Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/15/19

Weather: Bright and fiercely windy

Number of people: 8 stoppers, 1 walkby, 1 map marker

Number of hecklers: 0!

People who got the Peanuts reference: 2

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Pictures taken without permission: 1

People I’ve spoken with before, back for more: 3

Pages of notes: 4

Dogs seen: 16

Dogs pet: 1

Money raised for Tooth and Nail Community Support Collective: $0.15

 

Observations:

Downtown was tooling up for the Pride parade. There were lots of people wearing or carrying one-use plastic rainbow objects, which infuriated me. There was also one person wearing a rainbow clown wig that looked like it had seen a few seasons of service, and another person carrying a little made-at-home trans pride flag, both of which I found touching. Older couples and groups were nice to see.

While eight people spoke with me at length today, none of them wanted me to take notes or share the conversations (which were also not about climate change but about other concerns and strains in their lives). So I won’t.

Today also had an unusually large number of people saying that they thought the booth was cool, a great idea, etc., but not stopping.

Around 4:25, one of four white people I’d seen walking around together with a muzzled dog beckoned a cop car over to the park. That cop and two others searched a Black man with an orange-striped shirt and made him get in the car, then stayed around questioning other people. Three white women (not me) went over together to speak up for the guy they arrested, but with no success. Later, someone else told me that the dog was biting people and that the guy they arrested had tried to defend himself.

Someone wrote, “My kids’ safety” on the whiteboard map of Rhode Island, where I ask people to “put their worries on the map,” but I can’t get the picture of it off my phone. So here, instead, is a picture of a small friend of mine feeding blazing star to his shark. Let’s work together to make sure that joy, not violence, is waiting for him. Let’s work for the thriving of the plants, the sharks, and the humans.

 

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Climate Anxiety Counseling at PVDFest: Guest Artists, Postcards Against the Plant, and more

I’ll be at the Climate Anxiety Counseling booth in Burnside Park for PVDFest tomorrow, starting at 12pm and going as long as I can (probably till dark, anyway).

In addition to listening and talking with you about climate and other anxieties, I will also have postcards that you can fill out for RI DEM, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Energy Facility Siting Board to register your objections to the fracked-gas power plant in Burrillville. (The EFSB is no longer officially taking public comments, but they can’t unsee a postcard.) The postcards will be addressed and stamped, and I can put them in the mailbox for you if you like–all you’ll have to do is write a comment explaining why this plant should not be built.

If you talk with me, you’ll be able to take home a little piece of art featuring a Rhode Island organism–sometimes with an action suggestion, if that’s where our conversation leads. I drew a bunch of them, like this one in honor of World Oceans Day (phytoplankton exhale between 1/2 and 3/4 of the oxygen we breathe).

 

phytoplankton 1

[Image: drawing of phytoplankton species Ceratium furca, found in Narragansett Bay.]

For PVDFest, I’ll also be giving out organism drawings donated by these other artists:

May Babcock (who also donated handmade paper!) drew ajidamoo, aka Eastern chipmunk.

chipmunk mb

Zaidee Everett drew a marbled salamander.

salamander ze

Julia Gualtieri drew a big brown bat.

brown bag jg

CJ Jimenez drew a cecropia moth.

cecropia cj

James Kuo drew a pickerel frog.

pickerel frog jk

These and other beautiful portraits of our nonhuman neighbors could go home with you if you come talk to me tomorrow. I hope you will accept this invitation for connection and action.

 

 

 

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/6/19

Weather: Cloudy and muggy at the start, shifting between that and sunny.

Number of people: 7 stoppers, 2 walkbys.

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7

People who got the Peanuts reference despite the “doctor” part of the sign being gone: 2

People who asked me for Xanax despite the “doctor” part of the sign being gone: 1

Pictures taken with permission: 1.5

Pictures taken without permission: 0.5

Conversations between strangers: 2

Dogs seen: 1

Dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Tooth and Nail Community Support Collective: $11.07!

 

Observations:

I either never knew or have forgotten when “catching a passerby’s eye” crosses over into “creepily staring.” Anyway, I don’t think I have the balance right.

No visible cops or cop vehicles at the beginning of my shift. I noticed one on the park side at 3:30, leaving at 3:55, and another by the Greyhound stop around 4.

Had a couple conversations today that I’m kind of bummed I didn’t get permission to post.

 

Some conversations:

Winters no longer start. I used to go trick or treating with my kids, there would be snow on the ground in October. Now it doesn’t snow till February. We don’t have spring anymore—you know, how you think of three months slowly coming into summer. We just have winter and summer, and for winter you just get one giant snowstorm. It’s a really tight time frame—you remember that blizzard we had, it didn’t come till February and then it came and it came and it came. I do notice it, and it’s bizarre. In the fall, the foliage comes and goes very fast. It used to be you could pick a weekend, go and look at it. Now the window is so short you can’t enjoy it anymore.

My sisters live in Tennessee and Georgia, and they got snow, their first snow in twelve years. Nobody has a shovel—my sister had to have a shovel sent to her in Tennessee. But what do you do? I try to be minimalistic and not even make trash. But I don’t know what to do. I’m one person. This planet is huge—what can you do in little Rhode Island, the most politically and financially corrupt state?

*

Plants are our brothers … Trees, plants, climate. Every animal has the same type of organ basis as a human. If you scrape your knee, it scabs up, and that’s like the bark of the tree, it’s a scab protecting what’s inside from foul stuff in the atmosphere. Plants are living just like us …

So with all of these relationships in mind, how can we take care of them? Show our gratitude?

By respecting their time. A plant has a flowering time and a bedding time. Respect them like a human—but people don’t really respect humans that well. People are confused, it makes them judgmental, it leads to favoritism.

How do we move away from that?

Openmindedness. I think it just needs generations of time. People from older times are still stuck in their ways. You’ll hear somebody old say some racist stuff, it’s because they lived by it. The next generation gets to choose whether they follow that. But if you have a family that’s wealthy, people are gonna have to choose whether to agree with them and take the money, or argue with them. People would rather do the wrong thing and get value for it. Doing the wrong thing is easy in every aspect of life, it’s doing the right thing that’s hard.

map 6-6-19

[Image: Somewhat impressionistic map of Rhode Island, made out of tape on a dry-erase board. It says, “Put your worries on the map,” and “Is there a place in Rhode Island you’d like to protect?” Today, people added “The Neighborhoods” in the vicinity of Providence, and a ZIP code, “02840.”]

 

Some things about leaves

Walked to vote on a raw Novemberish day in Providence. When the weather is seasonable, I feel better, even though I know it has no long-term meaning. The leaves are starting to come down in earnest finally and pile up a little.

leaves 1

To pay attention to some things, we have to neglect other things. Let them just pile up on the sidewalk, break down as best they can, let the dogs shit in them, let their own tenants of fungus and bacteria emerge, unsanitary, let them spread a layer of humus slowly over the sidewalk, let people walk and wheel in the street, let dropped seeds take root. How quiet it will be. Sour smell of the smashed locust pods rotting, sparrows having to make different decisions.

leaves 2

Streets paved with gold, in the short term: let them learn again to maintain themselves, let the seedlings teach the concrete to crack. Think about who is with you now.  When you step off the street itself to let an ambulance through, you are taking a walk in the forest.

 

“We will keep fighting for the health and safety of South Providence”

Yesterday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a certificate–basically, the necessary permit–for National Grid to build a natural gas liquefaction facility on the Southside of Providence. If you know me or have been reading this site for a while, you know that I’ve been working with No LNG in PVD to stop this plant from endangering the people of the Southside and (through contributing to climate change by increasing the extraction, transport and consumption of natural gas) the world at large.

lng plant panorama

Here is our statement.

No LNG in PVD is committed to fighting for health, safety and justice for all residents of South Providence. For three years, neighborhood residents and committed allies have fought to stop National Grid from building a liquid natural gas plant on Allens Avenue that will increase health and safety risks for residents and contribute to global climate change. On Wednesday, October 18, we learned that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has granted National Grid a certificate for this project, subject to certain conditions.

FERC’s decision came through 12 days after the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated in strong terms that ceasing fossil fuel emissions–reducing them to 45% by 2030 and to zero by 2050–is essential to maintaining human life and well-being on Earth. In National Grid’s permit applications, the useful life of the LNG facility is stated as ending in 2030. Meanwhile, on October 3, a truck carrying over 11,000 gallons of gasoline overturned on the Route 95 ramp from Allens Avenue, pouring gasoline onto the road and into the Providence River. Threats to the neighborhood and to the planet are ongoing from activity in the Port.

No LNG in PVD is proud of the work we have done to try to protect the people of the Southside. We are proud of delaying the construction of this shortsighted and dangerous facility for three years. We are proud of our attempts to participate in the public regulatory process despite many obstacles, and we are proud of the Southside: a neighborhood where people live and work, not a sacrifice zone. We wish that our elected officials listened to the concerns of the people they represent. We are grateful to Mayor Elorza for supporting our campaign from the beginning.

No LNG in PVD will continue to fight for the well-being of the Southside. This is only the start of ongoing efforts to make the Port of Providence clean and healthy again, and to make Rhode Island a place where economic and environmental health go hand in hand.

We learned the news yesterday. Today, I went with a friend to East Greenwich, RI to help collect salt marsh grass seed, which the Fish and Wildlife Service will germinate over the winter and set out in the spring at another marsh, in the John W. Chafee National Wildlife Reserve, to help the marsh keep pace with sea level rise.

grasses

[Image: grasses.]

Eventually, if the grass seedlings take, they will mediate between land and water (which helps humans) and provide homes for many nonhuman people there, as they do here.

grasses and mussels

[Image: grasses with mussels hanging onto their roots and the bottoms of their stems.]

I was, and am, so angry. I was, and am, so sad. I was, and am, so scared. And I am not finished. We are not finished.

grasses and beam

[Image: grasses, a sunbeam, and some tidal mud.]

I want to be clear: if the state were serious about the health and safety of the Southside, about “environmental management,” about “resilience,” we could and would work toward a restoration project like this there, too, where people live, where the land meets the water. Right now it’s poisoned by industry and choked by concrete, but Nature isn’t a specific place where you get to go if you’re rich. Nature is us.

When there is more that you can do to help us fight for-profit environmental racism, I will let you know.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market/Knight Memorial Library, 9/26/18

Weather: Gray, humid, sprinkling rain. Later, breezy and cooling off some.

Number of people: 4 stoppers, no walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 3

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $1.00

 

Observations:

Short shift (4-6pm) today because of a meeting.

It’s pretty common for me to have conversations about farming and food when I do the booth at the farmers’ market. I think the three different ways these three different people are talking about them are illuminating.

Yellowjackets; cricket sounds.

 

Some conversations:

It’s a big world out there. It feels like a lot of things are ending, which, what do we do about that?

What do you do about it?

 I grow more plants, I learn about growing plants. I come to things like this.

 When is it that you feel anxious?

 Reading a new piece of news about, oh, the ways that communities are experiencing the world changing around them.

What does it feel like, when you read that or see that?

 Some kind of dread. But in many  cases it’s very removed from my actual life. It’s like I get an echo of what’s happening.

 Are there times when it feels more immediate?

 Looking around—my grandfather is a big gardener, and talking with him about things that have changed in his lifetime, like, he can grow these peppers for longer. It kinda feels positive—he feels like he can grow more stuff. English is not his first language, and he doesn’t read that much, so what he knows is mostly what my sisters and I talk to him about. So it’s one step removed, the dread—he gets it filtered through us. He’s good at focusing on the here and now.

 Is that something you can kind of learn from him?

 It feels like it’s something out of reach, but it’s good to tap into—to work in the here and now.

Do you have conversations with other people about this?

 Yeah, but a lot of the conversations I have are not very productive. Some of them end in like a feeling of dread or incapacitation—it doesn’t go anywhere and I kind of feel like it’s a copout, but how to move past that?

 What would happen if you moved past it by going through it?

 Often it’s either been with people or in spaces where we’re not able to be intentional about moving past that. It needs a devotion of time and energy, and you can’t do that individually, and the stars gotta align to have what you need to do it communally.

What would that look like?

 It would look like something that if it exists—it should look different from anything that we’re used to.

* 

It’s a bigger thing than me recycling. I do all the good things that people should do, I have dreams of owning my own little piece of land. But it’s no use doing my part unless I can get other people to do their part. The work I do, the nature of my work, kinda goes in that direction. I grow sunflowers at my house, I give ’em away to my neighbors—the other day there was a big group, a big bunch of middle schoolers, and I offered them sunflowers and they were all like ugh, you’re a dork, like my nephew’s that age. But there was this one, she didn’t want to admit that she wanted one, but she came back later.

… I feel guilty when I’m driving a car. On an individual level I do what I can, but on a macro level it’s too big for just me. Even if push comes to shove and we have to deal with some kind of environmental tragedy, we’ll handle it, hopefully. “Okay, what do we do now that the world’s underwater?” One thing that does worry me is that a lot of people close to me live in food deserts, food insecurity. Like one of the kids I was talking to [at CityFarm], she was like, “My family are farmers, but I go hungry sometimes.” So yeah, we’re giving food to the neighborhood, but what’s happening on the other side of the table? … I’m always mindful of it. I’ve gotten friends involved … It’s dope to meet people and get them interested in your interests. I’m much more into the personal interactions than I am in leading a movement. Empowering people to grow their own food– “You know what a ton of mint you can grow in this little pot? Try it!” People like to start with succulents. Something that stuck with me from childhood: Rich Petersen from CityFarm, he’s been my mentor, and he was like, “Food is one thing everybody has in common, ’cause everybody has to eat.” You can use food as a connecting tool. This one guy, I gave him a handful of huskcherries. He didn’t wanna try ’em but eventually I’ll get him.

 *

I have a lot of concern about farmers and how they’re impacted by climate change. There was some crop I was reading about recently where there was a blight, it was a very poor crop this year, and it was related to climate change. Oh, corn. One clue after the next, that’s something. With seafood—seafood is very affected by the warming of the waters. Jonah crab is becoming a thing here, and it’s great to have jonah crab, but it’s also a symbol of warming waters. How it’s affecting lobsters, other shellfish—I’m in the food business so I think about it from that point of view.

 And also the things that eat lobsters, the things that lobsters eat—

 Of course, it’s a whole ecosystem getting disrupted.

 When was this first brought to your attention?

I’m personally not engaged in any advocacy for climate change. I have a lot of colleagues who—that’s much more in their wheelhouse, and I support the work that theyre doing. Water, energy, the environment—food is the nexus of a lot of things … I’m worried and frustrated because not everybody in the political world is as excited about this. That’s what we need, to change a lot of things. And it’s hard when you come from a state that’s pretty democratic. If I was in a purple state I might be more involved.

I believe in the forest floor: Fauna Obscura at 7pm TONIGHT

My friends Janaya Kizzie, Rachel Hughes, Mike Duffy and I are making a night forest with you, at 7pm TONIGHT (8/3), at 40 Sonoma Court.

We crave home, safety, sanctuary, but at times one finds the way home is obscured. For the wanderers and the weary, a sacred space awaits on the forest floor. Through light, projections, wood, and textiles, a forest shrine emerges.

Enter the forest. You may wander, or seek a guide, who will be holding a lantern. They’ll show you the seeds of stories in the leaf litter. You can choose one to take with you. If the firelit tent is empty, you can go inside and speak the story seed aloud. If there is someone in the firelit tent already, or if you don’t want to speak aloud, stand outside the tent and listen.

When you hear the crows or owls calling, a story is about to begin.

Everyone is part of this play. Make room for the people around you in the forest. Pay attention to how they are moving. If you want, you can move too.

Why is this on the Climate Anxiety Counseling blog, you ask?

It’s part of this effort to co-germinate fables for the time we find ourselves in.

It’s part of the small practices of improvising, collaborating and taking risks that I’m trying to embrace in order to be more responsive to the world as it is and as it’s coming to be.

It’s a reminder that the forest floor has lessons for us about how to live and die together, to meet fear, to be small in darkness together. That life and death are going on around us all the time. That lives that don’t do damage, and deaths that aren’t unjust, are possible, even though they may seem far from us. That we can walk in the forest together.

Picture

Picture

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling at the Armory Park Farmers’ Market, 10/6/16

Weather: Cool and sunny and dry, chilly toward twilight

Number of people: 10 stoppers, 10 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Dogs spotted: 13

Dogs pet: 0. That’s ZERO FOR THIRTEEN. A scandal and a shame, I tell you.

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island: $1:50

 

Observations:

I’d intended to be there till 7, but only stayed till 6:30, when it was getting too dark to write.

I had just enough Rhode Island organism cards to hand out to people who spoke with me.

Someone tried to ventriloquize their climate anxieties through their baby, which is the most extreme version of next-generation-ism I’ve seen yet.

 

Some conversations:

I’m anxious that the Republicans think that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, because that’s a major political party which is supposedly half of the country–that’s a lot of people that think climate change is not real.

What scares you about that?

If people don’t think it’s real, it will continue to get worse and before we can do anything about it, it’ll be too late–it already is too late.

Too late for what? 

Well, we can’t stop the polar ice caps from melting. In 30 years, we’ll be underwater. I’m not really sure, maybe. It’s really difficult to think about because no one wants to die and no one wants the world to die, but it might.

*

[These two knew each other, and mostly talked together with a little input from me.]

Person 1: In this community, I don’t know how many people worry about climate change. It’s concerning, yes, but people are worried about food in the stomach. I wonder if people will see [you] and think, What’s wrong with that person.

Person 2: I worry about the economy, the rate at which automation is going. There are already driverless cars–a lot of people are going to be put out of work. What 10 people used to do, now one person does it, and it’s going to be automated–no one’s talking about how it’s going to be managed … A lot of people are going to be out of work. It’s coming, it’s coming fast.

Person 1: This kind of conversation asks me to think about all of that. I might have been thinking otherwise, but now I have to think about it this way, and I am thinking: the way we know life will never be the same, because once technology and automation…get into the picture, life will be different–the larger population are not used to that, and who is having that conversation?

Person 2: Nobody!

Person 1: Who comes to this neighborhood and talks about automation? Who’s saying, “Your life is gonna change?”

*

Sickness. My pressure [touches chest]. My back hurting–I’m not able to stand.

*

We’re wasting our rainwater, we should save our rainwater, and we’re doing terrible things to our soil. We don’t take care of it at all, our Grandmother Earth. And they’re not enjoying it–it’s “supposed to” be used up and made into money, rather than this gift that we should love and take care of. The company doing landscaping at the East Side Market, they’re ripping up the shrubs. Those are living things! I can hear them crying–I know it’s ridiculous, but–and then it gets dumped. There’s a society against cruelty for animals, there should be one for cruelty against plants, the planet–it’s taken years for them to get the way they are. I’m a landscape designer, I educate people all the time … Leave the plants where they are, let them grow deep roots, and go and sit amongst them.

It’s wonderful to hear someone talk about plants with so much love, and the relationships between plants and humans.

It feeds each other, right, we do need to stick together.

*

High property taxes, and nobody gets anything for the money. What I would really like to see–the thing that irks me more than anything is that [while] property taxes are so high, out-of-town companies get tax stabilization agreements and that creates housing that takes away the tenant pool for the rest of us, and we foot the tax bill. It creates an enormous inequity and fleeces the rest of the city. If taxes make it impossible, if you can’t afford to build here without a TSA, you can’t afford to build here. But the companies all pay the prevailing wage, so it’s all union jobs, so the union supports them because they can’t get jobs anywhere else…Most of the construction guys I know who are in the union commute up to Boston, and they do have work up there, they are working.

*

[These two came up together and appeared to share a dog.]

Person 1: We moved here six months ago from Chicago, and we were really excited about this neighborhood. But there’s so much garbage in the streets … I think it’s related to the way we treat the climate.

Person 2: I picked up so much garbage the first few months, and then I’d come out the next morning and it’d be all dirty again, and I sort of gave up.

Do you still pick up garbage though? 

Oh yeah, and there’s kind of an unofficial group who walks through [the park] and picks up glass, and it’s comforting to see them and know I’m not the only one.

 

 

 

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling at the Sankofa World Market: 8/31/16

Weather: Coolish, humid, overcast, a few raindrops.

Number of people: 4 stoppers, 1 walkby.

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 4

Pictures taken with permission: 2

Pictures taken without permission: 1

People who commented on the Peanuts reference: 0, though a woman did walk by in a shirt with Lucy, Linus, Charlie Brown and Snoopy on it.

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island: $0.05

 

Observations: 

Another sparse day, and not even Michael Jackson to blame for it.

A couple of people interviewed me among the other market vendors. Thanks, those people! I also had several moving non-counseling conversations with other vendors, and several second conversations with people who’ve spoken to me at this market before.

I also got to see someone I met last year downtown: we talked on this day, and I gave him a copy of this alternate history. Later that summer he stopped by to ask how it ended, and I asked if he would try to end it. Today he said he was still thinking about it and he actually wrote something for it! If we’re able to reconnect and he’s willing for me to share it, I’ll post it here.

Today was my last day at the Sankofa World Market, and various people gave me A) a small sunflower, 2) a spoonful of majarete, and D) a spray of peachy-orange gladioli. One farmer also let me know when the eggplants were about to be gone, so I could buy two of them.

 

Some conversations:

Finding a good job after graduation. I’m graduating from college this year. I want to work for the CDC and study diseases, disease prevention, epidemiology … I’m just nervous because other people with the same major as me are just floating around two years later. I can’t be working minimum wage, living and paying my loans.

*

Since I talked to you I’ve been trying to be more intentional about my choices. Sometimes I go to Stop and Shop and get vegetables from wherever they come from, but I wanted to come back [to the Sankofa Market] because the vegetables are so good, they’re grown right here and they’re really affordable. It’s easier to make positive choices [when you’re buying food], because companies say, “Oh, it was grown this way, it was raised this way.” But it’s harder to make negative choices, because the negative isn’t advertised: “Oh, we treat workers like shit.”

… I was also thinking from when we talked before about when I was really young, Public Works–this was in Vermont–would cut the trees and I was just sobbing, thinking they were killing them, and I think that’s a gift that young children have–to be able to relate to the trees. But me not being able to get out of bed because I’m sad about the trees isn’t ultimately sustainable. I’ve been watching a four-year-old and the other day she said to me, “Let’s make a movie…I wanna make a movie about trees. Trees are so important because they’re so pretty.” And I think there’s a connection between the place that tears come from that trees are dying and the joy at the awesomeness of the natural world. But I guess it’s easier to empathize with humans.

*

 

I guess my anxiety about this [gestures at sign] at the moment is around that article that’s circulating, “Is it irresponsible to have kids in the age of–” It’s an area where there’s so many really clear cerebral positive fact-based reasons [not to have kids]. It doesn’t make sense for there to be any more humans, that’s how we got to where we are. But then you’re thinking about this realm that’s so unconnected with any scientific analysis and reasoning. How do these intersect–this really primal, human thing, this biological imperative that bonks up against harsh reality? We don’t need more humans swelling the population. And then on a personal level it’s also ugggggghhhhh, wow, I don’t–

 

 

Doctor’s note: I suggested that this person look at the work that Conceivable Future does.