Climate Anxiety Counseling at Sankofa World Market/Sowing Place, TODAY, 11-3!

Yesterday I gleaned these tomatoes with Hope’s Harvest RI, and today I’m going to listen to your climate anxieties and other anxieties with Sowing Place. We’ll be behind the South Side Cultural Center (393 Broad St, Providence), 11am-2pm. Come see me.

gleaned tomatoes

 

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Climate Anxiety Counseling, Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/15/18

Weather: Gray and cool

Number of people: 8 stoppers, 5 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 8

People who got the Peanuts reference: 1

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Pictures taken without permission: 2

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

Dogs seen: 1

Dogs pet: 0

Naloxone distributed: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice league of RI: $0.90

 

Observations:

Last day of the season in this location! I put a sign on the booth to that effect.

No food trucks upon arrival. The first one arrived at 11:13 and parked on the east side of the park entrance, followed closely by the second which parked on the west side. I was facing east.

A security guy walked through at 11:37.

A leafhopper of some sort visited the page I was writing on, and a teen starling ran by very close to me.

Semi-relatedly, I like seeing the teen human skateboarders sail around like swallows.

 

Some conversations:

 

Past experiences. The future. I deal with it every single day.

Is it the same anxiety or are they different things?

Two different things. Stuff in the past is what gave me anxiety about what I’m gonna do and how I’m gonna get there. I wanna go to school to be a doctor, a pediatrician. So I’m gonna go to CNA classes for 6-8 months, then after I become a CNA I’m gonna work with people a little bit and then I’m gonna go to nursing school, and then I’m gonna go to school to become a doctor. I’m anxious about finances—I don’t have much. It consumes my life. I got problem on top of problem. I have really bad depression too. Everything piles on top of each other…

Do you have a way to see a real counselor right now?

I go to Day 1 counseling two days a week. She’s amazing. I don’t have family, so I’m kinda dealing on my own. So many people are like, “Oh, well, you control your destiny,” and that’s bullshit. I’ve had so many suicide attempts. Depression kills people. That’s where I’m at right now, a couple days ago. But I was like, “Fuck you to the people who are kicking me when I’m already down.”

… [With my counselor] I’m mostly figuring out trauma in the past and how to face it head on and not ignore it. It kind of comes on sudden and random, so I want to work on that part first. We talk about how there’s different parts of yourself, like the Firefighter—I call him Bob, Bob the Firefighter, he’s the one who wants me to use drugs, drink alcohol, hurt myself. So I try to get in touch with my emotions, to say, “I see you, I know you wanna do that.” I’ve had a lot of therapists, but some of them had a hard time understanding and they weren’t so good at teaching. It took a little over a year to lead myself into trusting her. She’s like, common-sense smart. She has a good way of describing things.

… CCRI has a lot of programs [for CNA training] but I’m afraid to do presentations. I’m scared of talking in front of a load of people. I get—not really mood swings, but I go through phases during the day, a few hours anxious, a few hours sad or angry, and then in the middle of the night—it’s just constant battering, fighting with myself. Helping people gives me a little bit of a purpose and a reason to stay, but sometimes I just want it all to go away. When you start feeling disconnected—My boyfriend, because of my past, he can’t touch me, and I’m just like, how come I can’t work, how come I can’t do anything. That word “anxiety” is such an understatement.

 

*

[These two came up together and may have been family.]

Person 1: I’m worried that Trump is gonna end the world because of his narcissism and delusions of grandeur.

Person 2: Lies.

Person 1: Lies and admiration for dictatorial regimes. His relationship with Russia and North Korea is absolutely disturbing. Starting fights with Canada is insane. Taking his anger out on children.

What do you see as the potential outcome of all of this?

Do you work for the government?

No.

I’m concerned that he’s been assigned by foreign heads of state to break the union. They’re gonna feed into his delusions of grandeur.

What would their goal be in that case?

To remove us from the playing field. Divide and conquer, so they can run the world. Take our land, take our money, take our kids. Take Alaska–

Person 2: They can have Alaska.

Person 1: No.

So the nightmare for you is this takeover?

No, the nightmare is atomic apocalypse. Someone sparks a nuke and everyone else freaks out and sparks theirs.

Person 2: His narcissism is so overwhelming that it allows other people to control him through flattery.

Person 1: Just a big chicken game, so that under threat of apocalypse we’ll be forced to submit to the settlement of the US. Republicans used to understand [what???] but no more.

How do you feel, when you think about these things?

I feel inspired and I get to know people around me, in my community. It’s the only good choice—really ever, but now epecially.

Do you talk with them about this stuff?

I’m usually more toward listening. I think there’s an appropriate time to vent.

*

 

The lack of concern. Everyone’s going about their days like they don’t feel a difference. And then the [federal] administration is saying it doesn’t exist. When someone with that kind of power does that, how can anyone else make any changes?

… If you watch Planet Earth, you see how it’s so beautiful and how it has a system, and we just come in and mess it up.

How do you feel when you think about it?

Kind of hopeless. Helpless. You can only do your small part to try and reduce your ecological footprint.

A lot of people say that, and I mean, absolutely, do those things, but people don’t always think in terms of doing things together.

I almost interned with this water project, they have an office right next to Classical. It’s like a grassroots organization, they teach people. You’re right, it’s not just individual, it’s collective—but you do feel very alone.

[I mention the No LNG in PVD campaign.]

What do you think about that wind farm?

I mostly think it’s a good thing. It’s not perfect—they still have to build those turbines out of metal that they have to dig out of the ground, they still have an impact, but we really need them.

I worked for a person in the governor’s office and I saw people protesting about that installation in South Providence. And yeah, absolutely, but I also think we need resources to make the transition.

[We talked a little bit about the need to combine new renewable sources with getting rid of fossil fuel sources, but I didn’t write that part of the conversation down.]

*

 

 

My only thing, and I think I learned this from you, is just to be as aggressively local as possible. Everything else feels so nebulous. For a while that was my thing with literary communities. The day of the gun rally, the kids and I just stood on the boulevard with our signs. … I have these neighbors in my sights, I want to change them. They’re Catholic, and there’s so much social justice in that! [They] just forgot because [they] got rich.

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/13/18

Weather: Cool, gray, breezy, sprinkling rain; later sunnier and windier, then back to sprinkling

Number of people: 8 stoppers, 2 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 4

People who got the Peanuts reference: 1

Pictures taken without permission: 1

People I’ve spoken with before, back for more: 3

Dogs seen: 2

Dogs pet: 0

Money raised for the Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.15

 

Observations:

Today, artist Becci Davis ran a beauty shop in the park as well.

I made some janky repairs to the booth—replaced the “IN” sign for “THE DOCTOR IS IN”, repaired the big lower sign piece with duct tape, replaced a broken dowel on the small upper sign piece.

Over the years, I’ve noticed a slight rise in people saying, “I have anxiety,” instead of, “I’m anxious about…” (The number of people who mentally edit out “climate” from the sign and just see “anxiety counseling” is about the same.)

I noticed the horse cop in the park behind me at 12:24, but I don’t know when he got there. An older Black lady asked the cop how old the horse was. A park ranger drove by at 12:50.

Someone asked me, “What is anxiety?” on this day, and I should have asked, “Do you have anything you want to talk with someone about?” On the other hand, “I’m not a real doctor, I just listen” is a pretty good short version. Also, I need to remember that while the form of the question matters, there is no magic unlocking question.

 

Some conversations:

 

I just got a job at Wal-Mart. My mom, when I called her to tell her, she was so happy for me, I never heard her so happy. … I gotta not drink vodka. Sometimes I drink vodka to deal with the anxiety and to forget things that happened to me. But then I wake up with a headache, my stomach hurts, I’m vomiting, my stools…

What are you going to do if you want to forget and you can’t drink vodka?

I can text or call my friends. But they’re busy, they have things to do. I can drink a beer. Beer doesn’t have as bad of an effect on me … I want to save some of my money, not for drugs and alcohol but for like, soap and stuff. And I want to give. If I see someone in need, I want to give them money for food, or buy them food. If I had sacks of money under my car, I’d wanna just stop by a person with a sign and give them $900–$500–let’s say $900, and I would say, “Here you go, have a good day, a blessed day.” My friends and I, we give to each other and we give to other people. It makes me happy, too. It feels good to give.

Is it okay to post our conversation online? 

Yes, absolutely. If I had a website I’d put that up there.

 

*

 

[This person has spoken to me before.]

The plastic cleanup continues! You know what I’m thinking about today? Those fluorescent nip bottles. They got like a prismatic thing on them. And here comes a pod of Wright’s porpoises, the babies are gonna eat that and it’s gonna kill them. I took a fishing pole and I threw one in among the lily pads—everything that was alive in that pond came to see what it was about, because of the color.

But I was down in the Bay at low tide and I saw species I haven’t seen in years. Bay scallops! [He makes the size of them with his hands: about as big as an Oreo.]

*

 

 

What anxieties do people have about climate change?

There’s a really wide range. Some people talk about flooding, sea level rise, stuff like that, because we have so much coastline here. Some people are worried about the way it’s going to affect the way we get our food, because of the way changes in the weather are going to affect food production. Stuff like that.

What’s your main anxiety?

Honestly? Ecosystem collapse. That so many things will die that the ones that are left won’t be able to keep going.

That’s something to be anxious about. What should we be doing?

Well—there’s a lot of things to do.

What’s the easiest thing I could do?

Okay, so, none of it is all that easy, but to know what’s going to be easiest for you I have to ask you a couple of questions. Is this something that’s been on your mind a lot?

No, not really. Ten years ago, when Al Gore was making a big deal about it…

Is there something you would like to set right?

Yes. I’d like to see equity across all genders and races.

 

 

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/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, 6/1/18

Weather: Cool, humid/sticky, gray; spitting rain followed by steady rain

Number of people: 8 stoppers, no walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 6.5

People who got the Peanuts reference: 1

Pictures taken with permission: 1

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

Dogs seen: 4

Dogs pet: 0, but one sniffed me

Rabbits seen: 1, black and white, on a pink leash

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $5.05

 

Observations:

I started late because I was helping a friend clean, and ended early because of rain. At 12:55 I moved into the park, inside the drip zone of a sycamore; at 1:30 it became clear that the rain was only going to get worse.

Two food trucks on the western side of the entrance, one on the eastern side. I was on the eastern side facing west.

I meant to bring chalk (for kids to draw on the sidewalk) today, but forgot when it was time to remember.

Two cops walked up to get food from a food truck at 1:09.

This day afforded me an opportunity to put my questions for conspiracy theorists into practice.

 

Some conversations:

I’ve been changing my outlook on things. There’s always going to be a mix of positive and negative.

Last time we talked, you were thinking a lot about the ocean. How are you feeling about that these days?

I feel that there’s a lot of people who are gonna take action where that is concerned. One anxiety that I do have right now is that the job market is going to be totally eliminated by technology. I studied accounting, and businesses don’t care about how they eliminate expenses.

*

I feel like it’s kinda been proven but hasn’t at the same time that the government—have you heard of chemtrails? … There’s a conspiracy that the government is basically dropping pollutants out of the sky and you can see it sometimes and it’s harming our immune systems …

How does it make you feel, when you think about that?

It makes me feel worried, just worried about the world and like the climate is changing. You see a lot of animals dying. I don’t like that at all. I’m worried about myself as well—I don’t know how I feel about it. I’m here, I’m living, I don’t really have to go through something like that yet, but I do. It’s happening right under our noses. That’s not the only thing I see about climate change. I feel as if the sun is getting—it can affect our moods. This is coming from somebody who’s an athlete: there’s a difference between how people play, like say basketball, in the winter, inside in a gym, and how they play outside in the summertime. The hole in the ozone layer is really starting to hit now—you see a lot of things changing.  … Certain weather is making humans—just like destroying the natural flow of some things. The snow hasn’t been regular. It’s confusing the birds. It’s confusing a lot of things. A lot of the problems we’ve been going through—there’s a little bit of humans causing harm to our environment. At the same time, I think it’s weather manipulation. It’s a way for the government to say that the reason that a lot of these things are happening is because of what humans are doing.

Why do you think they would do that?

It all has to do with energy. The government is trying to control anything that they can control—citizens as well. When it’s hot, emotions run higher, everything’s quicker, everything’s more sensitive. Winter is the opposite, everything goes into hibernation. When it’s hot, everybody wants to pop out. There’s an increase in death and murder in the summertime versus in the winter, especially for people in negative environments.  If the government manipulates the weather … especially in rough neighborhoods, where people are already in a tough situation, you’re gonna get them feeling some type of way. It works on certain people. You could test this theory, just come out here during wintertime and then in summertime. I know it’s hard to believe.

What do you think would happen if people had more knowledge of it?

There’s not much we can really do about it. You can’t really control anybody else. I could try to inform people about it, but that does—the only people that would want to learn are the people who are willing to understand. Some people just won’t believe it just with me telling them—they’re gonna want solid facts, evidence. I mean there are facts, there are documents. There was this CIA plot, it was a depopulation project. This world, America, is getting bigger by the second and supplies only last for so long. Cutting the population down a little bit—well, a lot—helps. I believe that the people who are in the highest power in this world aren’t in it for the money, they’re in it just for power, the power and the control, and you can only control so many people. Look at the food we have to eat. If you go to the grocery store, the stuff they have the most of is not the healthiest thing to eat. You can’t hide from the world that you live in, but you can balance it. You can balance your own world.

How do you do that?

Well, mentally, balancing your logic and your emotions. Then the evils of the world can’t really get to you. Knowing how to react to certain things—when I play sports, there’s certain characters, they get frustrated easily and I understand that. But if they were to balance themselves—it’s picking and choosing your battles, weighing out your battles—“Is this battle heavy enough to make a battle?” Stopping, thinking and then getting into it.

*

What about the theory that the earth is just breathing? If you look at the climate, the earth is just breathing a bit. We do have an ozone problem that we’re trying to take care of. There’s more to get to protect our environment.

More to get?

Getting means [carbon dioxide] emissions. We need to spend more to get more out of our environment.

I still don’t understand what you mean by getting. Getting more resources? Getting more time?

Getting more resources.

I often ask people where they get their information, so where are you getting your information about this?

From my brother who’s a biologist. He used to work for the DEM monitoring streams and waters.

Can I talk to him?

My brother’s a very private person.

 

TONIGHT: Burrillville Power Plant Public Hearing

Tonight is the final public hearing about the fracked-gas power plant that Invenergy wants to build in Burrillville. If you live in Rhode Island and can go, please do. Bring a sign opposing the plant. If you’re not a resident of Burrillville, you may not be able to get a spot to speak, but be there and show your opposition.

There are other hearings (dates at the link above) where the public can attend but won’t be allowed to speak.

Doors open at 5pm tonight and it’s expected to be crowded, so getting there at 4:30 if you can might be good.

TONIGHT (Tuesday), October 10th, 6-10pm

Burrillville High School Auditorium, 425 East Avenue, Harrisville, RI

We can’t afford any more fossil fuel infrastructure. A lot of people, I know, support this because they are hungry for construction jobs, and so making sure that Rhode Island develops jobs and training in renewable energy and energy efficiency construction (with something like the Energize RI bill) is an essential part of taking care of Rhode Islanders in the short term as well as the long term.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market, 8/30/17

Weather: Sun & clouds, fresh. No need for sunbrella.

Number of people: 8 stoppers, 1 walkby.

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 8

People who recognized me, and I them, from previous sessions: 4

Dogs seen: 4

Dogs pet: 2

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.05

 

Observations:

Today was my last day at this market this season. A major theme of the day was the need for structural action, and for personal conversations as a path to that, and I think that’s a good theme to end the season on. Watch this space for more about that path.

Mobile nonhuman organisms seen and heard: cabbage white butterfly, small ant crawling on notebook (which I killed), sparrows, cicadas in trees, crickets in bushes, pigeons in the clear light sky and a bug that an interlocutor removed from my shoulder for me.

The Food4Good free meal truck saw a lot of action today. If you have some money to spare, consider sharing it with them.

 

Some conversations:

Any new anxieties since I saw you last?

I hate the world more. I don’t know if that counts as anxiety. That’s what I like about [TOWN]–my girlfriend and I are living in the woods out there. I don’t come around here anymore. My girlfriend got hooked on heroin down here, I’d get jumped every now and then ’cause I’m homeless, you wake up and your bag is gone, your stuff is gone. In [TOWN], nobody bothers us, we’re the only ones there. We work the off-ramps. I’m up here because I got picked up by the cops for unpaid fines. I was in the ACI and now I have to go back there and get my stuff—my blankets, bus pass, my clothes, my wallet.

We get corn, tomatoes, put ’em on the fire—we make a fire out of just brush and leaves. Sometimes people give us cases of food. Lotta granola bars. Someone gave us a five-pound block of cheese, but there’s only so much of that you can eat, we had to throw some out. If you go to Taco Bell at 4am, they’re getting rid of stuff.

I’m a country boy. I grew up on a 27-acre farm. That got repossessed, foreclosed on, that’s why I’m homeless. We’re the only ones out there, me and my girlfriend. We’re not trying to set the world on fire. Sometimes we sleep in a graveyard, a graveyard’s nice and peaceful. If we make enough to take a day off work, we’ll go to the ocean. We’d rather be freezing our butts off together than apart.

What are you thinking for the winter?

If it’s cold cold we head over to [REDACTED]. They have these steam pipes—you put cardboard down, then a blanket over, and then we sweat. You can do better with panhandling in the winter because people feel sorry for you.

*

I’d think there would be more need now. Not necessarily climate-related, but [people] got other anxieties. Half the people like the job that the anxiety is doing—most of the people I spend time around are Trump supporters.

What are they like?

They tend to be mostly Caucasian. Some of them are people who voted for Obama—maybe they just go wherever the wind is blowing, whoever gets buzz is who they jump on. Unanimously, people who dislike him are people who pay more attention to what’s going on…

…I still have the [RI organism] card you gave me. I believe it was a plant. I come here [to the market] once a year, when I get the free voucher from the senior center. If I had more money I would come more often. I don’t fault any of the small farms—they’re doing what they’re doing to make a living. But a lot of people around here are working with convenience meals. And the end of the month is a bad time.

*

That’s funny. I mean, “funny.”

Do you want to do it?

Sure. My anxiety is that it’s out of anyone’s control at this point. Like is it too far gone? When you see things like the flood [in Houston]–I don’t know if it’s that I’m worried. It’s depressing and terrifying.

What are you afraid of?

Survival. The future. That’s the last question, I don’t want to talk anymore.

Okay.

No, you can ask me questions. One more.

You’re talking about the future, being afraid of the future. What about the present?

We can only change the present, so we do what we can. That’s a good question.

*

How much of this do you think we’re really confronting, as opposed to just verbalizing?

Confronting how? Like, in our perceptions, or in our actions?

There could be many verbs—challenge, disrupt. Making it uncomfortable, taking it out of our experience, our comfort zone. There’s certainly something about talking about stuff, unloading what’s on your mind or your heart, but is there another step to take it into personal action, social action, justice action? There are a few points in clinical work and therapy, ideas and systems [that acknowledge that] everything happens in relationship to everything else. Real change doesn’t come until there’s change in the system. Do you do that, and how, and still maintain friendships so you’re not throwing people aside? … There’s therapy that brings people to action and then there’s therapy that helps people maintain where they are. The goal is not necessarily to gain more mastery or to hold onto what we are. How do we in this state of dynamic flux hold onto what we have, which is maybe a myth? How do we handle what’s there so it doesn’t apoliticize, a-seek change for us? If we are always changing and growing, why are we always holding on, instead of stepping forward and taking risks?

*

I’m really worried about global warming. It seems really clear that it’s gonna be a problem for everybody, and nobody’s doing anything about it, and I can’t—I can reduce my carbon footprint, but I feel disillusioned about it, because it’s not gonna make a difference as long as the larger structural things don’t change. It’s more than Trump—his predecessors didn’t do any better. They took some steps but it’s still a mess. And I’m sitting in this privileged country, I’ve enjoyed the benefits—do I get to say, “No no, Africa, no no, Asia, you can’t enjoy life”?

How do you feel when you think about this?

I’m gonna have to think about that. Sometimes I’m just like, “The earth will survive.” I’m not that tied to the human race. I’d prefer that we don’t blow the place up—then the next species to take over will do what they do. But that doesn’t help me know what I want to be doing now.

Help for Houston and its people

Food banks: Galveston County, Corpus Christi, Houston

Texas Diaper Bank

SPCA (many shelters won’t take pets)

Portlight, providing disaster relief specifically for people with disabilities

Coalition for the Homeless

Texas Workers Relief Fund

Writer & former Houston resident Jia Tolentino, who supplied the names of many of the organizations on this list, also pointed out on Twitter, “As always, disasters are necessarily political: the kind of gov you would want to help your family in a crisis is the kind of gov you want!” Others have drawn the connections between Hurricane Harvey and climate change, between extractive capitalism and vulnerable infrastructure, between contempt for poor people and the quality of disaster planning and response.

UPDATE: Another very good list, compiled by Colorlines, here. 

Sometimes people say to me at the booth, “We need a really big disaster to wake people up.” Whether or not the waking up is forthcoming, we could’ve done without the disaster. If you can share your resources with Texans who need them, please do so.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market, 8/16/17

Weather: Hot and bright, with some help from big puffy clouds

Number of people: 7 stoppers, 1 walkby

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 6

People who recognized the Peanuts reference: 1

People who recognized me, and I them, from previous booth sessions: 2

Dogs seen: 2

Dogs pet: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.05

 

NOTE: As I type this, the Houston area is undergoing terrible flooding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Their emergency services are at capacity. Please watch this space in the coming days for how to get money and other resources to people there. One to start with: Portlight serves people with disabilities during and after disasters like these. There’s a donation button at the bottom of that page.

 

Observations:

A cop car drove by with flashers, no siren, at 2:23.

I took a break at 3:15 to buy blueberries, goya/bitter melon (the official vegetable of Climate Anxiety Counseling), collards and cilantro. I ate the blueberries while sitting at the booth. They were very good.

Two small girls added “The Pool” and some art to the map of places they’d like to protect. One of them likes to step in and one of them likes to jump in. The one who likes to step in says she’s afraid of sharks and the water is cold. Another child added “I love my house and my mom” to the map. Later, a little boy came up and asked about the map, and after I explained it, he said thoughtfully, “So if someone put the pool it means like not to dirty it. And somebody put their mom’s house so no bad guys come there.”

I have to get better at not crying when the conversation is about what should or needs to be done.

 

Some conversations:

My background is in environmental issues, but I’m not working on climate directly, and I feel really guilty about that.

Why aren’t you?

‘Cause I took this job. There weren’t jobs directly related to climate in this area, and my family’s here. When I hear about issues about climate in the news, or talk with other people who are working on it, I have that jealousy. What do I want to have accomplished in my life? Before, I worked on mountaintop removal mining–“stop the bad thing.” Now I’m looking for action happening at the city and state level. It’s hard for me to even imagine working in the private sector, so it’s got to be government or non profit.

What are you good at?

I’m good at synthesizing. Thinking big, putting information together, making sense of it. Research, writing, learning how to manage things and people, which is actually really hard. I’m good at learning new things …

… I get mad at myself for not getting involved.

*

 

I’m waiting to get my account done so I can get my car and go to work again. If that don’t work, I’ll go out in the middle of the road and never buy a watch. It was a year ’cause they did the claim—I got the car, got my license renewed…What’s impressive is that I don’t just jump.

*

 

Have you heard grownups talking about climate change?

Yeah, on the news. I’m gonna go to the Caribbean.

If it happens?*

Yeah, I’m gonna ask my grandma to take me. She lives in Florida, but that’s where she’s from.

 

*Doctor’s note: In retrospect, I realize that this was a really unhelpful, not to say dumbass, way for me to put it.