Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market/Sowing Place, 7/7/18

Weather: Bright, breezy, feels almost cool compared to the past week

Number of people: 7 stoppers, no walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Pictures taken without permission: 1

People I’ve spoken with before, back for more: 2

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island: $0.15

 

Observations:

There weren’t a lot of vendors when I got there. Two came later.

Nonhuman animals: seagulls and pigeons overhead; bumblebees, cabbage white butterflies and a black swallowtail (?! I think) in the South Side Cultural Center’s flower garden.

Normally, I don’t include much of what I say in these conversations. But I had one on this day where I clarified something that a lot of people who talk to me seem unclear about, so I’m including the part of the conversation that has both the explanation and why I think it matters.

 

Some conversations:

I’m concerned about my grandson. When I went to pick him up from daycare, they told me he’s been play-fighting too much. We’re trying to help him learn to make good choices for himself, limiting TV time and time with the phone. And part of the problem is the daycare isn’t an exciting environment. He’s bored. There’s too much reading and sitting still for him, not enough playing … I’m the grandma, so I get him once a week. He wants to fight me! He’s getting bigger, so his punches hurt now. We used to play-fight, but now he doesn’t know his own strength. I wonder if that’s part of why—and then sometimes he goes to his dad’s, and that’s an uncontrollable environment. We just have to keep communication going with both his parents, and be diligent about getting results. I know he’s bored … And he’s good at school, he just needs an outlet.

(I give her a card with “small cranberry” on it.)

Oh, I know cranberries, I grew up on the Cape. I know the cranberry bogs. We used to skate on them, because they flood them in winter, and you’re not gonna fall through, ’cause where you gonna go? We used to try to cut through the bog to other places, but we’d get in trouble for that ’cause we’d be smashing the cranberries. We’re cranberry people. My family worked for Ocean Spray.

*

Why are people not more concerned about long-term change?

Do you have an opinion about it yourself?

Because people are built to live on a day-by-day basis.

*

It’s so pressing, it’s so stressful. I don’t know a lot of the science behind it, but it’s just so apparent—I don’t know how people can still be in denial about it. Look at Puerto Rico—what do you mean, this has nothing to do with what humans are doing? I think it has to happen to these people—the water has to rise up to their doorstep. If it’s not an issue for them, it’s not an issue. Just here in Providence, it’s gonna hit the more affluent parts, but there’s only so much further they can go. And people living in the West End—it’s not like they can go to the next town over—when you come in and take their land because you can? Right now they know that they’ll be fine, because they have the means to put their house on stilts or move somewhere else. Or Seattle’s banning plastic straws, which is great, but it has a lot of issues—you have people who use plastic straws, but then you have huge industries taking up so much. It’s like saying that people are poor because they get Dunkin’ Donuts every week, like there are no systemic issues keeping people poor. And there are folks with disabilities who need to use plastic straws.

Also like—here we are talking about plastic, and a lot of people come talking to me about that, but do you know the connection between plastic and climate change?

No, I don’t.

I can tell you if you want to know, but my point is that we’re all walking around putting these things together but we don’t necessarily know how they’re tied together. I do it too. Do you want to know?

Yeah.

So there are two things: the first thing is that plastic is made out of oil, petroleum, and all the work of extracting and making it uses fossil fuels. And the second way is that when plastic sits around in the ecosystem, it puts a strain on that ecosystem that’s already strained by climate change.

[This person had to go do something else and another person came up and spoke to me (I didn’t get permission to post that); later we resumed our conversation.]

So the plastic bag ban—that’s kind of regressive too, particularly with low-income communities. I definitely don’t want to be that person that’s like, “Every idea is bad,” but—and it’s not something that gets brought up in these conversations. It’s like, “Oh, we banned plastic bags and plastic straws but a coal lobbyist is the new head of the EPA.”

How do you think the conversation could go, or should go?

I guess it would be like: how are you going to address—for every initiative that you do, what are you going to do to change the structures that created a lot of these environmental damages? And the other thing is, what are you going to do to prepare communities that will be of course impacted? … In DC they also have a bag ban, where you pay a fee but they take it and they let you choose an organization to donate to, so it’s not perfect but maybe it’s better?

Yeah, especially if it’s an organization that benefits communities that might be strained by the ban, maybe? What about in the work that you do, where could you see these things happening?

At [WORKPLACE] it’s pretty easy. Like we were applying for a grant, and one of the questions was, “What are the green components of your work?” So I did some research on food transportation, and it made me actually think about it—it turns out food transportation takes up so much energy. But when I think about my other job … I can’t really think of a way that we could incorporate being green in what we do.

*

[These two came up together.]

Person 1: I guess I feel like there’s a downward spiral. As the heat rises, more energy is used in cooling. If we’re not generating that electricity in a sustainable way– I read that they’re trying out Syrian strains of wheat because they’re supposed to be more fly-resistant. They’re from this seed vault in Aleppo. It’s because flies are a much severer problem in the Midwest. But destabilizing our food raising regions is scary and weird. For a while, sure, but when it’s the Sahara, you’re not growing anything.

Person 2: Are you gonna forgo capitalism entirely? And if not, where are you gonna make your changes and set your boundaries? As long as you’re participating in capitalism, it’s a ripple-wave effect.

map 7-7-18

Today, kids decorated the map of Rhode Island with pictures of an angry monster and a more cheerful-looking monster.

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Help for Houston and its people

Food banks: Galveston County, Corpus Christi, Houston

Texas Diaper Bank

SPCA (many shelters won’t take pets)

Portlight, providing disaster relief specifically for people with disabilities

Coalition for the Homeless

Texas Workers Relief Fund

Writer & former Houston resident Jia Tolentino, who supplied the names of many of the organizations on this list, also pointed out on Twitter, “As always, disasters are necessarily political: the kind of gov you would want to help your family in a crisis is the kind of gov you want!” Others have drawn the connections between Hurricane Harvey and climate change, between extractive capitalism and vulnerable infrastructure, between contempt for poor people and the quality of disaster planning and response.

UPDATE: Another very good list, compiled by Colorlines, here. 

Sometimes people say to me at the booth, “We need a really big disaster to wake people up.” Whether or not the waking up is forthcoming, we could’ve done without the disaster. If you can share your resources with Texans who need them, please do so.

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

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

Number of people: 6 stoppers, 5 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 8

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $3.11

 

Observations:

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

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

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

 

 

Some conversations:

 

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

What would make a difference?

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

*

What are you anxious about today?

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

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

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

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

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

Another Chance to Speak Against Raised Fares for Senior/Disabled RIPTA Passengers

There are meetings today in Providence and Bristol to offer feedback on RIPTA’s fare change proposals, which would increase fares for senior and disabled passengers. Please go today if you can. Living fairly means meeting people’s needs.

11am-12pm, The Commerce Center at The Providence Foundation, 30 Exchange Terrace, Providence

5:30-6:30pm, Burnside Building, 2nd Floor Meeting Room, 400 Hope St., Bristol

There were also meetings Tuesday in Woonsocket and Kingston; I’m sorry I didn’t post those here. Someone who attended one said:

I went to the RIPTA meeting at URI. I was one of about 5 people who showed up. There were more RIPTA people around than “voters.” We were asked to read panels with the current fares, panels listing 4 options for other ways to structure fares, and then to vote and comment. Each option would charge disabled and poor seniors something.

UPDATE: I went to the Providence meeting, which was as this person described, except that many senior and disabled riders were also present and did outnumber RIPTA employees/spokespeople. It’s possible to adapt the “voting”/comment structure to demand a plan that doesn’t increase fares for senior and disabled riders on fixed incomes, and that’s what I and a few other people did: we used comment forms to explain why we couldn’t endorse any plan that raised those fares. According to RIPTA, there will be public hearings about the proposed fare increase for senior/disabled rides (with opportunities to make statements on the record) in November, and those hearings will be announced at the RIPTA website, so check back there–and ask about the hearings if you don’t see them listed.