Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market, 7/24/19

Weather: Warm/hot and bright, little breeze, puffy clouds

Number of people: 1 stopper

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7

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

Observations:

While I only had one conversation today, A) it was a great one, as you’ll soon see, and 2) the market as a whole seemed busier than the previous few markets. I didn’t check with other vendors to see if this was the case for them.

Nonhuman animal passersby: cabbage white butterfly, bumblebee, sparrow, dragonfly, tiny ant, starlings, wasp, pigeon, and a butterfly that I didn’t see but that apparently landed on my hat.

A conversation:

Being Native American, we never think about the land and water as ours today. It’s always for the next generations. So it’s extra stressful, not only because of the change that is happening here and today, but because you can already see that Mother Earth—every living creature is like an embryo in her womb, and all living creatures are slowly dying. If I think of what my grandchildren or great-grandchildren’s lives will be, I can’t—will we have to live in constant bubbles and not breathe anymore than half an hour outside of a building? These sci-fi things. It’s so stressful. As much as I would love to be a grandmother, the idea of bringing a child into that world… And coming from a culture where you only live if you reproduce—it makes me really sad.

Is this something you talk about with your kids?

We talk about it a lot, with my daughter especially. She’s extra health-conscious, especially when it comes to foods—she’s the one that’s very sensitive to all of these issues. …One of my sons will get a glass of milk and she’ll be, “Do you know what’s in that milk?” She makes it a main topic in the house. She’s like, “Why are we committing slow suicide.” She’s thirteen.

….How do we make a neighborhood aware of these things and able to deal with these things? It’s almost like you have to recondition everyone. This started years ago, and it’s going fifty times faster than they ever expected. How much quicker is it going now? To make the public be aware of what’s actually happening, they’d actually have to try to do things about it. My son is really into marine life—he’s the Save the Bay kid. Every time we go to the beach he’s like, “Mom, where’s the trash bag?”

Are there any ways that cultural knowledge has helped you and your family deal with this time?

I’ve always taught my kids to pay it forward. To have compassion, to have empathy, in our interactions with others. I don’t know if I set them up to be hurt a lot. But on the other hand, I’m like, “One day humanity’s going to need people like you.” And they know that all living things, from a tree to a flower to a human, [are] just as important as each other. Without one thing, the other will die, until there’s nothing.

… I tell them, feelings and thought are matter, and matter carries energy. Hate’s energy kills, but love’s energy helps things to thrive. … My daughter out of all of us is the most balanced. She sees me looking at people in pain, and dealing with the trauma from ancestral empathy, carrying the spirit of my ancestors, and she says, “Mom, your heart is too big.” I’ll see someone and I’ll be like, “Just let me give ’em a hug,” and that turns into opening the door to them, and that turns into them living with us, and then that turns into their kids stealing from me. My kids over the years have been displaced by other people’s needs. I’ve taught them to give, but how much did I teach them about self-love?

So many people think that [care] has to come back as a direct thing. But what happens is, you’ll give way over here and you’ll get back over here. But you’ll know that it’s part of your cycle, because you’ll be at peace.

… I have to let go of who I was and embrace who I’m going to be. I’m 43 years old. I’m not afraid to recognize that I need help, but it took me a long time to say, “It’s okay. It’s all right to breathe. If you further your education, you can put yourself in positions to open doors.” …If I don’t shut down the old me, I’ll never get to my full potential.

In a way that’s what the book I’m writing is about: how do we become the people we need to be in this frightening time?

It’s an emotional burden that I can’t explain. A lot of people don’t think about it because they don’t live in a conscious way. They’re not going to think about it until that last bottle of water costs $300. It’s so heavy.

Image result for cabbage white butterfly

[IMAGE: A cabbage white butterfly, like the one I saw on this day, on a yellow flower.]

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

Come to the Sankofa World Market today (Wednesday, 7/17) for fresh vegetables, live music and Climate Anxiety Counseling. 2-6pm at the Knight Memorial Library (275 Elmwood Ave). Today’s weather is kind of like being in someone’s armpit, but I hope you won’t let that stop you.

Climate Anxiety Counseling TODAY at Miantonomi Farmer’s Market in Newport! 2-5pm!

This will be my second stint at this market in Newport’s North End. If you’re around, come share your climate and other anxieties with me, think  through some paths to action, and get a little piece of art to keep.

Also buy some vegetables! I got peas last time.

Before: newport market peas before

[IMAGE: Many cartons of fresh shell peas displayed on a folding table, also the open back of a red truck.]

And after:

newport market peas after

[IMAGE: A carton of empty pea shells at the Climate Anxiety Counseling Booth.]

The peas may be over, but there are plenty of other good things. 2-5pm in Miantonomi Park (Hillside Ave, Newport RI).

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Miantonomi Farmer’s Market, 7/1/19

Weather: bright, warm, breezy, delightful

Number of people: 10 stoppers, 2 walkbys, 1 map marker

Pages of notes: 9

People who recognized the Peanuts reference: 3

Pictures taken with permission: 2

Dogs seen: 4

Dogs pet: 1

Money raised for Tooth and Nail Community Support Collective: $10.30

 

Observations:

This was my first time at this market and my first time doing the booth in Newport.

 

Not everyone at the market was white, but almost everyone who talked with me at length was.

Nonhuman animal presences included seagulls, a tiny iridescent fly, a wasp, a flying beetle, another tiny fly with patterned wings, a green fly and a regular little housefly.

There’s a tree in Miantonomi Park that looks like a butt.

newport market

[IMAGE: People setting up tents and tables on the grass, on either side of a concrete path and under trees in leaf, on a sunny day.]

Some conversations:

I live in Burrillville and I’m also in the fire department. Being a paramedic, I see the effect climate change is having on people with asthma, people with respiratory issues  … We need to educate people so they’re prepared for it. There’s always the question of talking to local government, your state representative, but at the end of the day it’s always the people’s voice. The people are always gonna win. That’s one of the things we found in Burrillville. Eventually the politicians get on board.

Do you think people in Burrillville are activated to do more about other things like this now, or are they more relieved?

I think, more relieved, and dealing with other crap. We already have [another power plant] in town. These things usually operate for 25-30 years, so what happens at the end of that time?

Do you worry about climate change?

Yeah, I do. There’s always that sense of—what can you do anyway? What can we do?

*

Person 1: I was watching an ad for those silly [BRAND] razors for women that go up and down. When you think of all the things that are going wrong in the world, and this company is trying to sell us razors that go up and down! I don’t know—I’d like to see what the percentage of people in 2019 is that’s really concerned enough about it to do something. You’ve got a lot of people thinking, “That’s not gonna happen in my lifetime.”

Are you concerned?

Person 1: I’m concerned. I don’t lose sleep over it, but it certainly is there, I do have concerns about it certainly. All the political yeah yeah yeah and blah blah blah.

Person 2, catching up with Person 1: Do you have climate anxiety?

Person 1: Well, not anxiety but concern.

*

I don’t know if you know about the terrapin turtles in Barrington—I’ve been working with them since I was ten. Their habitat is disappearing. The marsh where they live has halved in size, and there are a lot more roads. I also work with Save the Bay—the water temperature [in Narragansett Bay] is rising.

How are you feeling about all of that?

Not good. Not good. I definitely have my work cut out for me when I’m out of school for sure. People just think they can build whatever they want, wherever they want. It’s not like the Earth can say, “No, you can’t build on me.” I want to speak up for the Earth.

*

I thought you were going to tell me to get lost! I’m interested in the park and housing here. I advocate for activity in the park … My fears and concerns are that the city [of Newport] has ignored the North End and this beautiful park. They plan activities in other parks in Newport, but there’s nothing here. I advocated for this farmers’ market, but there were some people who said no, if we let the farmers’ market come into this neighborhood they’ll be serving themselves, not the neighborhood. So we had a document written up about who can be at the market.  …Some people would say, “Oh, it would be nice to have a craft show,” but those people would be there to make profit for them, nothing for the community.

What do people in the community want more of?

They want more activities. We’re trying to get a flag football program established … A lot of really hardworking people live in this neighborhood. Not enough Newporters realize how important housing is. They think people up here are on welfare. How many people do you think are on welfare here?

I couldn’t even guess.

It’s between 1 and 2 percent.* I grew up on Bedloe Avenue. I went to Sheffield School. All these kids, I knew them and grew up with them… We’re trying like hell to maintain this housing, to make sure physical livability is maintained. These houses date from the Second World War. Some of them are totally empty. And then the rates go up. If you talk to nurses at the hospital, none of them live in Newport. They can’t afford to… It’s pretty sad when a teacher or a nurse can’t live in the community where they work.

*Being on welfare doesn’t mean anything bad about you, and everybody should be able to live in the community where they work. **

**Also ending wage labor would be good, let’s do that.

*

They keep building these gigantic hotels. They’re blocking the view—you’ll have this gigantic hotel and then in the background there’s this tiny sliver of ocean. They’re taking Newport away from regular people, and I’m a regular person. I’ve lived here since I was 16. My daughter and granddaughter were raised here. I’m Newport except I wasn’t born in Newport Hospital.

I have a lot of climate anxieties. Why are people not concentrating on this? People running for office—why are they not even discussing it? The most important thing is the world. … I just see a whole lot of people dying—in fact they actually are … I don’t even have anybody to vote for and I have no idea where to turn. Why? Why are they—how many times do you have to be told? Maybe it’s too late—we pulled out of the Paris Accords.

What does it mean to be too late?

So much damage has been done. It’s as if [to politicians] it’s not real. To me they’re not real. I want some direction. I can’t do this alone, it’s driving me nuts. … Nobody in my family gives a shit. I [suffer from] mental illness—there was a group discussion, but I’m afraid to go. I’m not a professional that can give ideas.* But it’s been a cause for me since I was at least 18—it was apparent, it was quite apparent. I didn’t expect it to happen. I’m leaving a child and grandchildren.

*If anybody has ideas for how this person could participate climate activism in ways that wouldn’t require them to show up in person or talk on the phone, please let me know at my gmail address, publiclycomplex—I have their contact information and will share the ideas with them.

*

I was just listening to someone I work with getting more of an explanation of what climate change is… I heard him break it down to [her], and I watched her face as what he said registered. He really got a good [background] explanation about how gas gets into the atmosphere and everything gets out of whack, how it changes food and where it can grow. And as she was listening, she was looking more and more sad and thoughtful, and she said, “So much suffering.” I think people need to hear it not as a lecture, not in a way that’s “you should,” but it’s so complicated. What’s the right way to come into this conversation? What’s the right kind of information? …Watching her absorb the information on her terms—she asked a question and I watched the answer wash through her. [This is someone who is] quiet, she listens more than people understand, so people underestimate her. She went right to the heart of the matter. I was underestimating her.

*

I have gone past climate anxiety, I am in climate despair. The shit’s gonna hit the fan and people aren’t gonna know how to deal with it. They don’t know how to recognize and respond to the threat, and that’s unfortunately so human. Now we’re all gonna suffer from it. … As it is in most human affairs, it’s going to take the dysfunction to be very consequential before people are willing to deal with it as communities. What I’m used to seeing is people who aren’t addressing it. They may recognize it as an issue but their lives are overwhelming. I really see my power in accepting the limitations of things that are around me, and considering the fact that the question of what can be done when the status quo doesn’t work. How do people stay connected rather than disconnected? It’s gonna get hairy. Probably not in my lifetime.

How does it feel to let your mind go there?

I don’t know what to say. It’s just training me to accept that I can neither predict the future nor control very much. And that’s a good way to live.

How do we build the connection you were talking about?

Doing a lot of it. Promoting it. Again, I recognize the limits. Participating in local community in Newport. In [working with] Aquidneck Community Table, I did it with the expectation that they’d connect people. That’s the thing that they’d really do. Their core issues can’t move at the speed of events. The outcome is not community gardens but connections between people, so that they can maybe cooperate under more dire circumstances.

map 7-1-19

[IMAGE: Map of Rhode Island with people’s localized worries marked on it in dry-erase marker. The new entry is “Too many hotels – not enough parking.”]

Climate Anxiety Counseling TODAY at the Sankofa World Market! With special guest!

Today I’ll be at the Sankofa World Market (275 Elmwood Ave, Providence) 2-6pm, and so will my youngest sister. (We may be a little late getting there if her bus is late.)

My sister is the best: a maker of theater, an educator, a noticer of plants, a mender of clothes, someone who through care contributes to justice. I learn from her and look up to her every day. Here’s the pea fence we put up in her front yard planter boxes.

pea fence

[IMAGE: a wooden planter box on a city street, with garlic coming up on one side, and a pea fence made of old curtain rods and yellow yarn.]

Climate Anxiety Counseling: One-on-One, 6/27/19

(This person reached out to me a few weeks ago via email. “Before, climate change was an abstract concept to me,” they wrote. “I knew it was real, but it was somehow ‘out there’ somewhere, out of sight out of mind. Now, I am witnessing the undeniable consequences of it with my own two eyes. It has truly hit home and I am in shock.” 

At that time, they were feeling too raw to come to the booth and talk in public, so we made a plan to meet one-on-one. They brought $10.00 to donate to the Tooth and Nail Community Support Collective, and mint from their garden. Here are some of the things we talked about.)

I’ve sort of had some time to calm down since I wrote to you, to go from, “Oh my God,” to, “Well, we’re in this.” My concern always goes back to the animals. They’re innocent and defenseless against all this. I’ve been sorting through things in my mind about how to make sense of it. It’s like a huge tsunami wave—it’s way off in the background, but I can sort of see the crest. But it’s easy to sort of go on with your life, like, “Maybe it won’t happen,” or, “Maybe it won’t be so bad.” … It’s just so enormous that it’s hard to get a grip on it—for lots of people, including myself.

What was the first feeling you had when you heard how bad [climate change] is?

Shock. When I was finding out about that, when I realized that, I was sitting in my yard, and there was not a bee and not a butterfly in sight. My husband heard all about it, my friends and my neighbors, Instagram—but that’s just not a tenable solution because you’re just kinda spreading this stuff. I have not accepted it, but I can’t go around alienating people. I’d rather gain their interest … When I first became vegan I was like that. I was like a loaded cannon. I would cry, I would be, “Nobody’s paying attention, nobody cares!” I drove myself crazy for probably two years. I didn’t know how to deal with this, how to see all these animals suffering. Even when we would go to protest in Boston, I couldn’t look at the signs. I guess I was glad we were out there—I’m not sure.

What does it feel like to think about it now?

Painful and scary and sad. But I’m an artist, and I started making paintings about this. I want to use paintings and my blog to start reaching people. They’re mostly about the beautiful side—I did some that were about the tragic side but I don’t think that does much for people. They’re of the world before the Fall, before people started polluting. Holding that image in my mind when I meditate helps me a lot. As I go along, I want to kind of just branch out with it, show the paintings, have people respond to them. It’s a unique way that I can express what’s going on, and I look forward to that. That sounds like something I can do.

How does it feel when you’re painting?

I just feel like the sense—Finally, I can express this. I don’t have to walk around with it stuck in my throat all the time. I feel optimism and excitement. …

What was the moment, for you, with veganism, where you realized that you needed to stop what you were doing and do something else?

I was a vegetarian for fourteen years before I became a vegan. Probably I just started doing my own research. Do you know the artist Sue Coe? I went to an exhibit of her work, and I just couldn’t believe what I saw. I don’t know how she’s able to even put those images on paper. It’s just, “Well, there it is, I was there, I’m just painting what I saw, I’m not trying to make you feel guilty.” Then I started getting books out of the library—this was before the internet—and I changed my diet. Turning to veganism is a very emotional thing for people. You have to give up not just comfort foods, but emotional foods, the foods that your family had.

So that brings up—what are some things that you might lose because of climate change that are hard to let go of? … Either because you are voluntarily giving them up, or because they’re gone?

I don’t know. We have a very economical car, it’s nine—no, fourteen years old. The only thing I can think of is that we have a very small air conditioner.

I’m also thinking about stuff like—you know, maybe climate change means that you don’t have kids, or that you stop bugging your kids about grandkids. Or maybe it means you can’t live where you live, either because living there takes too much energy or because it’s not safe to live there anymore.

If I knew something I was doing was really harmful, I probably wouldn’t have a problem—not moving, that’s a different story. We don’t even use the air conditioner that much. We have a lot of shade, and there are wetlands behind our house. But I don’t want to stay in a bubble.

Tell me about the wetlands.

I have a studio on the ground floor and the windows look out onto the wetlands. I can see all the little creatures…it’s a complete joy to me. And it’s regulated, so that at least for now, nobody can dredge it and build on it. We and all the neighbors share it.

How else might you help to maintain living creatures, living systems?

I wanted to plant something for bees and butterflies, and I keep reading little articles, but if there’s no bees then what are you attracting? Yes, there may be a few bees, but when I walk around my neighborhood I’ve only see one or two. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved insects—I was gonna be an entomologist—and I would always turn over stones and see all kinds of insects, earthworms, pill bugs… now when I see a rock and I lift it up there’s maybe one kind of teeny tiny microscopic millipede. I sit outside on the concrete slab in front of our house and there’s almost no insects. That’s weird. And I see baby robins in our yard, but when I see the adults hunting for them, what are they finding? Usually I ‘d see them pulling up an earthworm, but the earthworms are probably going the same route.

mint

[IMAGE: Mint leaves and stems in a damp paper towel to keep them fresh.]

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market, 6/26/19

Weather: Hot & bright to start, bigger clouds & cooler later

Number of people: 5 stoppers, no walkbys, one map marker

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 4.5

Dogs seen: 1

Dogs pet: 0

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

 

Observations:

I said to Jhane, the market manager, “Quiet day today,” and she pointed out that it was the end of the month, which should have occurred to me but didn’t. (Unlike many things that are labeled “privilege,” this is a nice clear example of privilege, if anyone’s looking for one: it didn’t occur to me because I’ve never had to wait for my food stamps to refill, and I’m not living paycheck-to-paycheck.)

I only got permission to post one conversation today, though I had a couple that I wish I could post, about (among other things) how poorly the US stacks up against other places that people have lived.

Nonhuman animal presences: bumblebee on the fake flowers at the taco stand, cabbage white butterfly, sparrows, pigeons, a starling, a wasp on a yellow flower I don’t know.

 

A conversation:

I’ll tell you what I’ve done in a sort of half-humorous, half-serious way. I live in New London, CT, near the Thames River, and I’ve planted blueberry bushes, because I’m going to be living on an island and I’ll need dessert.

Would you say humor is how you cope with it?

Partly. But it’s also making plans for the future. I will live on an island, I will need to eat. I do other things. I write letters … but I’m not sure we’re not going to hell in a handbasket.

How does it feel?

To think that we are? It feels terrible. I think people deserve what we get, because we’re pigheaded. Or maybe just some people are pigheaded and ignorant and the rest of us have to suffer. I can’t change it but I can make small efforts as an individual person.

Is there stuff you do with other people?

I sing with the choir, I don’t preach to the choir. I work with a food co-op and I’m here helping out a co-op that’s getting started… I’ve been to two or three or twenty climate marches. But if somebody comes up and tells me climate change isn’t real, I’m not going to argue—I’m not even going to verbalize my [MISSING ADJECTIVE, SORRY] reaction.

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling TODAY, 6/26! Also: Newport next week!

I’ll be at the Sankofa World Market (275 Elmwood Ave, Providence) 2-6pm today (Wednesday 6/26) to listen to your climate anxieties and other anxieties and connect you with opportunities for action. You can also buy delicious fresh vegetables grown nearby, slightly fancy tacos & vegan baked goods at the market, and go to the Knight Memorial Library. This is a picture of a small market visitor last year, when the market ran into the fall..

20181017_152727

[IMAGE: picture of a small Black girl wearing a black parka with a furry hood and drawing a big face on the whiteboard map of worries, next to the sign that says “Providence Community Library: Knight Memorial.”]

Also, for people who live or work in Newport: Starting on MONDAY, JULY 1, I will be at the Miantonomi Farmers’ Market in the North End, 2-5pm. Come visit me there!

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market, 6/19/19

Weather: Muggy, alternating cloudy and bright

Number of people: 7 stoppers, 2 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 5

People who got the Peanuts reference: 1

People I’ve spoken with before, back for more: 2

Dogs seen: 2

Dogs pet: 1, a lot

Postcards Against the Plant: 1

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

 

Observations:

On this day, someone came by the booth in need of immediate and very specific help. I connected her with the one resource I knew about, but that didn’t lead her to what she needed, and I chose not to put down everything else I was doing to address her immediate need. Since no one else was doing that either, her need didn’t get met.

Nonhuman animal presences: sparrows, a wasp, a red mite running in circles on my booth table.

Is there a way to get people to harness their neoliberal hyperawareness as a kind of mindfulness practice?

 

Some conversations:

I’m anxious about the way our culture engages with things. We ask, “What can I do?” when it’s a problem of the collective. Different cultures are better at that.

What has taught you that it’s possible to think in a collective way?

It might seem trite but I feel like there are some things—like team activities. In high school, I was in all the bands, and you feel that, like your voice or instrument is contributing to a larger sound. In a work setting it’s harder to see that.

*

I’m more obsessed with plastic, I guess.

Why does it bother you?

Because it’s everywhere. And because of the ocean. There’s micro amounts of plastic in almost everything we eat!

How does it feel when you hear something about it in the news, or learn more about it?

The first time I heard it, I was very surprised, because I didn’t think there was—I knew that fish had it in their bodies, they die from it, but I didn’t think it had carried its way into me and affected me personally. It’s in what I eat. It’s constant. When you go shopping, it’s all around you—you’re living in a nightmare. It’s not like I go to therapy for it, but I’m very much aware of it. It makes me angry. I tried to buy a jar of mayonnaise the other day and I couldn’t find any in glass. You have to break down and use plastic. Every piece of plastic I throw away I’m aware of it.

Do you do beach cleanups, stuff like that? How’s that feel?

It feels good, but it’s very frustrating because I don’t want to throw things away that are plastic—or anything, even garbage in general. I found out that it’s not good to use our garbage disposal because food gets in with the water. So now I’ve been, I live in a condo, but I’ve been bringing my compost up to a friend. But I’ve still been using the disposal minimally because we’re selling the house and I want it to work.

Where you live, is there town pickup for compost?

We had a community farm, but there were problems with it and they closed it. But that’s where the compost used to go. It’s overwhelming. Our condo association is pretty good about recycling.

Does that feel like the spot where you could maybe push for change?

Not really.

Why not?

I guess because of the way I am. I’m an artist, I try to do art. I have a hard time doing art. It doesn’t bother me to the point where—my art comes first. And my family, because of my age—when I do things that take time from my regular time that I go to my studio, I’m going to take my granddaughter out while I can. I feel that’s more important.

*

… I have a friend in Alaska, she’s lived there for 20 years, and she’s seen the glaciers melting. They’re getting hummingbirds up there now. Even here, we’re getting species that we’d usually see down in the Gulf of Mexico or the Carolinas. It’s why I’m vegan—even with fish you put back, once they get that hook in their mouth they don’t recover from it. And the poor polar bears losing their livelihood… I’m concerned about greenhouse gases. I take the bus everywhere, I plant my own garden, I put in plants for bees. I just think everybody should try it for a week—bike to work one day a week, something.

Why do you think people don’t?

Convenience. People are lazy.

Do you talk about it with people?

I do here and there. It depends on the demographics, who I’m around. But [with some people] I will be like, “Why don’t you just try biking?” I did when I lived in Boston, I’d bike down the river on my way to work. It was like my meditation for the day.

What do you think made the difference for you?

Awareness. You have to read. They have material out there. Or being directly impacted by something. I’d hear about things from friends… I think a lot of methane gases come out of cows. I saw some movies, documentaries. People don’t know, people have no clue about these slaughterhouses and corporate farms. They need to be more regulated…This whole administration is going backwards. These kids, they’re the generation—they’re gonna end up, their children are gonna end up living in a hot mess. I’m not scared for myself, I’m scared for the generation after me. We gotta stop it. With deforestation in Brazil—I’m a trained diver and I went diving in Ambergris Cay five years ago, it was just trees and water. I went back five years later and it was all resorts. I’ve done the whole “owned a house, this and that,” thing—I was more materialistic in my 20s. Now I’m like, “Screw the house.” They want to drill for more oil in the Gulf. I’ve been diving in the Gulf—you know how that affects the fish?

*

For now I think—I saw plastic doesn’t go away for like 700 years. And the fact that it is—I think most plastic is recyclable, but even if it’s not, people can do reusable or renewable things with plastic. … One person in a million is building houses out of plastic and there’s a whole coastline full of garbage in these poor places [sic]–why aren’t they using—why aren’t homeless shelters being built? You see the same thing with tires.

Okay, well, make it a real question, why aren’t they?

I assume because of money. …I wouldn’t be the person to do this.

*

Block Island is eroding … I think a lot of the people who live there are wealthy enough to buy a house on an eroding cliff and go, “Well, I get 25, 30 years out of this and then it’s over, I guess.” I’m guessing these people are also betting that FEMA will come to their rescue …

Barrington [RI] is going to get hit hardest in terms of roads. The head of town planning there gets it, the head of DEM…but the head of DOT doesn’t get it. He’s so caught up in infrastructure that’s crumbling now … There’s that one road that goes along the water, there’s literally no other place for it to go. In [Hurricane] Sandy, people here weren’t hit hard enough [to make them consider leaving]–plenty of people were like, “We’ll just rebuild.” And then my sister-in-law and my brother were hit hard by Sandy, their basement was flooded out, they had a finished basement with all their memorabilia down there and it they lost all of that. And my sister-in-law can’t even talk about it. It’s gonna happen again to them, but you can’t go there with them, ’cause they’re so traumatized by it.

Day 1: Locating Ourselves & Racial Identity Formation

For the Food Solutions New England 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge; prompt here. I did the signup wrong so am starting late. (Some of this seems a little…potentially burdensome for people of color? “Consider talking with someone you know, who would be willing, who identifies as being of a different race”?)

I feel like the number of words that anyone wants to read from a white person about being white is limited, no matter what the words are, so I will try to keep it short (for me, this is short):

When I was a kid I knew I was Jewish, because my family talked about it (and so, occasionally, did other people). I didn’t know I was white; most of the people I knew were, and none of us talked about it.

Thinking critically about whiteness and white supremacy started for me mayyyybe ten, twelve years ago? (I am 40.) The work of a number of online writers, mainly Black women, mainly writing for readers of color, laid some groundwork and so did the act of participating in the conversation ONLY by listening. This enabled me to both read more deeply and learn more from people I know as well.

My sense of myself as a colonizer or settler, or at least as someone who reaps the benefits of those enterprises, is much younger, maybe three years. The pattern is similar: this is a lesson started for me by writers and thinkers online, on Twitter and elsewhere, in a way that has enabled me to continue reading more deeply and learning more from people I know.

Between these two, I would say that my present sense of white people is something like, “People who, when we live someplace, make things worse there.” One way I try to address this is by not going very many places, or into very many contexts, unless I am invited–though sometimes I ask for an invitation.

The prompt asks, “How do you think about your own racial identity and its relevance to your life, work, studies and/or volunteerism in the food system (or as an eater)?” Certainly my class, as shaped by my race, affects what I can afford to buy to eat. This also affects the time and energy I have available to volunteer with Hope’s Harvest RI, which I do from time to time (maybe you can too?). And the food that I eat is grown/raised on land shaped by colonization, genocide and enslavement, and in many cases grown by people who–partly because of white supremacist interference in their or their ancestors’ countries of origin, partly because of the way capitalism and white supremacy work together now–are trapped and depleted by the work that they do.

For four years now the Sankofa Market in Providence has kindly hosted the Climate Anxiety Counseling booth (they’re looking for gardening volunteers! Email dresendes AT westelmwood DOT org!)–and I infer that my being white, in a neighborhood mostly dwelt in by people of color (at a farmers’ market where most of the vendors are people of color, which is an offshoot of a housing development corporation that has a high proportion of both staff and participants of color) affects people’s willingness to speak with me–as well as activating my own background racism, though I try to be aware of it and not let it shape the way I’m interacting with people. Here is a picture of me, so you can see what people see when they look at me.

my face mom hat

Passover is coming up, one of the two Jewish holidays that my family celebrates as a family. I love it; I love the way that my own family has made room to acknowledge the holiday’s complexities and complicities, and the format of the Seder has been a huge influence on the way that Climate Anxiety Counseling works. There is a long email thread about who’s going to cook what, which I have mostly been ignoring, but I just made a deal with my mom about the brisket (grass-fed, organic, expensive, probably from McEnroe Farm), on Matabesec Mohegan land–which, full disclosure, I never knew until I looked it up to write this): if she teaches me how to cook it, I will do the part she hates, which is slicing it up before putting it back in the gravy.