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.

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Climate Anxiety Counseling: Miantonomi Farmers’ Market, 7/15/19

Weather: Hot and bright

Number of people: 6 stoppers, 2 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Dogs seen: 5

Dogs pet: 1

Money raised for Tooth and Nail Community Support Collective: $1.35

Observations:

Non-rhetorical question to ask next time someone says they’re heartbroken: How do you live with a broken heart?

The map made someone think and question about someone else’s worry! Specifically, an Australian wondered if underwater noise from wind turbines is really a problem.

[IMAGE: “offshore wind farm: will underwater life (dolphins, seals) be able to hear anything else?” written in pink marker on a whiteboard map.]

I suggested that they look it up, and I looked it up also, but haven’t read that study (the most recent one I found) in detail. It seems like construction noise is the most harmful, but that animals return once the turbines are in operation.

Nonhuman animal passersby: housefly, seagull, cabbage white butterfly, shiny fly, red admiral butterfly, small black ants.

Some conversations:

That’s my biggest problem, is that it’s melting. Polar bears, seals, mountain goats—where are they going? That’s my problem. All the animals, where are they gonna go? Pretty soon they’ll be knocking on the front door. We got coyotes now, soon we’re gonna be talking about wolves. Foxes and stuff, real wild animals, you don’t see as much.

It’s changed the states. People shifts, the ground shifts, everything changes. Volcanoes erupting. But people don’t know about it until it hits you. Everybody’s like, “Yo, what should we have been doing?” But now it’s here. … “Okay, so what do you want us to do—” not what do you want us to, but what can we do to stop it. You can’t stop it.

Does it stress you out?

Yes. We’re trying to figure it out on paper. Where’s the different elements. We don’t just say it’s a whole, we gotta break it down to the elements that are in it … but if they don’t break it down like that it’s gonna go nowhere.

*

I was heartbroken when the US decide to pull out of the [Paris Accords]. It was so exciting when we saw that people from all over the globe were talking seriously about these problems, and for us as a nation that produces so much of a problem—it breaks my heart. I have grandchildren, I hope to have great-grandchildren.

Do you talk about this with them?

We talk about what we can do in terms of—my older granddaughter, in terms of voting and participation. The younger generation feels powerless, so I try to tell them about my own experiences: protesting, contacting senators, insisting that change can happen.

I’m from Arizona, and I’m going to spend the next year in Rhode Island helping family. But in Arizona, my church composts, we have a community garden. In the coming year—I’m going to see if I can do it—I’m going to try to do without a car while I’m here. I’m not sure if it’s going to be possible. The next year is a year of simplicity for me … This park, this market, is in walking distance, so I’m going to see how long I can keep it up. … I recently went to a new church here and asked if I could meet with the pastor, and they were, “What for?” And I said, “I want to know what kind of efforts you’re making—perhaps your church is working with other churches in the community—for social justice issues.” It’s different here, but for the last fourteen years I’ve been living with a group of people for whom justice and health are really important. I’m trying to find like-minded people and ways in which I can do that here.*

*Newport readers, if you’re out there—any ideas for this person? Recall that they’re trying to live without a car so the opportunities must be in Newport or easily accessible from there via public transit.

*

I’m just trying to understand what climate change is, how it affects me and my community. In some areas, for instance, when it rains we get the water puddles—if there was a horrific flood, what is the protocol? What’s our emergency response? How do we activate it? We don’t even have good communication.

I know you guys had some experience of this when the gas was off this winter.

Yes we did. There was false advertising—someplace offering help and then you get there and they turn you away. We tried to be the middleperson, connect people with what they needed. But even placing residents in hotels, for example, that scatters families. People didn’t have access to food pantries. There were issues with transportation. We had a lady who was blind and needed someone with her in person … There was a lot of gaps that was missing. I’m hoping that now there’s a different method to it. It was scary, it was frustrating. People putting you on hold, putting out numbers that did not work, that you’re not getting nowhere with. Somewhere it would say that you could call a 1-800 number, and there was nothing at the other end.

*

My mom is always talking about how we’re all gonna die from climate change. She does do some actual actions, but she’s always whining, and I stop listening. It’s this kind of desperation, as if she could solve the whole problem herself. I mean, sure, we can go to the farmers’ market instead of buying all our vegetables in cans and trucking them in from, like, Minnesota, but it’s gonna be big top-down policy decisions that are gonna make a splash. The grassroots stuff is great but you’re not gonna solve it with that.

Does she do any of that stuff?

She’s afraid of people, so she doesn’t really get out of the house and do anything. She’s more like, “I’m gonna get a low-flow toilet.” I’m trying to get her to sell her house, because it’s below sea level, but she won’t listen to me.

*

I have a lot of anxieties, especially living by the water. Not just here, but a lot. People who’ve lost their homes and had to move—and frustration that there’s so many powerful millionaires who are doing nothing. People are putting money into this, but it’s not enough. It seems like the clearest idea, that we will not exist without our planet. Why are people ignoring this truth?

Why do you think?

I think it’s a lack of—not a lack of education, but a lack of wanting to hear the education. The younger generation is fighting, but it’s people with money who will make the big difference. We can make little differences. … I was really frustrated last weekend: there were fifteen people on the beach, and eight of them were on their phones, and I was picking up trash ’cause I do this, and I was like, “Why are you on your phones? Why are you not conscious?”

I stopped eating fish because of the microplastics. I work at a restaurant and people are always like, “Where can I get the best fish,” and I wanna be like, “Well…” But I know it’s not just plastic, it’s deforestation, it’s our overall carbon output. Deforestation is eliminating not only what’s storing the carbon but then burning it to release more carbon. I taught my [students] how trees absorb water and carbon dioxide.

Whatever makes us anxious, we shove it down … I saw an ad for the most recent election where it was a bunch of old people sitting around going, “I don’t care who wins. It’s gonna flood? I’m not even gonna be here in 20 years.”

Energy Facility Siting Board rules that there will, in fact, be #NoNewPowerPlant in Burrillville!

Yesterday, the Rhode Island EFSB ruled that the fracked-gas power plant that the people of Burrillville, RI have been fighting since 2015 can’t be built because Invenergy, the company that wants to build it, can’t demonstrate a need for it in the region’s energy economy.

 

[IMAGE: Front page of the Providence Journal, showing the headline “Power Failure” and an article chronicling the decision.]

You can read more about the decision here and here. The two things that stood out to me, from the part of the open meeting I attended, were that demand for fossil-fueled energy is decreasing across the region–partly due to renewable energy and energy efficiency measures–and that the long process actually provided a testing ground for whether the company’s claims and projections were accurate (they weren’t).

The residents of Burrillville have worked for FOUR YEARS for the woods, the water, the air and the people. They’ve fought on multiple and constantly shifting fronts, they’ve organized like crazy, they’ve called in expert help and they have refused to back down. This is their victory and it’s beautiful to witness and I hope it sets a precedent for decisions all over New England and the country and the world. In fact, we need it to.

Here is a picture of my husband James walking across a little swamp, toward a lake, in the woods near Burrillville. Let’s continue to work so that we may all be whole and well.

james swamp ladder

Rally Tonight, 5/30: Stop the Burrillville Power Plant!

Rally to stop a fracked-gas power plant in northern RI and protect the water, air, forest, and livable climate! 

6-8pm TONIGHT (5/30)

Rhode Island State House

If you haven’t yet signed this petition against the plant, please do (especially if you can’t make it tonight). In both of these cases, it’s good to have lots of people. Burrillville BASE, the FANG Collective, the Burrillville Land Trust/No New Power Plant and many more people and groups have worked extremely hard for a long time to stop this disastrous project. Let’s follow up on the work they have done and are still doing. Hope to see you there.

Image may contain: 1 person

No Fracked-Gas Power Plant in Burrillville: Two Ways to Stop the Clear River Energy Center

For several years now, residents of Burrillville RI, along with environmental justice, conservation and climate justice advocates, have been fighting the Clear River Energy Center, the fracked-gas power plant that Invenergy wants to build in their town. You can help them, and help slow down climate catastrophe, by submitting public comments on two upcoming permits.

The most important, because it is likely to be final, is the Energy Facility Siting Board decision. The EFSB decides whether energy companies can build in their chosen location; here’s some background on their role in this case. They are open to public comment on their decision until June 1st, 2019. Commenting through this petition is probably the easiest way: Stop the Burrillville Power Plant!

Come to the RI State House at 6pm, May 30th, to speak out against the plant.

The other opportunity to comment is through the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management: they are taking public comments through July 15th, 2019 on an air quality permit (aka a “major source permit”). Email your comments to dem.invenergyairpermit AT dem.ri.gov, and include the words “formal comment” in your subject line. The RI DEM will also hold a public hearing about this permit; bookmark this page and check it for the date and time.

Here’s a simple but thorough breakdown of the damage this plant would do, and you can use this information to support your comments.

krib-power-plant-facts

This article shows how Invenergy handles air quality at another of their plants, in PA.

Stopping new fossil fuel infrastructure is a key piece of creating a livable future. If you’ve been feeling helpless, this is something you can do to help.

 

A Letter to the Woonsocket City Council

Dear Councilmembers Gendron, Sierra, Murray, Cournoyer, Brien, Fagnant and Beauchamp,

I know that on Tuesday, January 10th, the Woonsocket City Council is scheduled to vote on whether to sell Woonsocket water to Invenergy to operate their power plant in Burrillville. Although I’m from Providence, I attended the public hearing on January 6th, and heard many people from Woonsocket speak, mostly against the deal.

The comments that struck me most sharply were the ones about being good neighbors: about Woonsocket being a good neighbor to the many people in Burrillville who have declared that they don’t want this power plant in their town, and to the other towns that have joined Burrillville in opposing the plant. About Woonsocket standing with Burrillville, one town supporting another, in the hopes that in your time of need Burrillville will stand with you; about the ways that with this support, Burrillville could then turn around and support Woonsocket by participating in your city’s economy.

I came from Providence to try to be a good neighbor, to support the Woonsocket and Burrillville residents who don’t want this health-endangering and environmentally disruptive power plant to be part of their homes—people who recognize that its long-term costs outweigh its short-term benefits. I was struck by Woonsocket residents’ other reasons for objecting to the plant as well: their fears for their health, their resentment that Woonsocket is the “dumping ground of Rhode Island”, the desire to protect the air and water and woods, their concern that Invenergy would not keep to the original terms of its deal, or that they’re being disingenuous about the amount of water the plant needs to run safely; their concerns about committing potable water to this usage, especially in light of the drought conditions that are predicted to become more common in the Northeast in the next few years.

But when Leslie Mayer said, “You have the opportunity to be heroes” to the people of your city and your future—to make the right, the neighborly choice—that rang true to me. If the people and towns of Rhode Island are able to collaborate with one another, to work together, to have each other’s backs rather than competing with each other or treating each other as enemies, our chances of surviving and thriving are better when conditions are difficult.

Please be a good neighbor to Burrillville.

Please be a good neighbor to the other cities and towns of Rhode Island.

Please be a good neighbor to the water that the people of your city drink and bathe in.

Please be a good neighbor to the trees and plants that filter the air all Rhode Islanders breathe, and to the air itself.

Please be a good neighbor to your fellow Woonsocket residents, who have given so many reasons why they don’t want the city to agree to this deal.

Please reject Invenergy’s proposal.

Sincerely,
Kate Schapira
[my address]

*

I just sent that letter, as an email, to the people on the Woonsocket City Council. Except that for about five of them, before I caught it, instead of writing “Please be a good neighbor to the other cities and towns of Rhode Island” I wrote “…cities and towns of Providence.”

Typos happen. But this typo is particularly unfortunate, because I’m writing about cities and towns working together throughout the state, keeping each other in mind, not being at odds. And I typed the name of my own city instead of the name of the entire state.

I hope it won’t invalidate my investment in this question; I don’t think it would make anyone change their minds, that mistake. But it’s careless, and chauvinistic, and I apologize for it, and will try to learn from what it has to show me about paying attention.

Still, please, help prevent Invenergy from building this power plant, because it’s bad for everyone–even the people who work for Invenergy, in the long run.

You can write to the members of the Woonsocket City Council (via a form) here.

Climate Anxiety Counseling at the Sankofa World Market: 8/17/16

Weather: Hot, sunny and bright

Number of people: 9 stoppers, 1 walkby

Number of climate change deniers/trivializers: 3

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 9

People who commented on the Peanuts reference: 2

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Pictures taken without permission: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $2.60, plus one stick of gum

 

Observations:

 

A lot of people wanted to have arguments today. I try not to have arguments at the booth, but not arguing is exhausting in its own way..

There were puffballs in the grass behind the booth and two kinds of oak gall in the little oak tree that was shading the booth, and I spotted a monarch butterfly, the second this summer.

If you are a person of faith, using “like a religion” as a disparaging comparison doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Today I had the second ever climate anxiety counseling session facilitated by a translator! I would really like to offer this more often, and am talking with someone about helping out, but if anyone else is comfortable translating between English and another language widely spoken in RI (Spanish and Khmer, for two) let me know.

 

Some conversations:

What is there to be anxious about climate change? The people who are worried, they have three meals a day, they’re driving around. It’s all marketing.

If it’s marketing, someone must think they can gain something from it. Who gains something from it?

That’s a good question. Political structures–they’re sold on belief in the system. It benefits liberals and secularists: if you don’t believe [sic], there must be something wrong with you. It affects elections, it affects what you buy and consume, what you think, just like a religion. We’re told to be afraid. When I was a kid, you had a bad storm and you ate whatever was in the house and then you went on with your life–now there’s a bad storm and you can’t get into the supermarket.

So it’s not something that troubles you.

Not at all, ’cause I don’t believe the hype.

So what are the things that worry you, that press on your mind?

Not having enough money to take care of my wife and my daughter. I’m going to leave this earth and the sun’s going to rise and set like it has for the past hundreds of thousands of years since God created it. And He is in control of everything, even though man [sic] thinks that number one, he can destroy the earth and number two, that he can save it–I think the latter is the craziest.

See, I don’t separate humans and the earth like that.

Are you saying there’s no difference between me and a snail, or me and the rocks and the mountains?

No, I’m saying all those things are part of the creation. I don’t think we’re arguing. I’m not talking about equivalency, I’m talking about all being part of something.

Part of something, yes. But everything here has been created for our purposes, and we’re supposed to be grateful.

*

I don’t think people pay enough attention, or if they do, they don’t care. “Well, I don’t care if the climate changes, if it’s 85 degrees on February 1st I’m gonna love it, I’ll go golfing.”

*

[This person and I had this conversation with the help of a translator.]

I’m gonna tell you what we should do: put less chemicals in the air. Less deforestation. Produce more organic foods, with less chemicals. Take care of our water. Not overfish–fish help oxygenate the water. We shouldn’t be damaging the ozone layer because God created the world perfect–we are the predators that have damaged the vast majority of it.

[I give him a card with a house spider on it.]

In the Dominican Republic, we have these, but they’re much bigger and they eat cockroaches. They’re called “donduna” because they make that sound at night … I’m a beekeeper, and anyone who works with bees has to work with nature, because nature is an extension.

*

My first reaction is always denial. My uncle from Virginia comes up to visit every summer, and he says, “Every time I come up here it’s hotter,” and my reaction is, “Oh, you’re being ridiculous.” I do think about it. I grew up in Newport and my parents still live there, and if you look at the projection maps of the flood zone, their house is literally on the other side of the street from the flood zone–oceanfront property! [Laughs] It’s beyond our control–to be really honest, the of all the ills of the world, the problem is capitalism and I don’t know what to do about that. Some measure of economic return being the bottom line–we need a major societal value shift. I don’t know how we as a society can address a lot of things without that. But economics is not a natural force like physics–that’s a system we set up. It’s just buying somebody’s story, we can change the story.

*

More of the pollution aspect. The air that we breathe affects us internally–it leads to illnesses, it gets into our bodies, it affects the food we eat, it’s all connected. We can be over here, over here, but eventually it all connects. … If you can encourage people to read independently, to be curious without feeling forced…[they can see how] it’s an issue that affects them. You alone start to ask questions. And there are things like local reps should be involved–education I guess is a big piece…. Start in school.

Is that your son over there? Do you guys talk about this together?

Not really, no. I read things and I file it away until he can talk about it.

*

I would like to not live out my retirement underwater. I don’t have any children or grandchildren, but I have friends and cousins who do, and I feel bad when I think about when they think about their future–we will pass and they will live to experience this.

Do you imagine what they’re gonna experience?

I imagine them having to build walls around New York City, to keep the water out. And Florida, I imagine Florida changing shape completely. The hunger–they say that’s gonna be the worst of it, is people starving. You can walk away from water, but droughts and floods–it’s not gonna be pretty. They’re gonna starve to death over much of the world.

*

[These two came up together]

Person 1: I don’t need to be afraid, because [life] exists so many years. It still exists and is still getting better and better. All the technology and all the people! It’s not my business, all the other things–I can do the best I can. I don’t know they will stop it or not, I don’t know what happened. In my point of view, it’s getting much better. I’m choosing to see it getting much better.

Person 2: In the Jewish tradition, everyone starts with the self. You cannot change the world, but you can change yourself.

Person 1: It’s not a Jewish tradition, it’s a point of view that people can have.

The way we change ourselves is partly by talking with other people, right? By observing the world and by listening to other people around us?

Person 1: The more we connect with people.

Person 2: Not to isolate ourselves. But do you need a doctor or do we need a doctor? Propagating fear of climate problems is very strange–if you have anxiety about climate change, you don’t buy leather, you don’t use plastic, but it’s really a basic thing in economics that you have scarcity: if a certain percentage of people don’t use plastic or leather, that will make it so other people can use them.

Just to be sure I understand you, you’re saying that there will always be people who want these things and use them, no matter if other people avoid them.

Person 2: Yes.

Person 1: Not to do business with the big idea, but to do with the small idea. If I see something on the ground I can pick it, because I want to contribute to a clean environment–it’s not because I’m working for somebody else.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: 5/28/16

Weather: Hot, but okay in the shade. Heavy wing of gray cloud to the north and east.

Number of people: 11 stoppers, 4 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 5

People who commented on the Peanuts reference: 3

Offers of food/drink: 3

Number of dogs seen: 1

Number of dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $6.32

 

Observations:

I saw the person who likes horseshoe crabs from my first season, and we chatted a bit to catch up. Here’s the alternate history I wrote for her.

Today, a pair of evangelists–neither of whom were this evangelist or these evangelists, or even from the same church or group, as far as I could gather–set up on the opposite side of the Burnside Park entrance. I did have a conversation with one of them, which I’ve excerpted below, and took a picture of them with a renewed acquaintance. Because I’m competitive, I also kept track of how many people spoke with them: they got 12 stoppers to my 11. Their approach was very different–they mostly didn’t buttonhole people either, but they had an “intelligence test” of trick questions (I overheard some of these but couldn’t see them) set up under a poster of the 10 Commandments and they used this to draw people in, and they seemed to be at least as interested in talking as they were in listening.

Please direct your well-wishes and your thoughts of calm and steadiness to Lucinda of the delicate feet, who spoke to me today.

 

Some conversations:

I just keep havin’ nightmares about strangling Donald Trump … My worst fear with Trump is that he is what he says he is, and he’s just gonna make money for himself. [After talking about John F. Kennedy for a bit, segued into speaking about the Vietnam War.] I had a brother over there.

Did he survive?

You could call it that, I guess. He won’t talk about it. Doesn’t like it when you bring it up. He was a guard at the airport. They blew it up … I guess all that shelling gets to you after awhile, among all the other things that happened.

*

I’m anxious about climate change. The polar ice caps are melting, they’re flooding everything, everything changing. And what can we do to stop it?

[After she ran out of things to say about that] I don’t like the way they have the police presence in the park. I want to be able to sit on a bench and smoke a cigarette.

*

Fracking, for starters. The amount of toxins being released into the ground, the air, and the groundwater.

How did you come to know about the damage that it causes?

I’m involved in a couple of different groups–most recently Democracy Spring. But I’ve always followed Greenpeace… [Fracking] was one of the things we were trying to pay attention to, not the main focus, but the leader of the Sierra Club got arrested with us.

What was the main focus?

Our group went down specifically for Bernie Sanders. His campaign’s been blacked out by the media…This election’s been rigged from the start. We were petitioning against the removal of children of illegal immigrants [sic], just trying to get corruption out of the government. 1400 people were arrested on the steps of the Capitol building in Washington, DC, and there was no media attention.

So do you feel like you didn’t achieve your goal, or–

No, I do. It’s gone viral on Facebook, and a lot of independent media covered it. It’s just that the mainstream media didn’t. I feel like we accomplished what we set out to do, and we have more actions planned. The same group is marching in Philadelphia at the [Democratic National Committee], more [to focus on] the media blackout of Bernie Sanders and by extension that that kind of corruption is legally allowed to continue. It’s a perfect example of how things are going down in this country right now.

Most of what you’ve told me so far is kind of the official, unified explanation of what you and the people you work with are concerned about. Is there anything that you, personally, are concerned about that doesn’t fit, that you guys are not focusing on? [I had to ask this twice in slightly different ways before it was clear; this is sort of a combination of the ways.

No. Not really. I feel like we’re getting pretty much everything … All these different groups came together. The Sierra Club and Greenpeace were there for what they’re doing to us with Monsanto and destruction of forests.

*

I’ve been down here 10 years working with the homeless. Last year they had a sign that said there was no smoking in the park, so then of course people came and smoked out here, but now people are smoking in the park again. … I’d like to see people down here motivated to clean up the park.

What do you think might motivate people?

I think people need to take ownership of it.

But what makes you take ownership of something? Like, do you own your house, what makes you feel like the owner of your house?

I think you have to tap into what people can do instead of what they can’t do.

*

I’m anxious to get on with my life farther, but I don’t wanna go too fast.

What might get in your way?

Old habits, old friends, old ways of thinking. You travel down that road so many times and you keep making the same mistakes. The same pattern is just destroying and ruining everything all over again … You gotta be on guard constantly, especially if you hang around down here. I try to hang around with positive people, pick and choose who I hang out with. Homeless people are a target for the police.

What do you do to help yourself keep your vision in sight?

There’s not much light out there in the vision. So I gotta focus on the smallest little things instead of the big picture. The fewer options you have, the harder it is to make it work … [Of people who get high/are addicted] They’re suffering from something inside and they’re covering it up.

What’s it like to come down here and see people in that state?

Honestly, it’s a relief, I’m like, “I’m glad I don’t have that person’s problems.” I’d rather be silent and sane.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: 5/27/16

Weather: Hot in the sun, fine in the shade, light breeze, wind picked up around 5pm. Facing east.

Number of people: 7 stoppers, 5 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0, but see below

Number of climate change deniers: 1

Pages of notes: 4

People who commented on the Peanuts reference: 3

Conversations between people previously unknown to one another: 1

Number of dogs seen: 2

Number of dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $2.64

 

Observations:

Today I had one of the very, very few climate anxiety counseling conversations ever in which I might be in danger. I am fine and I’ll write more about it another time.

I came up with a pretty good spot definition of the weather vs. climate distinction, “Climate change is a change in weather all over the world and over a very long time,” but I’m still not totally happy with it.

I never think about the big beech tree in the center of the park when I’m not in the park

 

Some conversations:

Person 1: Actually, climate change is getting harder and harder. I’m starting to sweat more and more each day.

Have you noticed differences from year to year?

Yeah, it’s different this year. Instead of spring, we went from winter to summer. You see the change. I went from long pants to shorts. The seasons are off.

 

Person 2: It wasn’t that cold a winter and it was a very cold May.

 

Person 1: Two days ago I had a coat on. Yesterday, I had a coat on and I’m sweating. If I’m cold, I act a certain way and if I’m hot, I act a certain way.

*

I’m particularly worried about what we’re using for energy and water sources, and mass deforestation as a result of the agricultural industry. We think we’re getting smarter when we’re constantly repeating our mistakes, being aggressive toward each other and destroying everything … People try to distance themselves from the implications of their actions. I try to be conscious of how my actions impact other people around me. I know how capitalism works, I don’t necessarily agree with it, but I see how businesses have to do it, but I don’t see how governments can buy into this. They’re thinking about short-term benefits, not long-term implications …

What do you think could help people work towards putting something else first, besides money?

There are cultures, I feel like there’s fewer and fewer, cultures that cling to a community sense of living, a relish in that your community is doing well. But that would require a complete change in our perceptions of ourselves and each other. I’m trying not to be pessimistic.

What would it be like to just be pessimistic?

I would consider that my spirit breaking. I’ve seen firsthand and through a lot of stories the shitty things that people do … but I’ve also seen a lot of good. To be who I am, to continue to be proud of who I am, I can’t give in to my negativity.

 

 

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling: 5/24/16

Weather: Cool, gray, muggy. Started sprinkling around 5, full-on raining around 5:30.

Number of people: 13 stoppers, 3 walkbys, one bikeby

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7

People known to me, and I to them, from previous sessions: 3

Conversations between people not previously known to each other: 3

Number of dogs seen: 3

Number of dogs pet: 0, not for lack of trying

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $3.30

 

Observations:

Because I screwed up a conversation last time, I made an extra effort to assert things as little as possible, but to listen and ask questions (the way I’m supposed to). I think it went well?

I can’t figure out if people are more likely to come up if they see someone else talking with me, or less. Maybe it depends on what they presume about the person based on what they see.

The guy who was worried about keeping his housing stopped by to tell me that they did, in fact, kick him out for smoking pot. On the other hand, K stopped by to tell me that her cat had diarrhea from eating lawn treatment chemicals but is getting better, and that she just signed her lease for another year.

The way people use the map (of places in RI they would like to protect) changes based on the way previous people use it, and the more that’s on there, the more people are likely to add.

A cop walked through the park around 5:05, and two more walked through around 5:15.

 

Some conversations:

Honestly, I’m living couch to couch. Without [the guy he’s staying with], I don’t know where I’d be … I’m coming over to people’s houses and I’m spending $20 on a bottle and then being like, “Oh, I’m too drunk to go home,” not like, “Oh, I need a place to stay.” You’re doing what you have to do but you’re really hurting the other person. You can’t just ask, you gotta have something they want. It’s hard out here. Family’s tough–everybody has their own issues, they have kids, they have their own lives. My friend could lose his place and I’d be back on the street … I come down here and I see how it is for people, I do, it’s hard out here. That’s why I wanna get rich, I wanna make like a hotel for people who want to help themselves to stay, so they don’t have to be homeless.

*

[Person 1 and Person 2 came up together; Person 3 was already talking with me]

Person 1: I’m anxious about taxes and I’m anxious about Trump becoming president. I heard on Facebook that he’s trying to start a cotton-picking program for Black children and–if he becomes president I’m moving away or hiding. In my free time I like to read and research government so when I get older I know more about it, like how taxes work and how to file taxes when I have to do it.

What do you do if someone is like, Oh, Donald Trump, blah blah blah?

Person 2: I laugh at ’em!

Person 1: If it’s someone older than me I’m gonna be polite, like, “Well, I disagree.” If it was a kid I would go all day.

Person 3: Do you vote?

Person 1: I’m 16 so I can vote in the city, like for Mayor.

Person 2, earnestly patting Person 1: When you’re 18 you can change the world. Every generation has a chance to change the world. [Changes tones] But ain’t nobody tryna do all that work!

*

[Writes on map] “Give a piece of land to be used for homeless camp & use as a temporary space until able to find rent.” [Speaks to me] There’s more to it. There could be some problems. There’d have to be–don’t cause trouble, be respectful, don’t make predicaments for other people. If we police it ourselves… People can come around and be like, Come do a day job, I’ll help you get where you want to go.

*

Bills–rent, utilities, I’m trying to save for a car ’cause the buses are killing me. I spend more time on the buses–I go in for four hours a shift, and I take one bus from almost South Attleboro and then I take the 28, Atwood Avenue. I’m training right now, so I’m getting $9.60 an hour for three and a half, four hours. But I’m grateful for the job. And I’m not anxious right now ’cause I have tomorrow off and it’s gonna be hot.

*

[Person 2 came up while Person 1 was talking]

Person 1: I feel bad for the animals. I feel like it’s really bad that people are destroying their environment, their habitat. Me and my grandma, we took a walk today and where the woods used to be, there’s all this development, these houses. I was telling my grandma how this is really messed up–whoever did it had no compassion for the birds, their homes, their families. The skunks, the squirrels–all their homes.

How did you get to have that compassion? It seems like you’re really aware of all these animals and their homes.

My first memories was in upstate New York, near Monticello. There was a lot of forest, a lot of nature out there. The house we lived in was out in the middle of nowhere and behind the house was all woods… We moved to Providence when I was four and it was a different environment, it was a different world. That’s what kept me in touch with nature, like I had a comfort with nature. I’m with all these city kids and I’m the one running around picking flowers and tryna catch bees, watching the ants… [Animals] have feelings too, and they have families. Like, they used to say on TV, Oh, animals can’t feel, and we believed it, but the more we’re watching them and analyzing them …

Do you talk about this with people?

I do share my opinions on things, about how I feel about the environment and animals, and I’m not afraid to speak my mind. On Facebook the other day I wrote, “The trees are sick, pay attention.” My friend was like, “You okay?” I was like, Yes, I’m okay, but people have to start paying attention to the vibes from trees, really looking at them–the trees are sick, they don’t feel good. They’re not growing as tall as they should, if I look at trees from when I was a kid and the trees right now, they’re not growing to their full potential.

Person 2: And the leaves are getting smaller ’cause they don’t need to be as big to absorb the carbon dioxide.

*

It changes the ecosystem, definitely. If it’s happening, things will die, species will probably go extinct, including us. But people try to sugarcoat it, like it’s not our fault. But it’s always gonna be there. Something drastic might happen, and scientists might predict it, but the consequences can never be for sur

Do you think about it a lot, does it freak you out?

I don’t really think about it. People are so secluded in their own lives. Some people make an effort to know what’s going on, it’s all on the internet–there’s someone, a senator or a governor, he’s been working on this since the ’70s and only this year people are taking him serious about it. Now that it’s getting serious all these industries, all these political people are taking him serious … We rely heavily on nature for our resources. There’s something about the bees, I don’t know what it is, nothing pollinates, there won’t be vegetation. We just take and take from it.

Why do you think people don’t take it seriously?
Because nature’s not bothering me, I’m standing here and it’s not doing anything to me–but it hasn’t been the same. Every year it gets crazier in New England … But it doesn’t bother [people] personally in their life. So these industries and people in political office, they’re trying to find ways to do something about it but they don’t have much support. “Someone else will do something about it.” It definitely goes on everywhere. … I feel very small compared to seeing this on the news–bigger people, people in power, our industries, they can do something, not me. But it’s never gonna–the power and resources we rely on, we try to reduce it, but we’re not gonna do that, because humans are always [demanding]. They say by 2050 there’s gonna be 10 billion people. How are the other species that we rely on gonna do? How are we gonna contribute to nature itself? We’re ever-growing, just taking and taking.