Some things to do with the people in your office* instead of scolding them or yourself about recycling

Schedule a clothing swap for you and your co-workers. Donate what’s left, if it’s in good condition, to something like this, or bring it to something like this.

Alert them to the possibility and benefits of joining a community or bulk solar program, either by announcing your intention to do it or lamenting your inability to do it; if the business owns its premises, sometimes there are commercial options too.

If you drive to work, see if there’s anyone it makes sense to carpool with, even on some days (putting up a flyer or sending around an email is a good place to start, but eventually you may end up using an app or program).

Talk with your co-workers about campaigning for a green roof (again, if the business owns its premises), pension divestment (if you have a city or state job), or offering in-kind donations or pro bono services to environmental justice organizations in your area (obviously this depends on what your office does).

This September, organize a walkout for this climate strike. (There’s a map of already-planned ones at that link if you scroll down.)

I don’t usually do lists like this because people, not to mention companies, can always find specific reasons why general suggestions are impossible for them. I’m doing this one because people are talking to me a lot lately about recycling and plastic waste, especially with reference to the places where they work.

The things on this list obviously have different levels of commitment, effort, risk, enjoyability, etc. What they have in common is that they involve working with your co-workers, rather than yelling at them or talking down to them; they have the potential for social benefits as well as environmental ones; and although none of them are pure or perfect, they also have the potential for a little more intermediate impact** than recycling, which at this point is not really happening.

[IMAGE: Three pale-skinned people, with a range of body shapes, holding up some clothes to look at and standing in front of more piles of clothes. This photo is from a gender-affirming clothing swap held at Binghamton University a couple years ago.]

*If you do, in fact, work in an office.

**By intermediate impact I think I mean something between “keeping everything exactly the same/with no appreciable difference” and “building alternatives to capitalism that allow us to leave extractive practices behind,” but we can talk more about that if you want.

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Climate Anxiety Counseling TODAY, Sankofa Market, 2-5pm! & Two Climate Action Opportunities!

Come and visit me at the Sankofa Market today (Wednesday, 7/10) between 2 and 5:30pm. The market is outside the Knight Memorial Library (275 Elmwood Ave, Providence), which now has air conditioning on the ground floor!!! You can talk with me, buy vegetables and baked goods from neighborhood farmers and vendors, and then step inside and cool off.

At the Climate Anxiety Counseling Booth, can share your climate-change-related and other anxieties, get a little piece of art to keep, and potentially find some paths to action that work for you. There are also a couple of things you can do TODAY to contribute to climate and environmental justice:

TODAY, 12-2pm, 234 Thayer St, Providence: Community rally to protest Chase Bank’s practices of bankrolling fossil fuel industries and contributing to climate change. Details at the link; email shutdownchaseri AT gmail DOT com for more information.

TONIGHT, 6-7:30pm, CCRI, 1 Hilton St, Providence: The Shell Oil terminal is reapplying for an air quality permit that they shouldn’t have: the legal limits for chemicals released into the air are higher than the quantities of those chemicals that make people sick. Let’s go to the RI DEM hearing and point this out to them. Childcare, snacks & talking points provided.

*

My sister and I found these Rhode Island neighbors, (what we think are) black trumpet mushrooms, on a walk in Roger Williams Park. Send me pictures of the mushrooms & fungi near you, if you want!

black trumpet mushrooms

[IMAGE: Black, brown and gray mushrooms shaped sort of like curly funnels, growing on the ground among moss, dead oak leaves, grass, and tiny broadleaved plants.]

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

Weather: Muggy, alternating cloudy and bright

Number of people: 7 stoppers, 2 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 5

People who got the Peanuts reference: 1

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

Dogs seen: 2

Dogs pet: 1, a lot

Postcards Against the Plant: 1

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

 

Observations:

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

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

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

 

Some conversations:

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

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

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

*

I’m more obsessed with plastic, I guess.

Why does it bother you?

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

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

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

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

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

Where you live, is there town pickup for compost?

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

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

Not really.

Why not?

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

*

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

Why do you think people don’t?

Convenience. People are lazy.

Do you talk about it with people?

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

What do you think made the difference for you?

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

*

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

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

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

*

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

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

No LNG in PVD: Petition, Call-In, Hearing

The latest turn of events in the fight against the liquefied natural gas plant that National Grid wants to build in South Providence is that the chair of one of the evaluating agencies, the Coastal Resources Management Council, has demonstrated bias and holds conflicts of interest that make it impossible for her to make an impartial determination in a case involving both environmental racism and National Grid. Seven elected officials,  19 organizations and multiple Rhode Island residents are calling for CRMC Council Chair Jennifer Cervenka’s resignation.

If you want to help fight unethical conduct, environmental racism and climate change, and you live in Rhode Island, you can help by signing and sharing this petition, by calling Governor Raimondo (who appointed Ms. Cervenka), and by coming to the third CRMC hearing on Tuesday, December 12, at 5pm in the Department of Administration Cafeteria at One Capitol Hill.

Vigil for Healthy Communities: TONIGHT, 6pm

For over two years grassroots groups have been urging Governor Gina Raimondo to oppose the power plant that Invenergy has proposed for Burrillville and the LNG facility proposed by National Grid for the Port of Providence. There has been marches, call-in days, petitions and sit-ins.

But still Governor Raimondo has remained “neutral” on the issue and has refused to return campaign donations that she has received from both Invenergy and National Grid.

With critical state permit decisions coming up for both projects, now is the time for Governor Raimondo to finally join the opposition to Invenergy’s power plant and National Grid’s LNG facility. 

Join us for a peaceful vigil outside Governor Gina Raimondo’s house.  6pm, 126 Morris Ave, Providence.

If you can’t come tonight, but you can donate to stop the LNG facility, that would be good too.

Actual History: Refusal 7

I’m working to learn more from the stories of people who have refused and rejected attempts to exploit and tyrannize them, and I thought you might like to do that, too.

*

 

The people of Asubpeeschoseewagong / Grassy Narrows, in Ontario, Canada, successfully halted clear-cutting of their forests for ten years. Judy DaSilva, who participated in the blockade, wrote about it in May 2016:

“By 2002, our people were frustrated with the “dead end” complaint processes over the destruction of our forest by the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and Abitibi [Consolidated, the logging company, later Abitibi Bowater]. We had no protectors except ourselves.

So on that cold winter day, one of our community members said, ‘We need to do something.’ We set up a campfire on the side of the logging road about three kilometers from the reserve. By night, everyone had left except this one man. We went back to the comfort of our warm homes while he stayed. That night, even though he was scared, he stopped a logging truck from entering the forest. The next morning students showed up in full force, bringing the energy up at the blockade.

When our whole community had heard about this man’s actions, many community members, and supportive Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) began to help…”

Here is the logging company’s letter committing to withdrawal from the forest in 2008. But in 2012, ten years after its beginning, the blockade was still necessary and people were still maintaining it. They maintained it in the face of a Supreme Court decision against them in 2014. Several of the sources I found referred to it as “the longest-running blockade in Canadian history.” (Some more background, assembled by “solidarity activists working with Grassy Narrows organizers”, is here.)

The forestry management plan for the region threatens it again with logging, and the people, land and water of Asubpeeschoseewagong / Grassy Narrows continue to suffer from mercury poisoning caused by the logging and paper industries. They are attempting to fight it using the courts as well, and seeking action from Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Wynn; especially if you are Canadian, you can write to them and seek it too.

PLEASE NOTE: If anyone knows anything that contradicts the information here, please tell me and I will correct it! At the risk of sounding sanctimonious (“too late, Kate,” I hear you saying), that’s how we build knowledge together.

Public Hearing in Woonsocket about Burrillville Power Plant, 1/6, 5-10pm

In order to build a fracked-gas power plant in Burrillville, RI, Invenergy needs water that they are proposing to purchase and truck to Burrillville from Woonsocket. (Woonsocket was previously considering a water pipeline for this purpose.) If you’re looking for further background, there’s a list of relevant articles at the bottom of the one linked above.

The Woonsocket City Council is having a public meeting on Friday, January 6th, 5-10pm, Woonsocket High School. PLEASE NOTE THAT I HAD THE TIME WRONG BEFORE! If you can, please attend and let the City Council know that this is a bad idea for many reasons:

Rhode Island should be investing in new renewable energy infrastructure, not new fossil fuel infrastructure.

Because of the unsustainability of these forms of energy, jobs related to them are unlikely to last long (and Invenergy may bring in their own people for some of them); the proposed Woonsocket water facility would provide a maximum of three jobs, according to the article linked above.

The pollution, noise and traffic from the trucks, especially on smaller roads and roads through woods.

The pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the plant itself, which contribute to climate change and all its various effects on our food, air, water, weather and safety.

Unless I’m missing something, all that water will be unusable for anything else after they use it for this. (If anyone has information about this, let me know.)

*

This is a complicated situation because Woonsocket is a financially strained city and could use the money (which is, of course, why Invenergy made them the offer). So if you participate in this process by going to the public meeting, which I encourage you to do (I am), consider also participating in other processes that might help support Woonsocket’s human economy and sociality without doing quite so much damage to the nonhuman world. I’ll try to keep an eye out for what those might be and post them here.

 

 

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.

Alternate Histories: Port of Providence

 

Note: I wrote this alternate history after attending a community forum on environmental hazards in the Port of Providence and nearby neighborhoods.

 

4/18/16

Routine releases means emissions in normal operation, emissions that might happen daily or more rarely, and they’re frequently regulated by permits … In accidental releases, planning is very important. –Barbara Morin, Providence Department of Health

*

We’re always planning. We’re looking at every event. –Michael Borg, Providence Emergency Management Agency

*

 

4/19/16

 

The next day, the hazmat teams descended on the Port of Providence, because they were responsible for reducing harm from hazardous materials. They were just doing their jobs when they gave the Univar and Motiva facilities and the staff at the Enterprise propane and National Grid liquid natural gas tanks a timeline and a protocol for distributing or neutralizing their fossil fuel and chemical holdings. The people working there were glad to cooperate, knowing that every day of dismantlement increased the chances of survival for a third-grader or an old man on oxygen or a school of fish, and knowing that as they did this work, their livelihoods were assured in the neighborhood.

 

There’s no good way to put natural gas or coal back in the ground–not every process is reversible, not every wound can be healed. A council of South Providence residents doled out the natural gas and propane out to the rest of the city household by household, rationing it for heat and cooking, knowing that there would be no more when it was gone. They built big, ramshackle structures out of scrap metal and wood from dismantled houses across the train tracks, and colored them with chalk and festooned them with fabric to make sure the drivers could see them from far away.

 

The people of South Providence made room for the people who’d worked in the Port, and learned from them and the hazmat teams how to work with the chemicals without harm. Sometimes they were able to reduce them to harmless compounds, or suspend them in substances that would neutralize them. Sometimes the best they could do is parcel them out into smaller quantities, to be stored above water. Filtration, solution, transformation. Prevention: better than cure. The people who’d worked in the Port, and the hazmat teams, learned from the people of South Providence other sets of skills: arguing, running repairs, improvisation, rapid calculation, code-switching, field medicine. They all breathed more easily.

 

The next hundred-year storm hit before the tanks were fully emptied. A lot of fish and seabirds died, too many to count, and two humans trapped in a car, and an entire long row of windbreaking saplings that the people of South Providence, old and new, had planted a couple of years before. They succumbed to the chemical-infused saltwater; they stood like thin gravestones.

 

It could have been worse, it could have been better. The rest of the city’s people took the people of South Providence into their houses elsewhere and took turns cleaning and airing the flooded buildings, breaking down the ones that were too badly damaged or too far into the floodplain to make sense saving; they took it in shifts so that no one had to have too much exposure to the poisonous debris. They noted and charted the lie of the land, where the water wanted to go. They thickened and lined the walls of their homes with torn fabric, scavenged wood, leftover office paper, dry grass; they cooked on tiny solar stoves outdoors in summer, and saved their gas and wood for winter.

 

The people who were young during that storm were almost old when the next one hit, and things went very differently. All the tanks were long empty of poison; some were reefs for the shellfish that were just starting to come back. Long sections of train track ran quietly under the water, coated in algae that had evolved to digest the tar and creosote that soaked the railroad ties. People’s weather senses were better now, and with the help of predictive technology, they knew when to leave and let the water rush through what was left, if that was where it wanted to go. The city’s high points had food stores and hospitals; the city’s low points were thick with marsh grass shading into waterweed, and tiny crabs, and sand fleas, and lugworms, hunkering down to wait out a cleaner tide.

Alternate Histories: 5/30, 4/28

[Note: I took 2 days a week off during the first round of Climate Anxiety Counseling sessions, so this is an alternate history from a day I’ve already visited.]

5/30/14

When my mom goes into a store for more than 5 minutes, I turn her car off. I think people should carpool more … Polar bears are gonna go extinct in our lifetime, ’cause the ice caps are melting and there’s nowhere for them to live.

I think a lot of people feel like oh, polar bears, that’s really far away, that’s not connected to me.

Or like it’s not even going to affect them. But it is. And what’s gonna happen to the human race if there’s an entire ice age? Only the strong are gonna survive. Like the infertility thing with the chemicals in everything — some people aren’t gonna breed because of BPA.

Is that a strength thing though?

I guess I mean adaptability strength, not muscle strength.

*

4/28/15

The next day, BB stopped on her way home to buy herself a present, a bracelet. She ran the pad of her thumb over the plastic jewels.

What would happen in a year without making, a year where no one made anything new? No new nitrile gloves, no new IV tubes or clips; no garbage bags, no twisty-ties; no insulating tape for windows? Only what’s already in the warehouses and on the shelves. How long would it take to run out?

Bisphenol-A “is pseudo-persistent in the environment because of continual inputs.”

Six or so years later, BB walked along that same sidewalk with her nibling, her brother’s child, pointing at pigeons, at chalk drawings, at micromeadows of grasses and mosses and broadleaved plants rooting down through the cracks.

We used to call people born in a shared set of years a “generation,” putting a price on their ability to make more people, but the seven or so years of many intersex babies, layered into the record like a glittering stratum in soil, changed that.

Most of these babies became children, teenagers, adults. They did whatever they happened to feel like about gender, in the loving regard of parents and uncles and grandmas and older siblings. In thin and scarce times, some things aren’t as important as they once were. A baby that survives is a perfect baby. A child that lives is a perfect child.

Other mammals and fish, too, were born into the intersex stratum, and some kinds, already strained by overconsumption or industrial destruction of their homes, disappeared. Some took their predators, parasites and symbiotes with them. Some held on quietly, in smaller populations.

By the time the human intersex stratum grew up, overconsumption and industrial destruction of homes were no longer perennial, continual inputs into the soil and water of the world. Like some of the living beings they’d harmed, they were vanishingly rare, then gone.

A subset of complete living beings, similar in age, lived in most of the possible kinds of relation with the complete living beings around them.