Climate Anxiety Counseling in June 2019!

If you have anxieties about climate change and its effects, you can come talk with me at these times and places in Providence. These are the ones that are for sure right now; I will add more if I can set up more.

Wednesday, June 5th, 2-5pm, Burnside Park (opposite Kennedy Plaza)

Thursday, June 6th, 2-5pm, Burnside Park

Saturday, June 8th, starting at 12pm and going till… in Burnside Park as part of PVDFest

Wednesday, June 12th, 2-5pm, Burnside Park

Thursday, June 13th, 2-5pm, Burnside Park

Friday, June 14th, 2-5pm, Burnside Park

Saturday, June 15th, 2-5pm, Burnside Park

Sunday, June 16th, 2-5pm, Burnside Park

Monday, June 17th, 2-5pm, Burnside Park

*

Wednesday, June 19th, 2-6pm, Sankofa World Market (275 Elmwood Ave)

Wednesday, June 26th, 2-6pm, Sankofa World Market

(I’ll also be at the Sankofa World Market in July and August!)

*

If you come and talk to me, I’ll listen, ask you some questions, possibly make some suggestions and give you a little piece of art to keep, featuring one of our nonhuman RI neighbors.

ri organism card front

You can also mark your worries about specific places on a map of the state and nearby waters.

map 8-29-18

If you want me to come to your Rhode Island town (or even further afield, up to a point), email me at my gmail address, publiclycomplex, or talk to me on Twitter. (Climate Anxiety Counseling has a Facebook page too but I don’t use it very much.)

Some other things that are coming this summer and that I’ll post more about soon:

*Write to the Energy Facilities Siting Board and Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management to stop Invenergy’s fracked-gas power plant in Burrillville! You’ll be able to fill them out at the counseling booth, and I will send them in for you; you can also do them online for the EFSB (a petition with explanations and a comment that you can adapt) and RI DEM (instructions for submitting comments and the email address where you should send them).

*GUEST COUNSELORS! If you would like to be one, please let me know.

*Climate anxiety support group? Maybe? A couple of people have told me they’re interested; let me know if you’re interested too.

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Day 1: Locating Ourselves & Racial Identity Formation

For the Food Solutions New England 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge; prompt here. I did the signup wrong so am starting late. (Some of this seems a little…potentially burdensome for people of color? “Consider talking with someone you know, who would be willing, who identifies as being of a different race”?)

I feel like the number of words that anyone wants to read from a white person about being white is limited, no matter what the words are, so I will try to keep it short (for me, this is short):

When I was a kid I knew I was Jewish, because my family talked about it (and so, occasionally, did other people). I didn’t know I was white; most of the people I knew were, and none of us talked about it.

Thinking critically about whiteness and white supremacy started for me mayyyybe ten, twelve years ago? (I am 40.) The work of a number of online writers, mainly Black women, mainly writing for readers of color, laid some groundwork and so did the act of participating in the conversation ONLY by listening. This enabled me to both read more deeply and learn more from people I know as well.

My sense of myself as a colonizer or settler, or at least as someone who reaps the benefits of those enterprises, is much younger, maybe three years. The pattern is similar: this is a lesson started for me by writers and thinkers online, on Twitter and elsewhere, in a way that has enabled me to continue reading more deeply and learning more from people I know.

Between these two, I would say that my present sense of white people is something like, “People who, when we live someplace, make things worse there.” One way I try to address this is by not going very many places, or into very many contexts, unless I am invited–though sometimes I ask for an invitation.

The prompt asks, “How do you think about your own racial identity and its relevance to your life, work, studies and/or volunteerism in the food system (or as an eater)?” Certainly my class, as shaped by my race, affects what I can afford to buy to eat. This also affects the time and energy I have available to volunteer with Hope’s Harvest RI, which I do from time to time (maybe you can too?). And the food that I eat is grown/raised on land shaped by colonization, genocide and enslavement, and in many cases grown by people who–partly because of white supremacist interference in their or their ancestors’ countries of origin, partly because of the way capitalism and white supremacy work together now–are trapped and depleted by the work that they do.

For four years now the Sankofa Market in Providence has kindly hosted the Climate Anxiety Counseling booth (they’re looking for gardening volunteers! Email dresendes AT westelmwood DOT org!)–and I infer that my being white, in a neighborhood mostly dwelt in by people of color (at a farmers’ market where most of the vendors are people of color, which is an offshoot of a housing development corporation that has a high proportion of both staff and participants of color) affects people’s willingness to speak with me–as well as activating my own background racism, though I try to be aware of it and not let it shape the way I’m interacting with people. Here is a picture of me, so you can see what people see when they look at me.

my face mom hat

Passover is coming up, one of the two Jewish holidays that my family celebrates as a family. I love it; I love the way that my own family has made room to acknowledge the holiday’s complexities and complicities, and the format of the Seder has been a huge influence on the way that Climate Anxiety Counseling works. There is a long email thread about who’s going to cook what, which I have mostly been ignoring, but I just made a deal with my mom about the brisket (grass-fed, organic, expensive, probably from McEnroe Farm), on Matabesec Mohegan land–which, full disclosure, I never knew until I looked it up to write this): if she teaches me how to cook it, I will do the part she hates, which is slicing it up before putting it back in the gravy.

Climate Anxiety Counseling at the Southside Cultural Center Holiday Market and Extravaganza! 12/15

A rare winter booth appearance (indoors, indoors)! The Southside Cultural Center is holding a Holiday Market and Extravaganza TOMORROW, 12/15, and the booth and I will be there to listen to your climate anxieties and other anxieties as we stumble together toward the end of 2018. There will also be performances, craft vendors, and music. 12-4pm, 393 Broad St., Providence. Come on by!

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[Image: tree roots that have displaced bricks and gathered soil, grass and moss, all in winter sunlight.]

Climate Anxiety Counseling/Call to the Dead TODAY, and Call to Action

Today is the last Sankofa World Market. I’ll be there starting at 3pm and going till sunset. Come and share your climate-change-related anxieties and other anxieties with me.

At the end of my stint I’ll lead a brief ritual honoring all the humans and nonhumans who have already died because of climate change and its effects, and inviting them to speak to the people who have knowingly caused the worst damage.

In the wake of FERC’s decision to allow the LNG plant in Providence to go forward, the FANG Collective is calling for people to participate in a range of direct actions to stop both this and the fracked-gas Invenergy plant in Burrillville, RI. Please read this pledge and see if there’s anything on it that you are willing to commit to; if you want to talk that decision through with me today, I will try to help.

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[Image: a Black girl in a parka, drawing on the Rhode Island map of worries, next to the Providence Community Library sign for Knight Memorial Library.]

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market/Knight Memorial Library, 10/3/18

Weather: Cool, gray, then some blue skies but the sun still covered.

Number of people: 2 stoppers, 0 walkbys.

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7

Dogs seen: 2

Dogs pet: 2

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.35

 

Observations:

I brought cookies today and shared them with the vendors. Rani shared a chicken empanada with me.

A person drove by blasting “Beat It,” which was good.

Nonhuman animal presences: yellowjacket, who landed on my notebook; honeybee, who flew past; seagulls and pigeons overhead; sparrows in the grass; ant crawling on my notebook too; squirrel posing on library steps.

 

Some conversations:

I feel like I’m gonna explode. I’m from Utah, and I keep thinking about how Utah is just on fire and nobody in the Northeast thinks about how the West is on fire. It feels like all the power is concentrated here, away from the impact, and all the impact is in the places that have no power. It’s so scary. Utah has less than one million people in it, but so much land and really really horrible politicians. It’s always sort of freaky to be in this part of the world [the Northeast US]… When I was a kid, we’d have to build our Halloween costumes over snowsuits. Now it doesn’t snow till mid-December.

How do people in Utah talk about it?

Not like it’s a futurity. Like it’s already happening. The tenor of it is apolitical. A lot of people are ranchers and farmers, and they’re noticing what’s going on. We have no water anymore. I think it’s more like people are adjusting to new normals—there’s not really the sense that there’s anything that’s possible to do about it in a substantial enough way, which I kind of think is right, I think that’s probably true.

So they think about it as something more concrete.

More concrete and less changeable. It’s almost a relief to be in it in that way. Like there [was] a fascist rally this Saturday here, and that’s freaky but these’s also a sense of relief. It uncovers things we know are already there. With the climate out West, it’s more alarming and visible and tangible, you can see it for what it really is, it’s not clogged by all this other stuff. There’s so much concrete—I feel disconnected from my body out here. Out West I feel like I have a relationship to the land. It’s fraught in all kinds of ways by whiteness and colonialism, but it’s also a real relationship to place. Here, I forget I have a body. But also, here, I sort of have to work for it and I think there’s something really beautiful and special about that. The Northeast doesn’t offer itself to you very easily. When I moved back to Salt Lake City I felt alienated in a different way because there are these very easy and superficial relationships to place: you can drive for ten minutes and be at the foot of a 12,000-foot peak. You don’t have to work for it in the same way and there’s something special about that spiky exterior.

How do we live with this feeling?

It feels like a disservice to not feel it … The question of scalability feels important. I want to resist individualizing crises, and also, what does it look like to live consistently [with your principles]? I don’t know if you know the book Joyful Militancy, by Carla Bergman, but she writes about prefigurative politics, the effort to build the world that you’re trying to live in in the immediate present.

What are some ways that you do that, or try to do that?

I work with [REDACTED]. That feels concrete and meaningful, helping people get access to BAs. I live in [a collective] house, and we grow a lot of our own food. Living collectively feels really important, practicing reciprocity that’s not one to one. Making bread for people.

What would you like to be doing?

I’d like to dance more. I’d like to find more somatic practices. I’m more able to do the work that I’m doing when I feel in my body … I’m thinking about adrienne maree brown saying, “A flexible body is a strong body.” Fight or flight makes our bodies rigid.

*

What’s the thing you can’t say in a public context but that you can say to me now?

We’re so fucked. We are losing. We are going to lose this.  In the movies, you always know that things are bad when the scientists are saying they’re bad. But scientists are saying that and nobody really cares …Miami is already flooding, California is already burning. You go about your business, you hang out with your friends, people come over for dinner, and then you check the weather report.  I think letting people know in enough time, so that displacement isn’t traumatic … The more sudden it is, the more traumatic it is. If you go to a psychic and they say, “In two years, your whole block’s gonna burn down,” if you believe them, you have time to prepare. But if they say, “Tomorrow your house is gonna burn down,” or if your house is already burning—How can we say this in a way that people might be able to use…?

[Image: a photo of sporangia on the bottom of a displaced fern, seen in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.]

Climate Anxiety Counseling TODAY, Sankofa World Market/Knight Memorial Library, 3-6pm

Hi, everyone. I hope you’ll come see me at the Sankofa Market today, outside the Knight Memorial Library (275 Elmwood Ave) between 3 and 6pm today. You can also buy a vegetable, taste a cooking demo, listen to some live music, and watch kids run around.

I was going to post a photo of some sporangia that I saw at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, but now I can’t find it.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market/Knight Memorial Library, 9/26/18

Weather: Gray, humid, sprinkling rain. Later, breezy and cooling off some.

Number of people: 4 stoppers, no walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 3

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $1.00

 

Observations:

Short shift (4-6pm) today because of a meeting.

It’s pretty common for me to have conversations about farming and food when I do the booth at the farmers’ market. I think the three different ways these three different people are talking about them are illuminating.

Yellowjackets; cricket sounds.

 

Some conversations:

It’s a big world out there. It feels like a lot of things are ending, which, what do we do about that?

What do you do about it?

 I grow more plants, I learn about growing plants. I come to things like this.

 When is it that you feel anxious?

 Reading a new piece of news about, oh, the ways that communities are experiencing the world changing around them.

What does it feel like, when you read that or see that?

 Some kind of dread. But in many  cases it’s very removed from my actual life. It’s like I get an echo of what’s happening.

 Are there times when it feels more immediate?

 Looking around—my grandfather is a big gardener, and talking with him about things that have changed in his lifetime, like, he can grow these peppers for longer. It kinda feels positive—he feels like he can grow more stuff. English is not his first language, and he doesn’t read that much, so what he knows is mostly what my sisters and I talk to him about. So it’s one step removed, the dread—he gets it filtered through us. He’s good at focusing on the here and now.

 Is that something you can kind of learn from him?

 It feels like it’s something out of reach, but it’s good to tap into—to work in the here and now.

Do you have conversations with other people about this?

 Yeah, but a lot of the conversations I have are not very productive. Some of them end in like a feeling of dread or incapacitation—it doesn’t go anywhere and I kind of feel like it’s a copout, but how to move past that?

 What would happen if you moved past it by going through it?

 Often it’s either been with people or in spaces where we’re not able to be intentional about moving past that. It needs a devotion of time and energy, and you can’t do that individually, and the stars gotta align to have what you need to do it communally.

What would that look like?

 It would look like something that if it exists—it should look different from anything that we’re used to.

* 

It’s a bigger thing than me recycling. I do all the good things that people should do, I have dreams of owning my own little piece of land. But it’s no use doing my part unless I can get other people to do their part. The work I do, the nature of my work, kinda goes in that direction. I grow sunflowers at my house, I give ’em away to my neighbors—the other day there was a big group, a big bunch of middle schoolers, and I offered them sunflowers and they were all like ugh, you’re a dork, like my nephew’s that age. But there was this one, she didn’t want to admit that she wanted one, but she came back later.

… I feel guilty when I’m driving a car. On an individual level I do what I can, but on a macro level it’s too big for just me. Even if push comes to shove and we have to deal with some kind of environmental tragedy, we’ll handle it, hopefully. “Okay, what do we do now that the world’s underwater?” One thing that does worry me is that a lot of people close to me live in food deserts, food insecurity. Like one of the kids I was talking to [at CityFarm], she was like, “My family are farmers, but I go hungry sometimes.” So yeah, we’re giving food to the neighborhood, but what’s happening on the other side of the table? … I’m always mindful of it. I’ve gotten friends involved … It’s dope to meet people and get them interested in your interests. I’m much more into the personal interactions than I am in leading a movement. Empowering people to grow their own food– “You know what a ton of mint you can grow in this little pot? Try it!” People like to start with succulents. Something that stuck with me from childhood: Rich Petersen from CityFarm, he’s been my mentor, and he was like, “Food is one thing everybody has in common, ’cause everybody has to eat.” You can use food as a connecting tool. This one guy, I gave him a handful of huskcherries. He didn’t wanna try ’em but eventually I’ll get him.

 *

I have a lot of concern about farmers and how they’re impacted by climate change. There was some crop I was reading about recently where there was a blight, it was a very poor crop this year, and it was related to climate change. Oh, corn. One clue after the next, that’s something. With seafood—seafood is very affected by the warming of the waters. Jonah crab is becoming a thing here, and it’s great to have jonah crab, but it’s also a symbol of warming waters. How it’s affecting lobsters, other shellfish—I’m in the food business so I think about it from that point of view.

 And also the things that eat lobsters, the things that lobsters eat—

 Of course, it’s a whole ecosystem getting disrupted.

 When was this first brought to your attention?

I’m personally not engaged in any advocacy for climate change. I have a lot of colleagues who—that’s much more in their wheelhouse, and I support the work that theyre doing. Water, energy, the environment—food is the nexus of a lot of things … I’m worried and frustrated because not everybody in the political world is as excited about this. That’s what we need, to change a lot of things. And it’s hard when you come from a state that’s pretty democratic. If I was in a purple state I might be more involved.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market/Sowing Place, 9/1/18

Weather: sticky heat underlying coolness, then hot bright sun

Number of people: 3 stoppers, no walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 3

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.00

Observations:

I asked two of the teenage market helpers to write on the map. They wrote “Cranston” on top of “Smithfield” very neatly in the top corner. Later, they were doing gymnastics and one walked a few “steps” on her hands.

I had a long talk with one of the other vendors about adjunct teaching and dealing with her elderly father’s care. We know each other a little now, so I was familiar with both situations and able to ask about them. When does something cross over from counseling and into just knowing each other, though not well?

During a conversation that I didn’t get permission to post, I think I argued too much/got too defensive.

Spotted: big carpenter bees flying together; big brown dragonfly; ladybug hitting my wrist, falling on my thigh, flying away; cabbage white butterfly; two flies landing on my money jar. There were also tons of wasps and yellowjackets, and lots of humans reacting to them: “I got stung by my first bee like two weeks ago so I’m just not agreeing with anything that’s happening right now.”

The DJ played Aretha Franklin all through the second half of the market.

A conversation:

When politicians don’t accept the fact of climate change. Politics tries to interject itself into science. Evidence and theory directly affects policy. Science as an institution is being ignored recently. And also for children growing up, if science is dismissed as a discipline, if it’s something you can ignore—children in their nascent years should be growing up based on evidence [sic], as opposed to political influence in voting and decision-making.

That’s a hard topic. I have a degree in psychology, so when I saw your sign—I have an interest in counseling.

Do you see a psychological connection?

 Maybe on an individual level. It mostly deals with the individual. Maybe a child in school, if you’re studying the effects of climate change—under the present administration, if you’re getting an engineering degree, or something in the sciences, then your funding might be affected by a political body. If money is taken away, that particular person might be affected, or that might affect their decision-making process, but I doubt that it would create any high level of anxiety or discomfort.