Public Hearing in Woonsocket about Burrillville Power Plant, 1/6, 5-10pm

In order to build a fracked-gas power plant in Burrillville, RI, Invenergy needs water that they are proposing to purchase and truck to Burrillville from Woonsocket. (Woonsocket was previously considering a water pipeline for this purpose.) If you’re looking for further background, there’s a list of relevant articles at the bottom of the one linked above.

The Woonsocket City Council is having a public meeting on Friday, January 6th, 5-10pm, Woonsocket High School. PLEASE NOTE THAT I HAD THE TIME WRONG BEFORE! If you can, please attend and let the City Council know that this is a bad idea for many reasons:

Rhode Island should be investing in new renewable energy infrastructure, not new fossil fuel infrastructure.

Because of the unsustainability of these forms of energy, jobs related to them are unlikely to last long (and Invenergy may bring in their own people for some of them); the proposed Woonsocket water facility would provide a maximum of three jobs, according to the article linked above.

The pollution, noise and traffic from the trucks, especially on smaller roads and roads through woods.

The pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the plant itself, which contribute to climate change and all its various effects on our food, air, water, weather and safety.

Unless I’m missing something, all that water will be unusable for anything else after they use it for this. (If anyone has information about this, let me know.)

*

This is a complicated situation because Woonsocket is a financially strained city and could use the money (which is, of course, why Invenergy made them the offer). So if you participate in this process by going to the public meeting, which I encourage you to do (I am), consider also participating in other processes that might help support Woonsocket’s human economy and sociality without doing quite so much damage to the nonhuman world. I’ll try to keep an eye out for what those might be and post them here.

 

 

Advertisements

North Dakota Police and Military Attack Standing Rock Water Protectors

The alliance of over 300 peoples resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline is under aggressive attack by police, National Guard and other forces.

As I post this, Atsa E’sha Hoferer was still posting live from the site.

Kelly Hayes spoke yesterday with people there about the history and context of their resistance.

You can donate to the legal defense fund for the water protectors, if you have money to spare.

Climate Anxiety Counseling at the Sankofa World Market: 8/31/16

Weather: Coolish, humid, overcast, a few raindrops.

Number of people: 4 stoppers, 1 walkby.

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 4

Pictures taken with permission: 2

Pictures taken without permission: 1

People who commented on the Peanuts reference: 0, though a woman did walk by in a shirt with Lucy, Linus, Charlie Brown and Snoopy on it.

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island: $0.05

 

Observations: 

Another sparse day, and not even Michael Jackson to blame for it.

A couple of people interviewed me among the other market vendors. Thanks, those people! I also had several moving non-counseling conversations with other vendors, and several second conversations with people who’ve spoken to me at this market before.

I also got to see someone I met last year downtown: we talked on this day, and I gave him a copy of this alternate history. Later that summer he stopped by to ask how it ended, and I asked if he would try to end it. Today he said he was still thinking about it and he actually wrote something for it! If we’re able to reconnect and he’s willing for me to share it, I’ll post it here.

Today was my last day at the Sankofa World Market, and various people gave me A) a small sunflower, 2) a spoonful of majarete, and D) a spray of peachy-orange gladioli. One farmer also let me know when the eggplants were about to be gone, so I could buy two of them.

 

Some conversations:

Finding a good job after graduation. I’m graduating from college this year. I want to work for the CDC and study diseases, disease prevention, epidemiology … I’m just nervous because other people with the same major as me are just floating around two years later. I can’t be working minimum wage, living and paying my loans.

*

Since I talked to you I’ve been trying to be more intentional about my choices. Sometimes I go to Stop and Shop and get vegetables from wherever they come from, but I wanted to come back [to the Sankofa Market] because the vegetables are so good, they’re grown right here and they’re really affordable. It’s easier to make positive choices [when you’re buying food], because companies say, “Oh, it was grown this way, it was raised this way.” But it’s harder to make negative choices, because the negative isn’t advertised: “Oh, we treat workers like shit.”

… I was also thinking from when we talked before about when I was really young, Public Works–this was in Vermont–would cut the trees and I was just sobbing, thinking they were killing them, and I think that’s a gift that young children have–to be able to relate to the trees. But me not being able to get out of bed because I’m sad about the trees isn’t ultimately sustainable. I’ve been watching a four-year-old and the other day she said to me, “Let’s make a movie…I wanna make a movie about trees. Trees are so important because they’re so pretty.” And I think there’s a connection between the place that tears come from that trees are dying and the joy at the awesomeness of the natural world. But I guess it’s easier to empathize with humans.

*

 

I guess my anxiety about this [gestures at sign] at the moment is around that article that’s circulating, “Is it irresponsible to have kids in the age of–” It’s an area where there’s so many really clear cerebral positive fact-based reasons [not to have kids]. It doesn’t make sense for there to be any more humans, that’s how we got to where we are. But then you’re thinking about this realm that’s so unconnected with any scientific analysis and reasoning. How do these intersect–this really primal, human thing, this biological imperative that bonks up against harsh reality? We don’t need more humans swelling the population. And then on a personal level it’s also ugggggghhhhh, wow, I don’t–

 

 

Doctor’s note: I suggested that this person look at the work that Conceivable Future does.

Andrea Zhu interviewed me for WBRU

Remember a while back, Andrea Zhu interviewed me about the Climate Anxiety Counseling booth and I thought I missed it, or something?

Here are the fruits of that interview. Thanks, Andrea!

She writes, “It’s hard to say whether other communities around the world will adopt Schapira’s method to address the local effects of global climate change.” If you would like to do a version of climate anxiety counseling in your home city or town, watch this space: I’m putting a template up soon, and then maybe it will be a little easier to say.

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.

Rally Against RIPTA Fare Increase, Thursday 11/19

From the RIPTA Riders’ Alliance:

A protest against bus fare hikes will be held
4pm Thursday Nov 19 (next week) at the Smith St
side of the State House.

We are also asking riders to call state leaders
to tell them to fund RIPTA and stop these fare hikes:
Speaker Nicholas Mattiello 401-⁠222-⁠2466,
Governor Gina Raimondo 401-⁠222-⁠2080,
Senate President Teresa Paiva-⁠Weed 401-⁠222-⁠6655.

The event page is here.

I posted RIPTA’s schedule of hearings about the increases here.

A Great Face for Radio

UPDATE: I apparently can’t read and don’t know what time is.

Andrea Zhu interviewed me for a story about Climate Anxiety Counseling, and this story AIRED at 11pm Eastern Time (U.S.) on WBRU 95.5 FM LAST NIGHT and I didn’t hear it.

I don’t know yet from Andrea whether you’ll be able to hear this at any other time or in any other way, but if I find out, I will tell you here.

Climate Anxiety Counseling AND Alternate Histories at a Creative Medicine Lecture, 10/14/15

At the end of this lecture, I invited the people in attendance to write down their own climate anxiety, trade with or pass to the person sitting next to them, and write an alternate history for that anxiety. I’d explained as part of the lecture what an alternate history is/does, and read a sample one–this one. Many more people wrote than handed me what they wrote.

This is a relatively new format for the booth (though I’ve invited people to do it before) and I’m still working out how to set it up well and not try to control it too much.

The people attending this free lecture included some Brown students, some Brown professors, some who were neither, some friends of mine, and some strangers; I was distracted/relieved by being done speaking and didn’t notice who handed in which writings.

CLIMATE ANXIETY: I fear that the world my children inherit from my generation will be overtaken by loss, violence, brutality, exploitation; and there will no longer be wild landscapes to which they can retreat.

ALTERNATE HISTORY: Have you ever read the book The Road by Cormac McCarthy? It’s a book of the apocalypse, in which a father and son try to survive in this “new world”–the only world the son has ever experienced. The son finds beauty in this world, because it’s all he has ever experienced, and in turn he makes the world that much more beautiful. I think with this mentality, we can create a society of sympathetic minds, which may slowly rebuild a new image of a wonderful world.

*

CLIMATE ANXIETY: I’m worried about the attitude toward refugees all over the First World [sic]–what’s happening in Syria and Europe right now–what’s happening here on our border with Mexico–Trump’s poll ratings and his idea for a “giant wall” on the border. Why can’t we accept fellow humans just because they are beyond an imaginary border? What will we do when more people are homeless and need a place to go because of climate, war or otherwise?

ALTERNATE HISTORY: Educational policy changes so that understandings of psychological and psychosocial dynamics are taught at early stages–especially the way people project internal anxieties onto others. And there is a genuine move to make international law more robust and to make national borders more practical than infused with bad patriotism.

*

CLIMATE ANXIETY:

All of the environmental

changes associated

with global warming–

different coastlines

different weather

different wildlife

more life stress living

with these changes.

ALTERNATE HISTORY: You seem to be afraid of change. Maybe a place to start is to look at the possibility that change can be productive and positive instead of doom-filled. We don’t know yet how this will turn [around? can’t read their handwriting] but people who are creative and determined to “use the change” will help us realize our potential to change for the better.

*

CLIMATE ANXIETY: I fear the sensation of not being able to breathe clean air, someday soon, and of not trusting the water I drink is safe.

ALTERNATE HISTORY: The new world that could be possible will include more public awareness of the needs of our planet and how it supports us. Through faith leaders (Dalai Lama, Pope Francis, etc.) speaking on it, as well as civic leaders, more focus, effort and energy will be devoted to global health in a way that can improve life for individuals and environment. Better not to deny–

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

Maybe you couldn’t come to the Creative Medicine Lecture I gave on October 14th. I thought you might like to see the basic words of it. Throughout the week I’ll post the collaborative climate anxieties and alternate histories that people wrote after the talk. Thanks to Jay Baruch, Kit Salisbury, the Cogut Center for the Humanities and everyone who asked such good questions.

*

In the fall of 2013, I read an article predicting the near-future extinction of coral reefs, and by the winter of 2013, I started feeling very bad all the time. I had no language for how bad I was feeling and why. When people asked me what I was crying about, I said, “I’m crying about climate change and ecosystem destruction,” and they were nice about it but they looked at me funny. One person said it wasn’t normal to feel as bad as I did about it, and that made me wonder if other people were feeling the same way, or if they were hiding it, or what was the thing that felt like this to them. I tried to think how I could find this out, and I thought of Lucy’s booth in Peanuts—I’m married with a cartoonist—and that’s how Climate Anxiety Counseling was born.

I now know that a lot of people are anxious about climate change, both from people who talked to me at the booth and from articles that people have written since then. Psychiatrist Lise Van Susteren described it as “pre-traumatic stress disorder,” with anger and panic and obsessive, intrusive thoughts. Climate scientists are expressing their anxiety at a website called Is This How You Feel?, and in interviews with Rolling Stone and Slate. Adults feel it, kids feel it. Organizations have sprung up to address it–the Rhode Island Dept of Health hosted a talk with someone from the Resource Innovation Group’s Transformational Resilience Program who spoke about the stresses of climate change, its effects, and the knowledge of it. There’s the deep terror that goes beyond fearing your own death, fearing the world will not go on without you. There’s the human-apocalyptic scenarios–food shortages, infectious water, desperate people turning violent. There’s the feared discomfort of hot summers, the inability to sleep. There are questions that feel aesthetic but that I think are actually our way of acknowledging our interdependence with the species and systems of our world–will we still have the crisp fall weather that I love, in which I can feel the world I live in saying certain things to me? Will this bird, which I’ve never seen in mutual personal presence, but which I find so beautiful, survive? And with all that there’s the helplessness, the sense that there’s nothing I, or I, or I can do to slow this down, to stop it, to reverse it–that it’s out of our hands.

People brought all of these up to me at the booth. They also, as I pretty much expected, brought up a lot of other sources of worry and anger and fear that might have the same roots as climate change but didn’t have to do with it specifically. Many of them already have no safe place to stay, already don’t know where their next meal is coming from, are already angry and potentially violent or the targets of violence. Many of them, many of us, live within a fearful state of mind and being, one that shrinks and hardens our personal borders–there are so many things to which we’re vulnerable no matter how hard we resist, and so many barriers that are raised against so many of us, that it’s tempting to raise barriers wherever we can.

From the very beginning I knew that I wanted it to be easy for people to talk to me, and that I wasn’t going to try to control too much what they said—I wanted them to be able to talk about whatever was pressing on their minds the most. I wanted to create a shared language for talking about climate change, and I also wanted to figure out what might prevent people from worrying about it and, thus, acting to try to minimize it—not that I really had any idea how they would do that. What might be paralyzing them, or causing them to feel stuck, as I did.

People told me all kinds of things, both climate-related and not, and if you want to know more about what they were you can definitely look at the project website where I keep a record of all the booth sessions, but what I want to focus on for the moment is the fact that I was there at all, and that they told me things at all. There were two things that happened with the booth—interactions with people I know, who were mainly there because it was me, and interactions with people I didn’t know, which mainly happened because they were intrigued or appealed to. Both of them resulted in me listening to and asking questions about things that I doubt they would have shared with me in any other context.

I made the booth small so I could move it without a car and so it would be nonthreatening, and I made it at all because I thought it would provide a framework, a kind of mini-room, for our conversation. Something that protected me, that armored me, but not completely; something that revealed me, that made me available, but not completely. Sort of like a doctor’s office, except that you don’t have to wrangle insurance or get yourself to an appointment or prove you need help. All you have to do is encounter me, by accident, in the space you inhabit, and decide to talk with me. If you don’t need to talk to me, fine—I won’t bother you. If you do need to talk to me, here I am, sitting behind a plywood-and-cardboard construction. And while you are talking with me, you are my focus–my attention is yours, and your distress is close to mine.

So that’s one thing the booth made me think about that I didn’t expect, which is how we can take care of each other differently by turning some of the dials of expertise, intimacy, effort and protection to different levels. My expertise is really low, but the sunk costs on both sides for talking to me are also really low. Talking with me at the booth is not a big investment of anyone’s time or energy or money. The booth’ s drop-in structure means that some of the things that are exhausting or demoralizing about feeling like you have to “keep up with” your own care are absent. It’s clear, because of what it’s about, that it doesn’t “all depend on you”—it can’t. If anything is happening, if anything is working, it’s happening while we’re talking at the booth together, in the moment of the interaction.

But what is it that’s happening and how do we know? I know that for me, becoming the person I am at the booth is good for my mind and body. That person’s fuse is longer; she asks more questions; she listens better. She’s more alert to interaction. Who does the person talking to me become, while they’re talking to me? Do they know that person, like that person? Do they feel eased? Our interactions are fleeting. It’s an upside—they’re low pressure. It’s a downside: I don’t know if they matter outside of the moment in which they take place. I don’t know if they allow anyone else to feel better, be kinder, be braver—these are the things want, the kinds of things I’d like to see happen, to enable if I can.

I do know that there may be people here in the audience who when they hear “easier access” or “fewer boundaries” or “availability” freeze up—maybe you can’t imagine giving more than you already give, have already carefully calibrated what you CAN give, or have had bad experiences with being “available” and “accessible”?

So much of the way we talk about care is the way we talk about food and land and water and space and time: a language of scarcity, of being grabbed at, protecting ourselves from a thousand hands. In some ways this is true and in some ways it feels true. Another way to say this is that there are more needs than any one of us can meet, and that each person who talks to us about one of their needs is bringing us all of their needs–a tremendous weight balanced on a tiny point of contact. And I think this is especially true when the pain is really bad, and it’s especially true when it’s been really hard to get to the person who you think can help you, and it’s especially true when that is or seems like your only chance for that kind of help, and it’s especially true when you think of yourself as alone, beleaguered, beset.

In my little cardboard ramshackle booth, I don’t look like I have a lot of power over other people—I don’t look official—and I think for some people that might be what frees them to stop, and to speak. On my side of the booth, it seems like the fleetingness and strangeness of the interaction also protect me–it shelters different parts of me than, for example, a receptionist might, or an obligation to serve a certain number of people each day. It allows me and the person speaking with me to share a different kind of moment, maybe more direct, less threatening–I have more power than some of them, but I have no power over them in that moment, nor am I responsible for them in the way I imagine I would feel if I had an ongoing, official relationship with them. The structure of the booth–and also my own great social good luck, the fact that I get to go home and eat something and that my home is relatively safe and filled with love–helps me walk between peace and intimacy, detachment and involvement.

So is all of this fake, then, just fake and feel-good? Calling something art sometimes makes people feel relieved, like, “Oh, it’s just a movie”–that feeling. The “gallery wall” feeling. Am I signaling to people that talking with me is enough, putting a stupid band-aid on energy that we could use for action and change? Talking with me about your addiction doesn’t help to ease the pressures and pains in your life that make that addiction appealing. Talking with me about your fears for warming seas, ecosystems gutted and homes washed away isn’t going to dismantle the economic and social practices that contribute to global warming, toxins entering the water supply, deforestation.

Saying that you miss and long for your mother doesn’t bring her back, but it acknowledges that the burden of her loss was never wholly yours to carry. Acknowledging those things together, even just saying them out loud, can–it does for me, it’s one reason why I keep doing the booth. I’m not saying it definitely works this way for everybody, but it does feel right to me to talk about our losses and our fears, even though I also totally hate it and resent it and wish it would go away–I do this because I know it can’t go away. Roy Scranton, who wrote Learning to Die in the Anthropocene, speaks of setting aside time and space in his day to fully, darkly imagine the worst, and the way this frees him to be more present, active and powerful in the rest of each day.

Just as we use art to matter and not matter, we use it to deal with what we can’t deal with. Ursula K. LeGuin wrote that “fiction says in words what cannot be said in words.” And it can also help model and imagine what we could do that we’re not doing right now. If moments like the ones I sometimes have with people at the booth were more widespread, more frequent, more possible, would we see a change? What if such moments, such structures, were a recognized part of a complex network of ways of dealing with your mind in the world that might also contain—depending on your life, your needs—family, doctors, religion or meditation, medication, education/learning, changes in other aspects of the world itself?

You might still be having a hard time, because some things are terrible, but maybe there would be room for you. Maybe some days the point-of-service counseling would be enough, maybe there’d be walk-in services in several places, maybe a guaranteed basic income or a single-payer health care system would make it easier to see someone with deep training. The booth is not set up for deep healing–if anything, it offers microhealings, sort of the opposite of microaggressions, things that are small on their own but that I hope have the potential to add up. Maybe because they are small there can be a lot of them. Maybe if they could be combined with access to deeper, more painful or joyful practices, they would free a person to engage in that deeper kind of healing–including for a person who already monitors and facilitates deeper healing for others. What kinds of structures, what kinds of houses, can we build for these various interactions? What kind of edifice, what kind of pattern, what kind of time?

These “maybes”, these imaginings are part of how I extend the booth: I write alternate histories, imagining near futures where the sources of people’s anxieties are undone, removed, changed; stories that show us shifting our social priorities, stretching out our hands to benefit different people and structures than the ones we benefit by default right now. If we can imagine it, maybe we can build it. A good thing to remember here is that how we feel is inside us, but how we act is outside of us. Responding to the feelings that climate change and other forms of distress instill in us is good, but responding directly to the distress is good too, if we can. The booth feels like action to me, but insufficient action, but maybe a way to model habits and interactions that can make our present more livable, more open, whatever it does for our future.

These ideas and practices are weak, partial, meant to be critiqued and picked up and adapted and adjusted and reimagined by other people. Nothing we do alone matters, but we don’t do anything alone. And we have the luxury of being in this room together, of shared space and time. So before we do questions, I want to take a moment to respond to each other’s climate anxieties. I’ve left a piece of paper and for each of you, and I want you to write your climate anxiety on the paper, at the top. Then pass it to your neighbor–all you need to do is end up with one you didn’t write–and write a vision of a future in which their fears are no longer necessary and their needs are met. Change whatever you have to to do that.