Climate Anxiety Counseling in Burnside Park/Kennedy Plaza TODAY, 2-5pm!

Come visit me in Burnside Park today (Wednesday 6/12) between 2 and 5pm, share your climate anxieties or other anxieties…

booth 6-5-19

[Image: A small turquoise booth made of cardboard and plywood, with “climate anxiety counseling 5 cents” and “Here to listen” written on it, next to a map of Rhode Island with people’s beloved places marked on it, at the entrance to a park.]

…take home a piece of art featuring a Rhode Island organism (here’s one showing some of the plankton that help to make the air we breathe)…

phytoplankton 1

[Image: a line drawing of phytoplankton species Ceratium furca.]

… and fill out a comment postcard to stop the fracked-gas power plant in Burrillville.

20190608_112157

[Image: an orange postcard with a space for people to tell the Army Corps of Engineers why it’s important to New England’s waters and wetlands not to build this power plant.]

Come and talk with me. I’ll be glad to see you.

 

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Climate Anxiety Counseling at PVDFest: Guest Artists, Postcards Against the Plant, and more

I’ll be at the Climate Anxiety Counseling booth in Burnside Park for PVDFest tomorrow, starting at 12pm and going as long as I can (probably till dark, anyway).

In addition to listening and talking with you about climate and other anxieties, I will also have postcards that you can fill out for RI DEM, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Energy Facility Siting Board to register your objections to the fracked-gas power plant in Burrillville. (The EFSB is no longer officially taking public comments, but they can’t unsee a postcard.) The postcards will be addressed and stamped, and I can put them in the mailbox for you if you like–all you’ll have to do is write a comment explaining why this plant should not be built.

If you talk with me, you’ll be able to take home a little piece of art featuring a Rhode Island organism–sometimes with an action suggestion, if that’s where our conversation leads. I drew a bunch of them, like this one in honor of World Oceans Day (phytoplankton exhale between 1/2 and 3/4 of the oxygen we breathe).

 

phytoplankton 1

[Image: drawing of phytoplankton species Ceratium furca, found in Narragansett Bay.]

For PVDFest, I’ll also be giving out organism drawings donated by these other artists:

May Babcock (who also donated handmade paper!) drew ajidamoo, aka Eastern chipmunk.

chipmunk mb

Zaidee Everett drew a marbled salamander.

salamander ze

Julia Gualtieri drew a big brown bat.

brown bag jg

CJ Jimenez drew a cecropia moth.

cecropia cj

James Kuo drew a pickerel frog.

pickerel frog jk

These and other beautiful portraits of our nonhuman neighbors could go home with you if you come talk to me tomorrow. I hope you will accept this invitation for connection and action.

 

 

 

 

Rally Tonight, 5/30: Stop the Burrillville Power Plant!

Rally to stop a fracked-gas power plant in northern RI and protect the water, air, forest, and livable climate! 

6-8pm TONIGHT (5/30)

Rhode Island State House

If you haven’t yet signed this petition against the plant, please do (especially if you can’t make it tonight). In both of these cases, it’s good to have lots of people. Burrillville BASE, the FANG Collective, the Burrillville Land Trust/No New Power Plant and many more people and groups have worked extremely hard for a long time to stop this disastrous project. Let’s follow up on the work they have done and are still doing. Hope to see you there.

Image may contain: 1 person

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.

Alternate History: Refusal 4

The next day, the students came into the well-appointed classroom, with its big windows and its new desks and its variously computerized boards and screens, and I sat there and said nothing.

I refused to teach them and my colleagues refused to teach them and the people who worked in the offices refused to explain anything to them or process their paperwork or even help them withdraw, and the custodians refused to empty the garbage cans and the groundskeepers refused to shovel the snow, and the people who ordinarily cooked for them refused to cook for them and turned the delivery trucks away, or unloaded them and then gave the food directly to their own and their neighbors’ families.

I lost my job and I went home, frightened, sick to my stomach, with less to lose–less status, less money, less safety–and free to do more, or do differently. They all did, we all did.

(There’s another version of this story where I was the only one to refuse, but I like this version better.)

*

I actually feel like teaching is one of the areas where I can be useful, but I could be wrong about that. The founders of the institution that employs me made some of their money by buying and selling human beings (which they have acknowledged) and they built it on land stolen from the Narragansett Tribe (which, as far as I know, the institution has not acknowledged).

The proposed “track straightening” of the Amtrak Northeast Corridor would pass through Narragansett tribal land and sacred sites, and members of the tribe have voiced their opposition to it. (It would also damage or destroy forests and wetlands, both of which can help Rhode Island weather climate change.) You can see the environmental impact statement here, and via email you can tell Amtrak/NEC Future not to build this track: info AT necfuture DOT com. They are supposedly taking comments until January 31st.

You can also call the office of Senator Jack Reed, who is in favor of building the new track, at (401) 943-3100, and tell him why you’re opposed to building it. I’ll post some words later today that you can use, if you want.

No LNG in PVD: Peaceful Demonstration, 7/13

To learn the details of why it’s dangerous and environmentally unjust to build a liquid natural gas facility on Allens Avenue in Providence, you can read this statement.

To lend your voice to resisting this facility, you can come to the corner of Eddy St and Thurbers Avenue on Wednesday, July 13th, 4-5:30 pm. Bring sunscreen, water and signs, and RSVP here.

This is part of taking care of each other; this is part of living in the same world as each other; this is part of bringing the world we want out of the world we have.

Resist Liquid Natural Gas in South Providence: Demonstration TODAY

National Grid wants to build a Liquid Natural Gas facility in the floodplain in the already environmentally compromised/environmentally unjust neighborhood of South Providence. There’s a demonstration against this plan today at the proposed site:

670 Allens Ave, Providence, RI

Wednesday, June 8th,  4-6 pm

Bring water, sunscreen, and signs

 

Get more information and RSVP here.

Here’s some more information about why this plan is bad for Providence and its people.

 

If you live in Providence and you have felt helpless about climate change, ecological degradation and environmental injustice, this is something you can do to resist those things, today.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: 5/25/16

Weather: Hot in the sun, though I was shaded for most of my time there. Set up facing east instead of west so the sun wouldn’t be in my face.

Number of people: 6 stoppers, 1 walkby

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7

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

People who commented on the Peanuts reference: 2

Number of dogs seen: 2

Number of dogs pet: 0

Instances of shirtlessness: 7

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.81

 

 

Observations:

 

I can’t tell if facing the other way makes a difference–there were fewer stoppers today, but that could be because of all kinds of things. No one stopped to talk at all for almost the first hour.

 

A cop biked through the park at 3:10, and there was a police car parked beside some utility work starting at about 5.

 

Because it was warm, a lot of people had on their cute summer outfits, which is always pleasing.

 

Should I ask people who are obviously very drunk to come back another time when they’re less drunk?

 

 

Some conversations:

 

I believe it’s real, but I wouldn’t say I feel anxiety about it. If you look at it from a scientific point of view, the climate has always been changing, for millions of years, it’s only now that it’s being accelerated by human activities. It’s gonna happen, I just don’t wear myself out about it … I think people need to question their elected officials. The goal of any elected official, well, let’s say most of them, is to stay in power. I think people do care, so they need to hold their elected officials accountable, and then we’ll see some policy change. There’s an opportunity to do that tomorrow, a public hearing about the Burrillville Power Plant,  which is ridiculous–we’re going backwards! New solar power, new wind power, sure, but coal?* How can they do that? We’re a coastal state, so people need to pay attention to it.

 

*The proposed power plant in Burrillville would be natural-gas powered.

 

*

 

 

 

Money, paying bills. Rent, court, probation, food–they’re cuttin’ my food stamps and my social security now that I’m working. It’s not like I’m gonna die with no money, it’s more like what the hell I’m gonna do with my freakin’ money. It’s more like I do the wrong things with it.

 

Can you see what you would wanna do with it?

I can see it, it’s just tryna get to it. I told my caseworker, I can see the vision, I just don’t know how to get to it.

 

Did they have any ideas for how to help you keep your vision in sight?

Look, the Providence Center wouldn’t make money if they helped people keep their vision in sight. It’s like rehab, if it works, you won’t need them anymore. That’s why I’m talking to you, you have no interest in hand. …

 

I just wanna be financially stable. Not rich, but you see that shirt, you buy it, you see that pair of shoes, you buy it … This guy I’m working for, he pays me in cash, you can’t bank it, ’cause then the IRS is like, What are you hiding from us? I got this cut at work [shows me a deep but healing cut on his finger] and I had to tell ’em it was done at my house … My kids already work all the time. I said to my son, You don’t wanna be 47 like me and tired. My son said, Dad, I’m watching the best.

 

*

 

 

It has been changing. It’s getting longer to get hotter, warmer.

 

Have you noticed any effects that’s had on anything? Plants, other creatures, people’s moods?

 

Yeah, moods, definitely. People being like, Why isn’t it warm yet? People keep talking about it. You compare it to the last ones, from the year before–it’s been nicer sooner and that’s how I noticed that [this year] was different from last year … With fall, you don’t really noticed until you see all the colors popping out. You notice it and then everyone else notices it too.

 

We’ve been talking a lot about it in the present. Does it also make you think about the future at all

Yeah, ’cause next year I’m hoping it’ll be warmer sooner. To help the mood, the attitude. You feel better when it’s going according to plan. When it’s not, it throws people. But it does give people something to talk about. I don’t think people talk to each other enough. Just talking to somebody, just by you interacting with one person, it helps their day and your day. Which hopefully helps the world be a little better.

*

 

 

It’s definitely a very serious situation. Over the past 10 years I’ve noticed dramatic climate changes–from severe storms to irregular climate behavior. Look at these last few weeks, we’ve had snow, rain, cold, 80-degree days. If we look into geography there’s a lot going on, icebergs melting, situations with the carbon dioxide in the air, the chlorofluorocarbons. I see everything rapidly changing. I’d like to see a progression of the last 100 years–temperatures, months and days, I’d like to compare everything in the last 100 years* … My more concern is for my kids, my grandkids, great-grandkids. We’re gonna chew up all the resources. The United States uses up everybody else’s resources so we can be the last ones standing and we can have the power. It’s gonna be the end of the world. What’s gonna happen?

 

*Doctor’s note: If this person is reading this, you can see some of what you’re looking for here and here.

 

*

 

 

[Sees India Point Park marked on map of places to protect] It’s really about the water. I was there in September and there was a whole bunch of dead fish. It was really scary. I’m not talking about 10, 20 fish, I’m talking like 40, 50. And then later I wanted to kayak at India Point Park but I read that they were doing some research and there’s a lotta chemicals in the water. And a lotta people enjoy that park.

 

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling: 5/12/16

Weather: Warm, sunny, breezy, perfect in the shade; gusty at 4; warmer and stiller again toward the end

Number of people: 8 stoppers, 3 walkbys, 1 excellent couple double-take

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 6

People known to me, and I to them, from past seasons: 3, one very important (see below)

People who commented on the Peanuts reference: 2, both voluble, walking together

Number of dogs seen: 3

Number of dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $3.35

 

Observations:

One of the people I saw that I knew from a past season was the 3rd person who spoke to me on this day. She’s still in her apartment–the place she showed me the key to–and it’s going well, and she still has her cat. She said to me, “I’m finally out of boxes.”

Today went better than yesterday overall–the conversations were better, and I think I inhabited the booth better.

The booth’s complement includes a map of the state of Rhode Island that asks, “Is there a place in RI you’d like to protect?” (Used to say “Is there a place in RI you love?” but I think this works better.) It often doesn’t see a lot of use, but it did today.

There were some more evangelists today, a team of three. They were vocally homophobic and transphobic, and one of them gave me the same spiel to my face as I’d just heard him yell into the microphone, but none of them scared me personally this time.

 

Some conversations:

[Marks the Woonasquatucket River on the map]

The Woonasquatucket actually comes out of North Providence, then behind Manton and Route 6 it goes underground, and in Roger Williams Park there’s actually a freshwater spring. But it’s too clogged to recycle the water in the park, so it gets backed up. Then it splits off again just below the Providence VA, and the other part is that river you see downtown. And in the park, you know the Temple to Music? That water behind it is where the spring wells up. And then it runs into Pawcatuck. People don’t realize. My grandfather was Narragansett, and we use to walk the old way, all the rivers, up by 146, up where Purgatory Chasm runs into the Blackstone River. We’d go for two months in the summer, and you know what we’d do? If we found a tree down, we wouldn’t cut it, but we’d push it and use it like a canoe–just find something that floats and just get on either side. We used to fish in the river, brook trout and other kinds of fish, but there’s no longer any fish in the river. But I did see some fish in the park area that are maybe indigenous to the park.

*

My wife’s an RN and she just lost her job. So then you have bills, bills pile up, and that causes anxiety and stress.

*

I think I’ve found a way to be nimble and present in situations with multiple humans–that’s my role. I had some anxieties earlier this week: Am I listening hard enough? Am I listening to everything, listening to everyone? Sometimes it’s overwhelming in itself. I’ve been thinking about roles in life, roles, places, jobs. We have all these conversations, but we also need to act–it’s a luxury to be in conversation. It’s fulfilling, but it’s frustrating when it doesn’t lead to anything. What is action, how does change manifest?

*

I’m not that concerned with the environment. I think there’s not enough parks for the kids, we need more city parks, more places to play. In Providence there’s not a lot of people with backyards, so kids play in the street.

Are there places where you’d especially like to see more parks?

The South Side needs a lot more. But there’s no space to put them.

But there are some abandoned buildings and stuff, that maybe they could tear down.

Those are my same thoughts! They could just tear ’em down. But you know why they don’t? You see these abandoned houses, they don’t want to tear ’em down ’cause they want the taxes on it. They don’t have the money to fix it up, they might as well use it for taxes. …Everything [for kids] is far. Chucky Cheese is all the way in Warwick. You could put a swingset right here [indicates Burnside Park]. It’s for the kids that don’t have what normal kids have. And city pools, for kids in the summertime–I don’t have a car, that’s why I ride RIPTA, and when I was young I didn’t have a car, I was poor, I couldn’t bring my kids to the beach all the time. It doesn’t even have to be a pool, just a water thing in the park.

*

[Marks the South Side of Providence on the map]

Can you say what about the South Side you want to protect?

The people. Protect everyone.

*

I’m totally anxious about climate change. I usually have to dig a little to find out that what I’m anxious about is the survival of beautiful people and plants and animals. Usually it takes the form of more mundane stuff, like rent. But I particularly have anxiety about beasts and green things and water.

Do you imagine it, that changed world?

It’s really hard to put my mind there but I forced myself to. It’s almost impossible by myself. I kind of have to be with someone else, either it’s a lighthearted space or really trying to do it. I get temporarily hopeful, but it doesn’t–the kind of pall of discouragement rolls back in pretty quickly.

Oh, I get it–you’re talking about a brighter vision, but I was actually wondering if you also imagined a darker version of things.

Oh. Yeah. Heat, dryness, really sick people, kind of barren landscapes. A lot of–as I’m listing things off it looks a little bit like what’s happening right now, in terms of economic and cultural devastation. A lot more complete separation of folks with resources and folks without resources, a lot more violence and globalization from below–people joining forces, people finding commonness where they couldn’t before because they thought they were in competition.

That part sounds–not exactly hopeful, but like something that you would like to see.

Yeah, that is.

So what’s the fear part?

Starvation?…but when you go to identify it, it’s different than what you think. I like to think of the world as an ecological system. Basically the fear is that turned on its head and nothing being able to sustain anything else. I don’t even know how to file that, where to put that. The opposite of communication and love and ecology.

*

I take medicine for anxiety and depression. I lost my mother, my father, my brother, and my niece committed suicide. My sister’s got a brain tumor. I just come from the hospital right now. They’re doing surgery tomorrow. She said, Go home. She’s in good spirits, she got her girlfriends there, the pastor’s there. I don’t wanna be in the way … I got a good support system. Last time, I was isolated, that wasn’t good. I didn’t reach out. I got a good support system, I’m in a good place.

*

I’m worried about the economy in general. People getting jobs, people getting paid for the work that they do. [HER JOB] offered us this horrible health care plan this year, and it’s so bad that the staff agreed to make up the difference out of our own pocket, 12% out of pocket, when there’s no salary increase. Even with the last plan you had people going, “I just didn’t go to the doctor,” and this one’s even worse. … I see so many of our patrons and they have it so much worse, at least I have healthcare.

 

 

 

Resilient PVD Community Workshop

The Mayor of Providence, Jorge Elorza, and the Providence Office of Sustainability are inviting anyone and everyone who lives in Providence to both talk and listen about the ways climate change might effect the city, and what the city might do to respond to it.

There will be experts on city sustainability and city planning there, and opportunities for anyone to speak.

This “Resilient PVD” Community Workshop will be on Monday, February 1st, at 6pm, in the cafeteria of the Providence Career and Technical Academy (41 Fricker St. between Westminster and Broad). It’s free to attend and if you drive, there’s a parking lot.

If you’ve ever spoken to me at the Climate Anxiety Counseling booth, you can tell this meeting exactly what you told me, or share other fears and questions you have about the effects of climate change on Providence and your life here.