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


Come and see us!

Climate Anxiety Counseling in Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park: The Doctor Will Be In!

I’ll be offering Climate Anxiety Counseling in person again throughout the month of May, in Burnside Park, across from Kennedy Plaza (same place as before).

I’ll be at the booth 3-6 pm on these days:

Tuesday May 5th-Friday May 8th

Tuesday May 12th-Friday May 15th

Tuesday May 19th

Tuesday May 26th-Friday May 29th

FURTHER BULLETINS AS EVENTS WARRANT! Thanks to the Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy for helping me get set up.

Alternate Histories: 5/29, 4/17


Social unrest and collapse because of food and water shortages. They’re saying corn is going to be a luxury. Especially with kids, it’s very concerning. If I were alone I wouldn’t mind so much, I could just jump in the river with rocks in my pockets.

Why is killing yourself better than dying in one of these other ways?

I think it’s a fear of what’s gonna happen. You can say well, we all die anyway, and if we die in a flood, we all just go at once, you don’t have to grieve … Part of having a kid is it’s forcing me to become more aware in the moment, more present, more spiritual, and consider spirituality even more. I think of spirituality as the bigger picture, bigger than economics or politics — it encompasses everything. I keep hoping for this worldwide awakening.

Do you feel like you work to bring it about?

Yeah, in art–all my paintings the last couple years have been about consciousness or crisis, a crisis of consciousness. It’s got me focused on the two sides of that coin. Making work is part of that awakening processes–it’s flowing through me, that greater collective unconscious, universal mind.



N recognized in himself the lust for enclave and siege, the stockpiler, the man who when the castle’s on the brink of capture by an enemy kills everyone in it and then himself. He countered this by trying to induce visions while he planted tomatoes and corn and tried to nurse an apple tree along in the shadow of his little yard, by meditating in between lessons on sucking chest wounds and keeping someone’s spine immobile in EMT training, by breathing through his older daughter’s desire for princess gear instead of warrior gear, by looking for signs and portents in the smears of sweet potato his younger daughter left on the floor.

The thing about N’s own neighborhood, the place where he lives, is that it’s on a hilltop, and as with most high ground in places near the sea, the people who live there have more money and more status than the people on the lower ground.

N painted spells. He painted at night, at first in his studio. Then on the sidewalks, every few nights, in harmless chalks, starting by the edge of the river. Come out and paint with me, he said to some other artists he knew–white men, feared and fearful. They painted the patterns the wind made in downtown Providence, blowing around the convention center and the Dunkin Donuts Center and the big hotels; they painted the future shadows of the municipal trees; they painted the tracks of animals that once walked there. They exchanged nods, wary at first, with people selling sex, people seeking doorways, people tagging walls and bridges; they worked around the tags, around the sprayed DigSafe instructions. They made nothing that anyone would have to work to clean up. They stashed their chalks in openings at the bottoms of lampposts; they trailed paths from the river’s edge back to higher ground on their way home.

When they went out again after a break of a few nights (it was N’s turn to make dinner and draw baths and read stories and soothe diaper rash and argue about lights-out and lay out school clothes, and he wanted to do it while he still could), sometimes the drawings had changed: the signs, the portents, the directions of the arrows. Sometimes the chalks stashed in the bases of lampposts were more worn down.

“Together” doesn’t always mean at the same time or in the same way. But a lot of people survived the next storm–a “surprising number,” WPRI Eyewitness News said, when they started broadcasting again.

Urban Pond Procession Community Kickoff, 2/28/15!

Come hear from artists and activists (including me) and make some art of your own at the UPP Arts / Urban Pond Procession Community Kickoff!

Saturday, 2/28, 10am-1pm

Reservoir Avenue School, 156 Reservoir Avenue, Providence


You can make a little book and fill it with reflections about water, guided by Sissy Rosso, Monica Chin, and me. There’ll also be snacks.

For your climate anxiety and ecological art needs

I’ve been trying to figure out what to do about all the things people told me this summer, and I’m starting to fill in a plan. Here are some things I’ve been reading/listening to in order to learn, and some people doing relevant work:

At Is This How You Feel?, science communicator Joe Duggan is collecting scientists’ and others’ emotional reactions to climate change.

If you want to make a “Climate Confession”, you can call The Adaptors’ Climate Confessions Hotline. Their other podcasts so far are about alternative energy sources.

The Friends of the Pleistocene are practicing ways to live in the reality of continuous change, through ritual, disaster preparedness training and meeting the unexpected.

Cape Farewell fosters art as climate communication.

DJ Spooky’s making music and more about Antarctica. You can too.

And if you live in Rhode Island, the Urban Pond Procession Kickoff is on February 28th.

There’ll be more from me here soon.