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

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Climate Anxiety Counseling at Sankofa World Market/Sowing Place, 7/7/18

Tomorrow (Saturday), July 7th, I’ll be at the Sankofa World Market’s collaboration with Sowing Place, out back of the South Side Cultural Center (393 Broad St, Providence), 11am-3pm, to listen to your climate-change-related and other anxieties.

If you come there to talk to me, you can also buy local vegetables, plants and art, take a tai ch’i workshop, and listen to good live music. There’s stuff for kids to do, too. Last time, they made slime.

 

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, 6/8/18

Weather: Warm, bright, sometimes breezy, sometimes heavy.

Number of people: 7 stoppers, 1 walkby.

Number of hecklers: 0!

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

Dogs seen: 8

Dogs pet: 0

Cats seen: 2, in a stroller

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $10.25!

 

Observations:

I forgot my notebook, but people I know who were working in the park shared some paper with me.

A cop car drove through at 11:44, and one that might have been an unmarked one was parked by the old Greyhound stop.

Seeded the map with “asthma in South PVD.”

I was a bit late starting because I stopped to chat with two friends. The first food truck arrived at 11:30, soon after I did. After some deliberation, at noon I switched sides, west-facing to east-facing.

Things I couldn’t help with today included the location of the barbecue truck and the high enzymes in someone’s liver.

I swear that the second conversation down is not secretly a dialogue with myself.

 

Some conversations:

 

 

 

I’m generally a person who has anxiety about things outside of my control. I keep it at bay through relaxation techniques: stepping back from events, looking through a lens other than time. Am I anxious about climate, yes. Is it as intense as my other anxieties, no, ’cause it’s so gradual. It’s not like there are that many days where the heat is so intense. It’s so hard to feel something out of your own personal experience. It’s the same reason that the world has no empathy for each other.

… I have this unrealistic and yet very overwhelming expectation to do everything right all the time—a certain unrealistic way of organizing one’s life. [It comes from] a very superficial set of learned rules from when I was a child. It takes active unlearning in how I’ve got to operate. In my later life, the ways in which I’m trying to carve new ways and understandings of doing things—it has some opposition with some of the other ways. … I’m good at thinking, but that plays into my anxiety. How much thinking do we spend on things that don’t require thinking?

*

Definitely climate change is at the top. Plastic particularly. I’ve been feeling guilty this week concerning plastics. I’m really busy right now, so I eat on the run, and I was cleaning out my car and there were five-six different coffee cups all with straws. It’s not right, and I need to do something about that.

I hear you on the plastic but I want to talk about the busyness for a second, can we?

Sure. I overcommitted myself. I have a hard time saying no. I can get things done and I’m pretty good with the stress of managing things, but different things overlap and I’m pulled in all different directions. I didn’t acknowledge it until I became an adult. I said yes to one thing, and then something happened that I couldn’t say no to. So that was two big things, then I just kept going, “Oh, you need this, and this.” And these are all things that I love to do! I want to do them! I have a stake in it. It was clear in the beginning what the parts were, but the rest of it came from being a perfectionist and adding more things on, [and] then I have an idea so I want to follow that through. But I cannot follow all of these. I need to collect them and do them at a later date. But I got to the point with these where it was too late for that.

What’s something you think you might take with you from everything you’ve just been telling me?

To try to do more planning ahead. To be more organized earlier on rather than doing crisis management. Taking a minute to sort things out, doing what’s right in front of me.

*

I work by the river, right where they put in the new footbridge, and after Waterfire there are these weeds that catch everything. You know that big silver sculpture, and the steps where the ducks are? … There’s graffiti down there, too, it says, “Where will we go when the water rises?” and sometimes it’s covered a bit.

*

I worry about [the cats], I worry about the noise—just constant worry. I had a cat that was sick and died two years ago, and that may be why I worry a lot with them. If they don’t finish their food I get shaky and nervous, I get irritable. They’re working on our building, and there’s all this noise, and men going up and down. I was worried about how they’d react to it, but they seem pretty good.

*

 

 

I’m an environmental educator, and something that comes up a lot for me is hearing in people the resistance to learning anything about climate change, or resistance to doing anything. I just moved up from the South. People in the Northeast are more informed.

What age of people do you work with?

People my age to their 60s. They tend to be pretty informed. And then with students, 15-18. It’s hard to identify what everyone is resistant to. People have twenty different things they don’t want to know, or care, or spend time learning about. It’s easy for me to see that I’m not alone, so I’m trying to get them to join in any movement—even recycling—then they wouldn’t be alone. If they spent a portion of every day of their lives thinking about climate change, maybe we could do something about it.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/1/18

Weather: Cool, humid/sticky, gray; spitting rain followed by steady rain

Number of people: 8 stoppers, no walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 6.5

People who got the Peanuts reference: 1

Pictures taken with permission: 1

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

Dogs seen: 4

Dogs pet: 0, but one sniffed me

Rabbits seen: 1, black and white, on a pink leash

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $5.05

 

Observations:

I started late because I was helping a friend clean, and ended early because of rain. At 12:55 I moved into the park, inside the drip zone of a sycamore; at 1:30 it became clear that the rain was only going to get worse.

Two food trucks on the western side of the entrance, one on the eastern side. I was on the eastern side facing west.

I meant to bring chalk (for kids to draw on the sidewalk) today, but forgot when it was time to remember.

Two cops walked up to get food from a food truck at 1:09.

This day afforded me an opportunity to put my questions for conspiracy theorists into practice.

 

Some conversations:

I’ve been changing my outlook on things. There’s always going to be a mix of positive and negative.

Last time we talked, you were thinking a lot about the ocean. How are you feeling about that these days?

I feel that there’s a lot of people who are gonna take action where that is concerned. One anxiety that I do have right now is that the job market is going to be totally eliminated by technology. I studied accounting, and businesses don’t care about how they eliminate expenses.

*

I feel like it’s kinda been proven but hasn’t at the same time that the government—have you heard of chemtrails? … There’s a conspiracy that the government is basically dropping pollutants out of the sky and you can see it sometimes and it’s harming our immune systems …

How does it make you feel, when you think about that?

It makes me feel worried, just worried about the world and like the climate is changing. You see a lot of animals dying. I don’t like that at all. I’m worried about myself as well—I don’t know how I feel about it. I’m here, I’m living, I don’t really have to go through something like that yet, but I do. It’s happening right under our noses. That’s not the only thing I see about climate change. I feel as if the sun is getting—it can affect our moods. This is coming from somebody who’s an athlete: there’s a difference between how people play, like say basketball, in the winter, inside in a gym, and how they play outside in the summertime. The hole in the ozone layer is really starting to hit now—you see a lot of things changing.  … Certain weather is making humans—just like destroying the natural flow of some things. The snow hasn’t been regular. It’s confusing the birds. It’s confusing a lot of things. A lot of the problems we’ve been going through—there’s a little bit of humans causing harm to our environment. At the same time, I think it’s weather manipulation. It’s a way for the government to say that the reason that a lot of these things are happening is because of what humans are doing.

Why do you think they would do that?

It all has to do with energy. The government is trying to control anything that they can control—citizens as well. When it’s hot, emotions run higher, everything’s quicker, everything’s more sensitive. Winter is the opposite, everything goes into hibernation. When it’s hot, everybody wants to pop out. There’s an increase in death and murder in the summertime versus in the winter, especially for people in negative environments.  If the government manipulates the weather … especially in rough neighborhoods, where people are already in a tough situation, you’re gonna get them feeling some type of way. It works on certain people. You could test this theory, just come out here during wintertime and then in summertime. I know it’s hard to believe.

What do you think would happen if people had more knowledge of it?

There’s not much we can really do about it. You can’t really control anybody else. I could try to inform people about it, but that does—the only people that would want to learn are the people who are willing to understand. Some people just won’t believe it just with me telling them—they’re gonna want solid facts, evidence. I mean there are facts, there are documents. There was this CIA plot, it was a depopulation project. This world, America, is getting bigger by the second and supplies only last for so long. Cutting the population down a little bit—well, a lot—helps. I believe that the people who are in the highest power in this world aren’t in it for the money, they’re in it just for power, the power and the control, and you can only control so many people. Look at the food we have to eat. If you go to the grocery store, the stuff they have the most of is not the healthiest thing to eat. You can’t hide from the world that you live in, but you can balance it. You can balance your own world.

How do you do that?

Well, mentally, balancing your logic and your emotions. Then the evils of the world can’t really get to you. Knowing how to react to certain things—when I play sports, there’s certain characters, they get frustrated easily and I understand that. But if they were to balance themselves—it’s picking and choosing your battles, weighing out your battles—“Is this battle heavy enough to make a battle?” Stopping, thinking and then getting into it.

*

What about the theory that the earth is just breathing? If you look at the climate, the earth is just breathing a bit. We do have an ozone problem that we’re trying to take care of. There’s more to get to protect our environment.

More to get?

Getting means [carbon dioxide] emissions. We need to spend more to get more out of our environment.

I still don’t understand what you mean by getting. Getting more resources? Getting more time?

Getting more resources.

I often ask people where they get their information, so where are you getting your information about this?

From my brother who’s a biologist. He used to work for the DEM monitoring streams and waters.

Can I talk to him?

My brother’s a very private person.

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling TODAY at the Sankofa World Market, 2-6pm!

Today is my last day this season at the Sankofa World Market, and I hope you’ll come visit me there between 2 and 6pm today. I have some beautiful drawings of Rhode Island organisms to share, and I want to hear what you’re worrying about.

I had hoped to continue at Sankofa through September, but I can’t do that, keep my other promises, and remain reasonably well, so I’m calling it early.  (I might do one more session at the Armory Park Farmer’s Market later in September.) Please come and visit me today.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Armory Park Farmers’ Market, 8/24/17

Weather: Temperate, with clouds and sun, cool toward the end

Number of people: 10 stoppers, no walkbys that I noticed

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7

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

Dogs seen: 23

Dogs pet: 4

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.60

 

Observations:

Still didn’t line up an interpreter. Bad move on my part, and not fair. A friend who also works at the Sankofa World Market says that he can do it next time if it’s a language he knows.

I was in a different spot than my last time at this market—in the shade, over by the busiest vendor.

I had a long conversation with someone that I didn’t get permission to record. She came back with an apple: “’Cause you helped me out with some advice so I’m helping you out with something to eat.”

Two girls added their houses to the map, and a grandma marked the park itself and talked with me about dog attacks and plums. She came back to show me the plums in her walker compartment. And a little boy added a number 1. When I saw him pointing it out to his parents, I held up one finger and he did it back.

 

Some conversations:

I actually had a very bad day with climate anxieties last week. Too much New York Times and spending too much time on Twitter. A lot of doom and gloom, a lot of false insistence that the end is very very near.

What happens when you read things like that?

I get scared instantly, and I dive into it one thousand percent. A whole day is lost. It’s hopelessness coupled with an underlying desire/understanding of—it’s harder to live amidst the changing world rather than be like, “It’s all over.” It is way way harder to imagine the world not ending than the world ending.

What do you imagine it being like—the world not ending?

Things getting materially really difficult for a large number of people. It’ll probably include a lot of geopolitical conflict over who gets what resources and who is allowed to go where in light of restricted ability to [inhabit] certain areas. We’ll have to fight people who are trying to claim resources and then sell them back to us.

And what do you see yourself doing in this world?

That’s a harder question to answer. I’m moving to LA next month. I grew up there … In a locally specific way, LA was built on making a grab for resources. It exists the way it does because someone was like, “We can bring water here.” I’m thinking of focusing in on that as a site of action, while trying to keep an eye on everything else. In focusing in on one area, there’s this inherent feeling of failure that you’re not doing anything in all the other areas.

Is there a way to combat that?

I guess talking to people working in those other fields and understanding what’s on the horizon. More reading, more conversation. It also helps when I think that this earth was around before us and it will be around after us. But it hurts a ton. It’s just hard—and it’s hard to grieve for something that’s in progress.

*

I’m worried about coastal communities. I’m a geology student, and we used StormTools —you know about that?–to do a project on Misquamicut Beach. It’s gonna be gone very soon. It’s really concerning to me–it doesn’t seem like anyone is that panicked about it, and we should be. Down there, there are a lot of second homes, vacation homes, but there’s also lower middle class communities, people who can’t afford to pick up and move, and those houses are gonna be worth nothing.

Do you feel like people know about this?

I’m only aware of this because it’s a big topic in geology. The general public is not well informed. I went to that talk on gentrification, and the guy was like, “Who’s heard of StormTools?” and when people put their hands up, he was like, “Now everybody who’s a professional, put your hands down,” and I was the only one who kept mine up.

Is it hard to use?

The labels are kind of confusing. People wouldn’t necessarily know the abbreviations. It could be cool to have a workshop on it at the library. And I would love to do one on energy, with this rate hike.

*

I read the article that everybody read— “Here’s all the horrible things that are gonna happen.” All my friends texted me, and I texted everyone. Everyone was just like, “There’s nothing to do. None of us should plan for the future.” But then I talked to my girlfriend’s dad about it, he’s a climate scientist and a lawyer, and he was like, “It’s gonna be fine.” But he’s into engineering climate science so that everyone can continue not changing their behavior. He’s into nuclear energy. I don’t know if I believe him

… I’m thinking about where I wanna live. My partner’s buying a house—do I stay here and help her paint the bathroom? Maybe the best thing she can be doing is running a cooperative house and keeping the rent really cheap. And then I read another article that was like, “Do not move to New York if you’re a white person with a college degree, we don’t need any more of you.” But that’s another question: where are people going?

*

I’m always moving too fast. They call me “the turbo.” When I start a job, I’m anxious until I finish it, and what I don’t like is I don’t get the same treatment back. Someone else will do it, but it doesn’t come fast enough out. It’s always a fight– “You don’t move as fast as I do, so I think you don’t want to.” It’s not as important to them.

*

It seems like everyone I know is getting seriously ill. My mother had breast cancer, and I’m convinced that much of it’s environmental.

Are you worried that it might come back?

All the time. Everytime something goes on [with her health] that’s my first thought. And then I was supposed to hang out with a friend today, but she called me and she was like, “I can’t, I’m panicking, I got bad news from my doctor.” All I know is she has to go for tests.

Yeah, the uncertainty–

–adds a whole extra level. Each piece of news get worse. With my mom, I got to the point where I dreaded taking her to appointments, and even though it’s been four years, you drop back into it. It’s like emotional anaphylactic shock … It felt ubiquitous for a while. I’m also getting older, so things like this are happening more.

How do you respond during these times, what do you do?

I guess I just try to be helpful. With my mom it was a different thing. With friends, I try to help on the day to day. Making food, that’s always good. Walking dogs. Checking in if they need to talk.

And how do you deal with it for yourself?

Doing what I can to help people helps me deal with it. I’m also glad I have the job that I have. With my mom, I did not take care of myself in a lot of ways, it wasn’t just the cancer, she had a nervous breakdown and I had to take care of her, but in Rhode Island we have TDI. So I talked to a doctor to get time off work, and I would not have been able to continue doing it without that.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 7/1/17

Weather: Hot and muggy turning cool and muggy

Number of people: 6 stoppers, 3 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7

Pictures taken without permission: 1

Dogs seen: 2

Dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $3.11

 

Observations:

A thinner crowd today in Kennedy Plaza and the park overall, and fewer people talking with me.

Lots of people wanted to tell me their ideas about things today. A former printer and sign-letterer and self-declared Trump voter talked to me for around an hour today (mostly to, not with) and ended up by outlining his idea for taking money from wealthier towns and giving to poorer towns to pay for health care.

Much less overt police activity today. I noticed one car parked at the Dorrance Street end of Kennedy Plaza at 4:22, but it could have been there for much longer.

I ran into someone who talked with me earlier in the season and I was able to give him some information I forgot to give him the first time, but he also asked me, “How are your anxieties?” and I didn’t tell him how grateful I was that he asked me, so: C, I am so, so grateful. And the moral of this story is that even when you get a second chance, sometimes you need a third one; and the moral of this story is that so much more could happen if we all had and used the chance to know each other, slowly, over time.

 

Some conversations:

I have United Healthcare. It’s not easy with this Affordable Care Act—a lot of people can’t get health care at all. You shouldn’t force people to get health insurance. But this what they’re doing, it’s the baby with the bathwater. Adjust it, sure, it could use adjustments, but it seems like it’s gonna make it worse. Seems like every word out of Trump’s mouth is a lie.

What would you like to see in a president? What would make you want to vote for someone?

It seems like they all kinda lie a lot. They make promises and they know they can’t keep it, they have no intention of keeping it. Donald Trump lied about his belief system, and a lot of evangelical Christians bought into his lies. My old pastor is in Dallas, I still follow what he’s doing, and I’m shocked at how much he supports him. People hate Hillary so much that they become blinded. Hate blinds us, we become blinded. [Donald Trump] believes greed is good …

*

I think it’s terrible, I think the climate change is terrible. I don’t know much about it. I’m an ex-garbageman, and I saw how in New York what they do with all their rubbish—the just drop it in the ocean! That can’t be good for the climate change. [Holds up the cap to his water bottle.] Plastic. Plastic will be here for millions of years. It’s the only thing we’re gonna leave that will be here for millions of years. I ran a rubbish business for nearly 30 years, and I came up with the recycling program [for my company]. I started with cardboard, paper, newspaper, and I made them $1.2 million in the first year. I liked my work. I came up with the idea. They didn’t stick with it–$1.2 million was not enough for them to keep the recyclable part of it … I hate [climate change], I don’t like it, and I’d wanna fight it if I can.

*

[These two are friends with each other, and also friends with me. They came up together.]

Person 1: [Person 2] and I were just over there smoking a cigarette, and I was thinking about the policies of smoke and secondhand smoke, and the recent criminalization of smoking.* Whose interests is that in? Smoke is so complicated. The people who manufacture cigarettes are the worst people in the world. Cigarettes are targeted toward the most vulnerable people—I was reading how they’re targeted toward queer youth. They’re simultaneously really bad and really important to many people’s survival. [My partner] always carries a pack of cigarettes and they’re mostly to smoke, but they always give one to anyone who asks. It’s awful to be addicted—I’m not addicted, I don’t smoke that often—but it also feels like an act of resistance [to smoke and drop the butt], even though I’m complicit in the destruction of this greenery, against this demand that I take part in beautifying this space, this system of beauty that’s a way of reifying whiteness and [keeping] this park for the rich.

Person 2: And the law is directly aimed at people who are waiting for the bus.

Person 1: Which directly impacts poor people of color and people with disabilities. Whose environment is it? Why should I protect the environment for rich people? The law isn’t there to protect you, it’s there to target you.

Person 2: [I’m worried about] constant expansion. Specifically, “Oh, we’ll just add one more thing, that won’t detract from the wildlife.” Until you have a million new things and then you have a city. My older brother lives in [REDACTED] and there’s a little bit of swampland in our backyard, and the neighbors dumped construction refuse into the mineral spring that feeds into it. It’s turning into a meadow slowly. When I was up there, I went around collecting all the garbage, but I know other houses on my block have been actively littering. The biggest thing I found in there were these kids’ motorized fake plastic motorcycles. Bottles and cans, lawn stuff, like the tubing for gutters—just a ton of stuff …

Person 1: Who does that?

 

*Doctor’s note: There’s been a smoking ban in the park for a while, and there is now a ban on smoking outside it but near the fence.

Alternate Histories: Refusal 1

The next day, every medical and dental practice that treated a member of Congress removed their annual checkups and their colonoscopies and their root canals and their physiotherapy appointments from their schedules.

From that day forward, every medical receptionist looked blank when a congressperson came in. The dermatologists and urologists said they were so sorry, but they weren’t taking new patients. Pharmacists shrugged and said they’d never received that prescription. Chiropractors and podiatrists and acupuncturists, even the few psychotherapists–all  doors were closed, all voices smooth and regretful.

At the urgent care clinic, congresspeople watched old people in compression hose, little kids with cold sores, a pregnant woman in her early 40s, a blue-haired person in a wheelchair go in ahead of them to see a doctor. We’re sorry, they said at the desk, we’re sorry, we can’t help you.

*

This refusal is accompanied by an invitation to call elected officials about the Affordable Care Act, today, if you live in Providence and are free between 12 and 3; by a second invitation to pay attention to Fight4Medicare and see what you can do for them in the coming days.

This refusal is in memory of Esmin Green.