Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market/Sowing Place, 10/6/18

Weather: Cool and gray with heat waiting

Number of people: 7 stoppers, 2 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 5

People I’ve spoken with before, back for more: 1

Dogs seen: 3

Dogs pet: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $1.10

 

Observations:

Interpreter Eveling Vasquez was with me today; only one person, a walkby, briefly needed her services, but she engaged with some interlocutors in English as well.

Nonhuman animal presences: yellowjacket, carpenter been honeybee, cabbage white butterfly, tiniest spider, pigeons in flight.

Some conversations:

I’m scared. I got kids–26, 24 and 16. I’m scared that the planet is gonna be a horrific mess, that they’re not gonna have good air to breathe. That all the demands to turn things around are gonna fall on them. I’m scared of the chaos and destruction of society, and that there’s gonna be a wall betwen those who are directly impacted and those trying to hang onto their power and wealth. There’s going to be so much violence and suffering throughout–I’m not sure if it’s gonna be winners and losers. These delays for years and decades mean we all lose.

Do you talk with your kids about this?

We talk to them, but those conversations are hard too. They’re in their 20s, they’re trying to figure out their careers and lives and social relationships.

What makes the fear come up for you?

Definitely reading the news, ’cause you get horrified and scared. I have wonderful kids, but sometimes it’s scary what they really pay attention to.

*

I live in Los Angeles, and for the past three years it’s gotten 15 degrees hotter every year. And everything’s on fire. It impacts our air quality–it’s harder to do things outside. Dogs can’t go outside, there are times of day I can’t take my dog for a walk because the sidewalk’s too hot. And if something’s on fire nearby, that’s scary.

How do people talk about it?

It depends who you’re talking to. People will talk about how it’s scary that everything’s on fire, if it’s encroaching, if there’s currently a wildfire going on. People talk about how it’s hotter than it used to be, there are more fires than there used to be, it doesn’t rain anymore … It feels scary, sort of foreboding and sort of apocalyptic. It’s not so imminent that it’s really gonna impact me. I’m concerned more in the context of people who don’t care. The actual idea that the world’s gonna end doesn’t bother me that much, but it’s sad and disappointing that people don’t care about what’s gonna happen to the environment after they’re gone. I feel it all the time, and I think everybody feels it all the time–everything just feels a little bit worse.

… In my house in particular, we make a conscious effort to be positive so we don’t get mired down in it. We try to share one piece of good news every day. It forces you to be more conscious of things that are not destructive, and what you actually can do to do something constructive or counter the negativity. I think you can always be better–I’m a vegetarian, I’m trying to be a vegan, I spend more money for things that are sustainably produced. We try to use our graywater, we don’t do it as much as we could. I understand that there are structural constraints that prevent people from doing these things. It’s important for me personally to believe that the little things matter–I know sometimes you hear people saying they don’t matter. I do stuff that offsets my carbon footprint, to at least leave no trace, mitigate the impact of my existence.

What are some ways you work together with other people? 

There are many cool local vegan organizations in LA. There’s a lot of community based work. But also in LA, there’s this huge contrast because there’s all these really rich people with huge mansions that all have their sprinklers on, watering their green lawn that shouldn’t exist.

*

Global warming–you know what bugs me? It bugs me that I work in places where they think passive management of the environment is impractical. I work in a building from the ’60s, and they could have put in ventilation or skylights but they put in air conditioning. … That was how people thought 50 years ago, and they’re still thinking this way. Why is it so difficult?

I have 24 solar panels on my house. I generate more electricity than I use–National Grid has to pay me. I don’t know why more people don’t just cough it up [for solar panels].

Eveling: Was it too expensive?

In the end, it’ll be cheaper. So many people don’t want to think beyond a year or a month. … It’s money and also a sense of, “It’s still impractical.” My uncle–I’m like, “You live in Florida, why don’t more people do solar? It’s the Sunshine State!” I think it’s kind of a brainwashing. Reagan called them “solar socialists.”

*

I’m just concerned about the changes–like for example, this fall. Yesterday it was cold. The day before that it was hot, and then it was extremely cold. It’s just weird. And then being used to that transition, where you can prepare yourself to get ready for cold weather–you have to add another thing to the schedule, buecase you have to have the right gear.

 

20181006_145121

[Image: map of Rhode Island marked with “Stillhouse Cove,” “Sankofa Market,” and some drawings by kids.]

The person who marked the map with “Stillhouse Cove” said, “There’s an effort to maintain the grasses and the plants, which attracts the birds and the proper fish. After a storm, when debris piles up, it’s gone the next day.”

 

 

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Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/5/18

Weather: Warm, breezy, delightful, bright with gathering clouds

Number of people: 4 stoppers, 1 walkby

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 10

People who got the Peanuts reference: 1

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Pictures taken without permission: 1

Conversations between previous strangers: 2

People I’ve seen before, back for more: 1

Dogs seen: 2

Dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island: $0.10

 

Observations:

Nonhuman animals: many a pigeon, sparrows, a small flying ant (?) that landed on my hand.

Faced west. No food trucks upon arrival; also no Del’s. First food truck arrived at 11:20. I left 45 minutes early today because of the rain.

A police car went by around 11:15. I try to note police presence (city/state police and other roles like park rangers and parking officials) but I’m also aware that it’s different for me because my safety doesn’t depend on noting them, and I do miss some.

To people’s recycling obsession from previous years I’ve noticed an addition of a plastics obsession in general, which is probably material for its own post?

 

Some conversations:

 

 

[This is the person I handled a conversation with badly on this day. I still want to write about our two conversations at greater length; in the meantime, here are excerpts from the second one. For new readers, the italics are me.]

 

I want to apologize.

Me too, I was a real jerk last time.

I was thinking about our conversation, and I wanted to ask you: what do you do with the knowledge you have, how do you live with it?

If I didn’t have some sort of spiritual life, I don’t know what I’d do. I’d probably be a serious environmentalist—but I don’t think collecting plastic bottles is gonna help much … A lot of stuff that’s going on is not necessary, [and] it can become a little bit hopeless. I have outlets for my epistemology but I mean—the report yesterday by the Washington Post, or maybe the New York Times, they actually want to change the scaling for hurricanes. It goes up to 5 and they want to add a Category 6, because they’re expecting what they’re calling superstorms. They’ve known this for ten years, but you’re starting to see it drip into the mainstream news. The government’s preparing people for this with Hollywood—movies like San Andreas–[the] New Madrid [Seismic Zone] is gonna go. It would be illogical to think that Yellowstone is immune, and if that goes, we’re all in deep shit. The government is worried.

So you mentioned Hollywood as a way of preparing people. How do those stories usually go?

They sort of rally you around certain heroes. And then you’re happy when those people survive, never mind the fact that 250,000 people died. Like, don’t you see all those dead people?

There were two asteroid impacts last week, and this is coming from something that is disturbing the asteroid belt. We’re in a massive ecosystem—the earth’s weather is not caused by the earth. That’s something the weather report—they don’t get into that. This is solar weather. So what do you do with all that? I don’t know. You make your personal peace.

You also share this information, though. Why do you do that?

I do it for spiritual reasons. Really for me it’s about the individual. The individual should know and be able to make their spiritual peace with it. … I have faith. I don’t think the world’s gonna end. But … you ask some people now, they’ll say, “The world ended. My house got swept away by lava.” Some people are forced to do that. It can show [you] how transitory and fleeting life can be. Don’t hold onto the basket too tight.

… Yeah, I’m a little concerned. I’ve had dreams of my town completely underwater. I had to swim for a while to get to it.

*

Plastic. Tons and tons of plastic. Car tires dissolve faster than plastic. I’m a professional diver, I go out, I see bottles half-full of water floating on the surface. Plastic so thick in the river it’s rolling, the surface is rolling. I mostly dive off the West Shore, also out by Prudence Island—it’s disgusting. It’s gotta stop. … But the good thing is, I’ve seen species rejuvenating that I haven’t seen for 20, 30 years. Starfish are coming back. Baby lobsters. But then when the water’s cleaner, the invasive species come in. By 2052 there’s gonna be more plastic in the ocean than fish.  … The bottles get flattened in the streets and go through the storm drains. There’s nothing down there to catch them, and if there was, within a week there’d be at least a ton. They find their way into the ocean and into the mud. I’ve been a commercial fisherman since 1984 and already, as far as Georges Bank and Hudson Canyon, you’d see these gallon milk jugs, and we wouldn’t tow ’em out. They need to go back to wax cartons. You try to dig quahogs and you get a tampon applicator. … If I was to take it to the Bay Commission they don’t wanna hear it—too much money involved.

*

[Person 1 was talking with me for a while before Person 2 came up.]

Person 1: You can’t do much. In terms of taking care—you got all these plastics. When you go to Dunkin’ Donuts for an iced coffee, around the cup they give you another styrofoam cup. And then you get this beautiful long straw that ends up in the ocean. I try to help out in any way I can. I take caution, but not too much—I wish I could be more cautious when it comes to buying stuff. Companies and businesses are not concerned. With those plastic water bottles, they’re like, “Oh, don’t reuse it.”

… I call myself “boots on the ground.” I see what the person behind the desk talks about and makes the changes, but just because it’s on paper doesn’t mean it takes place on the ground. They talk to make people feel good, but action speaks a lot louder than words. … Okay, maybe there’s a fee associated with [littering], but is there the manpower to take care of all these laws? …

We could have cows. They take care of the grass, then there is no manpower. How many cows can you put in a park like this?

… What’s needed is for each individual person to take action. These people that you’re reaching, get them all together—you have your family, you have your kids, you have your friends. …

[Person 2 came up at this point.]

What are you anxious about today?

My job. I have to give free phones to people, and to make my numbers I have to work nonstop. … It’s harder when people aren’t really interested or eligible. They tell us to get these numbers, but I have an issue with talking to people—it gets to me, I need to take a breather. I got dropped off today with ten phones. … As a salesman, I don’t take no for an answer, but I don’t want to keep prodding them to do it—it just makes you look bad. I get paid $7.00 an hour, I’m supposed to sell ten phones. To keep my base pay I have to sell six phones a day. People don’t adhere to me—they’re like, “It’s just a salesperson.” … It’s hard to hit those numbers and be held accountable. The convincing part is terribly difficult. I’m losing my hair—I was taking a shower and big clumps fell out.

[Person 1 made a couple of suggestions about sites to try selling, and timing, based on their observations. After Person 2 left…]

 

Person 1: We’re all humans and we depend on each other and that’s how it should be. If you can lend a hand to someone without jeopardizing your well-being, then why not?

*

climate change diagram

I drew this picture to show someone the way that greenhouse gases work, but upon reflection I’m wondering if their repeated “Why is that?” was less about how it works and more about why people allow other people–relatively few people–to keep doing it.

map 6-5-18

On the map, one of the people who talked with me about plastic drew one of Rhode Island’s watersheds and the places that plastic collects within it.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 5/30/18

Weather: Warm and bright, some breeze

Number of people: 5 stoppers, 2 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 4.5

Pictures taken without permission: 1, but I got a thumbs-up

Dogs seen: 1

Dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $1.30

 

Observations:

I started half an hour late today, and I only got permission to share one conversation, but it was a really illuminating one for me.

It seemed like a lot more people were coming from the river side (eastward) than the highway side (westward). Of late I’ve faced the booth westward; maybe tomorrow I’ll change it. I did get some nice lookbacks and smiles.

Two food trucks today, both on the western side of the park entrance.

Say it to myself at the beginning of every conversation: This is not about how much I know.

 

A conversation: 

It’s my first time in Rhode Island. My son is six, and we live in Nevada, northern Nevada near Lake Tahoe. He’s really concerned about [invasive] flora and fauna in Lake Tahoe, which on a larger scale comes back to people not understanding how to be vigilant. And the four-year-old is just really upset about people littering in general. They’re both pretty good about that kind of stuff.

Is that something that you emphasize a lot with them, or do they get it at school, or what?

Yeah, when they dropped something on the ground my husband and I would say, “That’s hurting the earth.” And my husband and I were both raised that way. He’s from the high desert, and I’m from Florida, so ocean life is important to me, and keeping the water safe. It’s interesting in Nevada because water rights are such a big deal there, because it’s such a dry area, so keeping water pure there is important to everyone. Any new pollution or any attempt to bury any sort of waste out there, there’s a big outcry. There was a leukemia outbreak in Fallon, Nevada, about ten years ago, and they never found anything conclusive about what caused it, but there was a suspicion that it was from a waste leak.

So the water is something that people are very alert to out there.

Yeah, more out there than growing up in Florida. There it was more like people took advantage of the idea that the water was always gonna be there … If people aren’t taught it in school, they don’t understand it, and if they don’t understand it they don’t wanna talk about it.

Do you talk about it with people?

Well, I work with the military full time, and we do talk about it quite a bit. It’s not as much of a partisan issue in the military as it is in other places. We mostly talk about different solutions we can bring to the table … It’s a much easier area for [men and women] to collaborate on.

Compared to what?

Any sort of lines of security when it comes to war, or to terrorism. When you talk about gender—it’s less threatening in a context of natural disaster, where people will have different perspectives on a war zone, for example. But with a natural disaster, people tend to want the same things, food and shelter, to get back in place.

You mentioned that there’s less party politics to it in the military than elsewhere. Why do you think that is?

Maybe because it’s solutions-based. I’ve worked on national security in the Pacific and the South Pacific, and it’s really a long-term endeavor, so you have to have consistency, and partisan politics tends to fracture that consistency. Also in corporate America there’s maybe more of a difference between the haves and the have-nots, and in the military we’re all aligned with the same cause. … I could see there being dissension if a particular weapons set or technology created greenhouse gases and we had to figure out how to balance out their collateral effects—but there again, it’s the difference between short- and long-sightedness. It’s most acutely felt in the South Pacific—you’re talking to people whose homes are gonna be underwater in the next two, three decades.

How do you talk with them?

What’s tougher for us is if you’re not the person whose home is gonna be underwater. It’s a lot harder to explain to them why they should care. Sometimes you can use human interest, sometimes it’s leveraging. If they’re not in immediate threat, you can ask them where they think they’ll be in ten, twenty years. But a lot of people are just making it day to day, and so for them, you have to make those people more secure, with infrastructure within the community. But the average American above the poverty line, who wants the next generation to have a clean and safe environment—you mostly just have to include educating them and offer solutions.

 

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

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

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

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 6.5

People who recognized the Peanuts reference: 1

Photos taken with permission: 2

Dogs seen: 1

Dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.10

 

Observations:

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

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

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

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

 

Some conversations:

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

How do you feel when you think about these things?

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

And what do you do when you think about it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What would you want to come out of these spaces?

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

*

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

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

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

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

20180505_143308

Description: This (somewhat impressionistic) map of the state of Rhode Island says, “Put your worries on the map,” at the top, and “Is there a place in Rhode Island you’d like to protect?” at the bottom. People have written:

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

Trinity Sq Neighborhood!

SCC [Southside Community Center] RI

Waterman St dog park

Sabins Point

Scituate Reservoir

Lincoln State Park

Little Compton

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

No LNG in PVD: Petition, Call-In, Hearing

The latest turn of events in the fight against the liquefied natural gas plant that National Grid wants to build in South Providence is that the chair of one of the evaluating agencies, the Coastal Resources Management Council, has demonstrated bias and holds conflicts of interest that make it impossible for her to make an impartial determination in a case involving both environmental racism and National Grid. Seven elected officials,  19 organizations and multiple Rhode Island residents are calling for CRMC Council Chair Jennifer Cervenka’s resignation.

If you want to help fight unethical conduct, environmental racism and climate change, and you live in Rhode Island, you can help by signing and sharing this petition, by calling Governor Raimondo (who appointed Ms. Cervenka), and by coming to the third CRMC hearing on Tuesday, December 12, at 5pm in the Department of Administration Cafeteria at One Capitol Hill.

Fighting Fossil Fuels in RI this Monday and Tuesday

On Monday, November 27th, the Energy Facility Siting Board is holding a hearing about the fossil-fuel-burning, water-hungry power plant that Invenergy wants to build in the forests of Northern RI. If you don’t think they should build it, please come and say so on a sign. The hearing is at 10am on 11/27, in Hearing Room A, Public Utilities Commission, 89 Jefferson Boulevard, Warwick, RI. 

On Tuesday, November 28th is the second Coastal Resources Management Council hearing for the fracked-gas liquefaction plant that National Grid wants to build in a neighborhood inhabited by working-class people of color. Members of the community can speak at this hearing, so come and speak out against this facility. This hearing is at 5pm on 11/28, in the Department of Administration Cafeteria, One Capitol Hill, Providence, RI.

Let’s refuse these projects, which will hurt us and everyone.

 

Vigil for Healthy Communities: TONIGHT, 6pm

For over two years grassroots groups have been urging Governor Gina Raimondo to oppose the power plant that Invenergy has proposed for Burrillville and the LNG facility proposed by National Grid for the Port of Providence. There has been marches, call-in days, petitions and sit-ins.

But still Governor Raimondo has remained “neutral” on the issue and has refused to return campaign donations that she has received from both Invenergy and National Grid.

With critical state permit decisions coming up for both projects, now is the time for Governor Raimondo to finally join the opposition to Invenergy’s power plant and National Grid’s LNG facility. 

Join us for a peaceful vigil outside Governor Gina Raimondo’s house.  6pm, 126 Morris Ave, Providence.

If you can’t come tonight, but you can donate to stop the LNG facility, that would be good too.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Armory Park Farmers’ Market, 8/24/17

Weather: Temperate, with clouds and sun, cool toward the end

Number of people: 10 stoppers, no walkbys that I noticed

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7

People who recognized me, and I them, from previous booth sessions: 3

Dogs seen: 23

Dogs pet: 4

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.60

 

Observations:

Still didn’t line up an interpreter. Bad move on my part, and not fair. A friend who also works at the Sankofa World Market says that he can do it next time if it’s a language he knows.

I was in a different spot than my last time at this market—in the shade, over by the busiest vendor.

I had a long conversation with someone that I didn’t get permission to record. She came back with an apple: “’Cause you helped me out with some advice so I’m helping you out with something to eat.”

Two girls added their houses to the map, and a grandma marked the park itself and talked with me about dog attacks and plums. She came back to show me the plums in her walker compartment. And a little boy added a number 1. When I saw him pointing it out to his parents, I held up one finger and he did it back.

 

Some conversations:

I actually had a very bad day with climate anxieties last week. Too much New York Times and spending too much time on Twitter. A lot of doom and gloom, a lot of false insistence that the end is very very near.

What happens when you read things like that?

I get scared instantly, and I dive into it one thousand percent. A whole day is lost. It’s hopelessness coupled with an underlying desire/understanding of—it’s harder to live amidst the changing world rather than be like, “It’s all over.” It is way way harder to imagine the world not ending than the world ending.

What do you imagine it being like—the world not ending?

Things getting materially really difficult for a large number of people. It’ll probably include a lot of geopolitical conflict over who gets what resources and who is allowed to go where in light of restricted ability to [inhabit] certain areas. We’ll have to fight people who are trying to claim resources and then sell them back to us.

And what do you see yourself doing in this world?

That’s a harder question to answer. I’m moving to LA next month. I grew up there … In a locally specific way, LA was built on making a grab for resources. It exists the way it does because someone was like, “We can bring water here.” I’m thinking of focusing in on that as a site of action, while trying to keep an eye on everything else. In focusing in on one area, there’s this inherent feeling of failure that you’re not doing anything in all the other areas.

Is there a way to combat that?

I guess talking to people working in those other fields and understanding what’s on the horizon. More reading, more conversation. It also helps when I think that this earth was around before us and it will be around after us. But it hurts a ton. It’s just hard—and it’s hard to grieve for something that’s in progress.

*

I’m worried about coastal communities. I’m a geology student, and we used StormTools —you know about that?–to do a project on Misquamicut Beach. It’s gonna be gone very soon. It’s really concerning to me–it doesn’t seem like anyone is that panicked about it, and we should be. Down there, there are a lot of second homes, vacation homes, but there’s also lower middle class communities, people who can’t afford to pick up and move, and those houses are gonna be worth nothing.

Do you feel like people know about this?

I’m only aware of this because it’s a big topic in geology. The general public is not well informed. I went to that talk on gentrification, and the guy was like, “Who’s heard of StormTools?” and when people put their hands up, he was like, “Now everybody who’s a professional, put your hands down,” and I was the only one who kept mine up.

Is it hard to use?

The labels are kind of confusing. People wouldn’t necessarily know the abbreviations. It could be cool to have a workshop on it at the library. And I would love to do one on energy, with this rate hike.

*

I read the article that everybody read— “Here’s all the horrible things that are gonna happen.” All my friends texted me, and I texted everyone. Everyone was just like, “There’s nothing to do. None of us should plan for the future.” But then I talked to my girlfriend’s dad about it, he’s a climate scientist and a lawyer, and he was like, “It’s gonna be fine.” But he’s into engineering climate science so that everyone can continue not changing their behavior. He’s into nuclear energy. I don’t know if I believe him

… I’m thinking about where I wanna live. My partner’s buying a house—do I stay here and help her paint the bathroom? Maybe the best thing she can be doing is running a cooperative house and keeping the rent really cheap. And then I read another article that was like, “Do not move to New York if you’re a white person with a college degree, we don’t need any more of you.” But that’s another question: where are people going?

*

I’m always moving too fast. They call me “the turbo.” When I start a job, I’m anxious until I finish it, and what I don’t like is I don’t get the same treatment back. Someone else will do it, but it doesn’t come fast enough out. It’s always a fight– “You don’t move as fast as I do, so I think you don’t want to.” It’s not as important to them.

*

It seems like everyone I know is getting seriously ill. My mother had breast cancer, and I’m convinced that much of it’s environmental.

Are you worried that it might come back?

All the time. Everytime something goes on [with her health] that’s my first thought. And then I was supposed to hang out with a friend today, but she called me and she was like, “I can’t, I’m panicking, I got bad news from my doctor.” All I know is she has to go for tests.

Yeah, the uncertainty–

–adds a whole extra level. Each piece of news get worse. With my mom, I got to the point where I dreaded taking her to appointments, and even though it’s been four years, you drop back into it. It’s like emotional anaphylactic shock … It felt ubiquitous for a while. I’m also getting older, so things like this are happening more.

How do you respond during these times, what do you do?

I guess I just try to be helpful. With my mom it was a different thing. With friends, I try to help on the day to day. Making food, that’s always good. Walking dogs. Checking in if they need to talk.

And how do you deal with it for yourself?

Doing what I can to help people helps me deal with it. I’m also glad I have the job that I have. With my mom, I did not take care of myself in a lot of ways, it wasn’t just the cancer, she had a nervous breakdown and I had to take care of her, but in Rhode Island we have TDI. So I talked to a doctor to get time off work, and I would not have been able to continue doing it without that.

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

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

Number of people: 7 stoppers, 1 walkby

Number of hecklers: 0!

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

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

 

Observations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Some conversations:

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

Do you talk about this with people?

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

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

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

*

[This was a parent and their two kids]

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

Have you looked into Clean Water Action at all?

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

What did you guys see?

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

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

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

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

*

 

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

Providence Resolution to Block Sale of Water to Invenergy: City Council Vote TONIGHT

From RI Future:

Providence City Councilor Seth Yurdin(Ward 1) wants the city to fight the sale of Providence water to Invenergy, the company that wants to build a $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant in Burrillville.

“The proposed gas-fired power plant is a serious threat to local Rhode Island communities and our climate.  The Providence Water Supply Board needs to join the Conservation Law Foundation‘s lawsuit and work to prevent the improper resale of water for use in this harmful project.,” said Providence City Councilor Seth Yurdin (Ward 1) about his resolution, being introduced tonight.

The resolution seeks to realign the positions of the City of Providence and the Providence Water Supply Board (PWSB) from defendants to plaintiffs in the case of Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) v Clear River Energy and the Town of Johnston.

This is a little confusing, but basically, it could be part of a strategy for blocking new fossil fuel infrastructure in RI, which is (part of) what we want. Show up TONIGHT at 5:30 pm, at Providence City Hall (City Council Chamber, 3rd floor) with signs!

Some sign ideas:

Be good neighbors / Protect air and water / Reject Invenergy

RI Needs Clean Water & Clean Energy / NOT Fossil Fuels

Good Jobs in Healthy Communities