Climate Anxiety Counseling: Miantonomi Park, 8/5/19

Weather: Warm and bright

Number of people: 4 stoppers

Number of hecklers: 0!

People I’ve spoken with before, back for more: 1

Dogs seen: 5

Dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Tooth and Nail Community Support Collective: $1.00

Observations:

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 also asked some questions, so if you see italicized text starting with E:, that’s her. (Italics with no initial are me, regular text is people who stopped at the booth.) Elizabeth will be with me at the booth for the rest of the season, at both the Providence and Newport sites, so come along if you’d like to be on the radio.

Sorry about all the [brackets] and …, I had a lot of fast-talking people today!

Nonhuman animal presences: seagull, ant on booth, monarch butterfly, red admiral??? butterfly, pigeons. Elizabeth saw a hawk.

Some conversations:

I was having that discussion with some people [at a recent music festival] and it was really interesting.

What was interesting about it?

For one, because some people were there who had kind of the same outlook as me, and then there were some people there who didn’t have the same outlook. I think it helped us us understand—well, it helped them understand the situation and it helped us understand where they were coming from. But it seemed like what they were saying was mostly from what they heard, not from what they experienced, where I’m talking from experience. I think it’s really because they’re not really doing their research—they’re just going by what they’re hearing. I try to pride myself on just having conversations, not believing everything I hear.

What were some of the things they had heard?

That there’s no such thing as global warming. Maybe they don’t even really think about it to try to figure it out, or maybe they don’t even care because they’re not gonna be around…I want to learn more because it takes so long to say anything. Some people who were part of this conversation knew a lot, and they were answering questions that I might’ve had too. I’m worried about what’s going on. I have a son. I live in Newport, we’re right near the water. I need to start learning, because I live near the water, and the tide might come up, and I might go under.

*

[This person, who works with the Newport Health Equity Zone, has taken on the assignment of asking market vendors and shoppers a different question about disaster each day.]

So my question of the day is: If the bridges were shut down both ways and you only had two days of food, how would you survive?

What have people been saying?

People have been saying they’d fish, grow gardens, trade stuff—a lot of trading. A lot of people said stealing, taking stuff. One little girl I aasked, she’s eleven, she said she’d look to her mom—she can’t really do stuff by herself so she’d look to her mom to carry her. [We’re trying to] find out what people know, maybe do a little class on survival. People don’t all have the resources they should or know everything they should. But the idea is, this is serious, climate change is serious, so what are you gonna do to prepare for it?

Do you have ideas about how you’d deal with it if it brings up new fears for people?

I would let them know that before this time period, people got through cold winters and they got through hot summers. There was a past [where people got through harsh conditions] and we can get through it, and you can get through it. There’s older people I’ve talked to and they’ve gone through it, they’re eighty years old.

How are you feeling about climate change yourself?

I don’t know. I’m personally scared. I’m not gonna lie, I just this year found out what climate change was. Now that I’m seeing it I don’t even know a lot of the things we’re using and we’re doing, but I feel like we’re making it worse. I’m really scared. I can say that.

People are scared to leave the island. You have everything you need here. But with climate change, we live on an island, so if all of downtown gets flooded, there’s not enough room for everyone to live up here. Would I be homeless? I’m scared of that. What if I’m a person who’s afraid of leaving? I mean, I’ve been places, but only for a week. This is where I’ve grown up, it’s where I was born, I went to elementary, middle and high school here. I’ve never had to go anywhere to work for a job, I’ve always found work here. You can leave, but why would you want to? I don’t know life outside of Newport—everything is here, all the resources I need are here, even though there are some resources that could be more.

What do you do when you feel those feelings that you just described?

I ignore it, I’m not gonna lie. And I feel like that’s the issue.

What do you think might make people more willing to not ignore it?

Knowing how to survive. If I knew how people work, how things work with electronics…But with things like washing close with your hands—I’m so impatient. I have a dishwasher, why would I spend time and wash each dish by hand?

E: It seems like for you, climate change correlates a lot with survival.

Yeah, like losing what you need to survive. Are you worried about losing other stuff?

… So like speaking for my future … I wanna help people with substance abuse, and it seems like with climate change that problem would get way bigger. No one would want to use that resource [of healing from addiction] because there would be nothing to live for. My Pop, my grandpa was in I think the Vietnam War, and he was getting high because the tragedy from it was so terrible. It’s like you’re not trying to be there, when you really need to be there.

Would you be willing to let go of some stuff before you had to?

At this point, honestly I would. Having these conversations [from the daily questions] really started to get me thinking about it. If it’s gonna give me a few years of time…

*

[This person started by reading the map of worries, which says, among other things, “Too many hotels and not enough parking.”]

Too many hotels and not enough housing. We do have homeless people [in Newport]. I think as a native Newporter, they care more about the tourists than they do about us.

The city?

The city, and the tourists too. It’s just expensive to live here.

Is it getting worse?

My rent goes up, my income doesn’t. … But I’m glad I got a roof over my head. I’m not really complaining, I’m just feeling for some people who don’t have that. I have a friend that just sold her house and she’s looking for a place, but every place has a waiting list. I pay almost $300 a month for Blue Cross. This is the richest country, we should have [affordable health care].

. Why do you think we don’t?

We’re probably spending too much money on—maybe we could bring down Congress’s salary. They’re not doing anything. Republicans right now, excuse my language, are sucking up to Donald Trump.

[Talking about mass shootings] What’s sad right now is you’re scared to go anywhere. I remember in ’77, they were talking about nuclear war–I don’t remember if we had to get under the desk.

Are people here afraid?

I don’t know anybody here that’s afraid, but I’m sure they are. This is happening because people are having problems—they have no job, they have no place to live. I worked for the government for twenty years in [CITY], and then on the base for a while, and when you work for the government you realize how much waste there is. Whatever money you have for supplies, you gotta spend it or spend less next year. So you’d see people paying $40 for a hammer.

[Candidates say] “I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do that,” but they can’t do what they wanna do. When I was younger, we picketed the Housing Authority … I talk to a lot of young people and they don’t vote. They don’t care.

Do you know why? Do you talk to them about it?

I do talk to them about it. I even have a couple of grandkids who don’t vote.

…People don’t believe in global warming. I watch Planet Earth and a lot of things like that. Look at the polar bears, they don’t have enough ice. … It concerns me, but I don’t worry about it. There’s nothing I can do. I think it’s a bigger problem than I can solve. I mean, I can talk to people about it, which I do. I’m at the senior center a lot, they see stuff on the news—well, they mostly watch soap operas.

*

I have a strong and long scientific background [that has given me] a sense of inevitability and the fact that humans don’t like to face change until we have to. It’s not anxiety anymore. I do have some [anxiety] that people get fixated on the weather, rather than on vectors in the viral sense, effects on monocrop systems—those things are more of a risk to my children.

… I’m a [MILITARY] officer and I try to lead people, and it’s so incredibly difficult to change someone’s mind through a direct, almost attacking approach… [It works better to be able] to say, “This is what I do.” Do as I do, not as I say … I wish it were facts and logic, but it’s not, and even feelings aren’t going to do it. Your values are indicated by what you’re going to do. But I understand the futility of it.

How does change work in [your branch of the military?]

We’re usually faced with evolutionary change rather than revolutionary change. Part of the problem with [this branch of the service] is that we’re so technologically tied—we can’t separate our intellects from the technology we use…

The Navy and the Department of Defense understand [climate change] as an existential threat to our economic systems and our health as a country. [The Armed Forces] fundamentally do not do politics. Our strategic goal is to maintain the freedom of shipping and communications. No sailors or soldiers are fighting for a political statement. … They’re massively invested [in preparation]–every Department of Defense housing facility is mandated to have solar. Upgrades to systems…We’ve got bases in places that are going to be wiped out really quick. [When something bad happens], we have all these things we’re gonna be able to do, but until the bad thing happens to the right people …

Who decides who the right people are?

[The military] is subjugated to the will of the people, which is the civilian authority. … The problem is too big for people to think they can do anything about.

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Climate Anxiety Counseling TODAY, Sankofa World Market, 2-6pm!

It’s going to be another hot one today in the Northeast. If you have elderly or disabled neighbors and know them well enough to call or stop by, please check on them today–this heat hits physically vulnerable people hardest and first. Using less electricity, especially 4-8pm, makes that electricity more available for people who need it for their health and safety and means that power companies will have less excuse to bring additional, dirtier plants online.

I’ll be at the Sankofa World Market outside Knight Memorial Library (275 Elmwood Ave, Providence) today, 2-6pm, to hear your climate anxieties and other anxieties. Get some locally grown vegetables for salad–why turn the stove on, on a day like today?–and some hibiscus iced tea. Learn about No LNG in PVD leader Monica Huertas’s city council campaign and other ways to increase environmental and climate justice in our city and state.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market/Knight Memorial Library, 7/11/18

Weather: Hot, bright, breezy

Number of people: 3 stoppers, 2 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 4

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.00

 

Observations:

One of my interlocutors, the first one, challenged my presumptions (or at least, the presumptions that were in my questions) a couple of times and I really appreciated it.

Slow day today, not just for me. I did notice that there’s a lot of vendors buying each other’s things and using each other’s services—getting henna designs or vegetables—and it made me think about the relationships that we’re forming that way.

A honeybee came to visit me at the booth, hovering near my face. A housefly landed on my arm and so did a tiny bug with a pattern like a cowrie shell.

 

Some conversations:

The worry about inequity is kind of central, just ’cause that’s already—anything that reinforces the issues that we already have with imbalances among people isn’t good. It would be—it is bringing us in the opposite direction. And I’m also worried about the despair that accompanies it. When everyone’s like—it’s not so good. Probably no one’s happy about seeing all this happen. If everyone is less happy and more anxious, it’s bad for society. It’s upsetting that this is reflective of respect being breached, respect between humans and each other and between humans and the environment.

Part of my imagination of the situation is the concept of like—is it a question about the future or is it that I haven’t been affected enough to feel like it’s already happening? I have the privilege to feel like it’s not yet upon us. There’s a disconnectedness, us being blinded [sic] to seeing that this is what causes not-tangible things to us. Some people have current tangible things. Other people in the future will catch up to them as well.

What makes you feel connected?

South Side Community Land Trust is a pretty good example. It reflects knowledge of some kind about the surroundings.

How could you get that feeling of connection into other aspects of your life?

I don’t know if how I can improve the connection between me and nature is [the way for me to] deal with some of the more systemic issues.

*

It’s shocking because you openly talk about it. A lot of times when you talk about it people are like, “Oh.”

…I’m afraid of being somewhere where there’s a really bad natural disaster, like Hawai’i. The weather in California is getting so hot that animals are going extinct. I saw this documentary about sea turtles—when they hatch, they think they’re following the moonlight to the ocean and they head for the city lights instead. And like 50% of them don’t make it …

But—so how would you define anxieties?

I guess I would say it’s something that you can’t stop worrying about.

I don’t want to be the victim of modern-day slavery. That’s probably the biggest one that I have. People literally lure people in. And they’re vulnerable in the aspect of dating. You don’t know who the person is, or they can seem fine [when you get together], but people change.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/9/18, PVDFest

Weather: Hot and bright, then hazy

Number of people: 14 stoppers, 4 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7

People who got the Peanuts reference: 3

Pictures taken with permission: 2

Dogs seen: 28

Dogs pet: 1 (this is obviously a bad ratio)

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $7.05

 

Observations:

This booth session took place during PVDFest, and most of the events in the park were events for kids. This meant that the music that made it hard to hear people talking with me was also incredibly irritating to adult ears. There was a ton of foot traffic, including many apparent out-of-towners, and I think the festival situation with many attractions meant that conversations were shorter than they otherwise might have been.

I saw a cop walk by at 1:05 but I’m sure there were many more around, even more than usual.

A bunch of people were out collecting signatures for candidates, and one of them said to me, “I’m feeling hopeful. Keep up the good work.”

A sweat bee and a tiny ant both visited my hand.

 

Some conversations:

India Point Park—at a corner of the park, we’re losing that to the water, and it doesn’t seem like anyone’s doing anything. I’ve been watching it over 24 months getting worse and worse. I would be surprised if [the city] doesn’t know about it, because it’s very obvious. Two-three years ago, I saw a pile of papers—books, looseleafs—fell in front of the [bus] tunnel and nobody cleaned it up. It took two-three months for the weather to work it out. Nobody does anything about that. All these events make me believe that the city needs to have better leadership, because it doesn’t cost a lot of money to do something about an obvious problem. But I’m a guilty person—I have not tried to do anything about that.

What would you do, if you did do something?

Maybe I would call the Parks Department, or the City Manager. But it’s crazy for them to need me to contact them. Also, because I was here as a new person, so I didn’t have that attitude I’ve been here for four-five years, and my attitude in the first years was I was an outsider, it’s not my problem. But now that I am no longer a tourist—if I were still a tourist, I wouldn’t even have stopped to talk to you.

*

I live down in Narragansett, and I’ve been trying to figure out some good groups that are more local. There’s the Surfriders, but I don’t surf. There’s also the Unitarian [Universalist] church in Peacedale—I did a march down with them in Wakefield against the Dakota Access Pipeline. I’d like to see a ban on plastic bags in Narragansett. There’s a lot of other stuff going on. I know—excuses, excuses.

*

Water. Water purity and cleanliness … I’m looking at offshore drilling, and also local swamp infrastructure. I’m from New Jersey, so there’s a lot of inland development—it’s not what some people are focusing on.

What do you feel when you think about these things?

Equal parts frustration and despair. Everyone recognizes it as a problem, but I don’t think there’s enough of a will. It doesn’t affect a large enough part of the community, and the people it does affect are relatively poor, people of color, on the outskirts. You get lip service from whoever’s running for Congress, but when you’re not in power, what are the things you can do? I’m not in a place where I even know who to talk to.

 

*

[These two came up together.]

Person 1: I’m very concerned about climate change and I just love this. As Darth Vader I live in space, but as [THEIR CIVILIAN IDENTITY] I’m very concerned. When people ask me how Providence is, I say, “It’s falling into the ocean.”

Why do you say that? I mean, why is that the thing you say? Or what reaction are you hoping for?

Well, people ask you something, and then you disrupt their pattern of consciousness.

What about your consciousness? Of the falling into the ocean thing?

My everyday experience is influenced by that understanding.

Person 2: I have a lot of fear about what the future’s going to bring. A fear of what politicians are gonna do. A lot of deforestation.

Person 1: They’re saying the Syrian Civil War was due to instability caused by crop failures. So, also, resource scarcity in areas that don’t have them.

Does that feel close to you, though, or far from you?

Person 2: It fees more far. Because it’s physically remote, not immediately visible.

Person 1: But sometimes it is, and people ignore it. Like after [Superstorm] Sandy, in New York, everybody was like, “We need to do this and that,” but the city didn’t change anything that it was doing.

Person 2: I don’t think as much about stuff that’s further away. But like, Miami Beach is flooding, Cape Cod’s gonna be underwater. It’s not on my brain for a long period of time but I suppose it’s in the back of my mind.

*

I’m one of these Luddites who don’t believe in global warming. I think the planet’s been around for millions of years and we have such a tiny snapshot of what’s what.

*

Natural disasters coming all at once. I don’t have anxiety over it because I can’t control it and I don’t worry about things I can’t control … I’m an importer, I import from China. I used to be only made in the USA but you can’t do that anymore. I have to make a living.

*

Person 1: Right now? The impact of returns on online shipping, the financial and the climate impact. It’s poignant for me because I’m finishing my basement, I live in Chattanooga, and I bought an air conditioner online, and it was the wrong size. And they’re so heavy, you can’t even ship them UPS. I almost used it, even though it was the wrong size. I was like, “Why would we keep it,” but it weighed on me so heavy.

Person 2: There’s context that can completely negate what you think you’re doing. And you can do your research, but it’s a lot of time.

Person 1: If you’re gonna stay in the system, you have to make these decisions.

*

 

 

I don’t know if it’s anxiety, but concerns. What are our children’s children going to be dealing with—what’s gonna happen? And the loss of beauty.

Do you picture it?

This is just worst-case thinking. I don’t picture anything. I watch movies and that makes me go, “Oh my God.” I do a ton of research on current events as it pertains to clean energy—I own a solar company, so I’m doing everything that I can to change it and encourage other people to do the same thing. There are a lot of people who somewhat know it but they’re not convicted enough to take action.

map 6-9-18

On the map of worries/places in Rhode Island they’d like to protect, people have written:

STOP THE FRACKIN’ POWER PLANT!

Lanking [Lincoln] Woods

Stop violence and the shooting of people

Erosion at India Point Park

Johnston Landfill is getting too big

Jenks Point

BEACH

Blackstone Valley Bike Path

SAVE FOREST FROM SOLAR PANELS

Save the climate + beaches: allow windmills along the windy coast

[Next to Block Island] Underwater in 20 years

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/5/18

Weather: Warm, breezy, delightful, bright with gathering clouds

Number of people: 4 stoppers, 1 walkby

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 10

People who got the Peanuts reference: 1

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Pictures taken without permission: 1

Conversations between previous strangers: 2

People I’ve seen before, back for more: 1

Dogs seen: 2

Dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island: $0.10

 

Observations:

Nonhuman animals: many a pigeon, sparrows, a small flying ant (?) that landed on my hand.

Faced west. No food trucks upon arrival; also no Del’s. First food truck arrived at 11:20. I left 45 minutes early today because of the rain.

A police car went by around 11:15. I try to note police presence (city/state police and other roles like park rangers and parking officials) but I’m also aware that it’s different for me because my safety doesn’t depend on noting them, and I do miss some.

To people’s recycling obsession from previous years I’ve noticed an addition of a plastics obsession in general, which is probably material for its own post?

 

Some conversations:

 

 

[This is the person I handled a conversation with badly on this day. I still want to write about our two conversations at greater length; in the meantime, here are excerpts from the second one. For new readers, the italics are me.]

 

I want to apologize.

Me too, I was a real jerk last time.

I was thinking about our conversation, and I wanted to ask you: what do you do with the knowledge you have, how do you live with it?

If I didn’t have some sort of spiritual life, I don’t know what I’d do. I’d probably be a serious environmentalist—but I don’t think collecting plastic bottles is gonna help much … A lot of stuff that’s going on is not necessary, [and] it can become a little bit hopeless. I have outlets for my epistemology but I mean—the report yesterday by the Washington Post, or maybe the New York Times, they actually want to change the scaling for hurricanes. It goes up to 5 and they want to add a Category 6, because they’re expecting what they’re calling superstorms. They’ve known this for ten years, but you’re starting to see it drip into the mainstream news. The government’s preparing people for this with Hollywood—movies like San Andreas–[the] New Madrid [Seismic Zone] is gonna go. It would be illogical to think that Yellowstone is immune, and if that goes, we’re all in deep shit. The government is worried.

So you mentioned Hollywood as a way of preparing people. How do those stories usually go?

They sort of rally you around certain heroes. And then you’re happy when those people survive, never mind the fact that 250,000 people died. Like, don’t you see all those dead people?

There were two asteroid impacts last week, and this is coming from something that is disturbing the asteroid belt. We’re in a massive ecosystem—the earth’s weather is not caused by the earth. That’s something the weather report—they don’t get into that. This is solar weather. So what do you do with all that? I don’t know. You make your personal peace.

You also share this information, though. Why do you do that?

I do it for spiritual reasons. Really for me it’s about the individual. The individual should know and be able to make their spiritual peace with it. … I have faith. I don’t think the world’s gonna end. But … you ask some people now, they’ll say, “The world ended. My house got swept away by lava.” Some people are forced to do that. It can show [you] how transitory and fleeting life can be. Don’t hold onto the basket too tight.

… Yeah, I’m a little concerned. I’ve had dreams of my town completely underwater. I had to swim for a while to get to it.

*

Plastic. Tons and tons of plastic. Car tires dissolve faster than plastic. I’m a professional diver, I go out, I see bottles half-full of water floating on the surface. Plastic so thick in the river it’s rolling, the surface is rolling. I mostly dive off the West Shore, also out by Prudence Island—it’s disgusting. It’s gotta stop. … But the good thing is, I’ve seen species rejuvenating that I haven’t seen for 20, 30 years. Starfish are coming back. Baby lobsters. But then when the water’s cleaner, the invasive species come in. By 2052 there’s gonna be more plastic in the ocean than fish.  … The bottles get flattened in the streets and go through the storm drains. There’s nothing down there to catch them, and if there was, within a week there’d be at least a ton. They find their way into the ocean and into the mud. I’ve been a commercial fisherman since 1984 and already, as far as Georges Bank and Hudson Canyon, you’d see these gallon milk jugs, and we wouldn’t tow ’em out. They need to go back to wax cartons. You try to dig quahogs and you get a tampon applicator. … If I was to take it to the Bay Commission they don’t wanna hear it—too much money involved.

*

[Person 1 was talking with me for a while before Person 2 came up.]

Person 1: You can’t do much. In terms of taking care—you got all these plastics. When you go to Dunkin’ Donuts for an iced coffee, around the cup they give you another styrofoam cup. And then you get this beautiful long straw that ends up in the ocean. I try to help out in any way I can. I take caution, but not too much—I wish I could be more cautious when it comes to buying stuff. Companies and businesses are not concerned. With those plastic water bottles, they’re like, “Oh, don’t reuse it.”

… I call myself “boots on the ground.” I see what the person behind the desk talks about and makes the changes, but just because it’s on paper doesn’t mean it takes place on the ground. They talk to make people feel good, but action speaks a lot louder than words. … Okay, maybe there’s a fee associated with [littering], but is there the manpower to take care of all these laws? …

We could have cows. They take care of the grass, then there is no manpower. How many cows can you put in a park like this?

… What’s needed is for each individual person to take action. These people that you’re reaching, get them all together—you have your family, you have your kids, you have your friends. …

[Person 2 came up at this point.]

What are you anxious about today?

My job. I have to give free phones to people, and to make my numbers I have to work nonstop. … It’s harder when people aren’t really interested or eligible. They tell us to get these numbers, but I have an issue with talking to people—it gets to me, I need to take a breather. I got dropped off today with ten phones. … As a salesman, I don’t take no for an answer, but I don’t want to keep prodding them to do it—it just makes you look bad. I get paid $7.00 an hour, I’m supposed to sell ten phones. To keep my base pay I have to sell six phones a day. People don’t adhere to me—they’re like, “It’s just a salesperson.” … It’s hard to hit those numbers and be held accountable. The convincing part is terribly difficult. I’m losing my hair—I was taking a shower and big clumps fell out.

[Person 1 made a couple of suggestions about sites to try selling, and timing, based on their observations. After Person 2 left…]

 

Person 1: We’re all humans and we depend on each other and that’s how it should be. If you can lend a hand to someone without jeopardizing your well-being, then why not?

*

climate change diagram

I drew this picture to show someone the way that greenhouse gases work, but upon reflection I’m wondering if their repeated “Why is that?” was less about how it works and more about why people allow other people–relatively few people–to keep doing it.

map 6-5-18

On the map, one of the people who talked with me about plastic drew one of Rhode Island’s watersheds and the places that plastic collects within it.

No LNG in PVD: Call the Governor / CRMC Hearing

This Tuesday, there are three things you can do to fight the fracked-gas liquefaction facility that National Grid wants to build on the Southside of Providence.

Call Governor Raimondo , (401) 222-2080, and tell her to publicly oppose National Grid’s proposed liquefaction facility. Details and a potential script are at the link. You can also just call that number, give your name and address, say “I’m calling to ask the Governor to publicly oppose National Grid’s proposed liquefaction facility,” thank the staffer, and hang up.

Come to the first Coastal Resources Management Council hearing, 5pm on Tuesday, One Capitol Hill, Department of Administration Cafeteria. Come prepared to speak or just support. We’ll have lists of talking points to share if anyone wants them. The CRMC is considering whether to grant one of the permits that National Grid would need; let’s show them why they should not do that.

Donate to No LNG in PVD’s legal fundraiser, if you haven’t already.

Every person who has ever said to me at the Climate Anxiety Counseling booth that you feel helpless–here are three ways to help.

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: Sankofa World Market, 8/16/17

Weather: Hot and bright, with some help from big puffy clouds

Number of people: 7 stoppers, 1 walkby

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 6

People who recognized the Peanuts reference: 1

People who recognized me, and I them, from previous booth sessions: 2

Dogs seen: 2

Dogs pet: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.05

 

NOTE: As I type this, the Houston area is undergoing terrible flooding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Their emergency services are at capacity. Please watch this space in the coming days for how to get money and other resources to people there. One to start with: Portlight serves people with disabilities during and after disasters like these. There’s a donation button at the bottom of that page.

 

Observations:

A cop car drove by with flashers, no siren, at 2:23.

I took a break at 3:15 to buy blueberries, goya/bitter melon (the official vegetable of Climate Anxiety Counseling), collards and cilantro. I ate the blueberries while sitting at the booth. They were very good.

Two small girls added “The Pool” and some art to the map of places they’d like to protect. One of them likes to step in and one of them likes to jump in. The one who likes to step in says she’s afraid of sharks and the water is cold. Another child added “I love my house and my mom” to the map. Later, a little boy came up and asked about the map, and after I explained it, he said thoughtfully, “So if someone put the pool it means like not to dirty it. And somebody put their mom’s house so no bad guys come there.”

I have to get better at not crying when the conversation is about what should or needs to be done.

 

Some conversations:

My background is in environmental issues, but I’m not working on climate directly, and I feel really guilty about that.

Why aren’t you?

‘Cause I took this job. There weren’t jobs directly related to climate in this area, and my family’s here. When I hear about issues about climate in the news, or talk with other people who are working on it, I have that jealousy. What do I want to have accomplished in my life? Before, I worked on mountaintop removal mining–“stop the bad thing.” Now I’m looking for action happening at the city and state level. It’s hard for me to even imagine working in the private sector, so it’s got to be government or non profit.

What are you good at?

I’m good at synthesizing. Thinking big, putting information together, making sense of it. Research, writing, learning how to manage things and people, which is actually really hard. I’m good at learning new things …

… I get mad at myself for not getting involved.

*

 

I’m waiting to get my account done so I can get my car and go to work again. If that don’t work, I’ll go out in the middle of the road and never buy a watch. It was a year ’cause they did the claim—I got the car, got my license renewed…What’s impressive is that I don’t just jump.

*

 

Have you heard grownups talking about climate change?

Yeah, on the news. I’m gonna go to the Caribbean.

If it happens?*

Yeah, I’m gonna ask my grandma to take me. She lives in Florida, but that’s where she’s from.

 

*Doctor’s note: In retrospect, I realize that this was a really unhelpful, not to say dumbass, way for me to put it.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: 5/25/16

Weather: Hot in the sun, though I was shaded for most of my time there. Set up facing east instead of west so the sun wouldn’t be in my face.

Number of people: 6 stoppers, 1 walkby

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7

People known to me, and I to them, from previous sessions: 1

People who commented on the Peanuts reference: 2

Number of dogs seen: 2

Number of dogs pet: 0

Instances of shirtlessness: 7

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.81

 

 

Observations:

 

I can’t tell if facing the other way makes a difference–there were fewer stoppers today, but that could be because of all kinds of things. No one stopped to talk at all for almost the first hour.

 

A cop biked through the park at 3:10, and there was a police car parked beside some utility work starting at about 5.

 

Because it was warm, a lot of people had on their cute summer outfits, which is always pleasing.

 

Should I ask people who are obviously very drunk to come back another time when they’re less drunk?

 

 

Some conversations:

 

I believe it’s real, but I wouldn’t say I feel anxiety about it. If you look at it from a scientific point of view, the climate has always been changing, for millions of years, it’s only now that it’s being accelerated by human activities. It’s gonna happen, I just don’t wear myself out about it … I think people need to question their elected officials. The goal of any elected official, well, let’s say most of them, is to stay in power. I think people do care, so they need to hold their elected officials accountable, and then we’ll see some policy change. There’s an opportunity to do that tomorrow, a public hearing about the Burrillville Power Plant,  which is ridiculous–we’re going backwards! New solar power, new wind power, sure, but coal?* How can they do that? We’re a coastal state, so people need to pay attention to it.

 

*The proposed power plant in Burrillville would be natural-gas powered.

 

*

 

 

 

Money, paying bills. Rent, court, probation, food–they’re cuttin’ my food stamps and my social security now that I’m working. It’s not like I’m gonna die with no money, it’s more like what the hell I’m gonna do with my freakin’ money. It’s more like I do the wrong things with it.

 

Can you see what you would wanna do with it?

I can see it, it’s just tryna get to it. I told my caseworker, I can see the vision, I just don’t know how to get to it.

 

Did they have any ideas for how to help you keep your vision in sight?

Look, the Providence Center wouldn’t make money if they helped people keep their vision in sight. It’s like rehab, if it works, you won’t need them anymore. That’s why I’m talking to you, you have no interest in hand. …

 

I just wanna be financially stable. Not rich, but you see that shirt, you buy it, you see that pair of shoes, you buy it … This guy I’m working for, he pays me in cash, you can’t bank it, ’cause then the IRS is like, What are you hiding from us? I got this cut at work [shows me a deep but healing cut on his finger] and I had to tell ’em it was done at my house … My kids already work all the time. I said to my son, You don’t wanna be 47 like me and tired. My son said, Dad, I’m watching the best.

 

*

 

 

It has been changing. It’s getting longer to get hotter, warmer.

 

Have you noticed any effects that’s had on anything? Plants, other creatures, people’s moods?

 

Yeah, moods, definitely. People being like, Why isn’t it warm yet? People keep talking about it. You compare it to the last ones, from the year before–it’s been nicer sooner and that’s how I noticed that [this year] was different from last year … With fall, you don’t really noticed until you see all the colors popping out. You notice it and then everyone else notices it too.

 

We’ve been talking a lot about it in the present. Does it also make you think about the future at all

Yeah, ’cause next year I’m hoping it’ll be warmer sooner. To help the mood, the attitude. You feel better when it’s going according to plan. When it’s not, it throws people. But it does give people something to talk about. I don’t think people talk to each other enough. Just talking to somebody, just by you interacting with one person, it helps their day and your day. Which hopefully helps the world be a little better.

*

 

 

It’s definitely a very serious situation. Over the past 10 years I’ve noticed dramatic climate changes–from severe storms to irregular climate behavior. Look at these last few weeks, we’ve had snow, rain, cold, 80-degree days. If we look into geography there’s a lot going on, icebergs melting, situations with the carbon dioxide in the air, the chlorofluorocarbons. I see everything rapidly changing. I’d like to see a progression of the last 100 years–temperatures, months and days, I’d like to compare everything in the last 100 years* … My more concern is for my kids, my grandkids, great-grandkids. We’re gonna chew up all the resources. The United States uses up everybody else’s resources so we can be the last ones standing and we can have the power. It’s gonna be the end of the world. What’s gonna happen?

 

*Doctor’s note: If this person is reading this, you can see some of what you’re looking for here and here.

 

*

 

 

[Sees India Point Park marked on map of places to protect] It’s really about the water. I was there in September and there was a whole bunch of dead fish. It was really scary. I’m not talking about 10, 20 fish, I’m talking like 40, 50. And then later I wanted to kayak at India Point Park but I read that they were doing some research and there’s a lotta chemicals in the water. And a lotta people enjoy that park.

 

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling: 5/12/16

Weather: Warm, sunny, breezy, perfect in the shade; gusty at 4; warmer and stiller again toward the end

Number of people: 8 stoppers, 3 walkbys, 1 excellent couple double-take

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 6

People known to me, and I to them, from past seasons: 3, one very important (see below)

People who commented on the Peanuts reference: 2, both voluble, walking together

Number of dogs seen: 3

Number of dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $3.35

 

Observations:

One of the people I saw that I knew from a past season was the 3rd person who spoke to me on this day. She’s still in her apartment–the place she showed me the key to–and it’s going well, and she still has her cat. She said to me, “I’m finally out of boxes.”

Today went better than yesterday overall–the conversations were better, and I think I inhabited the booth better.

The booth’s complement includes a map of the state of Rhode Island that asks, “Is there a place in RI you’d like to protect?” (Used to say “Is there a place in RI you love?” but I think this works better.) It often doesn’t see a lot of use, but it did today.

There were some more evangelists today, a team of three. They were vocally homophobic and transphobic, and one of them gave me the same spiel to my face as I’d just heard him yell into the microphone, but none of them scared me personally this time.

 

Some conversations:

[Marks the Woonasquatucket River on the map]

The Woonasquatucket actually comes out of North Providence, then behind Manton and Route 6 it goes underground, and in Roger Williams Park there’s actually a freshwater spring. But it’s too clogged to recycle the water in the park, so it gets backed up. Then it splits off again just below the Providence VA, and the other part is that river you see downtown. And in the park, you know the Temple to Music? That water behind it is where the spring wells up. And then it runs into Pawcatuck. People don’t realize. My grandfather was Narragansett, and we use to walk the old way, all the rivers, up by 146, up where Purgatory Chasm runs into the Blackstone River. We’d go for two months in the summer, and you know what we’d do? If we found a tree down, we wouldn’t cut it, but we’d push it and use it like a canoe–just find something that floats and just get on either side. We used to fish in the river, brook trout and other kinds of fish, but there’s no longer any fish in the river. But I did see some fish in the park area that are maybe indigenous to the park.

*

My wife’s an RN and she just lost her job. So then you have bills, bills pile up, and that causes anxiety and stress.

*

I think I’ve found a way to be nimble and present in situations with multiple humans–that’s my role. I had some anxieties earlier this week: Am I listening hard enough? Am I listening to everything, listening to everyone? Sometimes it’s overwhelming in itself. I’ve been thinking about roles in life, roles, places, jobs. We have all these conversations, but we also need to act–it’s a luxury to be in conversation. It’s fulfilling, but it’s frustrating when it doesn’t lead to anything. What is action, how does change manifest?

*

I’m not that concerned with the environment. I think there’s not enough parks for the kids, we need more city parks, more places to play. In Providence there’s not a lot of people with backyards, so kids play in the street.

Are there places where you’d especially like to see more parks?

The South Side needs a lot more. But there’s no space to put them.

But there are some abandoned buildings and stuff, that maybe they could tear down.

Those are my same thoughts! They could just tear ’em down. But you know why they don’t? You see these abandoned houses, they don’t want to tear ’em down ’cause they want the taxes on it. They don’t have the money to fix it up, they might as well use it for taxes. …Everything [for kids] is far. Chucky Cheese is all the way in Warwick. You could put a swingset right here [indicates Burnside Park]. It’s for the kids that don’t have what normal kids have. And city pools, for kids in the summertime–I don’t have a car, that’s why I ride RIPTA, and when I was young I didn’t have a car, I was poor, I couldn’t bring my kids to the beach all the time. It doesn’t even have to be a pool, just a water thing in the park.

*

[Marks the South Side of Providence on the map]

Can you say what about the South Side you want to protect?

The people. Protect everyone.

*

I’m totally anxious about climate change. I usually have to dig a little to find out that what I’m anxious about is the survival of beautiful people and plants and animals. Usually it takes the form of more mundane stuff, like rent. But I particularly have anxiety about beasts and green things and water.

Do you imagine it, that changed world?

It’s really hard to put my mind there but I forced myself to. It’s almost impossible by myself. I kind of have to be with someone else, either it’s a lighthearted space or really trying to do it. I get temporarily hopeful, but it doesn’t–the kind of pall of discouragement rolls back in pretty quickly.

Oh, I get it–you’re talking about a brighter vision, but I was actually wondering if you also imagined a darker version of things.

Oh. Yeah. Heat, dryness, really sick people, kind of barren landscapes. A lot of–as I’m listing things off it looks a little bit like what’s happening right now, in terms of economic and cultural devastation. A lot more complete separation of folks with resources and folks without resources, a lot more violence and globalization from below–people joining forces, people finding commonness where they couldn’t before because they thought they were in competition.

That part sounds–not exactly hopeful, but like something that you would like to see.

Yeah, that is.

So what’s the fear part?

Starvation?…but when you go to identify it, it’s different than what you think. I like to think of the world as an ecological system. Basically the fear is that turned on its head and nothing being able to sustain anything else. I don’t even know how to file that, where to put that. The opposite of communication and love and ecology.

*

I take medicine for anxiety and depression. I lost my mother, my father, my brother, and my niece committed suicide. My sister’s got a brain tumor. I just come from the hospital right now. They’re doing surgery tomorrow. She said, Go home. She’s in good spirits, she got her girlfriends there, the pastor’s there. I don’t wanna be in the way … I got a good support system. Last time, I was isolated, that wasn’t good. I didn’t reach out. I got a good support system, I’m in a good place.

*

I’m worried about the economy in general. People getting jobs, people getting paid for the work that they do. [HER JOB] offered us this horrible health care plan this year, and it’s so bad that the staff agreed to make up the difference out of our own pocket, 12% out of pocket, when there’s no salary increase. Even with the last plan you had people going, “I just didn’t go to the doctor,” and this one’s even worse. … I see so many of our patrons and they have it so much worse, at least I have healthcare.