Action TONIGHT: End Fossil-Fueled Environmental Disasters in the Port of Providence!

Last night, an 11,000-gallon tanker truck rolled on Allens Avenue in Providence, spilling much of its contents into the Providence River. They’re still working on the cleanup this morning. This is the third accident related to fossil fuel transport in the Port of Providence in 1.5 years. Tonight at 5pm, if you’re able, please join No LNG in PVD at the intersection of Allens Avenue and Ernest St in Providence to demand the city’s plan for preventing environmental disasters caused by the transport of fossil fuels.

lng plant panorama

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Climate Anxiety Counseling at AS220’s Foo Fest, 8/12/17

Weather: Heavy, humid, cool but with underlying warmth

Number of people: 11 stoppers, 6 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 10

People who recognized the Peanuts reference: 2

Pictures taken with permission: 1 video!

Pictures taken without permission: 1

Dogs seen: 7

Dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $20.20

 

Observations:

I did the booth at Foo Fest a couple of years ago, and I was inside the perimeter (where you have to pay to get in, and where other activities and the bands are). I talked with 23 people. This year, I asked to be outside because I don’t like to do it in places that people have to pay to get into—part of the point of the booth is to keep access to it very easy (even the 5-cent donation fee is optional). I only had 11 conversations. My (totally unscientific and untested) hypothesis: that people who are paying for an experience (e.g. an arts fair) are more likely to stop and see me if they understand me as part of the event they’re paying for.

Possibly relatedly, I always make a ton more money for the EJ League when I do the booth at an arts event or an event labeled “green”, as opposed to doing it on the street or at a market.

Also relatedly, I moved from one side of the gate to the other about an hour in, so that I’d be more visible and so that there wouldn’t be a police officer standing behind me.

A bunch of sweet friends had a drawing session with me to make RI organism cards to give out, and that evening felt amazing to me and made me recognize my love for and rootedness in my city. Also, one friend and her daughter and sister stopped by and brought me a container of tiny tomatoes, and another friend shared her cucumbers with me.

 

Some conversations:

I’m troubled by the fact that we’re moving closer and closer to a point of no return, where we’re not able to reverse the damage that we’ve done to this planet. Everyone has the right to have a family. An amazing and vital part of our humanity is to have children. But it’s sucking up resources. The population is growing large enough that it’s not sustainable. Plenty of people try to live in an environmentally unharmful and neutral way, but regardless of that there are just too many people on the planet. I don’t see education about how to live more sustainably—people are still eating beef, for example.

Do you talk with people about this?

Not in any activist type of way. It comes across in conversations with friends, like, “Oh shit, what are we gonna do, what can we do, what’s the point”–those conversations don’t necessarily lead anywhere productive. I guess it reinforces my commitment to how I live, how I teach my children. … We all have the right and we all have the instinct to reproduce. It’s very difficult to say. There are many reasons why people choose the size of family that they choose. I know in China they have ordinances around the number of children—that doesn’t feel right.. I don’t have daughters, I have sons, and I teach them about birth control … I think all you can do is live as mindfully as you can and support efforts and shore up people’s energy for making efforts to do right by the earth.

*

How often do you have to do this to feel better?

*

We won’t be able to change things fast enough to have a bicycle-based society in time—to change our infrastructure. Even in my own habits and where I live—how am I going to get to work? How to enjoy relaxing without using a car? My parents live in Little Compton, and when I go out there I try to stay for two nights—I’m not zipping all over the place—but still.

How could you be involved in making some of these changes?

I would need to start going more to city planning events. In DC, I think, they have a tax on nonpermeable infrastructure, for any new structures. But as the the climate’s getting wacky, I worry about people not having reliable access to food … It’s a limited world with limited resources, and we have a culture operating as if it was still a frontier with the potential for unlimited growth. If you’re a person with me, with low productivity, you can work less, drive less. But I have no retirement savings. … If I felt like I had less wealth and resources in my social network, I wouldn’t be so comfortable with it.

*

[These two came up together and had similar fashions.]

Person 1: Donald Trump is worrying me.

What about him?

That he exists! That he represents 30% of a once hidden population, so that now you know just how much you are hated. And behind him, you have a theocrat who wants to dismantle the [US] Constitution, saying there’s no such thing as global warming because there’s no such thing as science. “Don’t drive your car, don’t go to the doctor.” They’re cutting arts funding—and art and design come into all of that.

Person 2: What do you recommend for someone who feels hopeless in the face of all of this? When you do what you can, you go to marches, you sign things, but you feel like it’s just not gonna do any good?

Person 1: [Those events are] preaching to the choir.

Person 2: They have absolutely no effect at all. I feel like I’m just biding my time till something changes.

Can I ask what else you’ve tried?

Person 1: I’ve signed every petition there is. Senators aren’t gonna listen to me, the governor isn’t gonna listen to me … If you see someone who you think might be targeted, it’s a good thing to smile at them. You don’t let people around you be abusive in words or actions. You don’t add to somebody’s burden.

Person 2: If I can’t do anything to alter what’s going on in DC, you can be civil and generous to people in your environment.

*

I’m really worried that humanity, even though it knows what’s going on, just loves its creature comforts better than giving up one or two things. I see it in myself … Maybe a huge marketing campaign, but if that’s what it takes for the human course to shift, maybe we’re doomed, if truth and information and knowledge isn’t enough in itself. It has to get packaged up and delivered. Maybe it’s always been that way. There’s always been wars, there’s always been people becoming parents. Maybe the marketing thing is more the positive, the love, and war is more like the fear. We have the concept of the planet as our other parent—we’re inside of it, but there’s not that much connection today. Maybe we need another psychology, where the planet is the child.

*

I see the LNG trucks down on the water there. I live in Olneyville, and I remember when Merino Park was just a brownfield. Now people have a place to take their kids and ride their bikes. I’m afraid that they’ll just dump it. One of the things about that park is that it was given to the neighborhood without gentrifying the neighborhood. So many times, they just kick everyone out—why don’t you just do it for the people who are already there?

*

The fact that we all die. And also that we’re destroying our planet, and that future generations will look back on us like, “They had so much and did so little.”

Do you imagine what it’s going to be like?

It’s hard for anyone to put their imagination to exactly what the world would look like. I tend to go towards the apocalyptic. And a regression of the life that we enjoy, of the plenty we enjoy in US consumerism. We feel guilty, but we still do it.

So is it that you’re worried about not being able to get hold of things you need?

Every leisure activity I do is casual consumption. I use products that are made to be thrown away. … I just don’t have the willpower or mindfulness to go against society. I don’t necessarily believe that society will make choices for the greater good. Buying things is an easy way to feel better. My joy comes from my family and my friends, from creating things, writing, reading—but when I’m lonely and there’s no one around—I think if resources are available people will go toward them. Our best hope is the expansion of technology and the ability to create solutions.

*

I’m worried that I’m part of the problem. Everyone plays their part, but I could do a better job of fixing my carbon footprint. I used to really care about what I ate and how it affected the environment. But I had an eating disorder, and not being vegan is part of my treatment. It’s just difficult to go between being hardcore vegan and not, and I get worried that I’m not doing enough.

*

[These two came up together.]

Person 1: Finding clean water sources. And saltwater intrusion.

Are you from Florida?

I lived in Florida for five years. I struggle a lot with the whole climate change idea in general. Most people think climate change is just warming—they don’t realize that it’s killing the oceans. It’s a lot bigger than people think it is.

Person 2: A lot of people in this country are very isolated. They know, but they don’t want to know so they can keep living their lives.

Have you ever had to make a big change in your life? You don’t have to say what it was, but what was it like?

Yeah, I made an impulsive decision that then I had to live with. I don’t know how to put it into words. … I think it’s gonna take something drastic.

Drastic things have happened.

Yeah, but then they pay scientists to say it’s bullshit.

How do you handle it when you have these feelings?

I kinda go into the abyss of my brain.

Person 1: We’ve had some discussions and I still think people can work together to solve the problem.

Person 2: I’m a little more pessimistic about human nature.

Person 1: I think that if we can get over our petty squabbles and unite as a [species]–if we put your faith in solving this problem and not destroying the earth–

Person 2: But people have different priorities. If we don’t fix this in the next 5-10 years–

Person 1: As a species, we’ve solved every problem we’ve ever encountered. I guess I just hope we can solve this one.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/29/17

Weather: Cloudy, very windy, lowering heat at first, then cool

Number of people: 8 stoppers, 6 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0! Except 1 sort of by proxy? I didn’t get permission to post that conversation, so suffice it to say that it was weird.

Pages of notes: 10

Peanuts references: 2

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Dogs seen: 1

Dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $1.11

 

Observations:

To the kids I didn’t get to talk with, but who wrote “The big tree to the left” on the map of places in RI they’d like to protect: You rule.

I need to fix the part of the booth where my signs fit together—the wind kept blowing it over and I had to use one hand to hold it the whole time.

I’ve changed my spiel slightly: “Climate anxiety is short for the anxieties people might feel about climate change,” I begin. It seems to work a little better to give context.

Two cop cars drove through with flashers and sirens at 3:37. Two cops walked through the park, one leading a man in handcuffs, at 4. Two (different) cops walked through the park at about 5:45.

 

Some conversations:

Climate. Yeah. Too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels, global warming.

How does it feel, to know that?

It doesn’t affect me. Glaciers, rising sea levels, more tornadoes, polar bears, species losing habitats because everything is shifting and animals can’t adapt, plants and animals can’t adapt.

I think I asked the question badly. I mean, you have all this knowledge of what’s happening, how does it feel to live with this knowledge?

When I see more and more cars on the road and not enough people taking mass transit. And cities and states not making that a high priority.* Physically, for me, getting caught in traffic every day. I look out the bus window and I see cars filled with one person. There’s no incentive for people to carpool. I can’t say everybody’s gotta take the bus, because people’s needs are different.

*Doctor’s note: Rhode Island is currently preparing its Long-Term Transportation Plan, dealing with every aspect of transportation in the state for the next 20 years. If you want to let the Division of Planning know that good public transportation, carpool incentives, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions are important to you, you can leave a comment here. (Get in touch with me at my gmail address, publiclycomplex, if you want some talking points.)

*

People worry: are we going to war? Everybody’s worried about war and terrorists. And inequality, capitalism going on—this new gig economy, start[up] economy, everybody has to adapt to survive.

It’s also like: who is it who wants us to adapt.

The elite! “Adapt. We’re all set, we made our money.” I don’t have anything against capitalism, but there’s a difference between capitalism and just—heartless. Draconian. “Get out of my way our I’ll step on you like a bug.” You can’t afford to go and buy local because you’re on a fixed income. … I’m from Brazil and Brazil is a mess right now. People are very rebellious, they’re not taking capitalism anymore.* People are fighting all over the world for their rights to exist and live a good life. … I don’t hate rich people, they do good things, we need no poor hating rich, no rich hating poor. We gotta come up with something to help each other, because that’s all we got.

*Doctor’s note: I haven’t checked these statements.

*

[This person was one of the first people to speak to me at the booth on my very first day in 2014. He’s the second person down.]

How many people have anxieties about the climate? I think I was more hopeful before. But a lot of people have gone beyond the “it’s a hoax” thing and recognized that this isn’t something we’ve seen in our lifetime. It’s just gonna make things harder, the whole human experience in general.

*

 

 

 

 

There’s a lot of animals that are gonna be extinct soon. Maybe one day we won’t have any animals. I hope not. But it’s like a ripple effect. I don’t know how it would be—it would be weird. We don’t even know all the animals that were here.

But I think change can be good. One you know how change is, how you don’t have control—well, you have some control, but you can’t be mad if things don’t work out your way. Don’t be stressed. Try and keep looking at something else you might wanna save. In life you lose and you get. You shouldn’t be messed up about it, you shouldn’t dwell on it ’cause then you’ll be sad all the time.

*

I’m here with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, so I meet many people with many anxieties. And I agree. I love the Earth. Climate change is dreadful. But Jehovah’s gonna stop it very soon and get rid of the people who are harming the Earth. There’s a scripture, I don’t have my Bible with me, but it says, “He will bring to ruin those who are harming the Earth.” I look at the ice caps and what’s happening to the oceans and I can’t stand it. I think the difference between you and me is that I have a hope for the future, because I know God’s gonna fix it … I know it’s gonna be soon, because it’s getting so bad. We will ruin the Earth to such an extent that it will be unlivable.

… I feel bad for people with children, and its’s one of the reasons I haven’t had them. It was a conscious decision. I couldn’t bring them into this world. In the new world, when it’s Paradise, I’ll have a football team. They can climb trees, they can roll in the grass. Take a look in the Bible. He made the earth and He’s gonna fix it. And then maybe you and I can climb trees together.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/16/17

Weather: Light drizzle increasing to pouring, steady rain

Number of people: 4 stoppers, 0 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 6.5

People who recognized the Peanuts reference: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.35

 

Observations:

Unsurprisingly, very few people stopped to talk to me when it was pouring. There was room under the umbrella—it’s a big umbrella—but the lie of the land had a little muddy stream running down right in front of the booth where they’d have to stand. I rigged the umbrella by bungee-ing it to the handtruck, which worked fine only because there was very little wind.

The stream behaved like a stream, with patterns of currents that were revealed by patterns of pebbles and silt, even though it was tiny and temporary. That was cool to me.

People’s rain behaviors—especially, the way they covered themselves, and their walks—were very lovely. I spotted at least two people using plastic store bags as rain shields for their hair, some hood-stretching and jacket-ducking, and lots of variations of scuttling, determined striding, hunching, and plain old running.

Themes of the day: farming, convenience, reasons why people do or don’t do things.

 

Some conversations:

I started getting anxious about it around the time that An Inconvenient Truth was released. Before that I was like, Eh, you know, it’ll happen sometime soon, and that was like, Nope, it’s happening now. I started looking into little actions I could do, but it’s difficult to keep from having a sense of despair. Every once in a while—I own a house in Providence and it’s 150 feet above sea level, but this area right here is 10 feet above sea level. Half the economy of Providence is 10 feet above sea level.

Can we go back to—you used the word “despair”, which is a really deep-down word. What do you despair of?

That people are willing to make difficult decisions to do something about it. It’s a long-term problem, it’s been building and building, and each year it gets incrementally worse …. You can see it right now. It’s been sort of real—with Hurricane Katrina, it was like, It could have been made worse by climate change but we don’t know, and with glaciers it was like, Well, glaciers come and go. But the moment when I was like, This is it, right now, was the March heat wave we had in I think 2012. It was in the high 70s for a week, 10 days, and people were like, Oh, it’s so mild and pleasant! And I was like, No, this is 20 degrees out of normal. This shouldn’t happen, it’s such an unusual—Oh, we’re screwed.

…I got rid of my car. I was completely vegetarian for a few years, now I eat meat maybe once a week, or less. But at one point I was like, Fuck it, I’m gonna do whatever the hell I want because it doesn’t matter anymore. I didn’t want to say completely fuck it, get the biggest car I can and live in the suburbs, I had a week of saying fuck it and then I went back to doing what I normally do. I like my bike for transportation. It’s cheaper—I save $1000 a year just by not renting a parking place, and I think something like $8000 a year by not having a car at all. And it’s fun, I like riding my bike, it’s fun to do. Same with the mostly vegetarian diet: It feels better, it’s easier to cook, you don’t have to worry as much, it’s cheaper. I could spend thousands of dollars to make my house more efficient, but I haven’t looked into it.

… I follow the Audubon webcam with the falcons. It’s like a streaming media service for me. I’m always happy to see the hawks. I ride out into Scituate and Gloucester—and that’s another thing, you can really see the g*psy moth boom. You can hear it, it sounds like rain. Last August, it felt like April—the trees were mostly bare with just a little green, but it wasn’t because they were budding, it was because they were eaten. When I was in the fuck-it state, I was thinking about how I buy produce from the farmers’ market, and it’s two times as expensive: why am I paying two times as much? But I like to ride my bike in Foster, and I’d rather ride my bike by a farm than by an exurban development. If I want there to be a farm, I need to buy that produce.

*

 

I think about icebergs. I think about the extinction of some of our wildlife—and the human race, too. I’m a chef, so I think about plants. I think about the ocean. I’m not too knowledgeable about climate change, but I know that one of the problems is going to be a very serious lack of water … Last summer I couldn’t get butternut squash, I couldn’t get golden zucchini. Oysters come from the ocean. It’s pretty big. But I don’t see it, I hear about it through word of mouth, from news broadcasts—it’s not the same.

… I try to teach my five-year-old to be environmentally friendly, but I can’t be environmentally friendly. Coke, Sprite and everything, they give you this recyclable bottle, but do you see any recycling cans down here? So it’s the city, it’s everything… I can’t just go into the 7-11 and ask for a cup of water, or a spigot, because you can’t trust the water in your city. No matter how much you wanna be environmentally friendly, unless you’re a millionaire, unless you can afford to live that lifestyle you can’t live it… I argue with my brother all the time—he says organic this and free range that, but “free range” just means they spend one hour in the field, the rest of the time they’re stacked up in cages, thousands and thousands, they’re still in the cage unless you’re spending like $9.99. What exactly is free range, what exactly is “support your local community”?

…But I don’t have anxiety about it because it’s not directly affecting me. But I do have a five-year-old son, and I worry about what he’ll be dealing with , and his kids.

What would make it feel like it was directly affecting you?

The extinction of a lot of ocean animals. We live in the [food chain], you need the orca to eat the dolphin, the dolphin to eat the shrimp, the shrimp to eat the algae. … There goes my striped bass, if I want that striped bass, if I want that tuna—we’re the ocean state, but they’re just gonna migrate, I’m not gonna be able to just go to my usual spot. So then it costs more for gas, fuel for buses. But I wouldn’t say I’m anxious about climate change because I’m getting everything that I want. Everyone turns a blind eye if it’s not affecting them.

You talked about your son, and being worried about the future for him—do you show him how to care about things that aren’t affecting him directly?

Oh, yeah. For him, yeah. I’m a victim of society. I’m set in my ways—I’m 33. But we watched [Garbage Island] together and I’m like, This is important. Now he doesn’t wanna go in the ocean because he thinks it’s dirty, but we’re working on it, we’re getting back in the water. The other cool thing about the ocean too is there’s so many animals we haven’t even discovered—oh! and that’s kinda sad, right?

 

Alternate History: Refusal 5

The next day, truckers spoke over the radios, recalculating their routes, passing the word along. Air traffic controllers refused to let planes land. No one who drove a truck or flew a plane or ran container shipping in the Gulf would bring any concrete or rebar or wire or cable or steel or cement or construction equipment or surveillance electronics to anywhere at all in California, Arizona, New Mexico or Texas.

Companies in these states that made or used or sold these materials and tools made haste to sell their products, at a discount, to people and companies building anywhere else–other states, overseas. Ann Arbor and Vladivostok both took big deliveries of cranes, for some reason, and a lot of materials went to Haiti and Georgia.

People who worked large-scale construction in those states knew that the government would probably bring in prison labor anyway, but just in case, they went to visit relatives in other states if they could, or picked up work far from home. The unions passed the word along.

On the border, men with guns and men in suits stood with no power to move or build anything more than a handful of dirt.

*

Rhode Islanders can see if Dorcas International needs volunteer help. Anyone can call their city’s or town’s mayor and ask what they are going to do to protect and accommodate their immigrant and refugee neighbors.

This refusal is for everyone who was murdered trying to make the crossing, and for my students, who are still alive.