Meanwhile, the company that wants to build this garbage depot has asked Providence City Plan Commission for another 60-day extension on their application. The Commission will decide whether to grant this request on March 17, 4:45pm, at 444 Westminster St in downtown Providence. Come to the 1st floor meeting room that day to show them that we’re paying attention and need our voices heard.
WHAT IS IT THIS TIME? Truck exhaust and toxic dust in the air, and garbage juice in the water, from a new scrapyard company that is trying to build on Allens Avenue—unless we stop them.
TRUCK EXHAUST? 188 or more trucks–probably diesel trucks—would go to and from the scrapyard every day, on and off the highway. When they can’t unload right away, they will circle the Allens Avenue area, pumping even more toxic exhaust into the air that we and our kids breathe.
TOXIC DUST? Digging to build the scrapyard will stir up over a hundred years of polluted dirt, containing lead, arsenic and other dangerous chemicals. The construction garbage that the scrapyard wants to process is also full of materials that it’s dangerous to breathe.
Leachate is garbage juice—liquid that comes out of the things that people throw away, including machines and moldy things, and collects in the trucks. Leachate can sink into the soil and get into the water, and the company has even said they’re going to spray more of it to keep the dust down!
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Tell your friends, family and co-workers about it, especially if they live in the neighborhood.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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?
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
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
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
[This person spoke
quietly and it was hard for me to hear them well, so there are some
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.
asked a question about how he thought the Cambodian government would
respond if there were bad storms.]
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
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
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
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.]
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
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.]
Today is the last Sankofa World Market. I’ll be there starting at 3pm and going till sunset. Come and share your climate-change-related anxieties and other anxieties with me.
At the end of my stint I’ll lead a brief ritual honoring all the humans and nonhumans who have already died because of climate change and its effects, and inviting them to speak to the people who have knowingly caused the worst damage.
Yesterday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a certificate–basically, the necessary permit–for National Grid to build a natural gas liquefaction facility on the Southside of Providence. If you know me or have been reading this site for a while, you know that I’ve been working with No LNG in PVD to stop this plant from endangering the people of the Southside and (through contributing to climate change by increasing the extraction, transport and consumption of natural gas) the world at large.
Here is our statement.
No LNG in PVD is committed to fighting for health, safety and justice for all residents of South Providence. For three years, neighborhood residents and committed allies have fought to stop National Grid from building a liquid natural gas plant on Allens Avenue that will increase health and safety risks for residents and contribute to global climate change. On Wednesday, October 18, we learned that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has granted National Grid a certificate for this project, subject to certain conditions.
FERC’s decision came through 12 days after the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated in strong terms that ceasing fossil fuel emissions–reducing them to 45% by 2030 and to zero by 2050–is essential to maintaining human life and well-being on Earth. In National Grid’s permit applications, the useful life of the LNG facility is stated as ending in 2030. Meanwhile, on October 3, a truck carrying over 11,000 gallons of gasoline overturned on the Route 95 ramp from Allens Avenue, pouring gasoline onto the road and into the Providence River. Threats to the neighborhood and to the planet are ongoing from activity in the Port.
No LNG in PVD is proud of the work we have done to try to protect the people of the Southside. We are proud of delaying the construction of this shortsighted and dangerous facility for three years. We are proud of our attempts to participate in the public regulatory process despite many obstacles, and we are proud of the Southside: a neighborhood where people live and work, not a sacrifice zone. We wish that our elected officials listened to the concerns of the people they represent. We are grateful to Mayor Elorza for supporting our campaign from the beginning.
No LNG in PVD will continue to fight for the well-being of the Southside. This is only the start of ongoing efforts to make the Port of Providence clean and healthy again, and to make Rhode Island a place where economic and environmental health go hand in hand.
We learned the news yesterday. Today, I went with a friend to East Greenwich, RI to help collect salt marsh grass seed, which the Fish and Wildlife Service will germinate over the winter and set out in the spring at another marsh, in the John W. Chafee National Wildlife Reserve, to help the marsh keep pace with sea level rise.
Eventually, if the grass seedlings take, they will mediate between land and water (which helps humans) and provide homes for many nonhuman people there, as they do here.
[Image: grasses with mussels hanging onto their roots and the bottoms of their stems.]
I was, and am, so angry. I was, and am, so sad. I was, and am, so scared. And I am not finished. We are not finished.
[Image: grasses, a sunbeam, and some tidal mud.]
I want to be clear: if the state were serious about the health and safety of the Southside, about “environmental management,” about “resilience,” we could and would work toward a restoration project like this there, too, where people live, where the land meets the water. Right now it’s poisoned by industry and choked by concrete, but Nature isn’t a specific place where you get to go if you’re rich. Nature is us.
When there is more that you can do to help us fight for-profit environmental racism, I will let you know.
You have told us to “trust the process” with the power plant. But the process is not a neutral one. Your administration, through various advisory opinions submitted to the Energy Facility Siting Board, has issued several reports that support the project and ignore serious concerns. With the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources even claiming that the construction of the power plant, which would produce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to putting 763,562 cars a year on the road, would be a good thing in the fight against climate change.
For both National Grid’s proposed LNG facility and Invenergy’s proposed power plant, free and prior consent was not reached with the indigenous nations whose land these projects would be built on. This includes your Administration ignoring the Mashapaug Nahaganset Tribe’s December 2017 cease and desist order demanding the halt of the LNG permitting process.
In addition to these local impacts, both of these projects would continue our region’s dependence on fossil fuels and would contribute to global climate change. A report from the United Nations released on October 8th stated that our civilization only has twelve years to confront the climate crisis before the crisis spirals out of control, with devastating impacts. To remain silent, or supportive of these fossil fuel projects proposed for Rhode Island, would mean that you are complicit in the violence and destruction of the climate crisis.
With key permitting decisions coming up for both the LNG facility and the power plant, now is the time for you to do what is right and speak out against these projects. In our opposition to these projects we have always been honest, direct and transparent. We now ask the same from you. We urge you to listen to the people of Providence and Burrillville, and to listen to the people of Rhode Island. The health and well being of your constituents, and your legacy, is on the line.
I was doing this partly to get attention for a fundraising event for No LNG in PVD later in the evening. No one who stopped to talk with me attended the event, which was their loss, because it was amazing. We raised just over $1400!
Interpreter Eveling Vasquez was with me this time, but no one who stopped needed her services.
This is the first time I’ve ever done the booth in my own neighborhood.
I worry that it was never a big issue with a lot of people, and now it’s even less of an issue with a lot of people. In the national conversation, it’s fallen out of the limelight. People are more interested in other stuff. It used to be people would debate about whether it was happening. I don’t see people debating it anymore, but they don’t want to do anything about it.
Why do you think that is?
The problems of today seem much bigger than the problems of tomorrow. It’s tough to hold onto a problem that’s very big. You want to focus on something else, something you can make a difference on. There’s a little bit of apathy. I do it too … I don’t do very much. What am I doing in particular that’s helping the climate? I don’t drive much, but that’s not because of the climate.
Who doesn’t [have climate anxiety], who has any sense?
What are some of yours?
Air pollution, plastic, garbage disposal. Just about everything you can think of. And we got a guy who’s not gonna care about it if he gets confirmed. I’m gonna be very depressed when he gets confirmed. It’s not just this, it’s gerrymandering, everything—the whole Republican party voted for that tax cut. They are truly diabolical. You feel like the country’s going in the wrong direction. I got a lot of older folks where I work, and they always want the TV turned to Channel 10, Channel 12. Sure, it’s good to know local news, but you know right away they’re Trump people. I talk to other [patients] who think he’s crazy. But they’re used to looking at Channel 10 and Channel 12, they’re not that well educated, blah blah blah.
Do you get into it with them?
Not really. I get an idea of where they’re at, I talk and joke with them. It’s not worth talking about. I won’t get into it ’cause I know they’re not gonna like me. Sometimes I do.
I’m taking an oceanography course, and we spend a lot of time talking about the earth and how old she is. The professor’s talking about the atmosphere and its interactions with the ocean, and of course climate change is having a lot of impact on that. I left in tears. I’m disappointed in the human race. We’re destroying so much, and that’s awful, and it’s embarrassing, like when your parents give you something to take care of and you mess it up. We’ve failed in a way, and what’s really hard is what we’re taking down with us—we’re not just destroying ourselves. So that’s what I’m thinking about. I’m embarrassed. We should’ve done better. Part of me thinks we should be trying to make amends, but that in itself feels selfish. The earth will heal itself [if we’re gone] and things will kind of spin around. We’re really just trying to preserve ourselves.
On Friday, September 28, 7-9pm, come to a poetry and performance fundraiser for No LNG in PVD. Help us pay neighborhood organizers and hold community info sessions to fight the above-mentioned natural gas plant. $10-25, no one turned away for lack of funds. Features the great Sussy Santana; click through for the full, fantastic list of performers, including me!