Guest Post! Climate Anxiety Counseling with Julie Beman: City Wide Open Studios, New Haven, CT, 10/14/28

[Note from Kate: Julie Beman held her first ever Climate Anxiety Counseling session last week in New Haven, on the sidewalk next to Violet Harlow‘s studio sale and across from Edgewood Park Farmer’s Market. Here is her account of the day.]

 

Weather: Sunny and cool

Number of people: 7 stoppers (3 sitters) and many walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0

 Pages of notes: 0

 Dogs seen: many

 Dogs pet: 2 goldendoodles

 

 

Some conversation recollections:

 

1. Oh my god, I can’t believe you’re here! I need to talk to someone like you! I just bought this painting of a whale, I’m upset about the report that came out, I use so many plastic pens and I saw all those animals with stomachs full of plastic and there are so many plastic pens in my office…

I was thinking about the pens and remembering that I have fountain pens from my father and grandfather and I’m going to have them cleaned up and give them to younger people in my family and say “here’s a gift from your ancestors.”

(Then we talked about how ancestors don’t have to be from ancient times. Just a generation or two ago people didn’t use plastic, cooked at home, tried not to waste food, used hankies…)

*

2. What’s wrong with the climate? Why should I be anxious about it?

Well, some people think that the climate is changing and causing a lot of problems, and some people don’t. Have you thought about that?

I don’t care about anyone here. I saw a video of people in a cafe and then a tsunami came in and flooded everything. I cared about those people.

So you feel compassion for those people?

Yeah, people on islands. Not here. I think about the environment. I try not to buy a lot of things. I don’t need a lot of things. People buy too many things. We don’t need that many things.

(And that was about how it went until he said “Yeah, I see why you’re doing this. Cool. You made me think. Cool.”)

*

3. A man and a woman. He talked about the government and multinationals and career politicians and “follow the money.” She talked about all of the things she’s trying to do – organizing, making donations, calling/writing politicians. He just kept going and going – very ‘splainy – and concluded with “Well, are you supposed to give us advice before we leave?” I asked if that’s what he wanted, and he said yes, so I said “OK. Try to spend some time with your feelings.”

 

Other folks stopped by who didn’t have time to sit and talk, but said that they would have if they could. A couple of people said they were moved by the question. One bicycler shouted that she’d be back later.

 

On Instagram a woman asked if I’d be doing something similar locally (Hartford area rather than New Haven), and I said I was trying to figure out where to do it.

 

 [This is Kate again. If you’re interested in figuring out a version of Climate Anxiety Counseling that works for you and the people in a place where you live or spend much of your time, let me know at my gmail address, publiclycomplex, and I will help you get set up.]

 

Advertisements

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market/Knight Memorial Library, 10/10/18

Weather: 83 degrees Fahrenheit in October in New England; sunny

Number of people: 1 stopper, no walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Dogs seen: 2

Dogs pet: 1

Empanadas (from the store across the street) eaten: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.00
Observations:

Only one person talked with me today. My friend Rani made this beautiful henna pattern on my hand at a time when she didn’t have any customers either.

unravel henna

Nonhuman visitors and passersby: hornet and ant on the notebook (at different times), monarch butterfly in the library garden, carpenter bee, honeybee, tiny grass moth.

 

A conversation:

What do you think can be done on the civic level?

[I spoke about cities making room for climate migrants and refugees, and increasing food sovereignty; didn’t write down what I said.]

Our system don’t think about even half of what you’re saying. The way that democracy work, things go from the top to the bottom. We don’t have the infrastructure—we need to create more. We see the problems with the house, but the rules are set by the landlord, so if you wanna change the room—you have the idea, but it’s frustrating, because the people who can make the change will not do it.

What appeals to me is having some representative here, because what I’m telling you has no weight. We can talk, but as nice as that is, it doesn’t change things. You can’t act on something that you are not allowed to act on. Having representation here—someone with influence in Washington who can get things done.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Broadway at Sutton St, 9/28/18

Weather: Sprinkling mist, chilly.

Number of people: 3 stoppers, no walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 2.5

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Dogs seen: 15, mostly from afar

Dogs pet: 0, but did receive one sniff/lick on my extended hand

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.00

 

Observations:

 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.

 

Some conversations:

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.

 

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: Sankofa World Market/Knight Memorial Library, 8/1/18

Weather: gray and clammy; then, sunshowers; then, straight-up rain; then, gray and clammy again but slightly cooler

Number of people: 7 stoppers, 1 walkby

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 11

People I’ve spoken with before, back for more: 3

Dogs seen: 1

Dogs pet: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $1.70

 

Observations:

I still have to talk with other vendors about this, but it seems to me that the market is doing well this year overall—a lively and ongoing flow of vegetable-buyers.

Talked with my first climate change denier in a while today.

This is the second time at this market that I’ve been mistaken for a paranormal service worker—a palm reader or a psychic.

The woman who owns the candy store across the way very very kindly gave me a bottle of water for free, and one of the farmers very kindly added an extra tomato onto my tomato purchase.

Pause for heavy rain at 3:30.

 

Some conversations:

Being unable to do anything. I’m a news junkie. I watch and I say, “This is awful, we need to clean this thing up, we need to do something.” There seems to be something done about it with this particular administration.

So are your anxieties at the national level or—

The geopolitical level. Who’s gonna talk down that little fat guy?

Where do you get your news?

I watch both sides. Fox, CNN, NPR—I go around. I spent time in the service. Given where the rest of the world has been and was, we are the greatest country in the world, the most generous country in the world. If you have a little problem—everybody’s gonna call us. But then they’re—it’s like a teenager, you raise them, you give them everything and they’re, “Well, I didn’t ask you to do that.” Not the countries, the leaders. Let me be clear, we’ve screwed up a few things. Vietnam—we maybe should’ve done something there, but not that.

…The criticism for this administration is harsh, not only here but outside. We have this deficit in trade. We paid for the security of the entire European administration, and now they don’t want to pay. But those talks are moving forward. I’m a conservative, and I’m in favor of whatever brings those policies forward—of changing attitudes that result in changing policies. The US is the dominant player in any aspect of society. Whether that’s something that should be—if these countries had paid off their share, maybe it wouldn’t be.

So you actually seem satisfied with what’s going on right now.

[Gestures at my sign] I’m in therapy! It ain’t done yet, but I’m under treatment if you will. I’ve gone to the doctor.

How do you feel like you can contribute to what you want to see?

My contribution would be to continue to vote to put the underpinnings, such as Congress, put those same policies into effect. It seems like a little thing, but overall, I’m taking it where I want it to be. You asked me what I was worried about, not whether I knew what to do about it.

[I give him a card to take with him and explain what the EJ League—where the donations go—does.]

See, now, that’s real, that’s not up in the sky. The arrogance of human beings thinking they’re gonna take on God. He’s gonna take care of us. … You gotta get out of yourself and look around a little bit.

*

We know it is our fault. We have been blessed with a planet, we know it, but we’re savage—we don’t know how to share. We should start to be humans. I wish that all of us would combine, ’cause we strong. I just hate the fact that—I think about that boy that died, how people came together. Why can’t we do that just because? Why does it have to be after a death? I am not too proud of my kind. ‘Cause it hurt. I’m part of it, you part of it too.

… Deep inside of me I know I’m not doing as much as I should. People say God is coming—I just hope one day we learn how to be humans and live together… Everything has a purpose. My mother had a parrot fish. He played with my mother, he noticed her, he followed my mother in his tank. He was her world, he was her baby. What makes you think because it doesn’t have language–I’m not a veggie, I try, my kids try. They saw a video of a cow getting killed. And I’m also part of that. It hurts. Trees, just because you can’t talk to them—they’re breathing things, they grow.

*

I’m worried about things not changing fast enough. We’re at a point in a lot of ways—not just with the climate, but in the political landscape, the social landscape, people who are marginalized—where change can’t come fast enough. What is it they say, two steps forward, one step back? One step forward, two steps back? It’s an interesting time to be alive—I wonder what a child growing up now feels like.

You’re not that old, you’re probably going to be around for a while. What does it feel like to you?

It feels like we have a lot of work to do. I’m a new medical resident at [HOSPITAL] and I work with families having a hard time, parents who maybe don’t know how to manage in the best ways, and try to hold space for them in a way that requires empathy and patience and emotional labor from me.

How do you take care of yourself in that?

Therapy, I see a therapist. And finding like-minded people and finding support among allies.

*

[This person also spoke with me on July 11th.]

I’m so happy I’m eating a tomato! I’m not sure if I’ve really thought one way or the other about what we talked about last time, not explicitly in terms of climate change. But I’ve really been enjoying summer and the natural parts—eating this tomato, going to the beach—but it’s tinged with a little bit of “I might not get to do this forever.” I’m working with [someone who’s studying] hospice, and there’s a similar mindset with an old relative. The psychology of hospice is, “It’s done.” I don’t necessarily think it’s the same. It’s natural that our individual lives end, but this isn’t natural. But then I think if there’s someone really young who has cancer—you can’t totally use the analogy because then it’s like we’re giving up. But there are parallels in terms of mourning.

*

Lots of kids drew on the “Put Your Worries on the Map” map today. You can see the thumb of one of them here, pointing at their art.

map 8-1-18

Climate Anxiety Counseling, Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/15/18

Weather: Gray and cool

Number of people: 8 stoppers, 5 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 8

People who got the Peanuts reference: 1

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Pictures taken without permission: 2

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

Dogs seen: 1

Dogs pet: 0

Naloxone distributed: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice league of RI: $0.90

 

Observations:

Last day of the season in this location! I put a sign on the booth to that effect.

No food trucks upon arrival. The first one arrived at 11:13 and parked on the east side of the park entrance, followed closely by the second which parked on the west side. I was facing east.

A security guy walked through at 11:37.

A leafhopper of some sort visited the page I was writing on, and a teen starling ran by very close to me.

Semi-relatedly, I like seeing the teen human skateboarders sail around like swallows.

 

Some conversations:

 

Past experiences. The future. I deal with it every single day.

Is it the same anxiety or are they different things?

Two different things. Stuff in the past is what gave me anxiety about what I’m gonna do and how I’m gonna get there. I wanna go to school to be a doctor, a pediatrician. So I’m gonna go to CNA classes for 6-8 months, then after I become a CNA I’m gonna work with people a little bit and then I’m gonna go to nursing school, and then I’m gonna go to school to become a doctor. I’m anxious about finances—I don’t have much. It consumes my life. I got problem on top of problem. I have really bad depression too. Everything piles on top of each other…

Do you have a way to see a real counselor right now?

I go to Day 1 counseling two days a week. She’s amazing. I don’t have family, so I’m kinda dealing on my own. So many people are like, “Oh, well, you control your destiny,” and that’s bullshit. I’ve had so many suicide attempts. Depression kills people. That’s where I’m at right now, a couple days ago. But I was like, “Fuck you to the people who are kicking me when I’m already down.”

… [With my counselor] I’m mostly figuring out trauma in the past and how to face it head on and not ignore it. It kind of comes on sudden and random, so I want to work on that part first. We talk about how there’s different parts of yourself, like the Firefighter—I call him Bob, Bob the Firefighter, he’s the one who wants me to use drugs, drink alcohol, hurt myself. So I try to get in touch with my emotions, to say, “I see you, I know you wanna do that.” I’ve had a lot of therapists, but some of them had a hard time understanding and they weren’t so good at teaching. It took a little over a year to lead myself into trusting her. She’s like, common-sense smart. She has a good way of describing things.

… CCRI has a lot of programs [for CNA training] but I’m afraid to do presentations. I’m scared of talking in front of a load of people. I get—not really mood swings, but I go through phases during the day, a few hours anxious, a few hours sad or angry, and then in the middle of the night—it’s just constant battering, fighting with myself. Helping people gives me a little bit of a purpose and a reason to stay, but sometimes I just want it all to go away. When you start feeling disconnected—My boyfriend, because of my past, he can’t touch me, and I’m just like, how come I can’t work, how come I can’t do anything. That word “anxiety” is such an understatement.

 

*

[These two came up together and may have been family.]

Person 1: I’m worried that Trump is gonna end the world because of his narcissism and delusions of grandeur.

Person 2: Lies.

Person 1: Lies and admiration for dictatorial regimes. His relationship with Russia and North Korea is absolutely disturbing. Starting fights with Canada is insane. Taking his anger out on children.

What do you see as the potential outcome of all of this?

Do you work for the government?

No.

I’m concerned that he’s been assigned by foreign heads of state to break the union. They’re gonna feed into his delusions of grandeur.

What would their goal be in that case?

To remove us from the playing field. Divide and conquer, so they can run the world. Take our land, take our money, take our kids. Take Alaska–

Person 2: They can have Alaska.

Person 1: No.

So the nightmare for you is this takeover?

No, the nightmare is atomic apocalypse. Someone sparks a nuke and everyone else freaks out and sparks theirs.

Person 2: His narcissism is so overwhelming that it allows other people to control him through flattery.

Person 1: Just a big chicken game, so that under threat of apocalypse we’ll be forced to submit to the settlement of the US. Republicans used to understand [what???] but no more.

How do you feel, when you think about these things?

I feel inspired and I get to know people around me, in my community. It’s the only good choice—really ever, but now epecially.

Do you talk with them about this stuff?

I’m usually more toward listening. I think there’s an appropriate time to vent.

*

 

The lack of concern. Everyone’s going about their days like they don’t feel a difference. And then the [federal] administration is saying it doesn’t exist. When someone with that kind of power does that, how can anyone else make any changes?

… If you watch Planet Earth, you see how it’s so beautiful and how it has a system, and we just come in and mess it up.

How do you feel when you think about it?

Kind of hopeless. Helpless. You can only do your small part to try and reduce your ecological footprint.

A lot of people say that, and I mean, absolutely, do those things, but people don’t always think in terms of doing things together.

I almost interned with this water project, they have an office right next to Classical. It’s like a grassroots organization, they teach people. You’re right, it’s not just individual, it’s collective—but you do feel very alone.

[I mention the No LNG in PVD campaign.]

What do you think about that wind farm?

I mostly think it’s a good thing. It’s not perfect—they still have to build those turbines out of metal that they have to dig out of the ground, they still have an impact, but we really need them.

I worked for a person in the governor’s office and I saw people protesting about that installation in South Providence. And yeah, absolutely, but I also think we need resources to make the transition.

[We talked a little bit about the need to combine new renewable sources with getting rid of fossil fuel sources, but I didn’t write that part of the conversation down.]

*

 

 

My only thing, and I think I learned this from you, is just to be as aggressively local as possible. Everything else feels so nebulous. For a while that was my thing with literary communities. The day of the gun rally, the kids and I just stood on the boulevard with our signs. … I have these neighbors in my sights, I want to change them. They’re Catholic, and there’s so much social justice in that! [They] just forgot because [they] got rich.

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/14/18

Weather: Warm and bright, breezy.

Number of people: 8 stoppers, 6 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 10

People who got the Peanuts reference: 4

People I’ve seen before, back for more: 4

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.45

 

Observations:

No food trucks upon arrival; set up facing east. Super caffeinated. Wind is more intense when I’m sitting on this side. Security-looking guy in the park around 11:40.

Nonhuman animal presences: pigeons and sparrows, a robin, a grackle, starlings, a wasp. A few plane tree seeds landed on my notebook.

Sometimes while I’m sitting at the booth I see people passing by who are just so satisfying to look at.

The wind blew my handtruck over twice today and blew the “IN” sign right off. Someone in the park handed it back to me.

 

Some conversations:

 

[After I removed an inchworm from his shirt and put it on the ground]

I don’t like to kill nothing. I let ’em go. I don’t want ’em on me, but I try not to kill ’em, even the grass. We need them. Certain things kills other things—they all kill each other.

*

 

Well! That Washington Post article about Antarctica.

What did it say?

It’s melting three times faster than expected.

What are the things about that that make you anxious?

Flooding. Coastal areas are gonna be in trouble. I’m okay, I’m 400 feet up.

Obviously you’re worried about it even though you’re gonna be okay.

Well, there are gonna be issues because people are not gonna be ready, and they’re not gonna know what to do. Look it up.

*

 

If we’re on this course, things aren’t gonna be good. I feel like our only hope is if technology catches up with it. Like I saw this thing in the ocean that just collects plastic, it just scoops it up.

Why do you think technology is the only hope?

It seems like it’s human nature to not try to solve a problem until it already happened .. They didn’t put up the hurricane barrier until after the hurricane of ’38. And those are smaller scale. Some people don’t believe in it. You’d have to get every nation on board, and preventing it is gonna be hard because of obstacles—by the time everybody gets on board it’ll be too late. People don’t trust science the way they should. So you get someone saying, “I don’t really believe in that,” and it’s like, what data or what facts—you can’t not believe it just because you don’t want to believe it.

It sounds like you’re having some of these conversations. Who are you mainly having them with?

My parents. They’re skeptical of it, they’re like, “They just want you to buy green lightbulbs,” like it’s part of some huge agenda. They’re starting to move now. The overwhelming scientific consensus, if that’s actually facts, which I believe it is—People who are skeptical don’t passionately believe it doesn’t exist, they’re just apathetic. Probably they’re Republicans, so their main concern is the economy …

 

How do you feel about these conversations?

It doesn’t anger me or anything. These are people I know, it’s not like they’re policymakers. I scoff a little bit. If you’re trying to look into it with an open mind you’d understand that that’s how it is. Some people are saying we’re already doomed.

Do you think that?

No. I think I have a sense of being like a teenager, where I’m invincible. It’s hard to imagine, so it’s not gonna happen, at least in my lifetime. Of course I believe in it and think steps should be taken, but I haven’t seen anything that shows me I should be concerned with my well-being. I read articles about ice melting, melting faster than we thought, and they worry me, but I feel like I’m never gonna understand it fully—the dangerous levels of ice that are in the ocean. I never click, I just scroll past the headline on my phone.

…I spend more time arguing about politics. I don’t consider myself a political person, but I’m against the sitting president, and I think that’s taken the place of climate change [in my consciousness]. When he comes up in the news, some issue or gaffe, or if I hear someone champion the president, I’m like, “Whoa, let’s pump the brakes.” But no one in my daily life is coming up to me and saying, “Climate change isn’t real.”

*

 

 

I’m going through a lot right now with school and work. It’s stressful because I’m halfway through it. I just took my third test, there are four in all. The problem with work is it’s a dead-end job and I don’t want to be there a long time. I have a fear of failure. I want to get into the military, but getting in is not easy. There’s the first test, the ASVAB, and if you don’t pass it you’re not in. It’s got math on it, science—I took it once and I’ve been practicing online, improving it. It’s rough … I’ve tried combat breathing, exercise, vaping, weed, walking—there’s so many things I’ve tried—but the thought just won’t escape me. I just feel like an utter failure. You take it once, then if you don’t pass you wait a month. The third time you have to wait six months. That’s a big time barrier. Things in my life are constantly shifting. Four months ago I had no job, I was sleeping on the couch. If I pass it, I’ll be the happiest person in the world, because I did it. I have issues with social anxiety and self-esteem. There are times when I do believe in myself.

Who else believes in you, that maybe could support you?

My parents, but they live so far away. I talk to them almost every day. They encourage me to follow anything I want–“Oh, you wanna do this? Go for it.” They don’t pass on so much wisdom about it. I was so happy to find a thing I wanna do, a thing I wanna be, because of my anxiety, my confidence, my self-esteem, but there’s just so many unfortunate obstacles. I don’t wanna give up, but it depresses me. I see myself as a good soldier. I just need a chance to prove myself …

Just wearing that uniform of something so honorable and noble. They make you fearless, hard as a rock. I always wanted to be like that because everything in my life is so discouraging. Everything else, it doesn’t seem necessary. Work, relationships, friends—I’ve always been moving from place to place, saying goodbye a lot to friends, girls I’ve cared about. I don’t want to make friends anymore because I’m always going to say goodbye eventually. I don’t want a break. Maybe when I pass this test, then I’ll be like, sit down on the porch, “I did it.”

map 6-14-18

I seeded the map of vulnerable places in RI with “Erosion + flooding” along the south coast.

Someone added, “WATCH HILL WESTERLY PROTECT PIPING PLOVERS.”

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 5/25/18

Weather: Hot and getting hotter, little restless breeze

Number of people: 11 stoppers, 1 walkby

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 5

People who got the Peanuts reference: 1

Pictures taken without permission: 1

Dogs seen: 2

Dogs pet: 0

People I’ve spoken with before, back for more: 3

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.20

 

Observations:

A cop car drove by at 11:10.

I “seeded” the map with “The air in WP/Southside.”

I remembered my sunscreen and wore auntie pants for the heat, but forgot water .

A couple of people were napping on the grass. One of them woke up, and it looked to me like the park ranger asked her to leave, but let the still-sleeping one sleep.

 

Some conversations:

Trump—that’s all you need to know. Scott Pruitt. I don’t think what some states, like what California is doing, will be sufficient. I’ve seriously cut back on my news. I used to be a news junkie. Now I ration the news feed—it’s probably down to about 1/3 of what it used to be.

What’s included?

BBC, Reuters, Washington Post, New York Times, NPR.

What happens when you listen or read too much?

I can feel my blood pressure rising.

What do you do then?

If possible, I turn off all sound and I listen to the birds in the backyard.

Who do you have back there?

Ruby-throated hummingbirds, nesting robins, a flicker. Downy woodpeckers, of course. Purple finches, goldfinches. My backyard is state land, so nothing will ever be built there.

*

 

[These two came up together.]

Person 1: I’ve noticed an odd change in the weather pattern.

Person 2: It went from 70 to 30 in three hours. I don’t know what to wear. The people in the office all make the same complaints about the weather.

[I hand them a card and explain the things on it, including No LNG in PVD.]

Person 1: The state just approved a wind farm. It’s stupid [to use more fossil fuels], we should be moving in the opposite direction.

*

 

[These two came up together.]

Person 1: I’m from halfway across the world, so this heat is normal to me.

Where exactly?

Mumbai.

Have you noticed climate change having any effects there?

The monsoon is getting worse. When the monsoon hits, the roads flood.

Person 2: Summers are hotter, winters are colder.

*

Climate change confuses me because I don’t know what to believe. There’s a lot of misinformation out there. Both sides seem to have an agenda.

One thing you might want to look for is what interest the person has in having what they’re saying be true, like what they get out of it. Do you have a science background?

Yeah, I do. And that’s another thing, I saw someone referencing a study, but you can’t see the actual study without paying $20.

 

*

My sister would be proud of you, and you’d be proud of her. Look, this is what she does. Straws are another thing, just trying to get rid of plastic straws. My lips work fine! We’ve made some progress. Ken’s Ramen has plastic cups out so you can get your own water, but when I asked, they gave me a reusable cup. … I’m president of [A BEACH ASSOCIATION] in [SOUTH COUNTY], and we hire kids to pick up garbage on the beach and send it back to Proctor and Gamble—they call it “storied plastics.” But then they said we weren’t collecting enough. There’s a board meeting tomorrow and I’m going to propose covering the cost of the shipments.

 

map 5-26-18

Description: This (somewhat impressionistic) map of the state of Rhode Island says, “Put your worries on the map,” at the top, and “Is there a place in Rhode Island you’d like to protect?” at the bottom. On the map I wrote “the air in WP/Southside,” and another person has put dots all over to indicate that they’d like to protect the land and water.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 5/23/18

Weather: Hot, breezy, bright, big moving clouds

Number of people: 12 stoppers, 4 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 9

People who got the Peanuts reference: 2

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Pictures taken without permission: 2

Dogs seen: 4

Dogs pet: 0

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

People I’ve spoken with before, back for more: 1, but I didn’t recognize them at first

Money raised for the Environmental Justice League of RI: $9.30

 

Observations:

This day was my first in Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park this season. I didn’t know what to expect from the new time (11-2 instead of 3-6) or the presence of the food trucks. So far, what it’s come down to is that a higher percentage of strangers talking to me are people who have food truck money. The noise of the motors doesn’t seem to be a problem; I can hear everyone.

One person who spoke with me also shared her fries with me. I ate about half of them and then shared the rest with a guy who did not have food truck money. (I only touched the ones I ate.)

You need a permit to be a vendor in the park. The ranger came up to me near the beginning of my session and said, “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you know what I’m gonna say, don’t you?” (I have a permit; I showed it to him.)

Next time I need to come out with water and more finished organism cards.

This seems like a good moment to reiterate that I don’t agree with everyone whose conversations I post!

Some conversations:

The housing situation. We’re constantly having to move. We’ve had three houses sold out from underneath our feet, and the place we were just in got condemned for no apparent reason. Someone called the fire marshal and they were like, “Oh, you gotta update to the new fire codes,” this impossible renovation, so they misplaced families, they put us in a hotel. The landlord is depressed, his hair turned white in a week. This house has been in his family for generations. My children are straight-A students, but every time this happens it’s affected their grades, their attendance at school, they’re tardy—they should not have to deal with this.

I think they’re picking on him for renting to Black people. The fire department, when they saw it, 48 hours later they shut us all out. Changing the code—it’s like the police stopping a car, like, “This is a bus now. Everybody gotta get off, and you gotta get a bus license. If you don’t get a bus license, you gotta get off the road.”

*

It’s a really big issue. The current leadership of this country has me the most anxious. I can’t even listen to the radio anymore. I used to listen to NPR all the time, but now every time I hear the so-called President—I can’t even say his name—I have to change the station. I have a violent reaction—I want to yell, to drown out his voice. If they mention his name, I have to turn it off. Now I just listen to WCRB, just music, the classical station.

Where do you get your information now?

News apps and online—the New York Times, the Washington Post, the BBC. I’m interested more in a global perspective. This way it’s in my control if I choose to see his face, or read or hear what he said. He makes me want to do violence to myself or others—mostly others, mostly him.

What do you do when you feel that anger?

I drink alcohol. I joined a gym, I want to be more physically fit.

Have you been involved with any political stuff here in the state?

I haven’t. I used to be active in another state, around the 2004 election. I’ve been voting my whole life, and at first I registered independent, until I found out that in my state you had to be in a party to vote in the primary. I’ve since become disillusioned. I’m not a member of a party—I’m more progressive and left-leaning than most Democrats. There is a woman running for Congress in my district, but I haven’t signed up to volunteer. I think we need more women in positions of power.

What would smooth your path to volunteering?

If I had a sense that it would be time well spent. But if that was what it took, nobody would donate, nobody would volunteer. It’s difficult to fit in with my own personal business, but I’d probably feel better.

*

My wife and I noticed in East Providence, on Massasoit Avenue, there are these abandoned gas tanks, Getty tanks, and someone is building houses there. Who’s gonna want to live there? God knows what’s in the ground there.

*

Global warming trends. Weather patterns seem strange lately. I have some anxiety about cell phones and wireless—what long-term effects of that are there gonna be? Because it’s pretty pervasive.

What does the anxiety feel like, do you feel it physically?

I get a tension in my head, a tightness in my chest.

And what do you usually do after you feel it?

I try to distract myself with reading, doing work or chores around the house. I try to be conscientious, but I have anxiety about some of the things I have around the house that are going into the landfill system.

*

I heard 11 feet by the year 2100.

Where’d you hear it?

Some progressive politics meeting. That’s a good chunk of Rhode Island! I’m filled with anxiety, but it’s not present enough, I have to consciously think of it, and I think that’s why action doesn’t happen. There’s no immediate sign of it that you feel—it’s not like an asteroid heading towards Earth. But it’s gonna have really scary consequences that we haven’t really understood yet. The ecosystem is incredibly elegantly balanced, and because of climate change—I think the Lyme disease outbreak is a consequence of climate change. There’s sea level, there’s stupid simple things that we can picture, but we don’t picture how the rain falling over the wheat is gonna start falling over the Pacific. I’ve decided that this is the issue. Other political issues are just moving deck chairs on the Titanic—what does it matter about income inequality if the planet doesn’t work? I think people feel a bit of helplessness, like, “What can I do”– or they’re like, “Oh, I drive a Prius, I’ve done what I can.” Maybe it’s because I live in a liberal bubble, but I haven’t bumped into that many people who don’t think it’s a real thing, I guess that’s good.

*

I think it’s stressful how much we are consuming and [at the same time] talking about the natural world breaking. I don’t think I can imagine it. So much of my day-to-day life is relying on the Earth. We have this human saturation—not the amount of people but what we’re doing. That’s my new band name, Human Saturation.

What would they sound like?

Maybe really harsh noise. It feels like something down the road. We don’t want to think about it until we inevitably have to deal with it, and we pretend we’re not going to have to. … To have this huge thing that’s happening to everyone, to not acknowledge it is damaging, literally damaging. It’s hard to find one single answer. It has to happen on a huge level—I don’t think a few people biking to work every day is gonna cause change

*

 

I’m coming from a place of statistics. Overpopulation—more people means more waste, more use of natural resources, higher [carbon dioxide] levels. … It’s one of many things that’s gonna happen. Maybe the ice caps melt and we all drown. Maybe we die in a fuckin’ fiery mass of nuclear fallout. It could be a bunch of different things. Massive volcanic eruptions, the sun being blotted out by ash clouds. Who knows how long we have? We all could be living on fuckin’ boats. A massive Atlantis is what I see. There are people who live on water already. Or maybe [carbon dioxide] levels rise and our planet burns to a crisp and we’ll all go live on galactic space stations. Everything has its cycle—part of time is essentially death. … When you work out, you’re breaking your muscles. It takes death to incite growth. We’re all just figments of imagination, we’re specks of dust, a million atomic particles with the capabilities for love. If we pass—you can’t create or destroy energy. Our bodies die but the energy continues. You could wipe all the information off the face of the earth, science will still be science. We’ll be absorbed back into the Creator. Love is my higher power. It’s one way of sort of honoring God, God presents himself to me through the love of other people. … If you show love and be kind, you will be blessed by God. I’ve been clean for a couple of months. I was an addict for 10 years, and what I lacked was love—recognizing and applying love and living by it. Being an addict tends to absorb everything you love, all your interests, all your pleasures. A guy in recovery told me you can trade one thing for everything in your life or you can trade everything in your life for one thing. I’m blessed to have two beautiful children and it’s my duty to make sure that they love themselves first and foremost, but more importantly, that they’re accepting love from others.

map 5-23-18

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

Woonsocket

The box of Eddie St

Coventry

Massasoit Ave

 

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sustain PVD Fair, 5/19/18

Weather: Gray, warmish and drizzly; the event was inside

Number of people: 17 stoppers, 2 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 11.5

People who recognized the Peanuts reference: 3

People I’ve spoken with before, back for more: 3

Photos taken with permission: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $6.33

 

Observations:

Because this was a sustainability event convened by the city, many/most of the people there both as visitors and as presenters had an existing preoccupation with a livable future. This can sometimes give an event the feeling of preaching to the choir, but if you’re in a choir, you might as well sing together. (I said this on Twitter also, but I thought it was good so I’m saying it here as well.)

Possibly related to the above, especially at the beginning of the day, a lot of people wanted to talk about the booth but not have a session.

I’m redacting things like where people live and the organizations they work for, to keep them anonymous, but it also means I miss chances to spread the word about an organization or to let people know that someone else cares about what’s happening to their mutual home.

People often ask me if I’ve noticed changes over the 4+ years I’ve been doing the booth. This season so far, people seem to be talking a lot about a futureless world, a futureless life. Other themes: electoral politics and the connection between “lifestyle” and identity. It’s also worth noting that so far, people imagine their houses being broken into in a time of (for example) extreme food scarcity—but they never imagine that they’d be the ones breaking in.

 

Some conversations:

Roadway flooding with sea level rise. I’m a civil engineer, and I live close to the Providence River down at [REDACTED]. You can visibly see the change, even just when the tide comes in and out. It’s easy to imagine it. Because of the industry I’m in, I hear about it a lot. At the ASCE conference, they announced that their initiative for the next fifteen years is focused on resiliency, a switch to resiliency. So it’s in the forefront of my mind.

At a conference like that, how do people talk about climate change?

There’d be a workshop on a project that’s innovative in terms of climate change resiliency, one on how to get stakeholders on board. That can be tough, because stakeholders will be like, “Why are you talking about this thing that’s not happening when we need to patch this pavement? That’s crazy talk.”

How do you and your colleagues respond to that?

We try to be understanding, put ourselves in their shoes. It’s important to have a good moderator. I’m strictly an engineer, I don’t deal with policy, but you try to get everyone coming to the table and talking about the approach before the projects even start. You don’t hear about resiliency hardly at all right now, especially in the public sphere. I was on a climate resiliency panel for this climate and transportation seminar with Prep RI, trying to just educate our members who are various transportation people in Rhode Island. How is this going to affect traffic signals, roadways, bridges? What is the state doing, what is Boston doing?–these water-adjacent cities

*

The whole economy needs to focus on long-term health and climate change—not just ‘corporate responsibility.’ But I don’t think we’re going to see that kind of mindset unless [something drastic] comes … Are we doing the right approach by only focusing on development plans? … I think we need to focus more on education. I work on policy and development, and it’s an intrinsic thing to be able to think long-term. What we try to do is develop policies [for] cities and states to have more aggressive plans, so that they will be forced to change their behavior to some degree.

What do you think keeps people from changing what they do?

The idea of the good life. People want to enjoy their life, so it’s hard for them to admit that climate change is a problem, because they would have to change their life. We need something that’s really able to show the impacts in a very strong way—make them touch it. Or else—I think people at this age are very set, so they need something to open them up. I do yoga, and it opens you up as a person, it makes you think and feel differently… So you either do it by fear or you do it by sensitivity. I see my friends, they just want to have a good life, but they do care about their kids. But unless a big thing happens somewhere and they realize, like, it will come to you—Some people feel like they’re just immune. I spend a lot of time with people who think about it the way I do, but I also have friends who are in the oil and gas sector.

How do you talk with them about it?

I try to be unbiased, I try to talk mainly factually. I see everyone as a human being. If something doesn’t make sense, I will tell them.

*

I’m glad I’m as old as I am, ’cause I don’t like the way things are going. A lot of people my age feel that same way. My wife does too.

*

From such a young age I didn’t want to have kids. I first found out about global warming through An Inconvenient Truth … Nature is really in danger, and I want to spend all my time protecting it. But it’s hard to get a job doing that—there’s not a lot of funding. I’m working full time and then 20 hours a week with [ENVIRONMENTAL ORGANIZATION], and I’m wondering if what I’m doing is even having an effect. It feels defeating. Politicians aren’t protecting the environment the way that they should. I went to [LOCAL CANDIDATE’S] barnstorm and I’m gonna host a party for his campaign, but I’m having mixed feelings about it because I don’t trust politicians. I’m doing it because I want to be like, “I’m here, holding you accountable!”

What are the things you want to hold him accountable about?

Fields Point cannot happen, the power plant [in Burrillville] cannot happen—and the privatization of water.

This is so pressing, so urgent, I feel it in my bones. The things I connected with people over, I almost feel this disconnect from now. They’re like, “Oh, these conversations are depressing. We’re fine.” But we’re not fine. I want to not just talk about the problems, I wanna talk about the solutions, but people are like, “I have my own things to protect.”

What do you think they’re trying to protect?

I think it’s their leisure—relaxing, and peace of mind. They’re kind of all part of the same music scene, they identify with this concert scene, that’s where they get their sense of pride. That’s supposed to be about coming together. Music is for people to relax, but what are you relaxing from? What work did you do?

… In the back of my head, nothing is good enough. We need such strong action. We’re not there yet, but every step toward it is a victory. We’re crawling, but the more we have people crawling, the stronger the movement’s gonna be. In my head it’s a struggle. I want to tell people, “It makes me happy that you wanna help, but that’s not enough,” but if I talk to someone who doesn’t understand, they’re like, “This is why I didn’t want to get involved.”

*

Convincing suburbanites. I’m retired, and I got a fairly good situation, but I can’t seem to get people in that environment to take this seriously. I talk to people, they’ll recognize that it’s important to—oh, to not litter, or not pollute. But the use of fossil fuels, they really don’t want to hear it. “Oh, I won’t be able to drive my car, I won’t be able to take an airplane to Florida.” As bigger storms happen, as there’s more environmental impact, then it’s gonna be, “Oh yeah, I guess I’m gonna have to be thoughtful about my use of plastics.” People get takeout food from restaurants, all kinds of plastic containers. I know they’re trying to do a ban on plastic bags.

The Sierra Club is terrific, but they’re not a political or an electoral group. Whitehouse and Reed won’t talk about it. The corporations own the Democratic Party. I have a grandchild, a couple of kids, they’re adults now, and I worry about the future for them. I call it brinksmanship—push the problem right up to the breaking point. In the suburbs you can ignore it … But we live five or ten miles away from where they want to build that power plant.

 

*

You gotta have a talk with Mother Nature. She’s been—she doesn’t even know whether she wants to stay hot or cold … I noticed this year we’ve already had a few of those high heat days and here it is the beginning of the season. I went to a five pm service for Christmas and all I had on was a thin sweater. It’s not supposed to do that in December. You got people saying it was a terrible winter, but how could it be a terrible winter? When I was younger we had winter. Poeple have adjusted to the climate.

Do you feel like it affects you in your everyday life?

I don’t know what to wear. I’m thinking, Okay, I leave the house with two layers on and carry another one. I’ve added stuff to my CNA bags—I have bags where I keep a box of gloves, wipes, an extra uniform—and now I should put in a heavier sweater? Maybe better put an umbrella in there? We’re trained to be prepared.

Do you think it could also cause problems for your clients? Like getting to your clients?

The very worst was back in the mall flooding. I live in [REDACTED], I have a client in West Warwick, an 8-10 client. I’m coming out of the client’s house at 10 and I’m noticing that downpour, and the sewer drain is actually lifting. I remember getting home half an hour later and seeing on the news that the mall had flooded. I had to call another CNA who lived on that side to take my client in the morning.

*

All the construction that I’m seeing, particularly on the East Side, but all over Providence. There used to be empty spaces and now they’re being filled with these enormous glass buildings—there’s no empty space anymore between buildings. On Charles St., there’s no space between the sightline from the state house to the park. I’m claustrophobic to begin with, and this is adding to a grander claustrophobia. And all this construction is ignoring the fact that this is still stolen land, so the historical stuff that was there was already an aberration because it was built without any collaboration or blessing from the people whose land this is. All these new homes—everything that’s housing—is being built for people with giant incomes. The housing I’m in is toxic on so many levels, but I can’t afford to get out of it, and so many people can’t afford to get in it, to get placement in a toxic place like I’m living in … and they’re filling up every available space with colonizer steel, concrete and gas.

*

[These two came up together.]

Person 1: I’m worried that buying a house in Rhode Island was a terrible idea because of sea level rise. People close to the coast will have to migrate.

Person 2: I checked and our house is 75-80 feet above sea level.

Person 1: But what about all the people who aren’t 75-80 feet above sea level? You can’t live in a world where your neighbors are flooded out and you’re fine. And then am I gonna have people breaking in because they’re starving? We can’t survive unless all of us survive.

What are some things that we can put in place right now to set up a different path?

We’ve been planting food in our yard. The solution to scarcity is to offer freely, so you have to become a producer and have something to offer. I can’t feed everybody, but maybe I can feed people enough to keep someone from hurting me.

*

My beaches are disappearing. The last time I went sailing–I sail on the coastal waterways and down past the Great Dismal Swamp, where enslaved people used to hide when they escaped. There are all these little islands, beautiful little pine forests. Last time I went there, all dead.

It’s wild how a dead tree is its own gravestone.

Yeah, you can’t hide it.

*

Do you have any anxieties about climate change?

Well, I’m sure we all do. Not the Trump crowd. My family itself are a bunch of right-wingers.

Do you talk about this stuff with them?

I avoid it to some degree and get into it to some degree. When it comes up, I speak my mind. I’ll say, “The glaciers are melting the world.” They try to be more politically correct and say climate change. Not just glaciers but droughts, floods—there’s flooding in Miami, but by the time it gets bad it’s gonna be too late. They’re saying 2040 is gonna be catastrophic. I have a sister in North Kingstown, one in East Greenwich, one in Florida. Our dad was a big right-winger, and I was the only one who was a rebel. Even my mother was like that. [SISTER] is the only one who doesn’t like Trump, but she still goes along.

*

My Maine is gone, it’s there but it’s gone.

*

I don’t think I have that. But my son, he’s seventeen years old, and he’ll say, “You see the weather? That’s because the world’s gonna end.” He just blurts it out, he’s so casual. He may be anxious but I’m not detecting it. You gotta think about it at some point—I don’t know what part of the day he starts thinking about that. He might get a rise out of telling you, but if you ask him he’s not gonna bring it up.

… Death is a part of life. My [vision] is to live out to 100 or whatever in peace and harmony. That was always my vision from when I was a little girl.

*

My climate anxieties are the same as they were last year and the year before and I already talked to you about them.

map 5-19-18

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

power plant 😦

RADON

State parks

RIVER ROAD + SMALL FOREST

West End Bucklin Park

Rocky Point

Beach erosion