Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/9/18, PVDFest

Weather: Hot and bright, then hazy

Number of people: 14 stoppers, 4 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7

People who got the Peanuts reference: 3

Pictures taken with permission: 2

Dogs seen: 28

Dogs pet: 1 (this is obviously a bad ratio)

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $7.05

 

Observations:

This booth session took place during PVDFest, and most of the events in the park were events for kids. This meant that the music that made it hard to hear people talking with me was also incredibly irritating to adult ears. There was a ton of foot traffic, including many apparent out-of-towners, and I think the festival situation with many attractions meant that conversations were shorter than they otherwise might have been.

I saw a cop walk by at 1:05 but I’m sure there were many more around, even more than usual.

A bunch of people were out collecting signatures for candidates, and one of them said to me, “I’m feeling hopeful. Keep up the good work.”

A sweat bee and a tiny ant both visited my hand.

 

Some conversations:

India Point Park—at a corner of the park, we’re losing that to the water, and it doesn’t seem like anyone’s doing anything. I’ve been watching it over 24 months getting worse and worse. I would be surprised if [the city] doesn’t know about it, because it’s very obvious. Two-three years ago, I saw a pile of papers—books, looseleafs—fell in front of the [bus] tunnel and nobody cleaned it up. It took two-three months for the weather to work it out. Nobody does anything about that. All these events make me believe that the city needs to have better leadership, because it doesn’t cost a lot of money to do something about an obvious problem. But I’m a guilty person—I have not tried to do anything about that.

What would you do, if you did do something?

Maybe I would call the Parks Department, or the City Manager. But it’s crazy for them to need me to contact them. Also, because I was here as a new person, so I didn’t have that attitude I’ve been here for four-five years, and my attitude in the first years was I was an outsider, it’s not my problem. But now that I am no longer a tourist—if I were still a tourist, I wouldn’t even have stopped to talk to you.

*

I live down in Narragansett, and I’ve been trying to figure out some good groups that are more local. There’s the Surfriders, but I don’t surf. There’s also the Unitarian [Universalist] church in Peacedale—I did a march down with them in Wakefield against the Dakota Access Pipeline. I’d like to see a ban on plastic bags in Narragansett. There’s a lot of other stuff going on. I know—excuses, excuses.

*

Water. Water purity and cleanliness … I’m looking at offshore drilling, and also local swamp infrastructure. I’m from New Jersey, so there’s a lot of inland development—it’s not what some people are focusing on.

What do you feel when you think about these things?

Equal parts frustration and despair. Everyone recognizes it as a problem, but I don’t think there’s enough of a will. It doesn’t affect a large enough part of the community, and the people it does affect are relatively poor, people of color, on the outskirts. You get lip service from whoever’s running for Congress, but when you’re not in power, what are the things you can do? I’m not in a place where I even know who to talk to.

 

*

[These two came up together.]

Person 1: I’m very concerned about climate change and I just love this. As Darth Vader I live in space, but as [THEIR CIVILIAN IDENTITY] I’m very concerned. When people ask me how Providence is, I say, “It’s falling into the ocean.”

Why do you say that? I mean, why is that the thing you say? Or what reaction are you hoping for?

Well, people ask you something, and then you disrupt their pattern of consciousness.

What about your consciousness? Of the falling into the ocean thing?

My everyday experience is influenced by that understanding.

Person 2: I have a lot of fear about what the future’s going to bring. A fear of what politicians are gonna do. A lot of deforestation.

Person 1: They’re saying the Syrian Civil War was due to instability caused by crop failures. So, also, resource scarcity in areas that don’t have them.

Does that feel close to you, though, or far from you?

Person 2: It fees more far. Because it’s physically remote, not immediately visible.

Person 1: But sometimes it is, and people ignore it. Like after [Superstorm] Sandy, in New York, everybody was like, “We need to do this and that,” but the city didn’t change anything that it was doing.

Person 2: I don’t think as much about stuff that’s further away. But like, Miami Beach is flooding, Cape Cod’s gonna be underwater. It’s not on my brain for a long period of time but I suppose it’s in the back of my mind.

*

I’m one of these Luddites who don’t believe in global warming. I think the planet’s been around for millions of years and we have such a tiny snapshot of what’s what.

*

Natural disasters coming all at once. I don’t have anxiety over it because I can’t control it and I don’t worry about things I can’t control … I’m an importer, I import from China. I used to be only made in the USA but you can’t do that anymore. I have to make a living.

*

Person 1: Right now? The impact of returns on online shipping, the financial and the climate impact. It’s poignant for me because I’m finishing my basement, I live in Chattanooga, and I bought an air conditioner online, and it was the wrong size. And they’re so heavy, you can’t even ship them UPS. I almost used it, even though it was the wrong size. I was like, “Why would we keep it,” but it weighed on me so heavy.

Person 2: There’s context that can completely negate what you think you’re doing. And you can do your research, but it’s a lot of time.

Person 1: If you’re gonna stay in the system, you have to make these decisions.

*

 

 

I don’t know if it’s anxiety, but concerns. What are our children’s children going to be dealing with—what’s gonna happen? And the loss of beauty.

Do you picture it?

This is just worst-case thinking. I don’t picture anything. I watch movies and that makes me go, “Oh my God.” I do a ton of research on current events as it pertains to clean energy—I own a solar company, so I’m doing everything that I can to change it and encourage other people to do the same thing. There are a lot of people who somewhat know it but they’re not convicted enough to take action.

map 6-9-18

On the map of worries/places in Rhode Island they’d like to protect, people have written:

STOP THE FRACKIN’ POWER PLANT!

Lanking [Lincoln] Woods

Stop violence and the shooting of people

Erosion at India Point Park

Johnston Landfill is getting too big

Jenks Point

BEACH

Blackstone Valley Bike Path

SAVE FOREST FROM SOLAR PANELS

Save the climate + beaches: allow windmills along the windy coast

[Next to Block Island] Underwater in 20 years

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Climate Anxiety Counseling: 5/25/16

Weather: Hot in the sun, though I was shaded for most of my time there. Set up facing east instead of west so the sun wouldn’t be in my face.

Number of people: 6 stoppers, 1 walkby

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7

People known to me, and I to them, from previous sessions: 1

People who commented on the Peanuts reference: 2

Number of dogs seen: 2

Number of dogs pet: 0

Instances of shirtlessness: 7

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.81

 

 

Observations:

 

I can’t tell if facing the other way makes a difference–there were fewer stoppers today, but that could be because of all kinds of things. No one stopped to talk at all for almost the first hour.

 

A cop biked through the park at 3:10, and there was a police car parked beside some utility work starting at about 5.

 

Because it was warm, a lot of people had on their cute summer outfits, which is always pleasing.

 

Should I ask people who are obviously very drunk to come back another time when they’re less drunk?

 

 

Some conversations:

 

I believe it’s real, but I wouldn’t say I feel anxiety about it. If you look at it from a scientific point of view, the climate has always been changing, for millions of years, it’s only now that it’s being accelerated by human activities. It’s gonna happen, I just don’t wear myself out about it … I think people need to question their elected officials. The goal of any elected official, well, let’s say most of them, is to stay in power. I think people do care, so they need to hold their elected officials accountable, and then we’ll see some policy change. There’s an opportunity to do that tomorrow, a public hearing about the Burrillville Power Plant,  which is ridiculous–we’re going backwards! New solar power, new wind power, sure, but coal?* How can they do that? We’re a coastal state, so people need to pay attention to it.

 

*The proposed power plant in Burrillville would be natural-gas powered.

 

*

 

 

 

Money, paying bills. Rent, court, probation, food–they’re cuttin’ my food stamps and my social security now that I’m working. It’s not like I’m gonna die with no money, it’s more like what the hell I’m gonna do with my freakin’ money. It’s more like I do the wrong things with it.

 

Can you see what you would wanna do with it?

I can see it, it’s just tryna get to it. I told my caseworker, I can see the vision, I just don’t know how to get to it.

 

Did they have any ideas for how to help you keep your vision in sight?

Look, the Providence Center wouldn’t make money if they helped people keep their vision in sight. It’s like rehab, if it works, you won’t need them anymore. That’s why I’m talking to you, you have no interest in hand. …

 

I just wanna be financially stable. Not rich, but you see that shirt, you buy it, you see that pair of shoes, you buy it … This guy I’m working for, he pays me in cash, you can’t bank it, ’cause then the IRS is like, What are you hiding from us? I got this cut at work [shows me a deep but healing cut on his finger] and I had to tell ’em it was done at my house … My kids already work all the time. I said to my son, You don’t wanna be 47 like me and tired. My son said, Dad, I’m watching the best.

 

*

 

 

It has been changing. It’s getting longer to get hotter, warmer.

 

Have you noticed any effects that’s had on anything? Plants, other creatures, people’s moods?

 

Yeah, moods, definitely. People being like, Why isn’t it warm yet? People keep talking about it. You compare it to the last ones, from the year before–it’s been nicer sooner and that’s how I noticed that [this year] was different from last year … With fall, you don’t really noticed until you see all the colors popping out. You notice it and then everyone else notices it too.

 

We’ve been talking a lot about it in the present. Does it also make you think about the future at all

Yeah, ’cause next year I’m hoping it’ll be warmer sooner. To help the mood, the attitude. You feel better when it’s going according to plan. When it’s not, it throws people. But it does give people something to talk about. I don’t think people talk to each other enough. Just talking to somebody, just by you interacting with one person, it helps their day and your day. Which hopefully helps the world be a little better.

*

 

 

It’s definitely a very serious situation. Over the past 10 years I’ve noticed dramatic climate changes–from severe storms to irregular climate behavior. Look at these last few weeks, we’ve had snow, rain, cold, 80-degree days. If we look into geography there’s a lot going on, icebergs melting, situations with the carbon dioxide in the air, the chlorofluorocarbons. I see everything rapidly changing. I’d like to see a progression of the last 100 years–temperatures, months and days, I’d like to compare everything in the last 100 years* … My more concern is for my kids, my grandkids, great-grandkids. We’re gonna chew up all the resources. The United States uses up everybody else’s resources so we can be the last ones standing and we can have the power. It’s gonna be the end of the world. What’s gonna happen?

 

*Doctor’s note: If this person is reading this, you can see some of what you’re looking for here and here.

 

*

 

 

[Sees India Point Park marked on map of places to protect] It’s really about the water. I was there in September and there was a whole bunch of dead fish. It was really scary. I’m not talking about 10, 20 fish, I’m talking like 40, 50. And then later I wanted to kayak at India Point Park but I read that they were doing some research and there’s a lotta chemicals in the water. And a lotta people enjoy that park.