Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market, 8/7

Weather: Just after rain, heavy clouds moving, then hot sun. A big gust of wind ripped up two of the market tents and broke one.

Number of people: 2 stoppers, 2 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 4

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Dogs seen: 1

Dogs pet: 1, great ratio

Money raised for Tooth and Nail Community Support Collective: $0.00

Observations:

Elizabeth Malloy of Living on Earth was with me, listening and recording (with permission), to see if there’s a story in all of our stories. 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.

I’m worried that I lost the chance for an additional conversation by sticking with an ongoing conversation that didn’t seem to be unearthing any new ideas or feelings after a certain point.

One of my interlocutors today asked me, referring to these records of climate anxieties, “Does this go anywhere? Do you use it to support legislation?” Which is a good question! While I often connect people who talk with me to opportunities for action, including ways to support legislation or regulation, I’ve never used the conversations themselves to support either of those things. If anybody has ideas about how that would work, I’d love to hear about them.

Nonhuman animal presences: Hawk carrying something, bronze dragonfly, honeybee, bumblebee, long-bodied wasp, little fly, sparrows, big black bee? Or beetle?

Some conversations:

[Before I started taking notes on the conversation, this person said that they’re a yoga teacher trying to incorporate some responses to climate change into their classes, and that people have been asking if they can bring their children to class.]

[My family] spent the last year traveling, so I really was not online or reading the news or anything. When I got back it was like boom, the climate really changed around climate change. It seems so much more pressing, which is good in a way. It’s on the news—well, not on Channel 5 … Being a mom and being pregnant again—if it’s really as bad as they say, what will I tell my kids in thirty years? Will they be able to have kids, or want to? [Yoga gives me] the ability to heal … and find my center, but at the same time I don’t want to do nothing. I could be the cleanest, greenest, most carbon offsetting person…but it’s like trying to lift a mountain by yourself. I have a lot of frustration with political systems.

What are you seeing in your classes and as part of your practice?

I’m seeing a lot of [people] have high level anxiety and not be able to channel it … [Part of yoga is] practicing discipline—not taking the plastic cup and straw. Small things. There’s a lot of possibilities, [ways] to sequester carbon. … Out of the household, I don’t have control. I’d like to think that getting involved with the political process would be effective, but… I try not to cry about a problem without offering a solution, but at the same time I don’t want to give people—to make it seem like it’s not as important to practice discipline. Not harming anyone, not taking any more than you need. “Are you willing to go without air conditioning in your home? What we’re doing is not enough.

What would doing enough have as part of it?

Seeing people around me also making an effort would make me feel like we’re doing something. Leading by example.

How might you lead by example as a yoga teacher? For the people who listen to you?

I do have a following, but … if I’m constantly posting [climate change articles], my students would stop following me. The last straw for me was: how can I say this stuff unless I’m doing it 100%? Where they’re spending their money and just doing that research requires discipline. I’m willing to be inconvenienced for it, but I don’t expect anyone to make the choices I make. I do what I need to do to lay my head down at the end of the day and feel good.

What can you say about being a parent in this time?

I’m grateful for the opportunity to have two children and teach them the things that have helped me. I don’t want to bring fear or urgency into [their childhoods].

*

I work for [AN INSURANCE COMPANY], and I work for the sustainability team. We were the first insurance company to offset carbon emissions. I’m one of thirteen “green teams” in the US, basically corporate sustainability. We lead initiatives on each of our campuses, coordinating our efforts when possible. We’ve partnered with local organizations like Save the Bay. … Our building is LEED certified. We have a big recycling event every year, where we collect e-waste and shred documents.

I don’t feel like anything we’re doing right now is enough. We need legislation to ban single use plastics—plastic bags, straws, cups … You can clean up beaches all day long.

What about lobbying, is that something this company does or would do?

We’re a 151-year-old company, we started as a life insurance company, and they noticed that there were a lot of claims and they investigated and found that there was tuberculosis in the community. The president at the time, it was either Roosevelt or Truman, our CFO was a special advisor [on the tuberculosis epidemic]. So as long as it’s in line with the company’s values—

[I pointed out that if they do property insurance it’s in line with their values]

Absolutely. Our ops team can show how storm severity has increased. We have all the trends.

… I work in marketing, and I know if I want somebody to do something, it has to be relevant to you as an individual and it has to be timely.

[IMAGE: A slightly impressionistic whiteboard map of the state of Rhode Island. In addition to the worries that people have been writing on it all summer about specific places, the lower half of it is now covered in marker lines and textures, about as high as a 2 1/2-year-old can reach.]

Advertisements

Alternate History: Refusal 4

The next day, the students came into the well-appointed classroom, with its big windows and its new desks and its variously computerized boards and screens, and I sat there and said nothing.

I refused to teach them and my colleagues refused to teach them and the people who worked in the offices refused to explain anything to them or process their paperwork or even help them withdraw, and the custodians refused to empty the garbage cans and the groundskeepers refused to shovel the snow, and the people who ordinarily cooked for them refused to cook for them and turned the delivery trucks away, or unloaded them and then gave the food directly to their own and their neighbors’ families.

I lost my job and I went home, frightened, sick to my stomach, with less to lose–less status, less money, less safety–and free to do more, or do differently. They all did, we all did.

(There’s another version of this story where I was the only one to refuse, but I like this version better.)

*

I actually feel like teaching is one of the areas where I can be useful, but I could be wrong about that. The founders of the institution that employs me made some of their money by buying and selling human beings (which they have acknowledged) and they built it on land stolen from the Narragansett Tribe (which, as far as I know, the institution has not acknowledged).

The proposed “track straightening” of the Amtrak Northeast Corridor would pass through Narragansett tribal land and sacred sites, and members of the tribe have voiced their opposition to it. (It would also damage or destroy forests and wetlands, both of which can help Rhode Island weather climate change.) You can see the environmental impact statement here, and via email you can tell Amtrak/NEC Future not to build this track: info AT necfuture DOT com. They are supposedly taking comments until January 31st.

You can also call the office of Senator Jack Reed, who is in favor of building the new track, at (401) 943-3100, and tell him why you’re opposed to building it. I’ll post some words later today that you can use, if you want.

Providence 2050

The Providence Public Library, a place and institution that I love so much, invited people living and working in the city to imagine it in 2050, and this is what we said. I’m in there (though I don’t know that I would call myself an “emerging leader”) and so are a lot of people that I also love, and some I don’t know.

Thanks to Kate Wells and the PPL for inviting me to be part of this story.