Climate Anxiety Counseling: Miantonomi Farmers’ Market, 7/15/19

Weather: Hot and bright

Number of people: 6 stoppers, 2 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Dogs seen: 5

Dogs pet: 1

Money raised for Tooth and Nail Community Support Collective: $1.35

Observations:

Non-rhetorical question to ask next time someone says they’re heartbroken: How do you live with a broken heart?

The map made someone think and question about someone else’s worry! Specifically, an Australian wondered if underwater noise from wind turbines is really a problem.

[IMAGE: “offshore wind farm: will underwater life (dolphins, seals) be able to hear anything else?” written in pink marker on a whiteboard map.]

I suggested that they look it up, and I looked it up also, but haven’t read that study (the most recent one I found) in detail. It seems like construction noise is the most harmful, but that animals return once the turbines are in operation.

Nonhuman animal passersby: housefly, seagull, cabbage white butterfly, shiny fly, red admiral butterfly, small black ants.

Some conversations:

That’s my biggest problem, is that it’s melting. Polar bears, seals, mountain goats—where are they going? That’s my problem. All the animals, where are they gonna go? Pretty soon they’ll be knocking on the front door. We got coyotes now, soon we’re gonna be talking about wolves. Foxes and stuff, real wild animals, you don’t see as much.

It’s changed the states. People shifts, the ground shifts, everything changes. Volcanoes erupting. But people don’t know about it until it hits you. Everybody’s like, “Yo, what should we have been doing?” But now it’s here. … “Okay, so what do you want us to do—” not what do you want us to, but what can we do to stop it. You can’t stop it.

Does it stress you out?

Yes. We’re trying to figure it out on paper. Where’s the different elements. We don’t just say it’s a whole, we gotta break it down to the elements that are in it … but if they don’t break it down like that it’s gonna go nowhere.

*

I was heartbroken when the US decide to pull out of the [Paris Accords]. It was so exciting when we saw that people from all over the globe were talking seriously about these problems, and for us as a nation that produces so much of a problem—it breaks my heart. I have grandchildren, I hope to have great-grandchildren.

Do you talk about this with them?

We talk about what we can do in terms of—my older granddaughter, in terms of voting and participation. The younger generation feels powerless, so I try to tell them about my own experiences: protesting, contacting senators, insisting that change can happen.

I’m from Arizona, and I’m going to spend the next year in Rhode Island helping family. But in Arizona, my church composts, we have a community garden. In the coming year—I’m going to see if I can do it—I’m going to try to do without a car while I’m here. I’m not sure if it’s going to be possible. The next year is a year of simplicity for me … This park, this market, is in walking distance, so I’m going to see how long I can keep it up. … I recently went to a new church here and asked if I could meet with the pastor, and they were, “What for?” And I said, “I want to know what kind of efforts you’re making—perhaps your church is working with other churches in the community—for social justice issues.” It’s different here, but for the last fourteen years I’ve been living with a group of people for whom justice and health are really important. I’m trying to find like-minded people and ways in which I can do that here.*

*Newport readers, if you’re out there—any ideas for this person? Recall that they’re trying to live without a car so the opportunities must be in Newport or easily accessible from there via public transit.

*

I’m just trying to understand what climate change is, how it affects me and my community. In some areas, for instance, when it rains we get the water puddles—if there was a horrific flood, what is the protocol? What’s our emergency response? How do we activate it? We don’t even have good communication.

I know you guys had some experience of this when the gas was off this winter.

Yes we did. There was false advertising—someplace offering help and then you get there and they turn you away. We tried to be the middleperson, connect people with what they needed. But even placing residents in hotels, for example, that scatters families. People didn’t have access to food pantries. There were issues with transportation. We had a lady who was blind and needed someone with her in person … There was a lot of gaps that was missing. I’m hoping that now there’s a different method to it. It was scary, it was frustrating. People putting you on hold, putting out numbers that did not work, that you’re not getting nowhere with. Somewhere it would say that you could call a 1-800 number, and there was nothing at the other end.

*

My mom is always talking about how we’re all gonna die from climate change. She does do some actual actions, but she’s always whining, and I stop listening. It’s this kind of desperation, as if she could solve the whole problem herself. I mean, sure, we can go to the farmers’ market instead of buying all our vegetables in cans and trucking them in from, like, Minnesota, but it’s gonna be big top-down policy decisions that are gonna make a splash. The grassroots stuff is great but you’re not gonna solve it with that.

Does she do any of that stuff?

She’s afraid of people, so she doesn’t really get out of the house and do anything. She’s more like, “I’m gonna get a low-flow toilet.” I’m trying to get her to sell her house, because it’s below sea level, but she won’t listen to me.

*

I have a lot of anxieties, especially living by the water. Not just here, but a lot. People who’ve lost their homes and had to move—and frustration that there’s so many powerful millionaires who are doing nothing. People are putting money into this, but it’s not enough. It seems like the clearest idea, that we will not exist without our planet. Why are people ignoring this truth?

Why do you think?

I think it’s a lack of—not a lack of education, but a lack of wanting to hear the education. The younger generation is fighting, but it’s people with money who will make the big difference. We can make little differences. … I was really frustrated last weekend: there were fifteen people on the beach, and eight of them were on their phones, and I was picking up trash ’cause I do this, and I was like, “Why are you on your phones? Why are you not conscious?”

I stopped eating fish because of the microplastics. I work at a restaurant and people are always like, “Where can I get the best fish,” and I wanna be like, “Well…” But I know it’s not just plastic, it’s deforestation, it’s our overall carbon output. Deforestation is eliminating not only what’s storing the carbon but then burning it to release more carbon. I taught my [students] how trees absorb water and carbon dioxide.

Whatever makes us anxious, we shove it down … I saw an ad for the most recent election where it was a bunch of old people sitting around going, “I don’t care who wins. It’s gonna flood? I’m not even gonna be here in 20 years.”

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Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/6/19

Weather: Cloudy and muggy at the start, shifting between that and sunny.

Number of people: 7 stoppers, 2 walkbys.

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7

People who got the Peanuts reference despite the “doctor” part of the sign being gone: 2

People who asked me for Xanax despite the “doctor” part of the sign being gone: 1

Pictures taken with permission: 1.5

Pictures taken without permission: 0.5

Conversations between strangers: 2

Dogs seen: 1

Dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Tooth and Nail Community Support Collective: $11.07!

 

Observations:

I either never knew or have forgotten when “catching a passerby’s eye” crosses over into “creepily staring.” Anyway, I don’t think I have the balance right.

No visible cops or cop vehicles at the beginning of my shift. I noticed one on the park side at 3:30, leaving at 3:55, and another by the Greyhound stop around 4.

Had a couple conversations today that I’m kind of bummed I didn’t get permission to post.

 

Some conversations:

Winters no longer start. I used to go trick or treating with my kids, there would be snow on the ground in October. Now it doesn’t snow till February. We don’t have spring anymore—you know, how you think of three months slowly coming into summer. We just have winter and summer, and for winter you just get one giant snowstorm. It’s a really tight time frame—you remember that blizzard we had, it didn’t come till February and then it came and it came and it came. I do notice it, and it’s bizarre. In the fall, the foliage comes and goes very fast. It used to be you could pick a weekend, go and look at it. Now the window is so short you can’t enjoy it anymore.

My sisters live in Tennessee and Georgia, and they got snow, their first snow in twelve years. Nobody has a shovel—my sister had to have a shovel sent to her in Tennessee. But what do you do? I try to be minimalistic and not even make trash. But I don’t know what to do. I’m one person. This planet is huge—what can you do in little Rhode Island, the most politically and financially corrupt state?

*

Plants are our brothers … Trees, plants, climate. Every animal has the same type of organ basis as a human. If you scrape your knee, it scabs up, and that’s like the bark of the tree, it’s a scab protecting what’s inside from foul stuff in the atmosphere. Plants are living just like us …

So with all of these relationships in mind, how can we take care of them? Show our gratitude?

By respecting their time. A plant has a flowering time and a bedding time. Respect them like a human—but people don’t really respect humans that well. People are confused, it makes them judgmental, it leads to favoritism.

How do we move away from that?

Openmindedness. I think it just needs generations of time. People from older times are still stuck in their ways. You’ll hear somebody old say some racist stuff, it’s because they lived by it. The next generation gets to choose whether they follow that. But if you have a family that’s wealthy, people are gonna have to choose whether to agree with them and take the money, or argue with them. People would rather do the wrong thing and get value for it. Doing the wrong thing is easy in every aspect of life, it’s doing the right thing that’s hard.

map 6-6-19

[Image: Somewhat impressionistic map of Rhode Island, made out of tape on a dry-erase board. It says, “Put your worries on the map,” and “Is there a place in Rhode Island you’d like to protect?” Today, people added “The Neighborhoods” in the vicinity of Providence, and a ZIP code, “02840.”]

 

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: 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, 5/24/18

Weather: Bright, hot sun, stiff cool breeze

Number of people: 10 stoppers, 3 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 10

People who got the Peanuts reference: 1

Pictures taken with permission: 4

Pictures taken without permission: 1

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

Dogs seen: 5 (4 tiny, 1 big)

Dogs pet: 0

Narcan shared: 1

 

Observations:

The park ranger and the parking meter enforcer hang out together.

Nonhuman organisms in the park: yellowjacket, starlings, hairy defoliating caterpillars.

Today I had lots of conversations with people that I didn’t get permission to write down. Sometimes this was because I asked and they didn’t give it; sometimes because they were in full flood of speaking and I didn’t have a chance to ask.

One such person had a blue jay feather tucked behind their ear, and I showed them the one I keep in the RI Organism card box.

People often ask me about trends from year to year. I’ve already noticed a slight uptick this year in anti-immigrant rhetoric, and I need to figure out how I want to respond to that (haven’t been satisfied with the ways I’ve handled it so far).

 

Some conversations:

I moved up here from Florida in ’86. Thirty years ago we never needed air conditioning. Now we need to put it in every summer, usually by May. Winter [used to start] in October. Everybody who says it isn’t happening has their head in the sand.

 

*

Well, I did read about Greenland. There was a huge article in the New Yorker—I felt almost traumatized. It’s just coming unglued. There are huge crevasses, it’s melting at such a rapid rate, and ice reflects sunlight but water absorbs it. It’s such a rapid pace that they can’t even [measure?] the rate of melt. It was a very powerful experience reading the piece. These people that have dedicated their lives to being on the front lines of global awareness of climate change—it just kind of blows me away …

Boston flooded, there were like, floating cars, and it was vastly underreported. I didn’t see it in the national news. I try not to be a huge conspiracy theorist, but I felt like it was deliberate. [The Greenland article] really woke me up—I was really aware of it before, but not feeling it personally. I think we’re going to see rapid changes coming down the pike in the next five years. I think people are gonna be up to their waists in water, I think people are in denial.

What do you think people would do if they recognized this reality? 

I’m moving inland. I’m visiting a friend in New Mexico, Santa Fe, and I’ll see what happens. I feel like I kind of go over better west of the Mississippi. My daughters have moved away, Lucy [the dog] finally died a few months ago—I’ve had a lot of loss and a lot of completion …

Have you talked to your daughters about it?

I haven’t talked to them about this. They think I’m nuts anyway. My friend who’s moving to Oregon, she’ll say, “If there’s a tsunami, I’ll just hop in the car.” If there’s a tsunami, you’re not getting in any car! I think it is hard to grasp, I don’t know. … If you love where you are and you have a good life, you wanna stay where you are. I think people are like, “Well, the weather certainly has been erratic,” and older people remember very different weather patterns, but people just think it’s weather. I remember these really cold winters, my boots getting full of ice. …

How does it feel, when you think about it?

It’s awful. I have a friend who’s a master of permaculture. She’s got a self-sustaining quarter-acre, where she can grow enough food to feed herself and her family—it’s like two backyard lots, and we’ve talked a lot about issues of food scarcity. She was pretty dire. Her feeling is that we’ve just really gone too far. And I kind of had to not have that conversation. I honestly don’t know much good it would do to have a garden if people around you were suffering from a shortage of food. … Sometimes there are things that are just too painful to discuss, too huge to wrap my brain around. There are times in the day that I’m more open to confront difficult things.

*

 

[I know both of these people, and have spoken to them at the climate booth before, but they don’t know each other. They came up to me one at a time, but also spoke to each other.]

Person 1: I guess I’ve been thinking about water. I was watching the weather on TV, which is not something I normally do, and they were talking about El Niño and La Niña, and I learned how the moisture that the soil absorbs in spring affects how rainy the season will be—the rainier a spring is, the more likely thunderstorms are, and that’s weird to think about.  A lot of things come and go—human matter is the same carbon that’s been around forever but it’s in different forms—but water doesn’t decompose, it’s the same water, and we only have so much of the water we have—I mean, we have so much and so much of it is not usable, a fraction of one percent of it is actually usable.  The rest of it, we can’t use it or it’s hard to use it. I don’t know how to turn that into an anxiety—well, it is an anxiety that—what if we don’t have water someday?

Maybe my anxiety is that I feel a little fatalist. Growing up as a child of global warming, I recognize that the Earth is dying and I want to make changes, but people who really know what’s going on are like, “We’re fucked.” Ten, twenty, thirty years—I think in thirty years we’re not gonna have energy. You have to put energy into getting energy: people talk about solar and wind power but it takes a massive amount of energy to make a metal turbine. Solar panels are made with all these rare materials.

… I tell my sister, she’s talking about what she wants to be doing thirty years from now, and I’m like, “Do you really think things are gonna be the same in thirty years?” Or people are like, “Our children’s children,” and I’m like, “I don’t know if there are gonna be ‘our children’–or they’re not gonna live like this.” We can take steps to preserve some things, but other things have already been lost. It doesn’t make me want to destroy—it makes me want to liberate things in the short term. I don’t think I would be as radical as I am [without the knowledge of climate change], and I think a lot of people have been radicalized. Soon, even the capitalists will suffer. Desperate times call for desperate measures. But I think it also has made me numb … Sometimes, I feel like I’m not doing anything, or I’m just working on my own things because I feel like it’s all gonna be gone in 20 years.

[Person 2 came up around this point.]

You can be delusional and think things can keep going the way they are, or keep going with just a few minor changes, but we’ll be transformed by this, so we can either be radicalized and work really hard, or take the sad way and just be passive.

One thing I’ve been thinking of is—people do things, or one of the reasons people do things is because they feel good, not just because they’re trying to avoid feeling bad, so in a time like this, how do you move toward joy?

Person 2: I’m just gonna keep doing what I’m doing. I feel like there’s no future right now, but I’m just gonna keep producing plays, keep writing the things that I want to see in the world.

Person 1: I feel like that a lot. Does it feel worthwhile to you?

Person 2: What feels worthwhile is that I find my tribe. People who I relate to and I relate to them.

Person 1: I think about how much fun I had on the night Trump was elected. We were all like, “I don’t know, fuck it, let’s get drunk in Worcester,” just breaking things and being like, “Nothing matters.”

Person 2: These days, I’m waiting for a cop to talk to me. That’s when I’m gonna be like, “Nothing matters.”

Person 1: Does it scare you?

Person 2: No, I’ve had ’em. I’ll have more. The more I learn about policing and social justice, the more I find if we can grow out of slavery we can grow out of guns. That’s the other thing that feels worthwhile, connecting with the youth and teaching classes—my art doesn’t exist without that. That’s how I move toward joy. I just applied for a grant, but if I don’t get it, I’m teaching this class anyway. Art through social justice—I get excited about that stuff.

Person 1: I don’t think people realize the mental health toll of living in the world where nothing is certain.

I was wondering if people who—you know, the more marginalized you are, the more likely you are to face upheaval every day, and I was wondering if people who have had to face that might have wisdom for those who haven’t.

Person 2: I wish. This is a cultural issue. I remember during the stock market crash, and black people were like, “Just another day. You’re stressed out over something that we’ve been living.” Most black people will tell you, “Welcome to my world.” You make the move when where you’re at is so uncomfortable that you can no longer bear it. You either think we’re crazy, or you join in.

map 5-25-18

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. Someone has drawn a circle around the entire state.

Sankofa World Market at Southside Cultural Center, 5/5/18

Weather: Bright, breezy, a perfect day to be outside

Number of people: 7 stoppers, 1 walkby, 1 bikeby

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 6.5

People who recognized the Peanuts reference: 1

Photos taken with permission: 2

Dogs seen: 1

Dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.10

 

Observations:

The Sankofa World Market will be at the Southside Cultural Center on the first Saturday of every month as part of Sowing Place. This was the first of these; the next will be June 2nd.

I count someone as a “stopper” if they have a multi-sentence conversation with me, whether or not it functions as a “session” and whether or not they give me permission to post our conversation here (I only post conversations if I ask for and receive permission). A “walkby” or “bikeby” comments but doesn’t stop. This time, I only had two postable conversations, but a lot of people marked the map of Rhode Island with places they’d like to protect (see below).

A theme of the day was isolation—which is both a reason I started the booth and something it’s only medium-good at responding to—and the need to practice communication.

Nonhuman animals spotted: mockingbird, bumblebee, someone singing whose voice I should know but didn’t, pigeons in various configurations, cabbage white butterfly, a small flying insect (not biting) unknown to me, a couple of swallows high up at the very beginning.

 

Some conversations:

My main anxiety about climate change is related to sea level rise, and what it means to live in a coastal community that’s already had major sea level rise in the past. In Olneyville, you get a perfect storm of high tide and full moon and rainfall and the banks of the Woonasquatucket just wash over. I get some hope from the way people pull together when these things happen, but we shouldn’t need a crisis to pull together.

How do you feel when you think about these things?

I don’t want to keep thinking about it. You know you need to, but you don’t want to, so you push it away. I try to sort of stick my finger in the wound every once in a while so it doesn’t close up—answers may emerge over time if you don’t let it disappear.

And what do you do when you think about it?

Some of the smaller things. I take small actions to mitigate my own impact. Even if it’s not appreciable on a seismic scale, it makes you feel better, like, “At least I didn’t drive today.”

Is it also part of the stuff you do with other people, have you made it part of the collective stuff you do?

I feel like in the collective stuff I do it’s more of a constant undercurrent. Like on the board of the public library, we’re talking about how the building could be underwater, and how do you build all the systems that go into a building so they’re not destroyed? I feel like it’s moved into a place of acknowledging the inevitability and doing new thinking about how to respond to it, rather than denial. But denial is a comfortable place to be in, in some ways … How in the things I’m involved with with racial justice does climate justice play a part? How does that always have to include the injustice of climate change? Like this LNG facility, and whose neighborhood is most at risk. It’s not one of the things that you’re always gonna hear me bring up, but I’m always excited when someone else does.

… I think the shift from “global warming” to “climate change” is helpful. And I think that creative people have an important part to play in our conception of the terms, to put pressure on how we’re thinking about it. That’s what I admired so much about Holly Ewald’s work [with UPP Arts], how she’s like, “I’m an artist but I’m also a researcher and I’m a convener. How can I bring other people to this and not just bring it into my [artistic] practice?” … And then as someone with access to resources and how they’re dispersed, how can I support, spot, amplify what others are doing? Contribute to the thing, whatever the thing looks like?

What are some things you’d like to contribute to?

I think–people coming together in intergenerational spaces to build trust and vulnerability. It’s hard to find an affinity around a negative, like fighting something we don’t want—what are we fighting for that we do want?

What would you want to come out of these spaces?

I guess policy is the thing, but local? I feel really paralyzed by a lot of what comes out of the national level, like if the EPA decides it’s just going to take all the regulations off polluting vehicles. And like, what California does on the local level has a much bigger effect than anything we could do. But if we could be part of a groundswell in New England—that’s another kind of collectivity. These nested scales, like people thinking about these questions together, then taking that to the civic and municipal level, the state level—I’m more and more drawn to going block by block than trying to make change in Washington.

*

I’m worried about the soil. It gets more and more acidic all the time. I’m worried about neighborhoods in low-lying places, and I really worried that people are sort of isolated, so if disasters happen we won’t be prepared to take care of each other. If the communication technology that we use gets broken down, especially, I’m afraid we won’t know how to work together. I’m also worried about drought. When I’m farming, my anxiety has to do with what I’m seeing on the farm—unpredictable weather patterns stress me out more. I always thought the longer I farmed, the better I’d get at knowing the pattern, that I’d become someone who can predict weather. Now I’ve been farming for ten years, and it’s more like I’m just more in touch with the chaos. I have a bigger record of how much things have gotten wacky. I started out thinking that farmers were kind of a repository for climate patterns, but we’re just repositories for climate anxiety.

… I have found that paying that close attention also results in observing lots of moments of resilience. Seeing plants under insane conditions thrive—I’ve become more sensitive to wild plants that live in the city. And I know that a lot of them are medicinal, so that makes me happy. There are a few plant buddies that inspire me in particular. Mullein—it’s good for the lungs, and it often grows along the highway, so it’s like it’s the lungs of the highway. And St. John’s wort is abundant in the city, and that’s for depression. I’ve been learning a lot about plant medicine lately and the idea that plants pop up where we need them—partly because my dad is depressed, but also, there’s a pervading sense of anxiety on the planet, and I’ve been realizing that it doesn’t work to cure depression by saying, “It’s gonna get better.” We need a different set of mantras, and plants suggest some—the way plants grow in community.

…Right now I’m my dad’s main connection to the world. And as much as the farm teaches me about the compassionate end of things, it’s different and almost criminal to apply that to my own father. But another thing I do at the farm is let plants and animals pursue their own life cycles, and just try to create conditions that hopefully allow things to thrive, or mitigate the pressures—if it’s a drought, I try to water things. One of the big lessons that plants have for us is reciprocity—there are no sacrificing plants, or martyr plants, although when a tree is dying it shoves its resources down through the mycelium layer so that other plants can use them.

I’ve been learning, when I’m feeling a need, to ask for help. This is kind of what we were talking about at the beginning of this conversation, having the communication patterns in place to support each other. If we practice that in our major or minor crises in our private lives, maybe we’ll be better at it in an environmental crisis. I’ve also been trying to receive care by creating the gatherings that feed me, and going to the gatherings that other people create. I always forget that because I think, “Oh, I need quiet time.” … I’ve been yearning for clarity on what the role of artists is in the moment. I feel in myself that poets have an essential role, in documenting, in mitigating, in envisioning—but it’s not everyday-obvious to me.

20180505_143308

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:

I wish the water in Roger Williams Park was clean enough for wading/swimming by the bandstand

Trinity Sq Neighborhood!

SCC [Southside Community Center] RI

Waterman St dog park

Sabins Point

Scituate Reservoir

Lincoln State Park

Little Compton

Two children have also drawn on the map, and one of them has written, “No LNG in PVD or anywhere. Take care of our ancestors.”

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market, 8/2/17

Weather: Hot, bright, humid; later, got windier and cooler, but no less humid

Number of people: 7 stoppers, 1 walkby

Number of hecklers: 0!

Number of children from BRYTE Summer Camp who crowded around me gleefully asking questions: 8

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island: $2.12

 

Observations:

The clover in the library lawn, which last week was mowed short, is somewhat back and so are the honeybees. The hula-hoop providers are also back, and the kids are stoked.

There was a small amount of dogshit near one of the benches, and everyone was constantly warning everyone else about it.

My shoulder and arm continue to hurt, and the proprietor of The Curve and Line Co. helped me lift the handtruck down onto the sidewalk.

I ended up having to spend some time texting to try to coordinate doorknocking for No LNG in PVD and the community meeting this Wednesday, which meant there were many times when I wasn’t looking up.

The first person I talked with today had a lot of overlap with me in the way our climate anxieties affect us. In a way I feel like she’s where I was when I started offering Climate Anxiety Counseling, and yet I don’t know that I’ve made much progress, exactly.

I chickened out again on telling the real reason I’m not having kids—this time, it was a kid who was asking, and I felt like I’d be telling them I didn’t think they’d survive.

 

Some conversations:

You see a lot of things changing. We get more natural disasters going on. It’s scary, because I didn’t think I’d see it in my lifetime. The whole thought of it—you see people polluting and doing things—maybe it’s too late, but we could do things now to keep it held off. You hear people saying “The world’s gonna come to an end” who are not crazy. But I feel like the government doesn’t care.

Do you talk about this with people?

My sister has some of the same problems and the same fears and I talk about it with her. But I don’t get any answers from talking about it. It doesn’t make me feel better.

When you say “the end of the world,” o you imagine it, how it would be?

Everything would fall apart. Something similar to what you see in movies—people start freaking out, panic. Maybe I shouldn’t think that, but when you watch the news—Would I be strong enough or would I give up and hide? People turning on each other—I’m afraid that if something ever did happen, no one would wanna help anyone else. It’s so hard to trust people, so I stick to myself … You tell people how you feel about this and they look at you like you’re crazy. But I’m not. The weather’s different. Those rainy days we had, that’s not normal. If people stopped littering, started caring about the environment—we gotta stick together.

*

[This was a parent and their two kids]

Parent: Lots of anxiety around water safety. We have okay drinking water but with all that lead poisoning that’s cropping up—even with the filter on we’re probably getting something. I had lead poisoning when I was really young, from paint chips, and I turned out okay, but if kids have ongoing exposure–

Have you looked into Clean Water Action at all?

I haven’t yet. I’m just starting to get back out of the house … They [indicating kids] just went to two weeks of nature camp.

What did you guys see?

Kid 1: I saw a red-tailed hawk at Conanicut Park and a bald eagle circling.

Kid 2: I saw plovers. They looked like puffballs.

Oh, did they have part of the beach roped off?

Kid 2: Yeah, so you don’t walk in their territory.

*

 

Most recently I’ve been thinking about Waterplace Park because of sea level rise—that’s just because it’s what I’ve been talking about at work this past week. All the nonpermeable surfaces and stormwater runoff—I do not, unfortunately, see many people addressing that. Asphalt is easy—people don’t even question it. And I’m worried about this all the time, yet my driveway is giant. I should chop it up—yet have I done it in three years? No. I don’t know how to do it myself—it’s not knowing how to use a jackhammer, not really having a plan. I need someone to work through it with me. And of course I don’t have a lot of time or money.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Providence Energy Fair, 6/24/17

Weather: POURING outside. The fair was inside, with big fans.

Number of people: 6 stoppers, no walkbys.

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 5.5

Peanuts references: 1

People who recognized me, and I them, from previous years: 1

Photos taken without permission: 1

Dogs seen: 1

Dogs pet: 1 (this is the correct ratio, if anyone was wondering)

Number of people who asked some version of “Are you a real doctor?”: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $2.00

 

Observations:

This was an event specifically for people who work in energy efficiency, land conservation, and environmental justice, and for people interested in those things. I unsurprisingly get a higher incidence of stoppers whose anxieties are climate anxieties at such events, and that’s how today was.

There were people playing music, and they played “Moonlight Midnight”, a song I love.

I picked up a People’s Power and Light flyer.

Sometimes I try to get people from “weather” or “seasons” to “climate”, when they mistake the second for one of the first two, and sometimes I don’t. This was a time I tried but it didn’t really take.

All places are vulnerable places.

 

Some conversations:

I was woken this morning by notifications for an app that’s not on my phone, and it seems to be propaganda, a fake news website. I’m concerned who that’s going to who may not follow trusted sources. How did this get on my phone? I consider myself a moderate, but I think I know propaganda when I see it. When I think of the reduction of authority of the EPA, another four years of negative environmental activity—whether you believe in [climate change] or not, it’s pollution. I had to wear a surgical mask on my way here.

What do you do when you feel this anxiety?

Working with sustainability means it just adds to the things to worry about. I’m already worrying about my family and my kids. I thought we were going in a great direction, with [the city committed to sustainability measures], and all of a sudden—I resent the commmander-in-chief assigning people who want to take those regulations down to nothing …

In your job, does it give you energy, or does it take away your energy?

It’s definitely a morale killer. I would say it’s more anger than anxiety. A big WTF.

*

I’m anxious that I feel powerless. Whatever I do with my individual behavior, this is so monumental. It’s gonna take everyone. And my other anxiety is that I understand that it’s not everyone’s priority, and accepting that. People have a vast amount of other things that they have to worry about. I’ve seen that conflict between more militant environmentalists and people who maybe don’t care or have other things to worry about … I’m in school for environmental studies, and the determinants for environmental concern are like [socioeconomic status], exposure to nature as a child, certain demographic things.

So is your concern that there’s not enough listening going on between these two clumps of people?

Yes. I don’t even know if I would start that conversation. Who am I to impose this on you? Who am I to shape what they care about? I can give people my time, but I can’t give everyone everything.

*

You know what does make me anxious? The wintertime. I hate it, it makes me stiff, it makes me tired, it makes me anxious. I want to run into a safe warm place. I could be burning and I’m so happy—I’d rather that 50 times than my face being cut open from the cold. Winter’s abusive, it’s abusive, that’s what it is … For my son, I always wanna make sure he’s warm, because for me warm is safe, I wanna make sure he’s safe … I’m from the Dominican Republic, on the borderline of Haiti, and when the hurricane came through it knocked down all these trees so there was no shade, and I still prefer that. I let myself go in the winter—in the summer I wanna vibrate, I wanna shine. When you fly [to the Dominican Republic] everybody’s welcoming, everybody’s so nice, but when you fly into Boston or New York it’s so rigid, everybody’s like go here, do this. Everyone becomes cold. The sun gives you the whole vitamin D of happiness.

*

It’s been so long since I thought about climate change. I’ve just been buried in my work. When Trump was elected I had to focus, so I focused on immigrants, refugees, health care—and climate change was on there but it wasn’t at the top. I did make a list. There’s only so much energy that we all have.

So I guess a question with that for me is, how do we move it up people’s list without saying that the other stuff on their list doesn’t matter?

Finding the examples that are relevant—like the LNG plant … There’s a big learning curve.

*

I think everybody should be anxious. The way this country’s direction is going, denying that there is climate change—I’m just scared about this [political] climate. And the glaciers are melting, and people are ignoring science—not people, but the government. People like us are the people that care. I think it’s gonna take organizations and private citizens, nonprofits, to step up and take over what government has done in the past.

 

*

This company…just contracted to scout national parks, national monuments, protected lands that [the President] would be able to open up for resource excavation. There’s a national monument off the Northeast coast—those sites that people worked so hard to protect were so vulnerable, so much effort made just for those areas, so if they can be attacked, no place is safe no matter how much effort people make. It’ll do irrevocable damage, but it’s also what it means in terms of precedent.

How does it feel to think about this, and what do you do when you think about it?

I feel relieved to share just verbally. What I do is a good question, because I feel very helpless. The main thing I do is posting on social media, which is not effectual. It’s the same, but sort of remote, but maybe further-reaching? I don’t have any steps toward [doing something]. The conversation to have is possibly opening up to more conversations … Where I’m living now, there’s puddling in the yard from the rain and that is a first. With climate change, there’s more moisture in the atmosphere that falls at once. It’s unheard of that the place where I am is affected. It’s not even a vulnerable place.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: 5/30/16

Weather: Gray, warm and muggy. Facing east.

Number of people: 10 stoppers, 9 walkbys.

Number of hecklers: 0

Climate change deniers: 1, sort of (see below–once they got talking, things changed)

Pages of notes: 6

People who commented on the Peanuts reference: 2

Pictures taken with permission: 2

Number of dogs seen: 4

Number of dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $2.08

 

 

Observations:

 

This was the end of a week-long stint; I’ll be back in Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park on 6/21.

Leaves were strewn around, from the rain and wind and whatever it is that dries out the plane trees and makes them shed leaves while they’re still green.

 

A cop car rode through at 5:56, but didn’t stop.

 

My last interlocutor from this day stopped by and said he’s doing a little better. Please keep him in your thoughts.

 

 

Some conversations:

 

 

 

So you think global warming is affecting increase in homeless?

 

It seems like it could be. Is that something you’ve seen?

 

Yeah, because of natural disasters, socioeconomic factors. You think global warming could affect economics?

 

Before I tell you what I think, could you tell me what you’ve heard or seen that makes you think it’s a possibility?

 Bernie Sanders said violence in Syria is because it’s too hot, and global warming. That’s my question.

 

I think what you said about natural disasters is probably right–people could lose their homes or if their situation is precarious, a natural disaster could kind of put them over the edge. And for economics, I think that could happen in a couple of ways. One way is that if the climate changes, it might mess up the ways we grow food.

 People here can afford it, but the homeless, or in poor countries like in Central America, Mexico, climate change consequences–fight for resources always is a [didn’t catch the word] in the conflict of the world. When they colonized America, that was for resources. Why people go to emigrate? I always believe that human society is always on the move in order to survive. [When people talk about climate change] they never comprehend immigration. I feel terrible how the world’s being destroyed by pollution. You know the Marianas in the Pacific? They found some garbage in the depths.

 

*

 

 

[These two came up together and looked like they might be related]

 

Person 1: I ain’t anxious about that fake shit.

 

You think it’s fake?

 

I don’t believe that it’s real, ’cause people are willing to lie in order to get funding, but if it’s real there’s nothin’ I can do about it. I don’t waste stuff. You can be one of those people who go around and tell people what to do, but they’re not gonna listen, otherwise the Greens would be winning and they’re not.

 

Why not?

 

[People] know they’re gonna go the rest of their life with fresh air and trees.

 

Person 2: They don’t care because they feel as though it’s not gonna affect them.

 

Person 1: We know we’re gonna have water for the rest of our lives–we can touch it, we can feel it.

 

*

 

 

Person 1: Life. I’m homeless.

 

Person 2: If we lost the Arctic that’s bad enough. Antarctica would put 200 more feet of sea level.*

 

Person 1: The majority of U.S. cities are on the coast.**

 

Person 2: Even a minor change could put us over the edge … I did 26 years with the government in Miami, and central Florida spent $500 million on water ports, hardening wharfs and jetties, uninterruptible power supplies… They could never say “global warming” but they could look the other way when the money’s been spent.

 

*Doctor’s note: I haven’t fact-checked this.

 

**Doctor’s note: Pretty sure this is a mistake.

 

*

 

 

[These two were a couple.]

Person 1: Our daughter just graduated from Brown, and she’s about to be out on her own.

 

Person 2: She makes good decisions and makes good friends. But she’ll be living in New York, it’s a big city.

 

Person 1: We’re in Houston, so we can’t swoop in and see her.

 

*

 

 

Money. I need more of it, always. There’s never enough. Climate change too–I do snow, and this winter there wasn’t much snow, so I didn’t make much money. It all comes back to money.

 

*

 

 

Am I anxious? Not really, not very. I guess it’s a little bit concerning. I think there’s a good possibility that it is to do with global warming, whether manmade or not. Many many years of history show fluctuations in temperature, it’s not something that’s brand new. There’s a good possibility that some of it is cars having an impact on it. The ozone layer’s depleted from all the carbon monoxide from all the cars. And then there’s industry, like especially power plants that pollute, especially in China–I’ve seen a lot of issues with pollution in China, I read that at the Olympics they had so much pollution that they had to order their factories to stop working. I don’t really think about it too often, but it’s really affecting people there.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: 5/27/16

Weather: Hot in the sun, fine in the shade, light breeze, wind picked up around 5pm. Facing east.

Number of people: 7 stoppers, 5 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0, but see below

Number of climate change deniers: 1

Pages of notes: 4

People who commented on the Peanuts reference: 3

Conversations between people previously unknown to one another: 1

Number of dogs seen: 2

Number of dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $2.64

 

Observations:

Today I had one of the very, very few climate anxiety counseling conversations ever in which I might be in danger. I am fine and I’ll write more about it another time.

I came up with a pretty good spot definition of the weather vs. climate distinction, “Climate change is a change in weather all over the world and over a very long time,” but I’m still not totally happy with it.

I never think about the big beech tree in the center of the park when I’m not in the park

 

Some conversations:

Person 1: Actually, climate change is getting harder and harder. I’m starting to sweat more and more each day.

Have you noticed differences from year to year?

Yeah, it’s different this year. Instead of spring, we went from winter to summer. You see the change. I went from long pants to shorts. The seasons are off.

 

Person 2: It wasn’t that cold a winter and it was a very cold May.

 

Person 1: Two days ago I had a coat on. Yesterday, I had a coat on and I’m sweating. If I’m cold, I act a certain way and if I’m hot, I act a certain way.

*

I’m particularly worried about what we’re using for energy and water sources, and mass deforestation as a result of the agricultural industry. We think we’re getting smarter when we’re constantly repeating our mistakes, being aggressive toward each other and destroying everything … People try to distance themselves from the implications of their actions. I try to be conscious of how my actions impact other people around me. I know how capitalism works, I don’t necessarily agree with it, but I see how businesses have to do it, but I don’t see how governments can buy into this. They’re thinking about short-term benefits, not long-term implications …

What do you think could help people work towards putting something else first, besides money?

There are cultures, I feel like there’s fewer and fewer, cultures that cling to a community sense of living, a relish in that your community is doing well. But that would require a complete change in our perceptions of ourselves and each other. I’m trying not to be pessimistic.

What would it be like to just be pessimistic?

I would consider that my spirit breaking. I’ve seen firsthand and through a lot of stories the shitty things that people do … but I’ve also seen a lot of good. To be who I am, to continue to be proud of who I am, I can’t give in to my negativity.