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

Weather: Bright, breezy, feels almost cool compared to the past week

Number of people: 7 stoppers, no walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Pictures taken without permission: 1

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

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island: $0.15

 

Observations:

There weren’t a lot of vendors when I got there. Two came later.

Nonhuman animals: seagulls and pigeons overhead; bumblebees, cabbage white butterflies and a black swallowtail (?! I think) in the South Side Cultural Center’s flower garden.

Normally, I don’t include much of what I say in these conversations. But I had one on this day where I clarified something that a lot of people who talk to me seem unclear about, so I’m including the part of the conversation that has both the explanation and why I think it matters.

 

Some conversations:

I’m concerned about my grandson. When I went to pick him up from daycare, they told me he’s been play-fighting too much. We’re trying to help him learn to make good choices for himself, limiting TV time and time with the phone. And part of the problem is the daycare isn’t an exciting environment. He’s bored. There’s too much reading and sitting still for him, not enough playing … I’m the grandma, so I get him once a week. He wants to fight me! He’s getting bigger, so his punches hurt now. We used to play-fight, but now he doesn’t know his own strength. I wonder if that’s part of why—and then sometimes he goes to his dad’s, and that’s an uncontrollable environment. We just have to keep communication going with both his parents, and be diligent about getting results. I know he’s bored … And he’s good at school, he just needs an outlet.

(I give her a card with “small cranberry” on it.)

Oh, I know cranberries, I grew up on the Cape. I know the cranberry bogs. We used to skate on them, because they flood them in winter, and you’re not gonna fall through, ’cause where you gonna go? We used to try to cut through the bog to other places, but we’d get in trouble for that ’cause we’d be smashing the cranberries. We’re cranberry people. My family worked for Ocean Spray.

*

Why are people not more concerned about long-term change?

Do you have an opinion about it yourself?

Because people are built to live on a day-by-day basis.

*

It’s so pressing, it’s so stressful. I don’t know a lot of the science behind it, but it’s just so apparent—I don’t know how people can still be in denial about it. Look at Puerto Rico—what do you mean, this has nothing to do with what humans are doing? I think it has to happen to these people—the water has to rise up to their doorstep. If it’s not an issue for them, it’s not an issue. Just here in Providence, it’s gonna hit the more affluent parts, but there’s only so much further they can go. And people living in the West End—it’s not like they can go to the next town over—when you come in and take their land because you can? Right now they know that they’ll be fine, because they have the means to put their house on stilts or move somewhere else. Or Seattle’s banning plastic straws, which is great, but it has a lot of issues—you have people who use plastic straws, but then you have huge industries taking up so much. It’s like saying that people are poor because they get Dunkin’ Donuts every week, like there are no systemic issues keeping people poor. And there are folks with disabilities who need to use plastic straws.

Also like—here we are talking about plastic, and a lot of people come talking to me about that, but do you know the connection between plastic and climate change?

No, I don’t.

I can tell you if you want to know, but my point is that we’re all walking around putting these things together but we don’t necessarily know how they’re tied together. I do it too. Do you want to know?

Yeah.

So there are two things: the first thing is that plastic is made out of oil, petroleum, and all the work of extracting and making it uses fossil fuels. And the second way is that when plastic sits around in the ecosystem, it puts a strain on that ecosystem that’s already strained by climate change.

[This person had to go do something else and another person came up and spoke to me (I didn’t get permission to post that); later we resumed our conversation.]

So the plastic bag ban—that’s kind of regressive too, particularly with low-income communities. I definitely don’t want to be that person that’s like, “Every idea is bad,” but—and it’s not something that gets brought up in these conversations. It’s like, “Oh, we banned plastic bags and plastic straws but a coal lobbyist is the new head of the EPA.”

How do you think the conversation could go, or should go?

I guess it would be like: how are you going to address—for every initiative that you do, what are you going to do to change the structures that created a lot of these environmental damages? And the other thing is, what are you going to do to prepare communities that will be of course impacted? … In DC they also have a bag ban, where you pay a fee but they take it and they let you choose an organization to donate to, so it’s not perfect but maybe it’s better?

Yeah, especially if it’s an organization that benefits communities that might be strained by the ban, maybe? What about in the work that you do, where could you see these things happening?

At [WORKPLACE] it’s pretty easy. Like we were applying for a grant, and one of the questions was, “What are the green components of your work?” So I did some research on food transportation, and it made me actually think about it—it turns out food transportation takes up so much energy. But when I think about my other job … I can’t really think of a way that we could incorporate being green in what we do.

*

[These two came up together.]

Person 1: I guess I feel like there’s a downward spiral. As the heat rises, more energy is used in cooling. If we’re not generating that electricity in a sustainable way– I read that they’re trying out Syrian strains of wheat because they’re supposed to be more fly-resistant. They’re from this seed vault in Aleppo. It’s because flies are a much severer problem in the Midwest. But destabilizing our food raising regions is scary and weird. For a while, sure, but when it’s the Sahara, you’re not growing anything.

Person 2: Are you gonna forgo capitalism entirely? And if not, where are you gonna make your changes and set your boundaries? As long as you’re participating in capitalism, it’s a ripple-wave effect.

map 7-7-18

Today, kids decorated the map of Rhode Island with pictures of an angry monster and a more cheerful-looking monster.

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Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/9/18, PVDFest

Weather: Hot and bright, then hazy

Number of people: 14 stoppers, 4 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7

People who got the Peanuts reference: 3

Pictures taken with permission: 2

Dogs seen: 28

Dogs pet: 1 (this is obviously a bad ratio)

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $7.05

 

Observations:

This booth session took place during PVDFest, and most of the events in the park were events for kids. This meant that the music that made it hard to hear people talking with me was also incredibly irritating to adult ears. There was a ton of foot traffic, including many apparent out-of-towners, and I think the festival situation with many attractions meant that conversations were shorter than they otherwise might have been.

I saw a cop walk by at 1:05 but I’m sure there were many more around, even more than usual.

A bunch of people were out collecting signatures for candidates, and one of them said to me, “I’m feeling hopeful. Keep up the good work.”

A sweat bee and a tiny ant both visited my hand.

 

Some conversations:

India Point Park—at a corner of the park, we’re losing that to the water, and it doesn’t seem like anyone’s doing anything. I’ve been watching it over 24 months getting worse and worse. I would be surprised if [the city] doesn’t know about it, because it’s very obvious. Two-three years ago, I saw a pile of papers—books, looseleafs—fell in front of the [bus] tunnel and nobody cleaned it up. It took two-three months for the weather to work it out. Nobody does anything about that. All these events make me believe that the city needs to have better leadership, because it doesn’t cost a lot of money to do something about an obvious problem. But I’m a guilty person—I have not tried to do anything about that.

What would you do, if you did do something?

Maybe I would call the Parks Department, or the City Manager. But it’s crazy for them to need me to contact them. Also, because I was here as a new person, so I didn’t have that attitude I’ve been here for four-five years, and my attitude in the first years was I was an outsider, it’s not my problem. But now that I am no longer a tourist—if I were still a tourist, I wouldn’t even have stopped to talk to you.

*

I live down in Narragansett, and I’ve been trying to figure out some good groups that are more local. There’s the Surfriders, but I don’t surf. There’s also the Unitarian [Universalist] church in Peacedale—I did a march down with them in Wakefield against the Dakota Access Pipeline. I’d like to see a ban on plastic bags in Narragansett. There’s a lot of other stuff going on. I know—excuses, excuses.

*

Water. Water purity and cleanliness … I’m looking at offshore drilling, and also local swamp infrastructure. I’m from New Jersey, so there’s a lot of inland development—it’s not what some people are focusing on.

What do you feel when you think about these things?

Equal parts frustration and despair. Everyone recognizes it as a problem, but I don’t think there’s enough of a will. It doesn’t affect a large enough part of the community, and the people it does affect are relatively poor, people of color, on the outskirts. You get lip service from whoever’s running for Congress, but when you’re not in power, what are the things you can do? I’m not in a place where I even know who to talk to.

 

*

[These two came up together.]

Person 1: I’m very concerned about climate change and I just love this. As Darth Vader I live in space, but as [THEIR CIVILIAN IDENTITY] I’m very concerned. When people ask me how Providence is, I say, “It’s falling into the ocean.”

Why do you say that? I mean, why is that the thing you say? Or what reaction are you hoping for?

Well, people ask you something, and then you disrupt their pattern of consciousness.

What about your consciousness? Of the falling into the ocean thing?

My everyday experience is influenced by that understanding.

Person 2: I have a lot of fear about what the future’s going to bring. A fear of what politicians are gonna do. A lot of deforestation.

Person 1: They’re saying the Syrian Civil War was due to instability caused by crop failures. So, also, resource scarcity in areas that don’t have them.

Does that feel close to you, though, or far from you?

Person 2: It fees more far. Because it’s physically remote, not immediately visible.

Person 1: But sometimes it is, and people ignore it. Like after [Superstorm] Sandy, in New York, everybody was like, “We need to do this and that,” but the city didn’t change anything that it was doing.

Person 2: I don’t think as much about stuff that’s further away. But like, Miami Beach is flooding, Cape Cod’s gonna be underwater. It’s not on my brain for a long period of time but I suppose it’s in the back of my mind.

*

I’m one of these Luddites who don’t believe in global warming. I think the planet’s been around for millions of years and we have such a tiny snapshot of what’s what.

*

Natural disasters coming all at once. I don’t have anxiety over it because I can’t control it and I don’t worry about things I can’t control … I’m an importer, I import from China. I used to be only made in the USA but you can’t do that anymore. I have to make a living.

*

Person 1: Right now? The impact of returns on online shipping, the financial and the climate impact. It’s poignant for me because I’m finishing my basement, I live in Chattanooga, and I bought an air conditioner online, and it was the wrong size. And they’re so heavy, you can’t even ship them UPS. I almost used it, even though it was the wrong size. I was like, “Why would we keep it,” but it weighed on me so heavy.

Person 2: There’s context that can completely negate what you think you’re doing. And you can do your research, but it’s a lot of time.

Person 1: If you’re gonna stay in the system, you have to make these decisions.

*

 

 

I don’t know if it’s anxiety, but concerns. What are our children’s children going to be dealing with—what’s gonna happen? And the loss of beauty.

Do you picture it?

This is just worst-case thinking. I don’t picture anything. I watch movies and that makes me go, “Oh my God.” I do a ton of research on current events as it pertains to clean energy—I own a solar company, so I’m doing everything that I can to change it and encourage other people to do the same thing. There are a lot of people who somewhat know it but they’re not convicted enough to take action.

map 6-9-18

On the map of worries/places in Rhode Island they’d like to protect, people have written:

STOP THE FRACKIN’ POWER PLANT!

Lanking [Lincoln] Woods

Stop violence and the shooting of people

Erosion at India Point Park

Johnston Landfill is getting too big

Jenks Point

BEACH

Blackstone Valley Bike Path

SAVE FOREST FROM SOLAR PANELS

Save the climate + beaches: allow windmills along the windy coast

[Next to Block Island] Underwater in 20 years

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: 5/26/16

Weather: Hot and muggy at the beginning, cooler at the end. Small breeze. Faced east again for shade. This was a short shift, 3-5.

Number of people: 6 stoppers, 1 walkby

Number of hecklers: Maybe 0.5? Very mild.

Pages of notes: 5

People known to me, and I to them, from previous sessions: 1

People who commented on the Peanuts reference: 1

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Number of dogs seen: 2

Number of dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.47

 

Observations:

There’s a face people make to protect themselves from me. I can’t describe it, but if you come visit me at the booth (I’ll be there today through Monday, 3-6pm), I’ll try to do it for you.

Lots of people said hi to me today without stopping, just being friendly; a few were people I’d seen yesterday.

Themes of the day: veganism and the movie Cowspiracy  which, I’m glad it was pivotal for you, but that is a terrible title. I have never seen it.

Two bike cops rode through at 4:30.

The person I screwed up the conversation with also stopped by. She had a great hat on, and she asked me what kind of data I was getting. I told her about the first conversation below, and it developed that she’s a math teacher. I’m so grateful to her for stopping and talking with me.

 

Some conversations:

[These two came up together, and are pretty clearly friends]

Person 1: I don’t like the hot. I get hot and aggravated and sticky and I wanna jump in the ocean.

Person 2: But the ocean’s mad cold!

Person 1: I want it to be cold!

Person 2: But you’re gonna tan!

Person 1: How I’m gonna tan under the water?

[There was a transition here that I didn’t note.]

Person 1: They say the water’s getting higher, the ice in Antarctica is melting.

Person 2: The penguins and the polar bears are all gonna die.

Is that something that bothers you a lot, or does it seem far away?

Person 2: No, it’s gonna happen mad soon! We’re not gonna be able to tell our kids about polar bears ’cause they’re gonna be extinct … The birds, they’re all dying. There’s mad crows, crows are everywhere.

Where did you guys learn about these things?

Person 1: My old science teacher. She was talking about winters getting warmer, summers getting hotter, snow when there shouldn’t be snow, or not enough snow so there’s a drought.

Do you talk to other people about it?

Person 1: I would talk to my science teacher.

Is she good to talk to about stuff like that?

Person 1: About anything.

Person 2 [laughing]: All the animals are dying!

Can I ask you, I’m not trying to be rude, but I notice that you’re laughing when you say all these things. Can you say why you’re laughing?

Person 2: It’s like a nervous laugh. Like, it’s gonna happen.

Do you imagine it? Do you picture it?

Person 1: It kinda resembles the apocalypse. It’s like this movie, The Book of Eli … he has to go through the desert and eat rats, through all these ghost towns.

Person 2: Because they’re gonna break out in war. It’s like this [gestures around] but it’s all gray, all the buildings broken, all the statues broken.

It sounds like you guys like watching movies like this. How come?

Person 2: It’s showing you what life’s gonna be later.

Person 1: And there’s usually a character trying to save life, save their family.

 

*

Basically animal agriculture is what I’m most concerned about. It’s kind of destroying the planet. It’s not sustainable at all. This is a new discovery for me: I watched this film Cowspiracy … It’s definitely a personal journey for me. I’ve used social media to put the message out there that we need to be concerned about what we’re doing on this planet. How could I have been so ignorant to this beforehand? We’re just part of a bigger system, and it’s hard to detach from that and see how things really are. There has to be a personal want and desire to take care of the planet.

When you make these changes, or try to encourage other people to make these changes, do you feel better?

Yeah … Even if your voice is not as strong, you still need to speak up.

Can you think about how you might help other people make some of these changes, how you might make that path smoother for people?

When I was going through this change, I had a lot of support from–not my family and friends, they think I’m crazy, but from people on YouTube, on the internet, a community of reassurance and support. Something to that effect is what I’d like to do for other people.

It sounds like you had almost a conversion experience, and I’m wondering if it’s possible for people to change what they’re doing without that conversion.

Well, they’re working on various technologies, like for scrubbing carbon from the atmosphere. They’re looking for ways to solve problems through engineering, but with engineering they’ll cost billions of dollars, and it wouldn’t cost [nearly as much] to change the way we eat.

*

People dying every other day.

Are these people who are dying close to you, are they people you love?

Cousins, people younger than me or a little older. They’re dying more regular now. They say, live a sober life, be sober and deal with this, but it’s not something that we as children are warned about. They tell you, Oh, you gotta go to college, you gotta get a good job, but they don’t tell you this.

*

I definitely am [anxious]. I’ve been vegan for 8 moths because of that. I worked on a dairy farm in New Zealand, and then I saw this film Cowspiracy and I found out that dairy farming is basically the worst thing we can do. Cows are so inefficient. New Zealand used to be 90% forest, now it’s almost all dairy farms. I’ve only been back for a week … If we don’t change, we’re fucked.

Can you say more about what “fucked” looks like here?

By 2050 we’re gonna have 9 billion people. They’re gonna have to eat the food we’ve been feeding the cows. It’s not sustainable.

But what do you imagine though?

Wars, climate wars. They’re saying 2 degrees Celsius, but around the equator it’s gonna be [much worse]. Places like Canada and Russia are gonna be full of rich people ’cause they’re colder. There’s gonna be a mass exodus from the equator–the war in Syria is pretty much directly caused by climate change, but they don’t say that on the news because it doesn’t feel good. We’re totally fucked unless we change, and we’re not gonna change.