Poet talks anxiety, climate change, writing with students

Poet, writer, teacher and activist, Kate Schapira, showcases her Climate Anxiety Counseling. (Photo courtesy of Coldfront)

Poet, writer, teacher and activist Kate Schapira visited the University of Connecticut on Thursday afternoon to discuss climate change in students’ scholarly and human lives.

When students first arrived to the discussion, she asked them to write down what the weather is like today.

When they answered, the students shared a mix of pleased and uneasy reactions to Thursday’s sunny and warm weather.

From those reactions, she jumped into discussing the messages we receive from nature, and how questioning the daily weather can sometimes lead to panic over climate change.

Schapira has held a Climate Anxiety Counseling booth in Providence, RI, for the past three years. In it, she simply invites people to share their anxieties over climate change, and other anxieties that they might have.

When almost every person in the room shared that they were worried about climate change, Schapira explained that this “me too” feeling can facilitate comfort, collaboration and then change.

Schapira recognized that feelings aren’t actions, and that writing can be the bridge between feelings and actions.

“I liked that this is an activity that is not all science, science, science,” sixth-semester environmental studies major Sherly Santiago said. “It’s a lot more about human feelings toward the issue.”

In the question and answer portion after the event, one student asked Schapira how she stays positive and avoids feeling helpless.

“It’s absolutely true that the deck is stacked in favor of damage,” Schapira said. “It is okay to feel tired. It is okay to pause. I think that sometimes the best way to take care of yourself is to take care of somebody else.”

Toward the end of the discussion, Schapira asked the students to write three things on a different piece of paper: another great change or problem that they wish someone else would write about, a method of nonverbal communication through attention or care and their email address.

She then asked the students to switch papers with their peers. She asked students to try writing a poem or story about a great change their peer wants to read, as well as to try out a new method of communication, whether that be dancing, painting, cooking or hugging. Students were invited to send an email to their peer explaining how they did.

Schapira has authored six books and 11 poetry books. She curates a reading series in Rhode Island, as well as teaches nonfiction writing at Brown University.

Ricardo Alvelo, an eight-semester English major, said that he enjoyed the honesty of Schapira’s talk.

“The deck is definitely stacked against us, like she said,” Alvelo said. “It’s easier to damage than repair. I think remembering that will strengthen the world around us.”


Claire Galvin  is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus.   She can be reached via email at claire.galvin@uconn.edu.