Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market/Sowing Place, 8/4/18

Weather: POURING.

Number of people: 2 stoppers, 0 walkbys.

Number of hecklers: 0!

People who got the Peanuts reference: 1

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.25

 

Observations:

I really can’t stress enough that it was pouring–one of the “microbursts” of rain that are supposed to become more common in New England as the climate changes further. We were inside the Southlight Pavilion, and the smaller space gave a feeling of bustle and energy even though there weren’t many people there overall. It was extremely loud and there were lots of scheduled performances, which may also have contributed to not that many people talking to me.

Related to that: in both conversations today, there were external factors (noise in one, the need to depart in the other) that meant we started but couldn’t move very far in the process of figuring out what they were feeling and what they wanted to do about it.

One interlocutor pointed out that I need to remember to ask permission to take notes before I start the conversation, separate from asking if I can post the conversation online, and she is right.

I had a Spanish-English interpreter with me today! My goal is to do this as often as I can.

 

A conversation:

People in the Arctic—land is getting washed away and their villages are disappearing.

Do you remember where you heard about that?

I saw it on the internet, read about it somewhere—maybe there was documentary on TV.

Can you say what you felt when you saw it?

It was horror. People have learned how to exist in that land for a countless number of years, and to get to the point where they’re gonna have to come to so-called “civilization”–what’s gonna happen to them? They’re physically adjusted to the conditions, the food—to have to eat processed food…

*

I can’t figure out how to get the video I took off my phone, but here is a picture of the rain.

rain 8-4-18

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Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 5/26/18

Weather: Hot and bright with occasional help from clouds, light wind

Number of people: 9 stoppers, no walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 5.5

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

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.25

 

Observations:

The part I played in a conversation today was epically bad, in many ways the opposite of what I want to be doing with Climate Anxiety Counseling. It was a conversation I didn’t get permission to take notes on, but I’ll post a reflection on it, and what was wrong with it, and what I could have done instead and would like to do next time, soon.

Much quieter today, emptier of human passersby. No food trucks, though the Del’s guy was out.

In general, I got permission to write down almost no conversations today.

I need to remember to invite people to add to the map.

Today, I saw the usual display of one pigeon puffing up his neck and chest in order to sexually impress another pigeon who increased their pace whenever he got near. But I also saw what looked very much like pigeon flirtation—one pigeon getting a little ahead, but then waiting for the other to catch up.

 

Some conversations:

 

Mansion Beach is the end of the sandy part of the northeast side [of Block Island]. Probably the best waves for bodysurfing—it’s nice and open. I’ve been working out there in the summers since the ’70s, and I lived there year-round for ten years. But I lost my housing and I was sleeping outside, so I got kicked off the island. Climate change out there will probably cut that into two islands—you know, there’s just that narrow stretch in the middle, road and beach and a little marshy area on one side and the Great Salt Pond on the other. During Hurricane Bob, the waves reached up on the road, and the north end got evacuated. I been reading a lot about global warming. In the past 30 years, there’s a lot less shoreline than there used to be.

*

Walking by the river and seeing how dirty it is, knowing that the kids have to see it, how bad it is. I feel sorry for the ducks. We recorded a video by the water in the summer, four months later we come back and it’s even worse. They only clean in up when the waterfront* happens. It doesn’t bother us, but we do see it—we only see it ’cause we’re walking by.

*I think this person was talking about Waterfire, but I didn’t double-check.

 

map 5-26a-18

Description: This (somewhat impressionistic) map of the state of Rhode Island says, “Put your worries on the map,” at the top, and “Is there a place in Rhode Island you’d like to protect?” at the bottom.

I wrote, “No LNG Plant on Southside” to get things started.

Someone drew the river, wrote “river waterfront” and “help keep clean.”

The rest of the writings and drawings are by a group of kids. I was assured by the artist that the drawing in the middle is her “favorite mushroom,” but her cousins weren’t convinced.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market, 8/30/17

Weather: Sun & clouds, fresh. No need for sunbrella.

Number of people: 8 stoppers, 1 walkby.

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 8

People who recognized me, and I them, from previous sessions: 4

Dogs seen: 4

Dogs pet: 2

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.05

 

Observations:

Today was my last day at this market this season. A major theme of the day was the need for structural action, and for personal conversations as a path to that, and I think that’s a good theme to end the season on. Watch this space for more about that path.

Mobile nonhuman organisms seen and heard: cabbage white butterfly, small ant crawling on notebook (which I killed), sparrows, cicadas in trees, crickets in bushes, pigeons in the clear light sky and a bug that an interlocutor removed from my shoulder for me.

The Food4Good free meal truck saw a lot of action today. If you have some money to spare, consider sharing it with them.

 

Some conversations:

Any new anxieties since I saw you last?

I hate the world more. I don’t know if that counts as anxiety. That’s what I like about [TOWN]–my girlfriend and I are living in the woods out there. I don’t come around here anymore. My girlfriend got hooked on heroin down here, I’d get jumped every now and then ’cause I’m homeless, you wake up and your bag is gone, your stuff is gone. In [TOWN], nobody bothers us, we’re the only ones there. We work the off-ramps. I’m up here because I got picked up by the cops for unpaid fines. I was in the ACI and now I have to go back there and get my stuff—my blankets, bus pass, my clothes, my wallet.

We get corn, tomatoes, put ’em on the fire—we make a fire out of just brush and leaves. Sometimes people give us cases of food. Lotta granola bars. Someone gave us a five-pound block of cheese, but there’s only so much of that you can eat, we had to throw some out. If you go to Taco Bell at 4am, they’re getting rid of stuff.

I’m a country boy. I grew up on a 27-acre farm. That got repossessed, foreclosed on, that’s why I’m homeless. We’re the only ones out there, me and my girlfriend. We’re not trying to set the world on fire. Sometimes we sleep in a graveyard, a graveyard’s nice and peaceful. If we make enough to take a day off work, we’ll go to the ocean. We’d rather be freezing our butts off together than apart.

What are you thinking for the winter?

If it’s cold cold we head over to [REDACTED]. They have these steam pipes—you put cardboard down, then a blanket over, and then we sweat. You can do better with panhandling in the winter because people feel sorry for you.

*

I’d think there would be more need now. Not necessarily climate-related, but [people] got other anxieties. Half the people like the job that the anxiety is doing—most of the people I spend time around are Trump supporters.

What are they like?

They tend to be mostly Caucasian. Some of them are people who voted for Obama—maybe they just go wherever the wind is blowing, whoever gets buzz is who they jump on. Unanimously, people who dislike him are people who pay more attention to what’s going on…

…I still have the [RI organism] card you gave me. I believe it was a plant. I come here [to the market] once a year, when I get the free voucher from the senior center. If I had more money I would come more often. I don’t fault any of the small farms—they’re doing what they’re doing to make a living. But a lot of people around here are working with convenience meals. And the end of the month is a bad time.

*

That’s funny. I mean, “funny.”

Do you want to do it?

Sure. My anxiety is that it’s out of anyone’s control at this point. Like is it too far gone? When you see things like the flood [in Houston]–I don’t know if it’s that I’m worried. It’s depressing and terrifying.

What are you afraid of?

Survival. The future. That’s the last question, I don’t want to talk anymore.

Okay.

No, you can ask me questions. One more.

You’re talking about the future, being afraid of the future. What about the present?

We can only change the present, so we do what we can. That’s a good question.

*

How much of this do you think we’re really confronting, as opposed to just verbalizing?

Confronting how? Like, in our perceptions, or in our actions?

There could be many verbs—challenge, disrupt. Making it uncomfortable, taking it out of our experience, our comfort zone. There’s certainly something about talking about stuff, unloading what’s on your mind or your heart, but is there another step to take it into personal action, social action, justice action? There are a few points in clinical work and therapy, ideas and systems [that acknowledge that] everything happens in relationship to everything else. Real change doesn’t come until there’s change in the system. Do you do that, and how, and still maintain friendships so you’re not throwing people aside? … There’s therapy that brings people to action and then there’s therapy that helps people maintain where they are. The goal is not necessarily to gain more mastery or to hold onto what we are. How do we in this state of dynamic flux hold onto what we have, which is maybe a myth? How do we handle what’s there so it doesn’t apoliticize, a-seek change for us? If we are always changing and growing, why are we always holding on, instead of stepping forward and taking risks?

*

I’m really worried about global warming. It seems really clear that it’s gonna be a problem for everybody, and nobody’s doing anything about it, and I can’t—I can reduce my carbon footprint, but I feel disillusioned about it, because it’s not gonna make a difference as long as the larger structural things don’t change. It’s more than Trump—his predecessors didn’t do any better. They took some steps but it’s still a mess. And I’m sitting in this privileged country, I’ve enjoyed the benefits—do I get to say, “No no, Africa, no no, Asia, you can’t enjoy life”?

How do you feel when you think about this?

I’m gonna have to think about that. Sometimes I’m just like, “The earth will survive.” I’m not that tied to the human race. I’d prefer that we don’t blow the place up—then the next species to take over will do what they do. But that doesn’t help me know what I want to be doing now.

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: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/24/17

Weather: Hot and bright

Number of people: 4 stoppers, 2 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 3

Peanuts references: 1

People who recognized me, and I them, from previous years: 1, a very special one

Photos taken with permission: 1

Dogs seen: 1

Dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.25

 

Observations:

Occasionally, I got sprinkled or plopped on by leftover raindrops from the sycamore whose shade I sit in.

In the park, this season, it’s mainly masculine-presenting people who’ve come up to me.

This was the first Saturday stint this season, and the Kennedy Plaza crowds are definitely thinner.

Because it came up today, I might as well say unequivocally that I think Burnside Park should be for everyone, and that people who are homeless temporarily or more-or-less permanently should be able to be there.

 

Some conversations:

My biggest fear is a dead ocean. I understand that the ocean is vital to life, it’s the womb of life, and a lot of important things happen there that affect life on the surface. I do imagine it, but I don’t really do anything [when I think about it] other than try to think about something else. … To me that’s a nightmare, every living thing in the oceans, dead. I try to inform as many people as possible, because sitting around and doing nothing is something I can’t do. I adore fish … I believe that it is best for humans and sharks to not have interactions,but they’re very important to their ecosystems, just like grizzly bears are important to their ecosystems. I believe that God put us in the world to be caretakers of the Earth, not dominators.

*

Whatever you think about it, whether it’s cyclical or whether it’s man-made, and in my opinion it’s a mix of both–I was talking to a guy down on Narragansett Beach, he’s Native American and he’s lived here his whole life, he’s 72 years old. And he was telling me that on all the way on the right side of the beach, past Chair 1, that used to be sunbathing territory. Now it’s one and a half feet deep at high tide. It hits the seawall. Even at high tide there used to be 50 feet of beach there.

Alternate History: 5/12, 5/28, 6/8

[Here’s an explanation of alternate histories.]

5/12/16

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.

*

5/28/16

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

What do you think might motivate people?

I think people need to take ownership of it.

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

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

*

6/8/16

The story of competition is only one story.

D hangs laundry in his backyard, bees rocking and rummaging in the rhododendron pollen. He has a backyard, at the moment, that he can say “his” about. If he’s honest, it belongs also to the bees, to the rhododendron, to the grass; to the native trees that the rhododendron and grass replaced, to the Native people that his ancestors displaced, to the slaves that cleared the land of trees the first time; to the bugs that thread through the grass and the worms and grubs that tunnel through the dirt; to the microfauna in their guts and the fungal hyphae laced around them. All those whose speech is in their operation. The living and the dead. There’s enough backyard for all of them, if he does it right.

Until now, the other meaning of ownership has trumped this shared meaning in his mind: the getting of what you pay for, the holding of what you have. The recognition that he is always taking part takes him apart.

He does a few things. He and his neighbors on the one side work together on a pass-through through his yard between theirs and the street, breaking up the concrete of his driveway into pavingstones with moss between them, leaving half the fence to slow down noise and building the rest of its boards into a trellis. When he waters the plants or digs in compost, he treats it like an offering; when he poisons the carpenter ants that are gnawing down his house, he holds a funeral for them. When his neighbor on the other side comes out running from his other neighbor, her girlfriend, he sits with her on the porch and helps her make a plan about what to do next. Later he says to the girlfriend, “If you want to hit her, come talk to me instead. Whatever it takes for you to not hit her. Don’t do it again.”

“Or what?”

“What do you mean, or what? Don’t do it.”

The girlfriends break up and move away, taking advantage of the northward convoys. D doesn’t know what they do, what happens to them. Other people move in, turn the house next door into what turns out to be one of the first free clinics and build out a giant trellis to let the ivy and grapevine make it a superstructure of shade, stabilize its temperature in the increasingly sharp spells of dry heat and downpour. D chats with the people waiting to pick up their doses of hormones and makes tea for the people dying of cancer to wash down their painkillers–iced tea would probably be better, but he needs to repair the connection between the refrigerator and the solar cell. If the next storm doesn’t rip this house away, if food poisoning or accident doesn’t nab him on one of his work trips out into the countryside, he’ll probably die here, too. He belongs here, and so do the plants that scaffold or strangle each other, the tiny animal deaths that feed into insect and fungal life, the remnants of the dead, the visiting birds (ever fewer), the relations among all of these.

Many years later, on that same spot, circle of people sit in a dry and ragged landscape, a stretch of dust punctuated by tree stumps and a few ragged foundations, in whose shelter the weeds grow and they can sleep. They are tired and dying, looking for the end of the wasteland. They pass an old thermos around. Each of them takes about half a sip. In the morning three of them are dead. The others form a circle, pass an old thermos around, each taking about half a sip. Then they keep walking, the slightly stronger ones bolstering the slightly weaker.

It doesn’t have to last forever, whatever it is, for you to be tender to it, for you to share with it; you won’t last forever, either.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: 5/30/16

Weather: Gray, warm and muggy. Facing east.

Number of people: 10 stoppers, 9 walkbys.

Number of hecklers: 0

Climate change deniers: 1, sort of (see below–once they got talking, things changed)

Pages of notes: 6

People who commented on the Peanuts reference: 2

Pictures taken with permission: 2

Number of dogs seen: 4

Number of dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $2.08

 

 

Observations:

 

This was the end of a week-long stint; I’ll be back in Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park on 6/21.

Leaves were strewn around, from the rain and wind and whatever it is that dries out the plane trees and makes them shed leaves while they’re still green.

 

A cop car rode through at 5:56, but didn’t stop.

 

My last interlocutor from this day stopped by and said he’s doing a little better. Please keep him in your thoughts.

 

 

Some conversations:

 

 

 

So you think global warming is affecting increase in homeless?

 

It seems like it could be. Is that something you’ve seen?

 

Yeah, because of natural disasters, socioeconomic factors. You think global warming could affect economics?

 

Before I tell you what I think, could you tell me what you’ve heard or seen that makes you think it’s a possibility?

 Bernie Sanders said violence in Syria is because it’s too hot, and global warming. That’s my question.

 

I think what you said about natural disasters is probably right–people could lose their homes or if their situation is precarious, a natural disaster could kind of put them over the edge. And for economics, I think that could happen in a couple of ways. One way is that if the climate changes, it might mess up the ways we grow food.

 People here can afford it, but the homeless, or in poor countries like in Central America, Mexico, climate change consequences–fight for resources always is a [didn’t catch the word] in the conflict of the world. When they colonized America, that was for resources. Why people go to emigrate? I always believe that human society is always on the move in order to survive. [When people talk about climate change] they never comprehend immigration. I feel terrible how the world’s being destroyed by pollution. You know the Marianas in the Pacific? They found some garbage in the depths.

 

*

 

 

[These two came up together and looked like they might be related]

 

Person 1: I ain’t anxious about that fake shit.

 

You think it’s fake?

 

I don’t believe that it’s real, ’cause people are willing to lie in order to get funding, but if it’s real there’s nothin’ I can do about it. I don’t waste stuff. You can be one of those people who go around and tell people what to do, but they’re not gonna listen, otherwise the Greens would be winning and they’re not.

 

Why not?

 

[People] know they’re gonna go the rest of their life with fresh air and trees.

 

Person 2: They don’t care because they feel as though it’s not gonna affect them.

 

Person 1: We know we’re gonna have water for the rest of our lives–we can touch it, we can feel it.

 

*

 

 

Person 1: Life. I’m homeless.

 

Person 2: If we lost the Arctic that’s bad enough. Antarctica would put 200 more feet of sea level.*

 

Person 1: The majority of U.S. cities are on the coast.**

 

Person 2: Even a minor change could put us over the edge … I did 26 years with the government in Miami, and central Florida spent $500 million on water ports, hardening wharfs and jetties, uninterruptible power supplies… They could never say “global warming” but they could look the other way when the money’s been spent.

 

*Doctor’s note: I haven’t fact-checked this.

 

**Doctor’s note: Pretty sure this is a mistake.

 

*

 

 

[These two were a couple.]

Person 1: Our daughter just graduated from Brown, and she’s about to be out on her own.

 

Person 2: She makes good decisions and makes good friends. But she’ll be living in New York, it’s a big city.

 

Person 1: We’re in Houston, so we can’t swoop in and see her.

 

*

 

 

Money. I need more of it, always. There’s never enough. Climate change too–I do snow, and this winter there wasn’t much snow, so I didn’t make much money. It all comes back to money.

 

*

 

 

Am I anxious? Not really, not very. I guess it’s a little bit concerning. I think there’s a good possibility that it is to do with global warming, whether manmade or not. Many many years of history show fluctuations in temperature, it’s not something that’s brand new. There’s a good possibility that some of it is cars having an impact on it. The ozone layer’s depleted from all the carbon monoxide from all the cars. And then there’s industry, like especially power plants that pollute, especially in China–I’ve seen a lot of issues with pollution in China, I read that at the Olympics they had so much pollution that they had to order their factories to stop working. I don’t really think about it too often, but it’s really affecting people there.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: 5/28/16

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

Number of people: 11 stoppers, 4 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 5

People who commented on the Peanuts reference: 3

Offers of food/drink: 3

Number of dogs seen: 1

Number of dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $6.32

 

Observations:

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

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

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

 

Some conversations:

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

Did he survive?

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

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

What was the main focus?

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

What do you think might motivate people?

I think people need to take ownership of it.

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

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

*

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

What might get in your way?

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

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

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

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

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

Climate Anxiety Counseling: 5/24/16

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

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

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7

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

Conversations between people not previously known to each other: 3

Number of dogs seen: 3

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

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $3.30

 

Observations:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Some conversations:

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

*

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

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

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

Person 2: I laugh at ’em!

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

Person 3: Do you vote?

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

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

*

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

*

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

*

[Person 2 came up while Person 1 was talking]

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

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

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

Do you talk about this with people?

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling: 5/16/16

Weather: Sunny, breezy, cool; hard gusts of wind now and then.

Number of people: 10 stoppers, 3 walkbys.

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 5

People known to me, and I to them, from past seasons: 3

People who commented on the Peanuts reference: 1

Number of dogs seen: 1, from afar

Number of dogs pet: 0

Conversations between people who didn’t previously know each other: 2

Drawings added to my notes by another person: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $1.85

 

Observations:

An interlocutor accidentally knocked over my money jar today, so I will need a new one.

One of the hecklers from the previous day came back and didn’t heckle me at all.

I really screwed up a conversation today. When you read the conversations below, you’ll be able to tell which one it is, I think–rather than listening to the person and traveling with them from their starting point, I positioned myself against them, which seemed to have the effect of driving them further into their own position. I don’t want to do this again, but the damage with this person has been done, and I feel pretty terrible (not asking for reassurance here, but adding to the record in order to cement the lesson).

 

Some conversations:

I think climate change is definitely something big. This is our home–where we gonna go after this? We don’t wanna go into our house and have exhaust there. Or for our kids, our kids are everything.

Have you seen the climate changing during your life?

I don’t think I’ve seen it–I guess when I was a kid it snows when it’s supposed to snow, now it snows when it isn’t supposed to.

And that messes up things for plants and stuff.

Or animals! It was snowin’ on flamingos. Or on Mount Everest–I work with people from 26 different countries, so it’s like I travel without traveling. I work with a lotta people from Nepal, and they were saying there’s no more snow on Mount Everest. They’ve seen it change drastically.

*

Anxieties around people.

What have you tried that helps you deal with it?

I drink. It helps–I go to the Providence Center. You don’t know who’s the good people and who’s the bad people, you can’t trust somebody you don’t know. I mainly stick with my family, and I built some friends over the years, but I’m not gonna trust them like I trust my family. I don’t work, I get a check. The problem with the Providence Center is they’re not gonna give me the pill that works, because it’s addictive.

*

Not being homeless again. I don’t ever want to be homeless. I live in a sober house, but I smoke a lot of pot. I’m most worried about them smelling pot on me. They don’t like you smoking in the house at all. I have a prescription for it, but they don’t care. The apartment is just right where I can afford it. I think I need different friends–they’ll be like, “Let’s do this,” but it’s always, “Let’s go smoke,” it’s not like, “Let’s have a picnic” or “Let’s volunteer somewhere.” I can’t achieve anything where I’m at.

*

There’s definitely change going on and we’re kinda stuck in the middle with climate change–in my mind, the goal should be restorative efforts and for it to be discussed more often.

Do you talk about it with people?

I don’t talk about it too often. It’s just a matter of finding like minds. I’m kinda shaky on the subject. I would be willing to listen to others about it, I might seek out other information. I’d like to see more education on maybe gardening, when it comes to planting things–if I was trying to grow something, I wouldn’t know how to start.

[I recommended the South Side Community Land Trust to this person and the next person, who was also interested in growing things.]

 

*

Working to help said people start some type of farm–there’s not food growing here, why is that? It’s been stated many times that there’s a hunger problem. When I drive down the street and I see people’s lawns–grass doesn’t feed people! I feel like there’s a lot of red tape, it’s not as easy as buying some land. If you’re poor, you can’t afford a yard–you might get a cool landlord but otherwise…

What do you think might make landlords, for example, more willing to let people grow stuff in the front yard?

Maybe if you made it a cultural moment. You create a little bit of hype about it, you show that it is benefiting you, show that it is flourishing and make it something that a lot of people wanna do–“Hey, if you don’t like what the government’s doing…” Maybe not a lot people have the get up and go to do that? A good way would be to have a landlord incentive, see other people down your block doing it.

*

I talked to a meteorologist and he says he doesn’t think climate change is really happening. He says it’s gonna go a hundred years and then go back.

A lot of scientists are pretty sure it’s happening.

Well, he’s a meteorologist, so I think he would know.

Maybe. A meteorologist studies the weather in the short term, but do they study it over long, long periods of time?

Oh, like geologists?

Yeah, exactly. They look at the big patterns over time and they see these changes.

Well, he says it’s not a long enough time to know, and I’m sticking with him.