Weather: clouds and sun, with a big heavy gray cloud coming in from the north
Number of people: 6 stoppers, 2 walkbys
Number of hecklers: 0!
Pages of notes: 6
Conversations between people previously unknown to one another: 1
People who asked (and received) permission to take a picture: 1
People who recognized and commented on the Peanuts reference: 3
Mentions of the Industrial Revolution: 1
Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $6.30
A sample size of 2 suggests that Saturdays are slower than weekdays.
I may have missed a potential stopper while responding to a logistical text. Let that be a lesson.
[Small girls to whom I gave a snapping turtle card and a blue cohosh card yesterday]
Can we use your chalk?
[They take it into the park and start drawing. Later they’re joined by 2 other girls, around the same age. Later still, girls and chalk are nowhere to be seen. I mentally bid farewell to chalk. About an hour later, one of the original girls brings the box back, chalk sticks well used.]
I don’t know that there’s anything we can do to help. We try to think as human beings that we have control over certain things, but we really don’t.
I think we’re talking about different things. I’m talking about like, if there was bad flooding, would you give someone a ride in your car?) No. I’d like to say I’d like to help all these people, but I think when it’s in complete survival mode, it gets to be every man for himself.
So you don’t think people depend on each other.
No, I do think people depend on each other … … It’s something that needs looking into, and we’re not doing enough about it. There’s enough methane on the ocean floor–you know about this? What happens when the ocean warms up and releases that methane into the atmosphere? It’ll be a global catastrophe that–[he looks over and sees the girls drawing within earshot]–we’ll all be in trouble.
I don’t want to grow up. I don’t want to have to be responsible–I don’t want to become an angry old adult and hate the world.
What do you like about the world now?
I like that everything is magical … I’m afraid I’m gonna be hurt. I’m in a state of transition. I don’t want to let myself drown in responsibilities, having a job.
What could you do to hold onto that feeling of magic?
Trying to learn how to be still and enjoy moments. Like today it was supposed to rain, and it didn’t, and I’m really thankful for that. I was raised by a conservative family, with the idea of a fairy-tale wedding and stuff like that, and I’m afraid of finding out that things aren’t really like that.
[These two were friends.]
Friend 1: I’m anxious that we’ve passed the point at which anything other than geoengineering will make sense, and that it will become necessary seems like this huge problem in itself–whether it’ll work, what the side effects will be, will it stop working in a catastrophic way? And in a way that makes me feel more helpless, like what’s the point of doing other stuff, we should just jump straight to trying to block the sun with tiny mirrors.
Friend 2: Tiny mirrors? I don’t know anything about this.
Friend 1: They’re not really mirrors, they’re reflective particles.
Friend 2: My high school education was totally focused on the environment, on climate an conservation. [Friend 1] and I actually met at an action–was it about cap and trade?
Friend 1: Yeah–no, we were trying to get Barack Obama to go to Copenhagen in person.
Friend 2: Then I stopped. I turned more toward local work, work that’s more immediate, like helping someone [redacted for privacy]–I believe it’s important work, but I do it because it’s more satisfying to me. It’s easier to put my arms around. And the climate is so hard to put your arms around. We did that action where we stand where the water would rise–
Friend 1: By the end of the century, they’re saying sea levels will be 1-4 feet higher, probably more toward the high end of that. But the real thing, I think, is storm surges–not like a permanent thing, but what happens in a big hurricane … In the next few years I think I’m going to have to either stop working on climate issues or become a deeply religious person. I can’t sustain hope on my own anymore. I need a group of people for whom hope is built in — hope in the literal sense that we will do something or figure something out, that human civilization isn’t gonna collapse, and in a bigger sense that the world will continue to become better, more just, more peaceful, in the very longest term.
Friend 2: That we’ll make progress. Do you think we’ve made progress?
Friend 1: This is the Industrial Revolution question. I think so.
Friend 2: I do too. You were saying–a big part of your hope involved the future generation. Do you think people who are motivated to try to do something about this are motivated because of that?
Friend 1: I don’t know, it varies. I think in this climate context, 95% of the American public doesn’t understand what it means —
Friend 2: Or it’s not that urgent.
Friend 1: Or it’s not that urgent. Americans put climate change dead last on a list of things they were worried about, they put it after “moral decline.”
Friend 2: Or they mix it up with like, recycling, and the ozone layer.
Friend 1: I think it sort of lumps together in this category of “We’ve done something bad to the air. Now we’re in trouble.” … The policies in question have costs. This isn’t anyone’s, quote, problem. There’s always something that’s gonna be easier for you to do.
Friend 2: And everything’s just so connected.
From the beginning of time–I believe in the Creation and what He created. I believe in trying to restore that, taking away all the sorrow and pain and death. I believe in the Lord.
How does your faith affect the way you live your life?
I try to study, I study the Bible every day … You end up praying for relationship, Heaven and Earth. We’re part of that Creation. It’s just finding it, I guess, divine.
[I give her the card with angelica on it.] This is a flower that grows here in RI.
Oh, I know! This is one of my favorite plants.
Tiny mirrors reflecting light
back into space are under discussion
a flicker we can always hope for
because they are moving away
hope as progress, air as mirror
we did something bad to and now
we’re in trouble we’re drawing the dark
fur of an animal now that absorbs
without gloss or that reflects like
particulate matter my whole body works
with writing my face works with rage
self-heard and induced helplessness
I tilt and tilt myself toward and away
from the sun I tilt and tilt
my umbrella toward and away from the rain
“Not only that but” people keep saying
not only that but another thing
and no things but others
or no other things but us
on the land and in the water
the clouds boiling up in fast motion
because regular motion isn’t
scary enough I sit here without
my umbrella hoping to outwait the rain