson Sts., downtown Providence, on Saturday, June 13th.

Weather Service: special guest conversation, interactive timeline and performance with paleoclimatologist Thompson Webb III and artist S. Hollis Mickey: 3-4pm

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Come and see us!