Climate Anxiety Counseling: Broadway at Sutton St, 9/28/18

Weather: Sprinkling mist, chilly.

Number of people: 3 stoppers, no walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 2.5

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Dogs seen: 15, mostly from afar

Dogs pet: 0, but did receive one sniff/lick on my extended hand

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.00

 

Observations:

 I was doing this partly to get attention for a fundraising event for No LNG in PVD later in the evening. No one who stopped to talk with me attended the event, which was their loss, because it was amazing. We raised just over $1400!

 Interpreter Eveling Vasquez was with me this time, but no one who stopped needed her services.

This is the first time I’ve ever done the booth in my own neighborhood.

 

Some conversations:

I worry that it was never a big issue with a lot of people, and now it’s even less of an issue with a lot of people. In the national conversation, it’s fallen out of the limelight. People are more interested in other stuff. It used to be people would debate about whether it was happening. I don’t see people debating it anymore, but they don’t want to do anything about it.

 Why do you think that is?

 The problems of today seem much bigger than the problems of tomorrow. It’s tough to hold onto a problem that’s very big. You want to focus on something else, something you can make a difference on. There’s a little bit of apathy. I do it too … I don’t do very much. What am I doing in particular that’s helping the climate? I don’t drive much, but that’s not because of the climate.

 *

 Who doesn’t [have climate anxiety], who has any sense?

 What are some of yours?

Air pollution, plastic, garbage disposal. Just about everything you can think of. And we got a guy who’s not gonna care about it if he gets confirmed. I’m gonna be very depressed when he gets confirmed. It’s not just this, it’s gerrymandering, everything—the whole Republican party voted for that tax cut. They are truly diabolical. You feel like the country’s going in the wrong direction. I got a lot of older folks where I work, and they always want the TV turned to Channel 10, Channel 12. Sure, it’s good to know local news, but you know right away they’re Trump people. I talk to other [patients] who think he’s crazy. But they’re used to looking at Channel 10 and Channel 12, they’re not that well educated, blah blah blah.

 Do you get into it with them?

 Not really. I get an idea of where they’re at, I talk and joke with them. It’s not worth talking about. I won’t get into it ’cause I know they’re not gonna like me. Sometimes I do.

*

I’m taking an oceanography course, and we spend a lot of time talking about the earth and how old she is. The professor’s talking about the atmosphere and its interactions with the ocean, and of course climate change is having a lot of impact on that. I left in tears. I’m disappointed in the human race. We’re destroying so much, and that’s awful, and it’s embarrassing, like when your parents give you something to take care of and you mess it up. We’ve failed in a way, and what’s really hard is what we’re taking down with us—we’re not just destroying ourselves. So that’s what I’m thinking about. I’m embarrassed. We should’ve done better. Part of me thinks we should be trying to make amends, but that in itself feels selfish. The earth will heal itself [if we’re gone] and things will kind of spin around. We’re really just trying to preserve ourselves.

 

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

Weather: Cool and gray, on the chilly side

Number of people: 9 stoppers, 1 walkby

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 5

People who got the Peanuts reference: 3

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Dogs seen: 2

Dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $1.54

 

Observations:

One food truck was there when I got there; another one showed up at noon, both on the west side of the park entrance, where I was too. I’ve also noticed that when people talk with me while waiting for their food, they disappear as soon as their food is ready, which makes sense if they’re hungry/on a timed lunch break.

Two cops biked through the bus station, and then through the park, starting at 12:07. There was also a cop car parked at the old Greyhound stop—I noticed it at 12:20 but it might have been there longer.

I seeded the map with “clean water.”

In one of these conversations, the two interlocutors—who came up together and are friends—were talking to each other as much as or more than to me, and I wish I’d asked them if they’d talked about these things together before.

People often come up with some version of “Don’t sweat things you can’t control” (as one of my interlocutors) and I would like to figure out an inviting, non-condescending way to point out that we are often wrong about what we can control and what we can’t (particularly when we act together).

 

Some conversations:

 

 

 

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

Person 1: Your sign reminded me that it astounds me that people are still having children when we’re not certain that there’s even going to be a world for them.

Person 2: I think about that most days. Whether to have kids—the climate and concerns about what will be here, and also do I have the money, what does my job allow me to do.

Person 1: Or will North Korea nuke us before then.

Person 2: I also was thinking about the polar bears this morning. You see those individual images, but if you think about the scale … There’s just this confusion and this concern—I don’t know how to get past the conversation of, “It’s terrible and we should do something.”

Person 1: No matter how much I can do to do my part, if everyone else doesn’t do it it doesn’t do anything … You hit this place of uncomfortable complacency, and it doesn’t feel good.

Person 2: In 9th grade we had to each cover some animal that is endangered, and I [chose the Florida panther and I] learned so much about how we’re fracturing natural habitat. I love cities, I love skylines and lights and people, but … And then there’s this endless emphasis on recycling …

Person 1: And even with recycling—so I was with this group in college, we were trying to educate people, we put all these bins all over campus. And we ended up running into so many society-structured roadblocks. The facilities people still put everything into one bag, and the waste system was allegedly Mafia-run—any time you would call any of the separate landfills it would always go to the same voicemail. We worked so hard on those.

Person 2: I feel like recycling is a big smokescreen. [People are] getting mad at maintenance workers instead of big polluters. We’re all very vulnerable to people who are interested in their own benefit.

*

Old age is better than I could have imagined. I have very little anxiety because I’ve learned: don’t sweat things you can’t control.

map 6-6-18

“Clean water” comes from me, because people don’t usually mark the map if their mark would be the first one.

The person who marked “Rocky Point” marked it as a place they love, although they had no anxieties.

The person who marked “Providence” said as they did so, “It’s gonna be underwater, right?”

Someone wrote “Warren” and someone else wrote “the Bay” with a little heart.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza, 6/21/16

Weather: Sunny and hot, a small breeze. Okay in the shade. Had to angle my hat pretty sharply toward the end (I was facing west) to keep sun out of my eyes.

Number of people: 7 stoppers, 3 walkbys.

Number of hecklers: 0! Also, see below.

Pages of notes: 4.5

Conversations between people previously unknown to one another: 1

People who commented on the Peanuts reference: 1

Picture-takers with permission: 1

Dogs seen: 2

Dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.30

 

Observations:

Today was a good day for talking with people I’ve met at the booth before. I had one really long conversation with someone I’d met once, which then turned into a conversation between him and someone I’ve met a few times. Someone who had previously been a heckler stopped by, shook my hand twice, and told me, “They doubled my meds, so I’m feeling legit.”

I may have already said that don’t really drink enough water on days when I’m at the booth, because I can’t leave the booth to get up and pee (it would blow away and/or it’s just possible that someone might kick it over or mess it up, though I’ve never actually run directly into that level of irritation with it). Today, that sucked.

 

Some conversations:

More about the environment [than the climate]. It’s a disposable life. It used to be you make something, then you use it till it wears out. Now you buy it again and again, you have to buy water. It’s perpetual–they think they’re making life simpler but they’re making it more complicated. Everything’s changing. I think it’s getting ugly, it’s getting more complicated. Squirrels know enough to seek shelter before it rains–humans are getting dumber.

What would you recommend?

Time machine.

Okay, but–

You gotta get people’s attention to put effort into it–to not be selfish and greedy, to participate. Not, “Oh, let somebody else worry about it.” If we would change it, people would open their eyes and see.

Do you talk to people about it?

A few people–nobody else cares. They’re willing to pollute to get you to buy water. We should have clean water, we shouldn’t have to buy it. And we think we’re growing, we think we’re evolving.

*

Everybody realizes that climate change–it’s definitely happening, the ice caps are melting.

*

I’m worried about climate change and timing. I believe that it’s because of how the earth–I think it’s either going faster and the time goes by slower and the storms, there’s more storms …

You do worry about it?

‘Cause I have no control over it. As a child I learned to let it go [if I have no control]. What are we gonna do about it?

I guess I also think, how do we want to act, knowing that this is gonna happen.

Be nicer to each other. Give a helping hand. Try to reassure people that it’s going to be okay. If you look around, there has been more mental illness–maybe it’s because of that, they’re losing days. And people dying affects people with mental illness more. Everybody’s taking pills to calm themselves down to ignore what’s going on. Just live it–God put you on this earth to live.

*

I was a Green Party councilor in England, for Hertfordshire. I’m concerned about the low-lying areas of most of the world, and pollution, and health. I was pleasantly surprised to find that public transit in Rhode Island is not as bad as I’ve been led to believe–better than in some parts of the U.S. What I would like to see in terms of transport is: I see the freight rail lines, so the infrastructure is there to add to the rail network. It could be linked into the MBTA system in Central Falls. It’s an opportunity to do something about traffic congestion and traffic pollution … Slowly, we’re winning the economic argument as well. People in business are starting to see that there’s a point where not doing something is more expensive than doing something. In Europe, 90% of politicians accept climate science. Here it’s more like 50%, if that. But here business is starting to run ahead of politicians. … Because Rhode Island is coastal, we have the capacity for wind power, but there’s also the possibility of tide power. Someone in the U.S. is gonna lead on that, and Rhode Island has a lot of tidal ranges in various places.

 

Alternate Histories: 5/29, 6/13, 9/29

[Note:  this is another alternate history for the same two people who evoked yesterday’s.]

5/29/15

[After asking his nana for permission to talk to me]

I’m worried that I’ll never get to see my dad and he misses me and I miss him. And I miss nature, I miss everything.

Your nana’s over there, you don’t miss her, right?

No, she’s right over there, and my mom, and my auntie, except for my dad.

Are you guys in touch? [Shakes head.] Do you like to draw?

Yeah.

Maybe you could do some drawings and save them for him, I bet he’d like that.

I like to draw Minecraft. I make a comic book and I turn it into a comic book and all I do is make Minecraft, that’s all. Can I have a piece of paper? [I give him a piece of paper and he folds it.] Do you have a scissor or can you rip it? [He draws a line to show me where to rip, and unfolds a one-sheet booklet. He then goes and lugs his little cousin over to meet me and they draw together for a while on the backs of some of the alternate-history blanks, except he’s having a competition for how much paper he can cover and she’s not. I give him a marker, a clipboard, and the rest of the alternate-history blanks to take with him.]

*

6/13/15

I worked at Apeiron, I worked in Woonsocket. Life is so totally out of balance, so disconnected. We’re all implicated. It makes me so unutterably sad.

What do you do when you feel that sadness?

I try to put parts of my body on the grass and connect with Mother Earth … A lot will survive, but I think it might not be us. I try to breathe. I think about the bad things I do and how they contribute … I believe that everybody cares, given the opportunity to care.

I’ve been trying to think about what sadness might make possible.

Sadness leads to the desire for connection. Sadness informs reaching out. But I don’t share sadness often, because I want to make opportunities for people to perform their own responses, to facilitate a journey to authentic response.

*

9/29/15

Okay, you don’t believe in the bell in the sky, you don’t want to make the bell in the sky happen. How about this…

When you’re in pain it’s natural to throw yourself down on the breast of your mother, if she’s not your enemy. And so the slopes with their scrub, the sidewalks with their cracks, the parks and beaches and vacant lots and meadows become dotted, striped, coated with people in pain, W and T among them, in different places, their chests or fingertips seeking contact with the dark earth. They share their sorrow with her and they rise up replenished; they take her wounds into themselves. Because of where and when they are, they lie eye-to-eye with yellowjackets and ants, they look to the side and see acorn caps and plantain leaves, a loose feather or a fallen oak twig. They look to the other side and see someone’s shoulder, or their hair interweaving with the grass.

They know (and if they don’t, they tell each other) that a big group of people in a place has a tendency to leave a mark, so they are careful with the length of time they stay. They start by grooming the places they lie down for human-made debris, but then they start to ask: what counts? Is garbage in a trashcan or a landfill better for the skin of the earth than garbage in the leaves? Some of them bring trowels and pick meditatively at the asphalt or concrete.

Mostly people stay for a little less long than it takes their body and their bacteria to move food or water along, so as not to cause problems with their shit or piss. But a few people lie there all day, for days. Maybe they’re skipping work, or don’t have work. Maybe they’re ignoring their families, or have no families.  Their sorrow is profound, and the people who lie next to them sometimes begin to bring them food and water, help them to nearby toilets or latrines reserved for them, even bathe them. They become shrines.

The other thing that happens is that through the seasons and years of lying on the ground, people come to know it better. Their ears and noses, as well as their skin, become attuned to its shifts, its layers, its veins, the motion of creatures within it or water below it. Someone who lies on the ground all the time can tell whether the ground they lie on is rich in plastic sediment, or lime, or mycorrhizae, or aerobic bacteria. They can sense the degree and nature of its strain or plenty. More often, it’s strain, and they share that stress and sorrow. Sometimes they can even tell what it needs, and ask for that, or bring it there–manure, or charcoal, or certain kinds of plants, or better drainage–not to serve humans better, but to feel more itself, to steady its balance.

… Does this offer you what you need? Do you believe it? Do you want to make it happen?