The Southside is not a dump! Two chances to say so are coming up

South Providence and Washington Park residents are asking people to join them this Friday, March 13, 3-5pm, at the corner of Allens and Thurbers Avenues, to declare our opposition to a dump that will heavily increase truck traffic, toxic dust and greenhouse gas emissions.

NO TRANSFER STATION! This is our HOME, NOT A SACRIFICE ZONE

Meanwhile, the company that wants to build this garbage depot has asked Providence City Plan Commission for another 60-day extension on their application. The Commission will decide whether to grant this request on March 17, 4:45pm, at 444 Westminster St in downtown Providence. Come to the 1st floor meeting room that day to show them that we’re paying attention and need our voices heard.

Stop Poisoning the Southside: Doorknocking 2/29

Another polluting business wants to operate on the Southside. On 2/29, 12-3pm, meeting outside the Washington Park Library, you can doorknock with No LNG in PVD to let people in the neighborhood know what’s going on and what they can do about it. Spanish and English speakers needed! RSVP-ing would be good: use the Facebook event to sign up or email me at my gmail address, publiclycomplex, with questions.

WHAT IS IT THIS TIME?
Truck exhaust and toxic dust in the air, and garbage juice in the water, from a new scrapyard company that is trying to build on Allens Avenue—unless we stop them.

TRUCK EXHAUST?
188 or more trucks–probably diesel trucks—would go to and from the scrapyard every day, on and off the highway. When they can’t unload right away, they will circle the Allens Avenue area, pumping even more toxic exhaust into the air that we and our kids breathe.

TOXIC DUST?
Digging to build the scrapyard will stir up over a hundred years of polluted dirt, containing lead, arsenic and other dangerous chemicals. The construction garbage that the scrapyard wants to process is also full of materials that it’s dangerous to breathe.

GARBAGE JUICE?

Leachate is garbage juice—liquid that comes out of the things that people throw away, including machines and moldy things, and collects in the trucks. Leachate can sink into the soil and get into the water, and the company has even said they’re going to spray more of it to keep the dust down!

WHAT CAN WE DO?

Tell your friends, family and co-workers about it, especially if they live in the neighborhood.

Doorknock with No LNG in PVD on 2/29!

Attend the City Planning hearing on March 17th at 4:45pm at 444 Westminster St, Providence (the big brick building at the corner of Westminster and Empire, downtown).

A construction and debris demolition operation has been proposed for this nearly 4-acre site between I-95 and Allens Avenue in Providence. (Google Earth)

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market, 8/7

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

Number of people: 2 stoppers, 2 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 4

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Dogs seen: 1

Dogs pet: 1, great ratio

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

Observations:

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

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

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

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

Some conversations:

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

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

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

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

What would doing enough have as part of it?

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market, 7/24/19

Weather: Warm/hot and bright, little breeze, puffy clouds

Number of people: 1 stopper

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7

Money raised for Tooth and Nail Community Support Collective: $1.00

Observations:

While I only had one conversation today, A) it was a great one, as you’ll soon see, and 2) the market as a whole seemed busier than the previous few markets. I didn’t check with other vendors to see if this was the case for them.

Nonhuman animal passersby: cabbage white butterfly, bumblebee, sparrow, dragonfly, tiny ant, starlings, wasp, pigeon, and a butterfly that I didn’t see but that apparently landed on my hat.

A conversation:

Being Native American, we never think about the land and water as ours today. It’s always for the next generations. So it’s extra stressful, not only because of the change that is happening here and today, but because you can already see that Mother Earth—every living creature is like an embryo in her womb, and all living creatures are slowly dying. If I think of what my grandchildren or great-grandchildren’s lives will be, I can’t—will we have to live in constant bubbles and not breathe anymore than half an hour outside of a building? These sci-fi things. It’s so stressful. As much as I would love to be a grandmother, the idea of bringing a child into that world… And coming from a culture where you only live if you reproduce—it makes me really sad.

Is this something you talk about with your kids?

We talk about it a lot, with my daughter especially. She’s extra health-conscious, especially when it comes to foods—she’s the one that’s very sensitive to all of these issues. …One of my sons will get a glass of milk and she’ll be, “Do you know what’s in that milk?” She makes it a main topic in the house. She’s like, “Why are we committing slow suicide.” She’s thirteen.

….How do we make a neighborhood aware of these things and able to deal with these things? It’s almost like you have to recondition everyone. This started years ago, and it’s going fifty times faster than they ever expected. How much quicker is it going now? To make the public be aware of what’s actually happening, they’d actually have to try to do things about it. My son is really into marine life—he’s the Save the Bay kid. Every time we go to the beach he’s like, “Mom, where’s the trash bag?”

Are there any ways that cultural knowledge has helped you and your family deal with this time?

I’ve always taught my kids to pay it forward. To have compassion, to have empathy, in our interactions with others. I don’t know if I set them up to be hurt a lot. But on the other hand, I’m like, “One day humanity’s going to need people like you.” And they know that all living things, from a tree to a flower to a human, [are] just as important as each other. Without one thing, the other will die, until there’s nothing.

… I tell them, feelings and thought are matter, and matter carries energy. Hate’s energy kills, but love’s energy helps things to thrive. … My daughter out of all of us is the most balanced. She sees me looking at people in pain, and dealing with the trauma from ancestral empathy, carrying the spirit of my ancestors, and she says, “Mom, your heart is too big.” I’ll see someone and I’ll be like, “Just let me give ’em a hug,” and that turns into opening the door to them, and that turns into them living with us, and then that turns into their kids stealing from me. My kids over the years have been displaced by other people’s needs. I’ve taught them to give, but how much did I teach them about self-love?

So many people think that [care] has to come back as a direct thing. But what happens is, you’ll give way over here and you’ll get back over here. But you’ll know that it’s part of your cycle, because you’ll be at peace.

… I have to let go of who I was and embrace who I’m going to be. I’m 43 years old. I’m not afraid to recognize that I need help, but it took me a long time to say, “It’s okay. It’s all right to breathe. If you further your education, you can put yourself in positions to open doors.” …If I don’t shut down the old me, I’ll never get to my full potential.

In a way that’s what the book I’m writing is about: how do we become the people we need to be in this frightening time?

It’s an emotional burden that I can’t explain. A lot of people don’t think about it because they don’t live in a conscious way. They’re not going to think about it until that last bottle of water costs $300. It’s so heavy.

Image result for cabbage white butterfly

[IMAGE: A cabbage white butterfly, like the one I saw on this day, on a yellow flower.]

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market, 6/19/19

Weather: Muggy, alternating cloudy and bright

Number of people: 7 stoppers, 2 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 5

People who got the Peanuts reference: 1

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

Dogs seen: 2

Dogs pet: 1, a lot

Postcards Against the Plant: 1

Money raised for Tooth and Nail Community Support Collective: $0.15

 

Observations:

On this day, someone came by the booth in need of immediate and very specific help. I connected her with the one resource I knew about, but that didn’t lead her to what she needed, and I chose not to put down everything else I was doing to address her immediate need. Since no one else was doing that either, her need didn’t get met.

Nonhuman animal presences: sparrows, a wasp, a red mite running in circles on my booth table.

Is there a way to get people to harness their neoliberal hyperawareness as a kind of mindfulness practice?

 

Some conversations:

I’m anxious about the way our culture engages with things. We ask, “What can I do?” when it’s a problem of the collective. Different cultures are better at that.

What has taught you that it’s possible to think in a collective way?

It might seem trite but I feel like there are some things—like team activities. In high school, I was in all the bands, and you feel that, like your voice or instrument is contributing to a larger sound. In a work setting it’s harder to see that.

*

I’m more obsessed with plastic, I guess.

Why does it bother you?

Because it’s everywhere. And because of the ocean. There’s micro amounts of plastic in almost everything we eat!

How does it feel when you hear something about it in the news, or learn more about it?

The first time I heard it, I was very surprised, because I didn’t think there was—I knew that fish had it in their bodies, they die from it, but I didn’t think it had carried its way into me and affected me personally. It’s in what I eat. It’s constant. When you go shopping, it’s all around you—you’re living in a nightmare. It’s not like I go to therapy for it, but I’m very much aware of it. It makes me angry. I tried to buy a jar of mayonnaise the other day and I couldn’t find any in glass. You have to break down and use plastic. Every piece of plastic I throw away I’m aware of it.

Do you do beach cleanups, stuff like that? How’s that feel?

It feels good, but it’s very frustrating because I don’t want to throw things away that are plastic—or anything, even garbage in general. I found out that it’s not good to use our garbage disposal because food gets in with the water. So now I’ve been, I live in a condo, but I’ve been bringing my compost up to a friend. But I’ve still been using the disposal minimally because we’re selling the house and I want it to work.

Where you live, is there town pickup for compost?

We had a community farm, but there were problems with it and they closed it. But that’s where the compost used to go. It’s overwhelming. Our condo association is pretty good about recycling.

Does that feel like the spot where you could maybe push for change?

Not really.

Why not?

I guess because of the way I am. I’m an artist, I try to do art. I have a hard time doing art. It doesn’t bother me to the point where—my art comes first. And my family, because of my age—when I do things that take time from my regular time that I go to my studio, I’m going to take my granddaughter out while I can. I feel that’s more important.

*

… I have a friend in Alaska, she’s lived there for 20 years, and she’s seen the glaciers melting. They’re getting hummingbirds up there now. Even here, we’re getting species that we’d usually see down in the Gulf of Mexico or the Carolinas. It’s why I’m vegan—even with fish you put back, once they get that hook in their mouth they don’t recover from it. And the poor polar bears losing their livelihood… I’m concerned about greenhouse gases. I take the bus everywhere, I plant my own garden, I put in plants for bees. I just think everybody should try it for a week—bike to work one day a week, something.

Why do you think people don’t?

Convenience. People are lazy.

Do you talk about it with people?

I do here and there. It depends on the demographics, who I’m around. But [with some people] I will be like, “Why don’t you just try biking?” I did when I lived in Boston, I’d bike down the river on my way to work. It was like my meditation for the day.

What do you think made the difference for you?

Awareness. You have to read. They have material out there. Or being directly impacted by something. I’d hear about things from friends… I think a lot of methane gases come out of cows. I saw some movies, documentaries. People don’t know, people have no clue about these slaughterhouses and corporate farms. They need to be more regulated…This whole administration is going backwards. These kids, they’re the generation—they’re gonna end up, their children are gonna end up living in a hot mess. I’m not scared for myself, I’m scared for the generation after me. We gotta stop it. With deforestation in Brazil—I’m a trained diver and I went diving in Ambergris Cay five years ago, it was just trees and water. I went back five years later and it was all resorts. I’ve done the whole “owned a house, this and that,” thing—I was more materialistic in my 20s. Now I’m like, “Screw the house.” They want to drill for more oil in the Gulf. I’ve been diving in the Gulf—you know how that affects the fish?

*

For now I think—I saw plastic doesn’t go away for like 700 years. And the fact that it is—I think most plastic is recyclable, but even if it’s not, people can do reusable or renewable things with plastic. … One person in a million is building houses out of plastic and there’s a whole coastline full of garbage in these poor places [sic]–why aren’t they using—why aren’t homeless shelters being built? You see the same thing with tires.

Okay, well, make it a real question, why aren’t they?

I assume because of money. …I wouldn’t be the person to do this.

*

Block Island is eroding … I think a lot of the people who live there are wealthy enough to buy a house on an eroding cliff and go, “Well, I get 25, 30 years out of this and then it’s over, I guess.” I’m guessing these people are also betting that FEMA will come to their rescue …

Barrington [RI] is going to get hit hardest in terms of roads. The head of town planning there gets it, the head of DEM…but the head of DOT doesn’t get it. He’s so caught up in infrastructure that’s crumbling now … There’s that one road that goes along the water, there’s literally no other place for it to go. In [Hurricane] Sandy, people here weren’t hit hard enough [to make them consider leaving]–plenty of people were like, “We’ll just rebuild.” And then my sister-in-law and my brother were hit hard by Sandy, their basement was flooded out, they had a finished basement with all their memorabilia down there and it they lost all of that. And my sister-in-law can’t even talk about it. It’s gonna happen again to them, but you can’t go there with them, ’cause they’re so traumatized by it.

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.

 

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?