Climate Anxiety Counseling: Cranston Health Equity Zone Speak Out event, 11/23/19

Weather: We were inside the Arlington Elementary School cafeteria. Outside it was mild, in a post-frost way.

Number of stoppers: 15

Number of walkbys: None (see below for why)

Pages of notes: 15.5

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Conversations between strangers other than me: 6 or 7; again, see below for why

Observations:

The purpose of the Speak Out was to listen to people living in the three neighborhoods covered by the Cranston Health Equity Zone about the factors that contribute to, or tear down, their health and well-being. There were other stations about food access and quality, transportation, housing, trauma, education, affordability and expenses, and a few other things, and the event was set up so that people could enter a raffle if they got a paper signed at every station. So a lot of people stopped to talk with me who might not have otherwise.

Also for this reason, I was talking with people pretty much constantly except at the very end when the crowd thinned out (after the raffle, I think). So if there were walkby comments I didn’t hear them, and because it was inside and no one had a service dog, there were no dog sightings. I didn’t collect money today, although I did tell a couple of people about the Tooth and Nail Community Support Collective, where other donations have gone this season.

The HEZ set me up with a Spanish-English interpreter (plus a floating Khmer-English interpreter, who also translated some signage for me) and a note-taker. As the conversations went on, both of these people talked with the people who were talking with me—sometimes with me involved, sometimes while I was talking with someone else. I loved this and want to do it all the time now! They both appear in these conversations: N is the interpreter, and C is the note-taker. K is me.

My signage was different today, based on conversations with a few people in and outside the HEZ, and I’m kicking myself for not taking a picture! The front of the booth said, “Climate Anxiety Counseling 5¢” and then, in Spanish, English and Khmer, “Are you stressed? Angry? Worried?” and then, in English at the bottom, “Here to listen.” Instead of a blank map of Rhode Island for people to write their worries on, I drew a map of some of the climate change/health connections specific to Cranston (there’s a picture below). All the RI organism cards I gave out were food or medicine plants that grow wild in the city, and one person recognized one of them, which was my secret dream!

No Batman sightings today either, but the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, who was maybe about 6, helped me pump up the handtruck tire that won’t hold air.

Some conversations:

It’s not something I really pay attention to. You live in New England, you get what you get.

K: [I said something about high heat days, and she took it a different way than I meant it.]

Oh, yeah, the heat. Definitely heat. My daughter gets assistance for heat.

K: Or I don’t know if you remember the flooding back in October—

Oh yeah. Yeah ,we live right on Pontiac. … I work for the school department, and I have five grandkids that I pick up every day. I don’t have time to breathe. My husband’s retired, so he’s sitting around all day and I’m doing all this. But I can’t sit around doing nothing. But yeah, my daughter had to move, and she went from gas to oil—now she’s back to gas, and we had to fill out the paperwork again. She’s a single mom with three little girls—seven, six and four, the baby’s almost five.

So it sounds like—obviously you want to do it, but it sounds like that takes a lot out of you.

Yeah, but like I said, I need to be doing something. And she does have enough support. When it’s too much, I call my sister, she’s in Ohio, and we just vent. She vents to me too—she just found out my brother-in-law has prostate cancer, and they can’t operate because he’s already had so many surgeries. But life is life. You gotta have a positive attitude, you can’t go around every day down in the dumps.

*

Every day there’s a reminder of the fact that we’ve got twelve years, ten years, before we can turn the clock around.

K: Sometimes like to ask people how they know what they know about climate change—where have you been seeing that?

Well, the media, but I’ve also been reading a lot of reports, studies, that say realistically we need to start changing it around now. But I don’t know what, if anything, we’re really gonna do. Obviously we do things in our own communities that are helpful, but what governments and corporations are doing—I generally try not to be stressed out about it. I do worry about other people, in my community and elsewhere, who don’t have the resources to deal with it…

…There just needs to be better allocation of resources. I don’t want to get too political, but Mike Bloomberg bought $30 million of political ads for one week, and he’s got [billions of dollars] total. The UN released a report that the food crisis could be solved for $30 bilion. It’s just really bad allocation of resources. [Climate change] does have real life consequences, but it’s hard for people to conceptualize how to address it on their own local level. There’s this LNG plant they want to build in Providence, down on Allens Avenue … If that thing ever blows, not only is the whole community affected but Cranston and Edgewood are gonna go just like that.*

C: What makes you so involved?

I started when I was eighteen or nineteen, but when I bought a house and I realized I was gonna be staying for thirty years—that’s why housing is so important. That’s what gets you invested in the community—well, there’s family ties, but a lot of people don’t like their hometowns.

*The Univar chemical tanks, which are within the explosion range of National Grid’s LNG facility, have a 14-mile disaster radius.

*

One of the things, for example—it doesn’t have to do with climate change—but where I live, I try to grow things over the summer, and animals come over the summer and they don’t have food, so they eat it, so I never get to grow any food. Sunflowers, tomatoes—these animals, the little chubby ones, they created this tunnel underneath the house. And something that worries me—where I live now there hasn’t been a problem, but at the time when I lived around this area, we had a problem with rats. I worry that they might come through the pipes for the laundry.

*

I’m pretty sure the school that I live next to has radon in the basement. Supposedly they’re knocking it down in the next few years, so I don’t know what’s gonna happen then.

K: Is it something that people talk about in the neighborhood?

I know the kids are scared to drink the water at school. It’s kept pretty hush-hush, but the parents all used to go to the school.

K: Is it the kind of thing where parents might be willing to get together to ask for some kind of action?

I used to do after-school programs there, and the problem with any kind of action is that there’s a lot of languge barriers. A lot of the parents are immigrants coming from other countries, they’re scared to say anything—people don’t know that we live in a democracy [sic] and that they can speak up. And there’s a lot of grandparent-raised families and multi-job families. I work for One Cranston, and we ask people what they would change about their communities, and a lot of people don’t know what they would change about their community.

*

Climate change, that’s an issue. I’d say I’m pretty worried. I like what Providence did, with no more plastic bags.

When do you think about it, what gets you started worrying about it?

Randomly. Or I’ll start thinking about it over the summer when it gets really hot, or when weather changes too drastically.

C: What kinds of things do you worry about?

How animals are gonna get affected. They don’t really have a choice. I’m a big animal person—I like them more than people.

Do you try to look out for animals or help them survive?

In Guatemala I saved a lot of turtles. My family’s from there, so we go down there every year. We were at this restaurant and there were baby turtles in cages, I guess because the bigger turtles [in the pond] wanted to eat them. But there was a little hole in the cage and the baby turtles were getting into the pond. So I was like to the guy at the restaurant, “Do you have a net or anything?” and he got me a long net and I caught them and put them on a little dock. My family’s like, “[NAME], come, the food’s on the table and it’s getting cold,” and I was like, “I don’t care, I’m fishing out turtles.” … I would love to save animals 24/7.

*

Just, like, the timeline– “We’ve got twenty years and then we’re all dead.”

K: How does it feel to see people saying that?

I just stopped going on Facebook. But anytime I make—I just graduated from college, so anytime I’m making large life choices, I’m like, “What’s the point?” [laughs]

K: You’re laughing but I’m guessing you don’t really think it’s funny, so—what is the feeling?

I don’t know if I have a good word for it. It’s not one of those stresses that come up every day.

K: How does it affect your decisions?

I don’t know if it’s made a specific or conscious choice that I’ve made. There’s just so many big things [happening] and it’s just like, what’s this big thing.

*

I feel like I don’t know enough. I’m embarrassed to say that.

K: [I pointed her towards the map I had made, which you can see below.]

I can say this, I’m sensitive to high heat days in terms of my workplace. OSHA doesn’t govern schools. There are days where I can’t even walk up the stairs, let alone be in that building for six hours. Sometimes people will pass out.

*

[This person spoke quietly and it was hard for me to hear them well, so there are some gaps.]

I’m a little bit worried about myself—from the war, I went through a lot. From 1970 to 1975. I left my country. I’m here helping people, especially with education for people from poor countries. People in my country who were educated were killed by [the Khmer Rouge]–professors, doctors, police…

…I’m still too much in my mind. All the worries for everybody, many things with my job. [He named the schools he worked at.] I retired Friday, June 26, 2015, almost five years now. I’m still thinking too much. My family all graduated from high school, Classical or Central, [I think he also said where some of them were going to college]. Myself, I’m still worrying about living here. I’m healthy, but my mind still misses my country. I want to fight for freedom—not to arrest good people.

[C asked a question about how he thought the Cambodian government would respond if there were bad storms.]

They’re selfish. They didn’t care. The government doesn’t come up with a solution. They take your family from the ground to the top. Day by day, I’m safe but I’m thinking about them.

K: When you feel like it’s too much for you, what do you do? Is there someone you talk with, is there something else you do?

I went to the doctor. The doctor told me I need counseling, but I can control it myself. Sometimes I get headaches, I take a pill, one aspirin. I exercise sixty minutes every day. I don’t know what the solution is.

*

[Person 2 was Person 1’s mom.]

Person 1: Does it affect us? Not really.

Person 2: Yeah, it does.

K: I like it when people who are talking with me disagree, because it means we can try to figure out whether you really don’t agree with each other or whether you’re reacting to different things. So can you tell me why you think it won’t affect us?

Person 1: It’s natural—well, all the gases in the air coming from cars, and coming from factories, causes climate change, that’s not natural. But it wouldn’t affect us directly.

Person 2: It’s affecting us right now, ’cause we have more hurricanes because of the things that we’ve done to the environment. It’s affecting the climate—the air gets trapped and it causes natural, what we call natural disasters.

K: Does it stress you out to think about it?

Person 2: Yeah it does, because it makes me think, what’s the future gonna be like? All these things we call natural disasters, but it’s not natural. If you call it natural—but it’s something we can do something about.

N: So in a sense we’re building it up. We’re like, “Oh, where is this coming from?” But we built it up.

Person 2: We’re living in this earth—it’s gonna affect the generations to come. We’re all human and we’re all connected! We’re gonna feel something. … I try to use less vehicles, walk places, riding a bike.

K: Also there’s things like—if the bus was better and went more places, then people would use their cars less.

Person 2: But the bus is costly for someone who can’t afford it. If it’s free—then the bus company doesn’t make money, so then we pay for it out of our taxes. But it could be less costly.

Person 1: They do offer it for free when it’s too cold.

Person 2: When we really think about it, everything is connected to climate change.

Person 1: I understand it from that perspective too—but before climate change we have to get into other things as well. We have to take care of ourselves as a people before we can worry about the climate.

*

I’m a science teacher. This is in our curriculum, and we spent most of the first quarter talking about it. I know a lot about it, and it does make me anxious.

So I have two questions. How do you deal with that anxiety with your students? And how do you deal with it when you’re by yourself?

It’s hard to hide it, because stressing how important it is is what makes it worthwhile. I try to spin it as an optimistic thing: you are the next generation, you have the power to change things.

K: What about when you get home?

It’s peaks and valleys. It can be pretty optimistic and moving to hear things that my students have to say. But it can be pretty depressing knowing that some people are out there actively doing things to spot progressive change. What kind of world—I don’t have children, but if I have children—will they be living in? …. It feels like it would be kind of selfish to [have children]. I studied environmental science, it was my major in college, and I’ll never forget, the first day of class, Environmental Science 101, the professor said, “This is a depressing major …” So it’s always in the back of my mind. It makes me more conscious of trying to make better decisions. I carpool to work … There are so many aspects of the world today that are heavy and depressing.

*

I’m in Sunrise, I’m on the recruitment team. I’d really appreciate it if you could send people my way for the next strike, on December 6th.

How’d you get involved with Sunrise?

I was at Wyatt Detention Center at a protest—that was the first action, the first activism I’d ever done. I was like, “Hey, let me actually do stuff.” There was a Sunrise person there from Philly, and they were like, “Actually, there’s a meeting tomorrow.” So I went to it. I’ve been doing other activist work as well … Climate change is just a bummer. Just doing work about it—I probably don’t dedicate as much time as I should, but doing work around climate-change-adjacent things, it helps keep me not as anxious. It feels like I have nothing to feel bad about. Even if in twelve years Delhi is uninhabitable, it’s 200 degrees in Death Valley, I have the satisfaction of the knowledge that I tried, I did what I could, I tried my hardest. I can’t just not do social justice and climate justice.

*

I really don’t know that much about it. I have asthma. But it isn’t as bad as it used to be, so maybe the pollution isn’t as bad. I heard about plastic, I heard that in Providence you can’t have plastic bags.

What have you heard about plastic?

… How animals are gonna die—it’s making it [easier] for it to kill the sea animals. People are taking action upon it though.

[We also talked a little bit about relationships between humans, plants and other animals in ecosystems, like how ocean algae produces 2/3 of the oxygen we breathe.]

*

Climate change affects our mood. I do see people’s mood change when it’s colder, they’re depressed and down. I see a lot of people being affected, especially people who are away or apart from their families. In summer I see more people getting together, depression seems to get better with summer being around. Stress is worse during the winter—people are worried about paying for heat. People are coming more for assistance so they can be able to afford heat, or for National Grid to extend services because of heat.

C: In your work with people and families, do you hear them concerned with big storms, or power outages, or stuff they hear about the environment in the news?

I haven’t heard much of that. It’s more people filling out paperwork for National Grid to say they can’t shut off their electricity or heat.

K: And that’s so wild because that’s the same people, we have to pay money to the same people who are making the climate worse.

C: Do you think that people realize that?

I don’t think they’re aware of it—I don’t think people realize that many things are part of the same thing.

K: So your job is really helping people survive. Is that a strain on you? What about when somebody gets turned down?

That’s a terrible feeling. I see the frustration in their face, that they’re not going to be able to survive living here when it’s actually cold.

N: Let’s say they get turned down, and you see the person’s frustration. How do you deal with it? Do you allow those reactions to get to you? Like with situations I’ve encountered at my job, I don’t want to get too attached because it’s going to affect how I make a decision?

I’ve never gotten frustrated with them. I’ve felt disappointed, and frustrated with National—with the system, when I have my hands tied. It never gets easy to say, “I can’t get the extension and there’s nothing else I can do for you.” It’s not an easy answer…

N: We’re in a sense creating a barrier, to not allow these emotions to get through.

It takes time … [But] otherwise you would not have a clear mind to assist them and help them. It’s not that I have less feelings. If a child comes to you and tells you they’re being sexually abused, you want to kill that person. But [over time] you become able to say okay, we’re gonna get you help and here are the services you need.

C: With the HEZ, there were some mixed feelings about whether people would be concerned about climate change to have it be part of where the investments in resources are made. Is it or is it not a concern? And why do you think that is?

It is, but it’s not until it starts affecting them.

N: It’s like knowing that the issue is there, subconsciously, but then it gets cold and then your mind is actually talking to you.

It’s the same thing like if somebody needs new brakes—you don’t do anything about it till you hear the sound. People are like “I gotta go to work, I gotta make sure there’s money coming in, I don’t have time to worry about electricity. I gotta make sure I have my medications.”

C: That’s the insidious part of this. The large companies that create this issue make sure people can’t put the bigger picture together so that they can continue [making money].

N: In school they teach you how to not question these things—it’s more like they’re teaching you how to get a living, so you can just go through life.

[IMAGE: A hand-drawn black-and-white map of Cranston, with a few major interactions of climate change and health–high heat, air pollution and asthma, food supply chains and flooding–marked on it.]

Climate Anxiety Counseling TODAY: Sankofa World Market, 2-5pm! + Action Opportunity!

I’ll be at the Sankofa World Market TODAY, August 14th, 2-5pm, to listen to your climate-change-related and other anxieties. Elizabeth Malloy from Living On Earth will be there as well, and can record our conversation for a radio story if that’s something you’d like. You can also, as always, talk with me without being recorded and even without me taking any notes.

I’ll be leaving early today to go to this demonstration for migrant and refugee rights, which starts at 6:30pm and is meeting in Jenks Park in Central Falls (details are at that link). Maybe you can go too!

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Save the Date: Action at the Wyatt Detention Center, 8/13

Last month, Jews, immigrants and allies shut down the Wyatt Detention Center, where Rhode Island imprisons people in cooperation with ICE’s unjust detention and deportation policies. Next month, we can do it again.

The ties between climate justice and migrant justice are strong: people are leaving their homes because climate change is making it impossible for them to stay, and some of them are coming here only to be met with arrest and imprisonment, mistreatment, separation from their families, and murder. Many people fleeing climate-change-induced hardship come from countries that the US has continued to deliberately destabilize and exploit, in ways that contribute to climate change as well as other kinds of injustice, and land defenders and Indigenous people are also being murdered in their own countries because of these extractive practices! US residents can resist the cruel and fascist policies and practices that affect people when they try to leave conditions that our country helped create.


Here’s the form to indicate the level and kind of your participation (there are many roles and ways to participate, before and during, for people with many levels of experience and/or comfort with risk), and here are the relevant dates.


TOMORROW, 8/1, 7pm, 319 Broadway: Meeting for those who want to be more involved in planning the event. The entrance is street-level and wheelchair accessible and there is a parking lot for the building in the back.


8/11, time and location TBD: Art build (signs, posters, banners) for the event. 


8/12, 6pm, location TBD: Nonviolent direct action training for people who are planning to do that. 


8/13, time TBD, Wyatt Detention Center (950 High St, Central Falls): The action itself. 


Again, reading the form will give you a sense of the possibilities for participation in this action, and you do need to fill it out in order to participate. For updates and questions, and to sign up to get more information directly about this and other actions, email neveragainpvd at gmail dot com.

[IMAGE: People with their arms linked, facing the camera, in front of the fence and barbed wire gate of a brick detention facility. Cops are confronting the people, their backs to the camera.]

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market/Knight Memorial Library, 8/8/18

Weather: Hot & steamy, with showers. The sun is almost unbearable.

Number of people: 3 stoppers, 2 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 2

People who got the Peanuts reference: 1

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

Dogs seen: 4

Dogs pet: 3

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.25

 

Observations:

Another light-traffic day, with permission to post only one conversation. The market was slowish until about 4:15.

I also took a few shade breaks away from the booth, and may have lost some interlocutors because of that.

I recommended that a guy who thought there was “some debate about the science” start with the NOAA website.You can do this, too!

 

A conversation:

Instead of uniting us, it seems like [the President’s] trying to divide us. Whether you’re using color or economics, or because of your race—I don’t like what he’s doing with Spanish people.

Why do you think he’s doing that?

To keep our eyes off him and what he’s doing—a lot of underhanded stuff … All these kids in cages, I don’t think that’s right. They’re leaving their countries for a reason.

I also got opinions about the football players and all that. They’re just taking a stand—they have the right to say that they don’t want to stand up for the flag. These young Black men are getting killed.

 

P.S. I spoke with The Revelator about the climate anxieties counseling booth. Funnily enough, “revelator” is a role I invented for an alternate history.

Climate Anxiety Counseling at the Sankofa World Market! Rally to End Family Separation!

I’m holding climate anxiety counseling sessions at the Sankofa World Market outside Knight Memorial Library (275 Elmwood Ave, Providence) starting tomorrow (Wednesday, 6/20), and Wednesdays thereafter with a couple of exceptions, 2-6pm.

Tomorrow is the market kickoff, and there will be extra music, activities for kids, and more, as well as vegetables and crafts from local vendors. Cash, SNAP/EBT, WIC, and credit/debit cards are all spendable at the market (it’s free to be there, this is just if you want to buy food or objects), and SNAP users receive a dollar-for-dollar bonus for fruits and vegetables–a fantastic deal!

Before you come and see me at the market, I encourage you to rally at the Rhode Island Statehouse to call for the end of ICE’s cruel, punitive, racist and traumatizing practice of family separation. If you’ve been reading this particular news with horror, this is a chance to speak up. Bring a child’s toy for visual impact. (Other states have issued state orders blocking the use of any state funds for this practice, and/or refused to send their National Guard troops to the border. Rhode Island should do this too.)

Then come to the market and celebrate Providence’s lively and strong community, and support the people of all origins who make it so.

 

 

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Last Day Downtown, Schedule Change, AMOR Grill-Off

Tomorrow (Friday, 6/15) will be my last day this season listening to climate anxieties in Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park. I’ll be there 11am-2pm.

I’d planned to be there Saturday as well, but I’d rather go to the AMOR Grill-Off, a picnic benefit for Alianza para Movilizar Nuestra Resistencia/Alliance to Mobilize Our Resistance, a support and rapid response network offering (among other things) legal support for immigration and police brutality cases, mental health support, community response, and transportation and interpretation services.

If you want to go too, here are tickets. If you want to help the event happen, here are some donations the organizers could use.

And if you can’t come see me tomorrow, June 20th will start my stint at the Sankofa Market outside the Knight Memorial Library, 2-6pm on Wednesdays.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa Market/Sowing Place, 6/2/18

Weather: windy, looking like a thunderstorm, but just occasional rain.

Number of people: 3 stoppers, no walkbys.

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 3.5

People who got the Peanuts reference: 1

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Dogs seen: 1

Dogs pet: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.00

 

Observations:

This was the second time the Sankofa Market was happening in conjunction with Sowing Place. It’s pretty new and it’s also set back off the street. So far, most of the people who’ve talked with me at this event have been involved with Sowing Place as vendors, artists in residence, etc.

I talked with two kids about yellow, white, and purple clover.

 

Some conversations:

 

 

I’m undocumented, and one of the major things I’m anxious about right now is the state of immigration in this country. It’s very scary. We don’t know what’s happening. Trump, one of the things he was running on was this attitude toward immigration, and he doesn’t actually know how it works—he’s talking about building a wall, because he doesn’t know that most of us come on planes. We just have overstayed visas. He doesn’t know how it works, but he wakes up and decides one day to end the program that I’m on. … So what’s the next thing he’s gonna cut? When he ended DACA it was a big deal because people cared, but then something else is on the radar next week. There’s crisis after crisis and it makes it hard to take a collective approach.

Would you say it’s a feeling that’s always with you, or comes and goes, or–

It’s seemingly always with me. It’s part of my identity, it keeps me on high alert. ‘Cause it’s not just me, it’s my entire family. I’ve been talking about it, trying to educate people. ‘Cause the whole narrative of immigration in the US is this xenophobic anti-Latino narrative, but you’ve got like Irish old men living in the Bronx who are undocumented and nobody knows about it because they’re white. So I’ve been trying to talk more, and, more publicly, about my own Black immigrant experience.

How are the conversations going?

They go well. I feel like I’m changing minds. I’ve been writing poems about it and it’s new territory for me, that I’m starting to write about it, because it’s so stigmatized. If my mother knew she’d have a heart attack. But being out and open, especially in the face of all this—when he ended DACA I was like, Let me start to be vocal. And when I talk to people I know, since they realize it’s me [that’s affected by this], they start to care. I have this visibility and maybe power, as a performer and as an online voice especially. I don’t have a huge following but I know people pay attention to what I say, so maybe I should put a tweet about this in between the tweets about poop or whatever. I’m also trying to find my stride as a writer. Poems are great and I love them, but I really wanna do essays, write about ending stigma, talking about status and citizenship. People are like, “Go back to your country,” but the country I was born in doesn’t do birthright citizenship.

*

What I’m concerned about is this natural gas plant. We need to figure out how to get them to listen to us. One of my coworkers has been a powerful advocate, and she got me involved. We had an event at our church, and that got a lot of people to know about it. We need to be able to eat the food that we grow in the ground, and breathe air that’s in our backyards. When I would go to these meetings, a lot of white people showed up, but we need people in the Latino and Southeast Asian communities to talk to each other. They want to know about it, but people don’t understand.

And I know that the agencies and so on don’t make it easy to understand.

When they had the hearings, they took people out of a public space into a side room like they were interrogating them. One person from our church, he said, “I thought I was doing something wrong.” There’s not enough of us to tell them that this is the wrong position. We need to make them understand that [they] are a public servant, they work for us—not the opposite.

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa Word Market, 8/23/17

Weather: Warm bright, breezy.

Number of people: 6 stoppers, no walkbys.

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7

People who recognized me, and I them, from previous sessions: 3

Conversations at the booth between people who didn’t know each other before: 1

Dogs seen: 4

Dogs pet: 1

Tiny calico kittens seen and coveted: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $1.00

 

Observations:

In a new spot, by the front steps, so that more people can see me and maybe come over. I think it’s helping—although my numbers aren’t yet up from last week.

I need to remember to ask returning people, “Any new anxieties?” as well as chatting and catching up.

Sometimes I see or hear somebody wonder about the sign to themselves or to the person they’re with as they walk by. Not sure if I get to feel good about this, or any of it.

A rat ran right into my feet! Other nonhuman RI organisms: a cabbage white butterfly, a huge dragonfly, all the usual grasses and microorganisms and flowerbed flowers and the maple tree, and a crickets singing off and on in the flowerbed close by.

Cooking demo today: Higher Ground bused in about 20 women, mostly older, dressed in prints and headwraps or in sweaters and skirts. They made a very beautiful procession as a younger volunteer delicately and gently helped those who needed help get from the bus to the ground.

 

Some conversations:

I don’t have my purse with me because I have a[n injured] nerve in my shoulder. A couple of years ago I had a ruptured disc and two herniated discs, and I had surgery for that, and the pain’s developing in my other shoulder. And I don’t have health insurance. I missed the open enrollment, but it seems to me that if should cost more if you sign up outside open enrollment, not that you can’t get it. They’re a business–they should want you to have health insurance! It’s the law to have health insurance!

*

 

 

 

Person 1: [When] I was in school, they took me to the science museum at the Omni Theater. I been a Big Dipper and a Little Dipper fan ever since. … No matter what state I’m in I’m always looking at what the sky is doing.

[Person 2 comes up and I explain what we’re doing.]

Person 1: Mr. Gore, Senator Gore, he’s talking about global warming, the effects of global warming. I’m sure there’s a lot of effects. The earth is mainly water—with glaciers melting at an alarming rate, the land is gonna be washed away. … I’m also thinking about [Hurricane] Katrina—the dam and the water and how much impact it had on everyone. I’ve started taking a lot of notice about stuff like repairing our bridges—[a lot of them] are faulty or falling apart.

Person 2: Everybody is basically overwhelmed with everything that’s been going on. I haven’t really been sleeping at night.

Person 1: I hear a lot of people worrying about the state of affairs.

Person 2: It’s everywhere. The work that I do encompasses not only being in this state, in this country—it’s across the globe. All this that we hear, all this rhetoric causing division—the President should be uniting people.

Person 1: That’s not his M.O. The US knew what they were doing … I think he told all his rich friends, “I can be the President!” and now he is and he doesn’t know what to do. I think he’s trying to get impeached.

Person 2: Purposely! This is a man with two tongues—that’s a proverb, a man who says one thing, then he says another, then he does something else, like a snake.

*

Oh my God, the Trump thing is horrible. The fact that he’s pulled out of [the Paris] agreement is very discouraging, but cities and states are saying that they’ll stay in it, and that’s encouraging. I’ve seen journalists say that they’re not even reporting on the news, they’re just trying to see if there’s anything behind what he said. He’s just making it worse—the North Korea thing, the Paris agreements. Now he’s saying he won’t pass this budget unless it has money for his wall [between Mexico and the US].

*

[This is someone I know, mainly through the booth and the neighborhood, who’s talked with me several times.]

I spent the first years of my life in Greenland. My dad was in the service, and he worked at the refueling base at Narsarsuaq, on the southernmost tip—planes had started to be able to carry more fuel, but there were still older planes in the air that needed to refuel. I have pictures of myself in Narsarsuaq, standing on an airfield. So I have feelings about Greenland, and when I realize how much melt there is and what’s happening, I feel personally affected. It’s a place I lived, it’s the place where I started my life. It’s a real place to me—I have lots of stories from my folks about what it was like. …I don’t want to see it deteriorate or turn into something that I wouldn’t recognize.

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market, 7/19/17

Weather: Sunny and hot with gusts of wind

Number of people: 4 stoppers, 1 walkby

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 5.5

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Pictures taken without permission: 1

Dogs seen: 3

Dogs pet: 0, even the one that was right next to me!

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $2.16

 

Observations:

It was nice to see vendors I knew from last year.

The sun was so hot that I put up my umbrella, and then the wind was so fierce that I took it down. Repeat. Other vendors were very sweetly concerned for my well-being, and the market manager shared some raspberries with me.

I took a break 3:10-3:30 to call someone I have promised to call every day, and a break around 5 to get money from a nearby ATM to buy vegetables with.

Food was a major theme in my conversations as well as in what I did. Another theme: the power and the limits of personal habits / “lifestyle changes.”

 

Some conversations:

 

[These two knew each other; Person 2 came up a few minutes after Person 1]

I was watching What the Health on Netflix, and the number one vision, the thing I can’t get out of my head, was these floating dead fish on the edge of the shoreline. How the ocean’s environmentally been affected by our poor living habits. … I could close my eyes right now and see those floating dead fish on the edge—it’s real. All my life I’ve been a meat eater, but I haven’t eaten any meat since [last] Wednesday.

Have you talked about this movie with anybody?

Yeah, I’ve been going back to my staff members and colleagues–[Person 2, a colleague, came up]. I’m talking about that movie What the Health.

Person 2: Oh my God, I saw that! It freaked me out. I was already like, I’m gonna stay aaway from red meat, but at least I can eat chicken, and now I’m like, what the hell do I eat? What’s in the foods we eat? I don’t know as much as I need to.

Person 1: The other thing is, Providence has one of the largest lead contamination problems in the country. … [A MUTUAL ACQUAINTANCE] tested the lead in the ground in Dexter Park and there’s lead there, lead where the kids play. Probably not more than you have in your backyard, but–

*

I’m from New York, but the suburbs. Living in Providence, it’s kinda anxiety—being away from my family.

What do you do when you feel that anxiety or that frustration?

I just play some music. Or I cry a lot. I talk to my family on the phone, or texting. It feels good but not the same as face-to-face contact.

Is there anything good about being here?

Independence, and being away from everyday life back home. Getting to make my own decisions and mistakes without like, “What are you doing,” instead of getting in trouble. I’m not gonna be stupid about certain things. They would have screamed at me about it. I can deal with me screaming at myself, because it was my decision.

… Global warming is real, by the way, I believe in it. I think [people] don’t want to come to terms with the way life is and reality. If you’re not anxious about something, you’re not really living your life—are you just sitting at home and watching TV and not feeling anything? You’re not like, “Oh, I’m sad about this but I’m gonna make it better.”

For a lot of people who talk to me, the thing they have trouble with about global warming is they don’t know how to make it better .

You gotta get in the community and help, try to see what you can do for others. Speakers in schools, encouraging young people to do the right thing—I enjoyed that in school. That educated me more than my teachers. I wanna hear it from the expert: “I saved a million animals,” or whatever.

*

There are a lot of things I do that aren’t the most eco-conscious, because I have no other option. As much as I want to help put my part in, I don’t think the individual actions matter very much. I don’t have as much power in changing anything.

What do you think would have that kind of power?

Changing the social norms of how we interact with the world? I don’t know. To be more friendly to the Earth. I’m tring to fight this ingrained lifestyle and worldview that I’ve been brought up to live in. And being from an immigrant family means I’m struggling with that too—I’ve tried to get my mom to use reusable water bottles, but it’s just so normal to her to use plastic water bottles, so there’s that too. How do I respect her background? There’s a lot of—maybe not solutions but progressive things that people are doing but it’s hard to access it. So I guess more access? More education?

I guess another question is, if we’re not trying to stop it or slow it down, what are the things that we’re trying to do?

I guess talk about it? Have a discussion? I keep going to this question, “Is that enough?” But if you’re not looking for a solution, it could be. Anything that you can’t really change, you can at least be with people and process it. If all the humans just die, we release all the gases and destroy the planet anyway.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/30/17

Weather: Hot, bright, breezy, cooling and graying toward the end

Number of people: 6 stoppers, 5 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 8

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $3.11

 

Observations:

At 2:13, two cops in uniform and a cop in button-down and tie demanded ID from a man resting in the shade. They looked at his ID, then left. At 2:50, a cop in a suit and a cop in uniform walked by with a man in handcuffs between him, and the person talking to me told me that the man they arrested had exposed himself to a kid—I don’t know how they knew.

So far my booth repair—a new piece of cardboard to firm up part of the sign so it can hold the other part of the sign in place—mostly works, except in a sharp gust of wind.

A non-zero number of people read the “¢” on the sign as “$”, and I don’t know why.

 

 

Some conversations:

 

I feel like I’m chasing my tail. I’m shoveling shit against the tide. I’m trying to get back with my family. I went up to DCYF today and I stayed for an hour, I ain’t no deadbeat dad, but my appointment never showed. I’m trying to get back with my girl. I just got an apartment, but I’m on SSI and SSDI, and it takes almost all my money for rent. I have to struggle, I’m struggling.

What would make a difference?

If my girl dropped the restraining order. But her mother don’t like me, and she’s holding the house over her head.

Like, “You can’t live here if you get back together with him?”

Yeah. I got a one bedroom apartment, but there’s a parlor that could be made into a bedroom. I don’t think she wants to live in [REDACTED]. We were living in [REDACTED], then [REDACTED], then I went to jail, came out. I’ve met her on the DL a couple times. People are barking down her throat about me. I told her, When two people are in love, a lot of people are jealous. It’s easier for her to just rise out of the [can’t read what I wrote] and just patronize her mother. When the cops came and DCYF came, she lied to them for me—I didn’t ask her to. She says she’s proud of me, but she changed her number, or she didn’t pay her bill. I haven’t talked to her in over a week and I’m starting to get worried. My little boy is with her, and she already lost him once, drinking and not thinking. She drinks, she goes to AA meetings and to a group, but she still drinks. It’s not fair to my little boy, it’s robbing him of his father and mother.  … My [other] son’s in for ten years for gangbanging. I let my first son down—he got in a fight, he retaliated, and I’m sitting in the ACI. I wanna be there for all my kids …

(Seeing that someone marked the park’s beech tree on the map of beloved places yesterday)

I been going under that tree since I was a little boy, 7, 8 years old, when I started riding the bus. I got a history with that tree.

*

That fricking global warming shit is crazy. How much it’s changing! All the smoke that goes in the air, it does make a difference. I watched a movie about global warming. The South Pole already dropped so much—who knows if it’s gonna flood, if the North Pole is already breaking up. Look at all the stuff that’s going on already.

*

What are you anxious about today?

Money. I’m so stressed out about money. I wanna start school but I don’t wanna put myself into debt. I wanna be a teacher. My parents don’t have college funds, we’re regular middle class, we struggle sometimes. I get good grades but not enough for scholarships. I wanna go to CC[RI] but I didn’t want to ask my parents for help. I can’t even afford a car. Insurance is so expensive. How are they saying you have to have a car, pay taxes, go to school—How? How? Don’t even get me started on health insurance.

Now I’m gonna get started on health insurance. My parents are immigrants from Portugal. They didn’t have papers at first, and the process takes decades. They’re still waiting on their papers and they’ve been here since I was two. People are like, Why don’t you try to get papers? We have been trying but there’s millions and millions of people! My mom’s paid a lawyer thousands of dollars to move us up on the list and we still have to wait five more years. So they’ve been here almost 20 years and they haven’t had health insurance. My mom’s teeth are falling apart, she’s in pain 24/7, it would cost thousands of dollars to fix. She had one cavity, and to fix a cavity it costs $454.67. That was both my parents’ paychecks for one cavity, and she had three young children. That one created another cavity and another cavity, and now her mouth is decaying. And now I have a cavity and I can’t afford to fix it.

… So when my parents came here they signed me up for DACA. I get a social security card, I can get a job and a license while I’m waiting for my papers. But it doesn’t give me health insurance! If I get sick, I can’t miss a day of work because I can’t afford to go to the doctor. I can’t afford birth control. I went to the pharmacy, they said I had to go to a doctor. I asked what could they give me over the counter, it was thirty bucks for a month’s supply. I know that doesn’t sound expensive, but when you have to pay for food and bills and Ubers every day–

… When you’re an immigrant you don’t tell people. You’re scared 24/7. I got pulled over, and I have a license, but I was so scared, because if you’re an immigrant they can send you away.

… My mom started her own [REDACTED] company, under the table … She’s my biggest role model. She’s the biggest entrepreneur that I have ever known … After we got here, my dad was the family’s only source of income, so if dad’s not working, we’re not eating. My mom was like, I gotta do something. So she built up her client base, she got references. Now she just hired two girls to work for her. She’s becoming a boss a little bit. As soon as she gets her paperwork she’s gonna make her business legal. My mom dreams of owning her own house one day. My dream is becoming a preschool teacher.