The REJC very kindly gave me a chance at the mic at the resilience celebration and presentation of Providence’s new Climate Justice Plan (Spanish / English). What I said was okay–climate change can stress us out and can add to the stresses we already have, if our kids are sick with asthma, if we don’t have enough work or if our jobs are killing us; while we’re fighting to remove those stresses, it’s better if we can also take care of and support our mental well-being; talking about what we’re feeling can help us practice talking to each other, which is necessary for working together.
But there’s also some stuff I wish I’d said, because it’s true, and here it is:
I wish I’d also said how grateful I was to be there, and how much strength I saw when I looked out at everybody who was there, sitting in folding chairs and leaning on picnic tables and watching the kids on the playground.
I wish I’d also said that mental health is a zone of justice and equity, both in the sense of, “Who gets care? Who gets to feel well?” and in the sense that landlords and bosses and power hoarders of all kinds want us isolated and lonely and tongue-tied and depleted, with nothing left over for each other.
I wish I’d also said that sometimes we don’t call what feels wrong “mental illness,” or even “sadness” or “anger” or “shame.” Sometimes it’s a stomachache, tight shoulders, a perma-clenched jaw, tiredness. Sometimes it shows up in a rejection of practical help, or abandoning a sustaining friendship, or giving up on trying to change something because we’re scared it won’t work.
I wish I’d also said that talking and listening can be part of healing if we do it carefully, and that it can help us know what we can do and should do. I wish I’d said that the city government had made a good choice in listening to the knowledge and experience of the city’s people, those most affected by racial and environmental injustice.
I wish I’d said again how glad and grateful I was to be there with everyone, in this time, in this place.
Today, join Providence’s Racial and Environmental Justice Committee in celebrating our city’s resilience and sharing the Climate Justice Report for Providence. Providence residents have worked with the REJC and the city’s Office of Sustainability to put together a plan that doesn’t treat any place like a sacrifice zone, or anyone as disposable, but makes the well-being of our city’s people a priority.
If you have questions about what the plan will mean for you, your family or your neighborhood, or how you can participate in carrying it out, this is a great place to ask them! If you don’t know the people of your city that well, this is a great place to meet them.
12-3pm, Davey Lopes Recreation Complex (227 Dudley St), Providence. Spanish-English interpretation will be available, as will food for the first 100 people. I’ll be there with the Climate Anxiety Counseling booth.
There’ll be music (live and DJed) and stuff for kids too. Please join us.
Climate Anxiety Counseling will be at the PRONK! festival tomorrow (Monday), 10/14, 2-4:30pm, along with many community groups, artists, and bands (go to the website for the full list, it’s pretty exciting). Come and share your climate change anxieties and other anxieties, and learn how to translate your feelings into connection and action.
Here’s a map of the festival. The booth will be on South Water St, somewhere in that line of purple fists.
[IMAGE: Map of a small section of Providence showing the location of various PRONK! events. Community groups will be lined up on South Water St; for directions/GPS, you can use “South Water St between Point St and James St, Providence, RI.]
Two additional features of this booth session: a friend is donating Spanish/English interpretation, and a producer from Safe Space Radio is offering the option to be recorded for a show they’re doing on climate change. You can absolutely still talk with me without being recorded if that’s what you’d prefer!
[IMAGE: A very fuzzy black and brown caterpillar, NOT a woolly bear, on a plantain leaf. The photo doesn’t really convey that they were a little smaller than my pinky finger, which is big for a caterpillar.]
I was going to be at the Sankofa World Market (275 Elmwood Avenue, Providence) between 2 and 6pm today, August 28, but it is now Too Wet, and I have bailed. I did have a nice visit with this person, who asked me to take their picture.
[IMAGE: A small child with beaded braids running out over the grass and into the rain, carrying a blue and white umbrella.]
The market itself continues through October! Please buy some vegetables from local, hardworking farmers and vendors.
I visited this tidepool when I went to Block Island a few days ago. Tidepools are among my favorite ecological phenomena and one of the places where I feel the weight of climate change, and my love of the living world, the most.
[IMAGE: A shallow tidepool with sand, small rocks and large algae-covered rocks, some submerged and some emerging.]
Today is my last day this season at the farmer’s market in Miantonomi Park, in Newport’s North End. Come and share your climate anxieties and other anxieties with me and, if you wish, with Elizabeth Malloy of Living on Earth (you can choose whether or not to be recorded).
[IMAGE: Close-up of a recording device with a gray furry sound muffler over the microphone part, balanced on a person’s knee as she sits cross-legged on the ground. Her knee is on sidewalk, her hand leaning on grass.]
I had Elizabeth Malloy of Living on Earth with me, listening and recording (with permission), to see if there’s a story in all of our stories. She will be back to record at the 8/26 and 8/28 sessions, so come on those days if you want to be on the radio.
Nonhuman animal presences: Two tiny brownish butterflies, ant, white
butterfly, housefly, bronze dragonfly (I can’t figure out what kind
these are), seagull, little green fly.
A rare thing happened: Someone came back to speak with me for the second time and I got to hear what they did after our first conversation. If they can face their fears and expand their capabilities as steps toward participating in the world in a way that’s responsive to climate change, maybe you can too.
What’s the question of the day?
The question of the day is: in a bad storm, what would the strengths
and weaknesses of your community be?
[We talked about this some, and I think I brought up that because Providence is a city, there are a lot of people who have a lot of different skills to share.]
A lot of the jobs here are the same thing, just different places.
Like waitresses. Very few people do construction. People who do
construction aren’t from here.
If a bad storm were to happen like that, all of Newport is just done. There’s water over here, there’s water down there.
worst storm you remember?
Have I been through a storm? A lot of the bad storms, I’ve heard
about, I haven’t been through.
I noticed that
you wrote on the map, “It doesn’t happen in just one place.” Can
you say more about that?
You can take one place and try and protect it, but that doesn’t do anything about the whole problem. I’m really really frustrated. Nothing seems to be happening and what’s happening isn’t fast enough. The Point section [of Newport], all those very old houses—and a lot of them are for sale. And they can’t move them all. Since I rent, I’m never gonna own, I don’t think of it that way. Superstorm Sandy cut off a road to the wildlife refuge for years. …
I did go clean the beach. I wanted so bad to go down to [the] Allens
Avenue [cleanup], but I don’t drive well on the highway. If I can
still register, I’m gonna just go and be terrified. I signed up for
communication skills [courses], and computer skills—I think I can
learn a lot but computer skills are going to be the most useful. And
I did sign up for the climate discussion at the library. What I’m
trying to do is write down my thoughts so I can keep organized. We
only have a certain amount of time. It’s not funny. This is now.
[Person 1 and Person 2 are kids, Person 3 is their parent.]
Person 1: I don’t want the ocean to be dirty.
[To Person 2]
What about you?
Person 2: It’s kinda like the same thing but I don’t want like—you
know how sea turtles, they think [plastic] bags are jellyfish?
Do you talk to
other people about this?
Person 2: To my mom. And some of my teachers at school and at my
What do you do
Person 2: We go outside and we go sailing. Today I did a learning
thing about the ocean, so we can keep the ocean clean. So [one of the
teachers] did these tests and we did like—and we made our fingers
look like a turtle and we put a rubberband, and it was kind of like a
test of a how a sea turtle feels. And we did a thing where she said
to dump out all the seeds and put it in the plastic beads and we did
that three times. I think all that plastic beads was actually the
pollution that was inside of the birds and sea turtles.
When you learn
about stuff like this, what about it makes you angry or makes you
Something dying. Something I get mad about is like something on
TV—somebody choking, like an animal. … I don’t exactly tell
anyone about it, I kind of keep it to myself.
Person 3: How come?
Person 2: ‘Cause I like to. Sometimes I even think if someone’s doing
the exact same thing as me.
Person 3: You learned a bunch of songs about not polluting. Do you
remember any of them?
[Person 2 did not want to sing the songs.]
Person 3: I think one of the hardest parts of thinking about climate change is using the right language. Especially with young people … It’s really serious [but] is that going to help the situation, talking about it with young people and scaring them?
How do you talk
about it in your house?
Very experientially—something’s happening and you talk about it in
the moment. For whatever reason, animals are the way to a lot of
people’s hearts. Kids love animals and don’t want to see them hurt.
[And it comes with] the guilt of, “It’s kind of our fault.”
What would you
like to do in response to this that you’re not doing?
It would be great to take them to New Mexico to build an earthship. That’s a really big dream. We’ve gone to a couple protests…I wish there were more options. … They talk about the three Rs, but I think there should be five or six Rs. We should be teaching them about refusing things, and repurposing things…
[Climate change] seems hypothetical because you’re not there. It’s easier to do these experiential teaching things in the moment—like pointing out the cycle of something and the people who made it. …It’s shifting, the conversations are happening more. It wasn’t really a thing to talk about in the ’80s when we were kids.
How has climate
change affected the way you think about your kids and the future?
I’m pretty hopeful. Kids are incredibly resilient beings. I don’t fear for them. The only thing—I guess if I had climate anxiety, which I do, it’s about accessing nature, because it’s—there’s just not going to be as much access to nature in its current state. And the ocean especially, because water is so important to the health of humans. That’s the only thing that I think I’m really concerned about, is losing … that as they get older. My kids and their generation are 100% problem-solvers, maybe because they have to be. [But] one of my pet peeves is when people are like, “It’s up to these kids.” It’s not up to them. It’s up to us to make everything sustainable and [I DIDN’T TAKE DOWN THE END OF THIS SENTENCE].
My grandchildren were visiting last week… I’m very concerned that my grandchildren will have no water to drink, and I can’t tell them that. We talked a lot about climate change and why we don’t have dinosaurs. “Maybe we’ll have another ice age.” I just couldn’t get into the Industrial Revolution, from the 1700s and the 1800s…So we’re all feeling pretty confident [about] our lives, they’re not terrified of dying in their lifetimes …
woman, 50s, glasses, stylish
I’m definitely anxious and I’m more anxious about the deniers in our government. These rollbacks that they’re doing…I’m frustrated about that and I don’t understand it. The frustration is [with] the “profit over humanity” type thing. I’m worried about changes that I’m seeing in the current weather patterns. We don’t know what to expect … Should I start getting sandbags? Should I get an inflatable raft and keep it in my garage? Am I being paranoid? Am I being silly? Or realistic?
They’re trying to bury the science that’s out there, and it’s up to us to try to fight it… I don’t know if they just have an agenda and they’re putting lies out there or if they don’t get it, they just don’t want to. I think the bigger thing is, our values have to change. We’re very materialistic and I don’t think we’re looking at the big picture.
What are the
values that you think we should either bring back or start having?
Just the simple things in life. Community, education, just being able to live our lives without everything they put in front of us. We don’t ask ourselves [whether we need it]. … If we were to cripple [companies’] profits–
What helps you?
Reflection upon it all. My church family. …Having like-minded people around you who can kind of see that perspective—people who you can learn from and who are receptive to things that you’re saying as well. Taking a look inside and asking yourself, “Why do I have to have this?” … A big part of our problem is—as a community—is it’s inconvenient to do a lot of things and I think that’s what’s holding us back. I don’t do too much for the cause in that regard. I think that’s a big reason people don’t want to talk about it.
… I need to start putting myself in a mindset to live on the bare minimum. [On the island that] my parents were from, the island that we used to visit, they had no electricity. Do I prepare myself to go back to that? … It’s not gonna kill me to use an outhouse. My family back in Anguilla, when those two hurricanes hit, we were so worried, we didn’t hear from them for a week and a half, and when we finally got in touch they’re like, “We’re fine.” My cousin had food in the fridge and they took the food out and they had a barbecue for everyone. They knew how to do the manual labor, they knew how to put the houses back together. The thing that I find different here is that people here are all about that profit—people [with those skills] are gonna be thinking, “What’s in it for me?”
[IMAGE: The components of the Climate Anxiety Counseling booth (plywood table, wooden stool, cardboard signs, map of worries, canvas bag for other materials) packed onto a red handtruck. Nestled in the bottom of the upside-down stool is a container of cherry tomatoes.]
Bring me your climate change and other anxieties TODAY (Wednesday, August 21), 2-6pm, at the Sankofa World Market (275 Elmwood Avenue, Providence). This is my second-to-last appearance at this market for the season, so if you’ve been wanting to talk with me and putting it off, now would be a good day.
You can pick up some food items, too. Teo and Margarita had honey in the comb last week, and someone–maybe Lia?–has bitter melon, but for that you might have to get there early.
I’ll be at the Miantonomi Farmers’ Market on Hillside Avenue in Newport’s North End today, August 19th, 2-5pm. If you’re in that part of the world, please come and share your climate-change-related and other anxieties with me, and buy a tomato like this one.
[IMAGE: A small egg-shaped yellow-and-brown tomato, resting on a half-written notebook page in a three-ring binder.]
Today (Saturday, 8/17), for the first time ever, I will offer Climate Anxiety Counseling in the area where I grew up: in Millerton, NY, just over the state line from my hometown. The farmer’s market there runs 10am-1pm, and I will be there to listen to your climate change anxieties and other anxieties. My father, Joel Schapira, will also be there sharing art buttons, as he has for the past few years, and my mother, Diane Schapira, will be selling the pottery she makes. Come and see us.
I’ll be at the Sankofa World Market TODAY, August 14th, 2-5pm, to listen to your climate-change-related and other anxieties. Elizabeth Malloy from Living On Earth will be there as well, and can record our conversation for a radio story if that’s something you’d like. You can also, as always, talk with me without being recorded and even without me taking any notes.