Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market, 8/7

Weather: Just after rain, heavy clouds moving, then hot sun. A big gust of wind ripped up two of the market tents and broke one.

Number of people: 2 stoppers, 2 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 4

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Dogs seen: 1

Dogs pet: 1, great ratio

Money raised for Tooth and Nail Community Support Collective: $0.00

Observations:

Elizabeth Malloy of Living on Earth was with me, listening and recording (with permission), to see if there’s a story in all of our stories. Elizabeth will be with me at the booth for the rest of the season, at both the Providence and Newport sites, so come along if you’d like to be on the radio.

I’m worried that I lost the chance for an additional conversation by sticking with an ongoing conversation that didn’t seem to be unearthing any new ideas or feelings after a certain point.

One of my interlocutors today asked me, referring to these records of climate anxieties, “Does this go anywhere? Do you use it to support legislation?” Which is a good question! While I often connect people who talk with me to opportunities for action, including ways to support legislation or regulation, I’ve never used the conversations themselves to support either of those things. If anybody has ideas about how that would work, I’d love to hear about them.

Nonhuman animal presences: Hawk carrying something, bronze dragonfly, honeybee, bumblebee, long-bodied wasp, little fly, sparrows, big black bee? Or beetle?

Some conversations:

[Before I started taking notes on the conversation, this person said that they’re a yoga teacher trying to incorporate some responses to climate change into their classes, and that people have been asking if they can bring their children to class.]

[My family] spent the last year traveling, so I really was not online or reading the news or anything. When I got back it was like boom, the climate really changed around climate change. It seems so much more pressing, which is good in a way. It’s on the news—well, not on Channel 5 … Being a mom and being pregnant again—if it’s really as bad as they say, what will I tell my kids in thirty years? Will they be able to have kids, or want to? [Yoga gives me] the ability to heal … and find my center, but at the same time I don’t want to do nothing. I could be the cleanest, greenest, most carbon offsetting person…but it’s like trying to lift a mountain by yourself. I have a lot of frustration with political systems.

What are you seeing in your classes and as part of your practice?

I’m seeing a lot of [people] have high level anxiety and not be able to channel it … [Part of yoga is] practicing discipline—not taking the plastic cup and straw. Small things. There’s a lot of possibilities, [ways] to sequester carbon. … Out of the household, I don’t have control. I’d like to think that getting involved with the political process would be effective, but… I try not to cry about a problem without offering a solution, but at the same time I don’t want to give people—to make it seem like it’s not as important to practice discipline. Not harming anyone, not taking any more than you need. “Are you willing to go without air conditioning in your home? What we’re doing is not enough.

What would doing enough have as part of it?

Seeing people around me also making an effort would make me feel like we’re doing something. Leading by example.

How might you lead by example as a yoga teacher? For the people who listen to you?

I do have a following, but … if I’m constantly posting [climate change articles], my students would stop following me. The last straw for me was: how can I say this stuff unless I’m doing it 100%? Where they’re spending their money and just doing that research requires discipline. I’m willing to be inconvenienced for it, but I don’t expect anyone to make the choices I make. I do what I need to do to lay my head down at the end of the day and feel good.

What can you say about being a parent in this time?

I’m grateful for the opportunity to have two children and teach them the things that have helped me. I don’t want to bring fear or urgency into [their childhoods].

*

I work for [AN INSURANCE COMPANY], and I work for the sustainability team. We were the first insurance company to offset carbon emissions. I’m one of thirteen “green teams” in the US, basically corporate sustainability. We lead initiatives on each of our campuses, coordinating our efforts when possible. We’ve partnered with local organizations like Save the Bay. … Our building is LEED certified. We have a big recycling event every year, where we collect e-waste and shred documents.

I don’t feel like anything we’re doing right now is enough. We need legislation to ban single use plastics—plastic bags, straws, cups … You can clean up beaches all day long.

What about lobbying, is that something this company does or would do?

We’re a 151-year-old company, we started as a life insurance company, and they noticed that there were a lot of claims and they investigated and found that there was tuberculosis in the community. The president at the time, it was either Roosevelt or Truman, our CFO was a special advisor [on the tuberculosis epidemic]. So as long as it’s in line with the company’s values—

[I pointed out that if they do property insurance it’s in line with their values]

Absolutely. Our ops team can show how storm severity has increased. We have all the trends.

… I work in marketing, and I know if I want somebody to do something, it has to be relevant to you as an individual and it has to be timely.

[IMAGE: A slightly impressionistic whiteboard map of the state of Rhode Island. In addition to the worries that people have been writing on it all summer about specific places, the lower half of it is now covered in marker lines and textures, about as high as a 2 1/2-year-old can reach.]

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Snap the Shore, See the Future: 9/28-30 and 10/28-29

A chance to see and show the rising tide, from the Rhode Island Sea Grant:

“September and October have the highest predicted tides of this year, with Rhode Island tides running 1.5 times higher than average. Head to the shore on September 28-30 and October 28-29, 2015 and join the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council, URI Coastal Resources Center and Save The Bay to capture this year’s highest tides, often called King Tides, Spring Tides or Moon Tides. These extreme tide levels provide a glimpse of what the state can expect as sea level rise accelerates with climate change, where this could be our daily high tide by mid-century. Participating is easy: simply grab your camera or smart phone and head to the bay, tidal river or ocean during the high tides, install the free MyCoast app (links below) and submit your photos!

If you don’t have access to a smart phone, simply go to MyCoast.org and upload your photos on the website.

All times indicated are for Newport (for other locations see below):

Sept 288:20 AM; 1.4 feet above mean high water
Sept 299:11 AM; 1.5 feet above mean high water
Sept 3010:02 AM; 1.5 feet above mean high water
Tide data provided courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

What if I don’t live in Newport?

Check online for your local high tide times. For example, high tide varies at different locations, referenced to Newport High Tide:

Newport: 0 minutes
Wickford +3 minutes
Providence: +13 minutes
Weekapaug: +41 minutes
Bristol: +13 minutes
Block Island – Old Harbor: -13 minutes

If you are in enclosed tidal body or salt pond, the tides can be an hour or more later than in the open ocean/bay.”

River of Words Tributary Workshop: ADDITIONAL WORKSHOP in South County!

Workshop leader: Susana Gardner

Location: Narragansett Beach, meeting at Lifeguard Chair #1

Workshop date: Saturday, November 15th, 11 am start time

Open to the public: yes; must be able to walk comfortably on sand. Please bring a blanket/many layers in case it’s cold!

Contact: dusieli AT gmail DOT com for questions, directions, and inclement weather instructions.

Closest water: Narragansett Bay

International Coastal Cleanup: September 20th

Everyone who talked with me at the booth about trash: here’s a chance to make sure there’s (slightly) less of it in the ocean!

Save the Bay is coordinating RI’s coastal cleanup and you can sign up here. There’s a list of sites so you can choose one that’s easy for you to get to.

Especially if you live near the coast, this would be a great thing for you to do. I can’t do it because I’ve already committed to going to the People’s Climate March in NYC the following day, which — if you can get into NYC — would also be a great thing for you to do. 

 

BONUS MATERIAL from the Washington County Fair: The Map

The map is a map of Rhode Island. It’s not exactly a cartographer’s dream.

wcf817 - most of map

A few people who talked with me when I did the booth in Kennedy Plaza added their cherished places to an earlier incarnation of the map, but most didn’t. I wanted to make it more inviting and easier to understand, so on the second day of the fair, under “PUT YOUR WORRIES ON THE MAP” I wrote on it “IS THERE A PLACE IN RI YOU LOVE?” It turned out that there was.

People marked Ell Pond, Beach Pond, Arcadia, Pond, the Fair itself, Narragansett Salt Pond and Narragansett Beach (with a +1), Galilee. They wrote, “Protect the piping plovers at East Beach!” and “I want the birds to be safe!”

wcf817 - bottom of map 2

 

People marked Beaver Tail, the Save the Bay Exploration Center, Thibeault’s on Rose Island, their home, Newport Folk Fest, and their grandparents’ house.

 

 

wcf817 - lower right map

 

They marked Prudence Island, because they loved being the only person there.

wcf817 - prudence island on map

 

They marked Warwick (“So many people!”) and a view of the bay.

wcf817 - prov and bay on map

 

“Camping in Exeter” got a +1. Someone wrote “W.G. Maggie and Dad,” someone wrote “Greene RI.” Someone marked and drew a “beautiful tiny grove in the woods” near their home; someone circled “all of South County.”

wcf817 - middle left of map

 

For humans to protect a place, even out of love, is vexed, not simple. Protect what about it? Protect it from whom or what? What do you keep in, keep out? Who or what does protecting it harm or deprive? What role does money/power play in control/access? How do the visible stories tie into secret stories, and what are the different ways “value” and “use” come into play? How much do the protective ones, the ones who are up in arms, know about the place and what it needs (to survive) and wants (to thrive)?

In this excerpt from his book Don’t Even Think About It, which you can expect me to refer to again (though not always uncritically), George Marshall argues that tying discussions of global warming and climate change to the environmental movement is limiting and inaccurate: “DROP THE ECO-STUFF,” he exhorts, because “climate change does not belong to environmentalists and is not even environmental. Of course, it includes environmental concerns and impacts, but it is so much bigger than that.” The language of “saving the planet”, he says, the references to polar bears, make the work of mitigating climate change sound too distant, too noble, or too large for people to see themselves as actors for good or ill. He stresses, among other things, immediacy.

The places we live are immediate — we’re in them, they’re in us — and this is true whether they heal us or harm us or both. The Environmental Justice League of RI, where the first round of donations went, demonstrates the need for attention to place, to site, as strongly as does the South Kingstown Land Trust, where the second round of donations went.* And while I’m reluctant to draw too many large-scale conclusions from what people say and do at the booth — to put it gently, this is a low-methodology project — I think people often understand ecologies through places, their places, whether their places treat them like gold or like garbage. More about this to follow.

*You should all feel totally free to send money to either or both of those organizations, or the equivalents in your own cities or towns, and let me know about it — I will sing your praises here.