Climate Anxiety Counseling: Ungallery/Millerton Farmers’ Market, 8/17/19

Weather: Coolish, gray, muggy

Number of people: 14 stoppers

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 11

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Dogs seen: 16

Dogs pet: 2

Money raised for Tooth and Nail Community Support Collective: $43.50!

Observations:

I was here with my parents, who are here most weeks (my dad sharing art buttons, my mom selling pottery), and many of the people who stopped for conversations were people my parents know. Some of them also know me—in a couple cases, have known me since I was very small.

Most of the people who spoke with me were also in a similar, fairly narrow demographic—comparatively well off, politically liberal, white, “professional” or recently retired from being so. This doesn’t reflect the demographic of people attending the market, which had a little more range in all categories.

Many people spoke about the Cricket Valley Energy Center, the fracked-gas power plant scheduled to go online this fall about 20 minutes down the road from the market site. There was a fundraising event for the fight scheduled for later that day.

Overall, what these conversations emphasized for me (and thank you to my dad and sister for helping me think through this) is how much capitalism and its narratives deliberately and destructively limit our imagination of how we can participate constructively, lovingly and sustainingly in the world, even when we have the material ability to do so.

Nonhuman animal presences: Big butterfly, little butterfly, tiny ant, pigeons, big grasshopper on my pant leg.

Some conversations:

I’m not gonna be around much longer, but my kids are. You know where I’m going after this? Cricket Valley. I’ve got signs in my car. That’s my big political concern.

How does it feel to think about it?

Oh my God. I feel helpless, I feel anxious. But I also feel—not hopeful, but I feel angry. The anger has always kept me going. But the anger is hiding the fear. Whatever I can do, I’ll do.

…The thing about Cricket Valley is that there’s supposedly ammonia on site, more than there’s supposed to be. The high school’s three-quarters of a mile away. I can walk to the high school from the plant. I protested outside the high school

How did the kids take it?

Some gave me the finger, and some looked. Supposedly the people running [Cricket Valley] are providing story hours, they’re providing scholarships. I talked to a woman who lived next to the plant, I asked her, “Aren’t you afraid?” She said no, and I said, “Well, I’m afraid for you. Do you have kids? I’m afraid for them too.”

*

Several years ago, when I was educating myself more about more about climate derangement and getting more and more despondent about the future of earth and all of its beings, I read something that you guys were doing in Providence that changed the way I started thinking—you were making plans to deal with the certainty of the river rising, and you were actually making plans to deal with the effects of climate change.* So that gave me a different way of looking at this huge issue. And it’s had many effects, one of which is that in our wills we have essentially left all our money to organizations that we feel will be important in meeting the world as a changed world. I have to say how thankful I was to run across that. One of the things I thought was going to be important is how to provide health care, health services…**

How are you feeling now about it?

I feel personally that I have made as much of a contribution as I’m going to figure out how to be able to make. My thinking about it is that the world and humanity are going to be sorely tested.

*Possibly they were talking about this?

**If you’re going to go the donation/financial support route, I usually recommend going with organizations or efforts that are local or semi-local so you can see what they’re doing. If you’re going to go big, look for sources besides their own material that compare their claims to their effects! This article on climate change philanthropy provides a little more context.

*

Hi. I’m really anxious. I think it’s contributing to my dizziness and my gut rumblings and my general discontent and anger at Mr. Trump. I’m very concerned about what he’s doing with the EPA. I’ve traveled quite a bit in the world and I’ve seen poverty—people are going to be in big trouble.

What do you do when you feel the way you just described?

I give money to the Nature Conservancy and the EDF. I try to breathe deeply. … I work in the garden—that helps a lot. There’s a group of friends that I have, we have a code word, “beagle beagle”–it means, “don’t talk about it right now.” There are certain people I trust not to take it too far and not get into rage. But sometimes you have to let it out.

How do you direct that anger?

I physically can’t do what [the first person who stopped] does, going to the Cricket [Valley] protests. I go on doing my art and just being conscious of my gratitude.

*

I have dystopian fantasies about where we’re headed. Earth isn’t gonna be able to sustain its existing population. Climate catastrophe, migration—and what’s gonna happen to the next generation, and how are they gonna deal with that? I think it’s the number one problem in the world. It’s terrifying.

How often do you think about it?

Probably every day. Particularly because our political system is so frozen. I feel paralyzed by the magnitude of the problem. … All of a sudden I woke up this winter and I was like, “Oh my God, this is a crisis.”

*

I think I’m more worried rather than anxious. It’s pushing me to see what I can do about it. Changing from a gasoline powered car to an electric car. Asking what I can do in my town. It started with the election of Trump—I would go to town board meetings just to know what was going on. And I started going to planning meetings for zoning changes for solar energy and wind energy, and I got myself on the planning board. It’s an eye-opener. A lot of people on the planning board are very into, “Let’s develop.” I keep asking the questions [that challenge that], but I haven’t been involved in any actual decisions yet. Maybe it’ll happen, or maybe we’ll agree. But I do worry that at some point it’s gonna be our turn … Things have been happening all over the globe. What’s our turn?

What are some things that you could see the planning board doing that would make “our turn” less destructive?

That’s more of a town board thing than a planning board thing. The planning board is more like okaying or turning down new projects. The ones that are really egregious—those are the ones to stop. I spent half a year going to these town board meetings, and sometimes I was the only person there.

Why do you think that is?

Where I am, I’m kind of blessed. People who are struggling, it’s like the struggle takes everything they have.

*

This is what’s not fair. This is really unconscionable. We can pollute the water, the air, the ground, but what about the animals? What about their rights to have clean water and air? I read that in North Carolina, Duke University polluted about thirty miles of river. What about the fish and the wildlife? It’s so cruel. I can filter the water, but the deer can’t, the raccoons and the beavers and the fish can’t. We seem to be so callous to the environment. We live here. Who put that trash there? It’s the number one issue facing us today. There’s no tomorrow, there’s no “wait till next year.”

…I’m seeing our [CT] reps Monday night. I want to know where Jahana Hayes stands on impeachment. … One impetus for immigration is the environment. They can’t survive, they can’t grow enough food. Yet we’re standing idly by. … Especially when I look at what’s happening to this administration–I am, I am upset. We can’t have this rapacious appetite when it comes to resources. I actually think we’re on the path to extinction.

*

The thing that gets me is personally I’m very sensitive to weather and have been my whole life. What I notice now is more extremes that last longer and are more powerful. It doesn’t just rain, it’s a deluge. … Or the heat—it’s cold until May and then it’s hot. Two months ago we were underwater, now we’re in a serious drought. The pond behind my house—I had to [let some of the water out]. Now you can see the backs of the fish rippling the water because it’s too shallow. I don’t even want to think about what’s gonna happen in a couple more weeks. I feel disappointed and disgusted by my race.

What’s it like to carry that feeling around?

It’s actually becoming part of my identity. Because even though I’m doing what I can … The feeling for me is that there’s some awareness but [we’re] swimming upstream, swimming against the tide. Until I’m not throwing anything away anymore–

*

[Person 2 is the adult child of Person 1.]

Person 1: What’s gonna become of us? There’s really a constant cloud, because I know that the world as we know it—even already it’s not the world as we knew it, and I despair for the future. And I truthfully, even though I would love the hell out of them, I’m not sorry I’m not having grandchildren. I would welcome them if they were to appear.

Person 2: You liked reading dystopian novels, but now—

Person 1: Now it’s become too real. Every other month the magazine I work for comes out, and there are more and more stories [about terrible futures].

How does it feel to imagine how bad it can get?

Person 1: For my lifetime, I’m not likely to be impacted. Except for my kids, who are in their thirties and forties. Unfortunately, there are so many crazy issues right now. This and income inequality are my two biggest issues.

Person 2: We don’t talk about the climate, we talk about politics.

Person 1: Because the climate is so overwhelming.

Person 2: And we’re on the same page about that. I don’t eat meat, I live in the city so I live in an aprtment, I don’t use as much gas. But it all feels futile.

What would feel less futile?

Person 2: Stopping the Koch brothers? I don’t know. I just feel like everything is tied together.

*

Right now I’m concerned about the birds. The Arctic is getting warmer and the summers are getting hotter, so the birds are going to have to adapt—or not adapt.

[This person also emailed me the following, later:]

Loved visiting you all today in Millerton. Anything that takes the impersonal and makes it a part of personal consciousness helps the cause. My concerns for migrating birds moving from melting northern climes to the overheated southern climes and back involves so many unknowns. Who knows how the migrating birds will be able to adapt. We’ll have to find out, while paying attention as best we can the the disrupted climates and the effect on birds, much less other flora, fauna and humans.

*

I saw an article in a magazine about climate scientists and their battle with their emotional state—they know too much, they know what’s gonna happen. I can completely relate to these people. I’ve been an activist now for twenty, maybe twenty-five years. … I got run out of college my first year for drinking and drugging, and I went to Washington DC, and this PIRG approached me to come work to help clean the oceans. So I went door to door. My rock is activism, my rock is change.

Is there a campaign you’ve been part of that you’re really proud of?

Silo Ridge. Over in Amenia, they wanted to put up a walled compound for the 1%, keep everyone else out. I was hired by the next door neighbors, who were the gun club. They were just bullies and I don’t like bullies. I put in probably 7000 hours and I made $7000.00. But I proved to some very wealthy people that if they would have been on my side from the beginning–

…I work with people on a sporadic basis. For a massive project—I’ve got to get better at that.

*

It’s scary. I feel really frightened for my grandchildren. I think you have to maintain hope in the next generation, because our generation really screwed it up.

*

My feelings are all over the place, but I’d say the incline—feeling it’s been on a steep incline, and that makes me feel terrible … Do you know know that poem “Good Bones” by Maggie Smith? I often had that feeling when my kids were growing up. Right now I’m trying to sell myself the world. They’re in their twenties and they know everything is kind of an exquisite mess.

What is the world? I mean, in this scenario?

I don’t need to sell myself many things in the world. If I’m walking or just taking in the world, I am there. It’s really when I hear about just a lot of the materialism and the way Trump’s whole scam for bringing out the worst in people and their tendencies.

What’s the relationship for you between enjoying and despairing?

Enjoying lives here in a circle with ten other people enjoying. And once I enlarge the circle more and more, that’s when I head toward despair.

*

I’m a journalist from a long time ago, and I recently retired from a job in PR for the UN. I went to a forum at Columbia last spring … on journalism and climate change—how to get climate change covered properly. I thought it would be something to get my head away from the deep Trump depression. But in the end it just doubled my depression because I started paying more attention. I’ve been aware of climate change for more than 30 years. Since I retired, it’s been more about how we’re allowing ourselves to be driven off this cliff. People aren’t stopping the Kochs and the Trumps. I can be pessimistic—I have a science background, and when I see science being ignored—I have a hard time looking for the hopeful side of this.

More specific is how I relate to how you live your life. When I get off the train in Wassaic, I see a hundred cars waiting there and they’re mostly SUVs, and they’re getting ready to drive to their second homes. That’s who I am, I’m a privileged second homer. I have a large footprint. I’m guilty, and I’m angry about the inadequacy, and I’m pissed off at how we tolerate this culture of inequality. I live in Chelsea, where they just built these new multimillion dollar apartments. When we do get people aware of climate change, it seems like the only action that we’re allowing for is individual.

*

Here is a picture of my mom, me, and my dad, as well as a stopper and a very small passerby.

[IMAGE: Three people are stationed on an expanse of grass, two people are standing/walking. The leftmost seated person, a white woman in her 70s, is sitting behind a table of pottery for sale and a sign that says “Freedom of speech / Freedom of worship / Freedom from fear / Freedom from want.” The middle person, a white woman in her 40s, is sitting behind a booth that says “Climate Anxiety Counseling 5 cents / Here to listen,” and a gray-haired white person with their back to the camera is talking to her. The rightmost person, a white man in his 70s, is sitting at a small table with a box of art buttons that says “You are free to take one.” A small white child with a blonde ponytail is walking past, looking at all of them.]

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About the Amazon

When people say that climate change is what you get when your starting points are capitalism, exploitation, colonization and genocide, the burning of the Amazon is the kind of thing they’re talking about. This is the destruction of a world. It could mean the destruction of all the worlds we know.

If you have never been driven from your home by violence or disaster, I ask you to imagine the fire–fire set by human hands–taking not just your dwelling, but all your landmarks, your houses of worship, your sources of food and of meaning, driving you and your relatives apart, flattening and poisoning everything that made you who you are.

People are doing this to other people, right now, in what used to be the forest, in order to punish them for existing and to profit from that punishment. If you are neither the destroyers nor the people they’re trying to destroy, what can you do?

Climate and culture writer Nylah Burton has laid out a well-sourced and compassionate explanation of why boycotting beef is a worthwhile response to this murder and desecration if enough people do it. Remember that the purpose of a boycott is to starve an industry or a practice of profit–clearing your conscience is a side effect. (That thread includes a few actions and choices beyond your own eating habits as well.)

Europe and Asia are presently the main markets for Brazilian beef and soy, so if you don’t live in those places but know people there, please strongly and lovingly recommend this to them. People living in EU countries can also write to or call the office of your MEP (UK residents can do it here) and demand that they block the Mercosur trade deal if it includes no protections for the Amazon (a little background).

Improving tree and plant cover and soil health where you live is not enough to counter the wholesale destruction, but is good practice and may offer some relief, especially if it becomes more widespread. If you use Twitter, @BuildSoil is a good person to follow for suggestions and instructions on how to do this. Local conservation, restoration, permaculture, and food sovereignty/food justice initiatives already often have a body of expertise and effort that you can add your weight to–if you’re not already involved with them, use those terms to search for some near you.

Here is an alternate history about the end of resource extraction. Here’s another one about the Amazon and transforming grief into action and healing. Let’s open our imaginations, recognize our connections, and let both of those inform our choices and actions: it’s true that destruction or life in the Amazon can destroy life elsewhere, just as what happens there when the fires aren’t burning can nourish life elsewhere. It’s also true that what we do on the ground we’re on, in the web of life we’re in, reverberates in places we will never touch or see.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market, 7/17/19

Weather: Hot and muggy, a couple spatters of rain

Number of people: 4 stoppers, 1 walkby

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 2

People who recognized the Peanuts reference: 1

Money raised for Tooth and Nail Community Support Collective: $1.00

Observations:

I only got permission to share one conversation today. Everyone working the market agrees that it’s been a slow season so far, and no one is sure why. If you live in Providence and it’s not hard for you to get to 275 Elmwood Ave, come buy your vegetables at the Sankofa Market next week (7/24, 2-6pm)! The farmers live nearby, and SNAP is double!

Nonhuman animal passersby: cabbage white butterfly, pigeons, bronze-colored dragonfly (maybe an eastern amberwing?), monarch butterfly, sparrow, gnat, housefly, white egret flying over.

Non-rhetorical question to ask next time someone’s anxious about finding work: Why do you think it’s so hard to find work?

Some conversations:

I’m anxious about flooding because I hear that global warming is raising the sea level. Rising sea temperatures are bringing predatory fish closer to the shore. The whole polar ice cap thing, the whole ice cap melting.

How do you feel when you read or hear about all this?

Unlike some people, I believe it. I don’t feel good about it, but I don’t know how to actually reverse it.

So when you feel stressed out about it–

I don’t feel stress, but I am concerned. And we’re seeing it in our weather patterns: summer comes later and winter comes later. The weather is diffferent than the weather I grew up with.

Did you grow up in Rhode Island?

Here in Providence. There are effects on the bats, [climate change] feeds infection and diseases, so there are more insects—I don’t know how their recovery is going. Very rarely do I see a monarch butterfly.

Did you used to?

They were commonplace. I think it’s affecting the navigational systems of birds. Canada geese don’t migrate, they stay here all year now. And we’ve got these species coming over, invasive species.

*

Come next time and help this market grow!

[IMAGE: A tiny cucumber growing on a chain-link fence.]

Climate Anxiety Counseling: One-on-One, 6/27/19

(This person reached out to me a few weeks ago via email. “Before, climate change was an abstract concept to me,” they wrote. “I knew it was real, but it was somehow ‘out there’ somewhere, out of sight out of mind. Now, I am witnessing the undeniable consequences of it with my own two eyes. It has truly hit home and I am in shock.” 

At that time, they were feeling too raw to come to the booth and talk in public, so we made a plan to meet one-on-one. They brought $10.00 to donate to the Tooth and Nail Community Support Collective, and mint from their garden. Here are some of the things we talked about.)

I’ve sort of had some time to calm down since I wrote to you, to go from, “Oh my God,” to, “Well, we’re in this.” My concern always goes back to the animals. They’re innocent and defenseless against all this. I’ve been sorting through things in my mind about how to make sense of it. It’s like a huge tsunami wave—it’s way off in the background, but I can sort of see the crest. But it’s easy to sort of go on with your life, like, “Maybe it won’t happen,” or, “Maybe it won’t be so bad.” … It’s just so enormous that it’s hard to get a grip on it—for lots of people, including myself.

What was the first feeling you had when you heard how bad [climate change] is?

Shock. When I was finding out about that, when I realized that, I was sitting in my yard, and there was not a bee and not a butterfly in sight. My husband heard all about it, my friends and my neighbors, Instagram—but that’s just not a tenable solution because you’re just kinda spreading this stuff. I have not accepted it, but I can’t go around alienating people. I’d rather gain their interest … When I first became vegan I was like that. I was like a loaded cannon. I would cry, I would be, “Nobody’s paying attention, nobody cares!” I drove myself crazy for probably two years. I didn’t know how to deal with this, how to see all these animals suffering. Even when we would go to protest in Boston, I couldn’t look at the signs. I guess I was glad we were out there—I’m not sure.

What does it feel like to think about it now?

Painful and scary and sad. But I’m an artist, and I started making paintings about this. I want to use paintings and my blog to start reaching people. They’re mostly about the beautiful side—I did some that were about the tragic side but I don’t think that does much for people. They’re of the world before the Fall, before people started polluting. Holding that image in my mind when I meditate helps me a lot. As I go along, I want to kind of just branch out with it, show the paintings, have people respond to them. It’s a unique way that I can express what’s going on, and I look forward to that. That sounds like something I can do.

How does it feel when you’re painting?

I just feel like the sense—Finally, I can express this. I don’t have to walk around with it stuck in my throat all the time. I feel optimism and excitement. …

What was the moment, for you, with veganism, where you realized that you needed to stop what you were doing and do something else?

I was a vegetarian for fourteen years before I became a vegan. Probably I just started doing my own research. Do you know the artist Sue Coe? I went to an exhibit of her work, and I just couldn’t believe what I saw. I don’t know how she’s able to even put those images on paper. It’s just, “Well, there it is, I was there, I’m just painting what I saw, I’m not trying to make you feel guilty.” Then I started getting books out of the library—this was before the internet—and I changed my diet. Turning to veganism is a very emotional thing for people. You have to give up not just comfort foods, but emotional foods, the foods that your family had.

So that brings up—what are some things that you might lose because of climate change that are hard to let go of? … Either because you are voluntarily giving them up, or because they’re gone?

I don’t know. We have a very economical car, it’s nine—no, fourteen years old. The only thing I can think of is that we have a very small air conditioner.

I’m also thinking about stuff like—you know, maybe climate change means that you don’t have kids, or that you stop bugging your kids about grandkids. Or maybe it means you can’t live where you live, either because living there takes too much energy or because it’s not safe to live there anymore.

If I knew something I was doing was really harmful, I probably wouldn’t have a problem—not moving, that’s a different story. We don’t even use the air conditioner that much. We have a lot of shade, and there are wetlands behind our house. But I don’t want to stay in a bubble.

Tell me about the wetlands.

I have a studio on the ground floor and the windows look out onto the wetlands. I can see all the little creatures…it’s a complete joy to me. And it’s regulated, so that at least for now, nobody can dredge it and build on it. We and all the neighbors share it.

How else might you help to maintain living creatures, living systems?

I wanted to plant something for bees and butterflies, and I keep reading little articles, but if there’s no bees then what are you attracting? Yes, there may be a few bees, but when I walk around my neighborhood I’ve only see one or two. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved insects—I was gonna be an entomologist—and I would always turn over stones and see all kinds of insects, earthworms, pill bugs… now when I see a rock and I lift it up there’s maybe one kind of teeny tiny microscopic millipede. I sit outside on the concrete slab in front of our house and there’s almost no insects. That’s weird. And I see baby robins in our yard, but when I see the adults hunting for them, what are they finding? Usually I ‘d see them pulling up an earthworm, but the earthworms are probably going the same route.

mint

[IMAGE: Mint leaves and stems in a damp paper towel to keep them fresh.]

 

Learning Things

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

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

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

Climate Anxiety Counseling: PVD Fest, 6/3/17

Weather: Sun and clouds and sun and clouds, cool but with underlying (or superimposed?) heat

Number of people: 16 stoppers, 3 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 10.5

People who recognized the Peanuts reference: 0.5 (they said “Peppermint Patty” instead of “Lucy”)

Pictures taken with permission: 5

Pictures taken without permission: 11

Number of people who mentioned the Paris Agreement: 4

Dogs seen: I forgot to keep track at the beginning! After I started keeping track, 10.

Dogs pet: 2

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $19.70

 

Observations:

I was there as part of a long-lasting, outdoor, recreational event, with food (costing money) and music (free) and stuff for kids to do (also free), so it’s not representative of how an ordinary booth session would go.

A lot of talk about powerlessness, not much about power. Another theme was the notion of anger as a cover or secondary emotion—for sadness, for fear—which I have heard before and noticed.

A lot of people are also worried about defoliating caterpillars and the idea of leaving behind a better or worse world.

 

Some conversations:

I mostly feel anger. I think anger is covering up my anxiety right now. We were screaming about it in the car on the way down. It’s scary. When the anger calms down, the fear comes up—the anxiety is just this chronic anxiety that’s always there. … Before this, I was anxious about climate change but it would go in and out, I was zoning out about it. Now I feel like this administration is waking a lot of people up. Part of me feels powerless even though I know I’m not. There’s so much I feel worried about with this administration—health care, immigration, the fate of the U.S. … We have to live our lives, so we push down the parts that are too hard to feel. But it breaks my heart. I feel like my heart is broken. There’s so much going on that breaks my heart, it makes it hard to feel hopeful. And also, I feel disgusted. It’s hard to live your life feeling disgusted.

*

My anxieties is just the fear of the unknown. The air that we’re breathing is what could kill us tomorrow. Nuclear bombs could go off tomorrow … War is more at the forefront than it was back then. So many different ways to pollute the earth that you don’t know where it’s coming from. Money factors, living factors, kid factors, health conditions– “I can’t afford my drugs to be able to care for myself.”

*

What worries me most is—what I worry about—what upsets—concerns me, more than all the most pragmatic concerns, is just the lack of compassion and empathy. It’s so systemic. We aren’t encouraged to think that way, and our circle of empathy is shrinking more and more. It comes out in people’s climate concerns. People don’t think enough about the consequences of what we’re doing, in space or in time: “If we can have a breakwater in our city, we’re okay.” Or “It’s not going to hit us for another one or two generations.”

How did you get to that point, where you could look beyond?

I think interaction is one of the most essential things. And meeting people where they are. What social mechanisms make people receptive? How can you make it concrete and refelctive of their experience?

I was wondering about you specifically, how you got to that point.

That’s so tough and I don’t know that it had anything to do with climate justice. Through family and friends who taught me to be thinking outside of my circle of influence? That’s hard to try to pin down. My mom’s a teacher, and she’s always talking and thinking about the way that people live in different spheres of life … Trying to walk that line in a way that’s careful and sometimes quiet. To open up the possibility of a meaningful exchange, not fully on their terms but sort of. If you apply that systematically…

What feels resistant, to you, about doing that? What’s hard for you about it?

I’m really angry, that makes it hard. Really I’m sad and that comes through in anger. We all have our own defenses up … You just see so much anger. I saw on TV, in West Virginia, environmental activists yelling at coal miners, and then the coal miners yelled back at the activists—that’s not getting anywhere. Not even the seed of a conversation can come out of that. To see a person as a walking ideology—no one is.

*

Everything just feels like it’s falling apart … My parents keep apologizing to me and my sister. They keep saying, “This is what we brought you, this is what you’re gonna inherit. I’m sorry this is how the world is right now.” It feels really rough. Compared to other kids I know, my parents are older, so I’m also worried about losing them. It’s hard to figure out. There are the small differences that you can make that everybody can do, recycling and not wasting water, using too much electricity or gas. But with recent events, the Paris Accords, it’s overwhelming … Obviously I want the world to live on, I want creatures and human beings to live on. But sometimes I try to forget.

What do you do to sustain the creatures around you, especially the nonhuman ones?

If I see trash outside of trashcans I try to throw it away. If I see it, it becomes my responsibility. It sticks in my mind. I”m trying to see if there are bigger things I can do—that’s just one street on one block.

*

 

Why is it raining in June? It seems like a rainier—just everything. It’s like we’re adopting the Floridian weather. It should be sunny right now, 70, 75 and sunny, but instead it feels like you’re in London, England. When it’s sunny I’m in a better mood. When it’s time for the sun to be out and I see it’s not out, it upsets me. This weather should’ve happened in April and it didn’t.

*

 

My mom should talk to you—she has a lot of climate anxieties. She know’s it’s gonna affect me more than her, and she knows it’s gonna affect low-income people and people of color more than her or me. She’s been an educator her whole life, and she’s always wanted to leave a better world behind her when she’s gone. It’s painful to think about.

*

I’m worried about the world ending.

What about the world are you worried about losing?

Nature, animals, fresh air. We just want to see this President gone.

Do you imagine the world you’re afraid of?

No. I remember all kinds of dire predictions back in the ’70s, horrible pictures, everybody with gas masks. It didn’t help.

*

For ethnic minorities, discrimination is more of a concern. The way they’ve targeted ethnic minorities—everything about this presidency. The fact that he pulled out of the Paris Accords. And it seems like everyone’s accepted whatever’s happening. There’s no more big protests. We’re all just waiting to see what happens next.

*

 

The roads are really bad around where I live, the South Side. They fix them, but it’s just like a layer over. People just get a little discouraged anyway—they say they’ll fix them and they take all year.

*

G*psy moths. I see them at school and I saw them way more this year than last year.

Do you talk to anybody about this?

Yeah, my friend _______.

They notice them too? Do you guys squish them?

Yeah.

*

I just read that Providence has the worst air quality of any city in New England. [My daughter] always wants to play at India Point Park and I’m like, “Only if you don’t breathe.”

*

The apathy and wanting to be ignorant of the issues. I hope the mentality can be changed before it’s too late. I don’t want the world to be worse for my kids than it was for me. Everyone feels like they’re powerless and if you feel that way, you are.

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling: the Booth is Back

…or it will be back this Saturday, in Burnside Park, as part of PVD Fest, and on Wednesday-Saturday afternoons throughout the month of June (with a couple gaps).

This Saturday, I’ll be there 12-12:30 and 3:30-6 to hear, discuss and write down your climate change and other anxieties, and give you a little piece of art (featuring one of your fellow Rhode Island organisms) to keep.

Between 1 and 3pm I’ll be walking and posing throughout the festival with the Portable Floodline 2100 to show, on buildings and streets, how high the sea is predicted to rise. Bring your snorkeling gear and take a photo with us!

Actual History: Refusal 9

 

I’m working to learn more from the stories of people who have refused and rejected attempts to exploit and tyrannize them, and I thought you might like to do that, too.

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I’m going to tell this story backward.

In 1804, General Jean-Jacques Dessalines named Haiti and declared it independent. In 1803, he had led the formerly enslaved people who defeated the army of French colonizers at the Battle of Vertieres. They’d been fighting since 1791, but they’d been preparing to fight for much longer than that.

The people who would become Haitians used previous slave rebellions and the French Revolution as spurs and models. They had forged a shared language out of a combination of French and their or their parents’ home languages. Many of them shared Vodun religious practices.

The mountains in the years before 1791 were full of people, people who had escaped slavery and lived there and people who came there to meet them. “The slaves were stirring and holding mass meetings in the forest at night,” one of my sources read.

Marronage is the name for what the people who ran to the forest and made their lives there did, and what enslaved Black people throughout the Americas and the Caribbean did, before they killed their oppressors and gained their freedom. They made places to live, speak, think, eat, and plan. Of people similarly positioned in Louisiana, Ashon Crawley wrote, “The ciprieré communities secreted from local plantations, maintaining a relationship to spaces from which they escaped, but established new patterns of behavior and aesthetic interventions for protection and peace. Setting traps, navigating the swamps, having sex, singing, raising children, eating – all these were aesthetic practices that always and likewise had to be forms of preparation. Maroons needed to be ready at a moment’s notice for encounter with the political world of the exterior that would bear down on them and produce violence against them. Each practice, therefore, was a likewise preparation for the possibility of the threat of violation; each practice, thus, highlights the ways in which interventions always likewise have an aesthetic quality and theoretical underpinning.”

In other words, the story of marronage is the story of learning to live instead: rejecting, refusing, the ways the people profiting from your suffering told you were the only ways. Living, instead, or otherwise, in ways that make you want to live, and make you and your people more likely to live, and prepare you all to evade or to fight back against your death.

*

The Haitian Revolution is famous. My sources cite rough counts for how many former slaves and how many colonizers died, but I haven’t been able to find a source that will tell me how many people enslaved in what’s now Haiti died–through murder, through abuse, through neglect, at the hands of the white people who enslaved them–before the Revolution. I’m guessing that would change the count considerably. When you’re reading history, I urge you to consider and seek out the numbers around the numbers, and the information around the information, remembering that every historian chooses when and where to start and stop the story.

The first Ashon Crawley essay I cited above is an old one, and even the second one is two years old. I recommend attending to his recent work.

Actual History: Refusal 7

I’m working to learn more from the stories of people who have refused and rejected attempts to exploit and tyrannize them, and I thought you might like to do that, too.

*

 

The people of Asubpeeschoseewagong / Grassy Narrows, in Ontario, Canada, successfully halted clear-cutting of their forests for ten years. Judy DaSilva, who participated in the blockade, wrote about it in May 2016:

“By 2002, our people were frustrated with the “dead end” complaint processes over the destruction of our forest by the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and Abitibi [Consolidated, the logging company, later Abitibi Bowater]. We had no protectors except ourselves.

So on that cold winter day, one of our community members said, ‘We need to do something.’ We set up a campfire on the side of the logging road about three kilometers from the reserve. By night, everyone had left except this one man. We went back to the comfort of our warm homes while he stayed. That night, even though he was scared, he stopped a logging truck from entering the forest. The next morning students showed up in full force, bringing the energy up at the blockade.

When our whole community had heard about this man’s actions, many community members, and supportive Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) began to help…”

Here is the logging company’s letter committing to withdrawal from the forest in 2008. But in 2012, ten years after its beginning, the blockade was still necessary and people were still maintaining it. They maintained it in the face of a Supreme Court decision against them in 2014. Several of the sources I found referred to it as “the longest-running blockade in Canadian history.” (Some more background, assembled by “solidarity activists working with Grassy Narrows organizers”, is here.)

The forestry management plan for the region threatens it again with logging, and the people, land and water of Asubpeeschoseewagong / Grassy Narrows continue to suffer from mercury poisoning caused by the logging and paper industries. They are attempting to fight it using the courts as well, and seeking action from Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Wynn; especially if you are Canadian, you can write to them and seek it too.

PLEASE NOTE: If anyone knows anything that contradicts the information here, please tell me and I will correct it! At the risk of sounding sanctimonious (“too late, Kate,” I hear you saying), that’s how we build knowledge together.