Storytelling school

‘1,001 Voices on Climate Change’ uses storytelling to fight climate injustice – The Highland Echo

Author and journalist Devi Lockwood has spent five years traveling to 20 countries on six continents with one central goal: to document stories about climate change and water. Lockwood listened to 1,001 stories about the impact of climate disasters on the lives of people around the world.

To capture the stories and lessons she learned from the experience, Lockwood wrote her first book, “1,001 Voices on Climate Change.” On March 27, at Anderson Hall, an assembly of Maryville students, faculty, staff, and community members joined to hear the incredible journey that inspired Lockwood’s book.

A group of Maryville College students, faculty, staff and community members sit in Anderson Hall, waiting to hear from Devi Lockwood.
Photo courtesy of Kirsten Sheppard.

In 2013, longing to reconnect with humanity after a long period of confinement following the Boston Marathon bombing, Lockwood tied a sign around his neck that read the words “open call for stories”. This invitation is the starting point of his own remarkable story.

After tearing his ACL during a football game the previous summer, Lockwood relied on his bike for daily exercise. His bike quickly became not only his preferred mode of transportation, but also a vehicle for human connection.

“To give myself a goal, I decided that summer that I would cycle very far. I wanted to cycle along a river and discovered that the Mississippi River was bordered by a network of roads called the Mississippi River Trail,” Lockwood shares. “In August 2013, I cycled 800 miles from Memphis, Tennessee to Venice, Louisiana.”

During her trip, Lockwood carried her sign with her and recorded the stories of people she met on the road for her graduation thesis. Lockwood says he heard many stories about the intensification of devastating storms forcing people from their homes. These catastrophic events were proof of climate change.

Once back in Massachusetts, Lockwood found herself engrossed in the stories she heard on the road. Moved by the impact of climate change on local people, Lockwood sought an opportunity to use these stories to create a global narrative.

“I decided to apply for grants that would allow me to bring these stories from the Mississippi Delta into dialogue with stories about water and climate change from other parts of the world,” Lockwood shares.

She received a scholarship to travel to Tuvalu, an island nation in the South Pacific, for a year, marking the start of a five-year cycling expedition to hear stories about climate change firsthand.

According to Lockwood, the scientific language we use to discuss climate change is often abstract and inaccessible. Too often, it ignores lived experiences. Bringing attention to first-hand accounts of climate disasters and the repairs people are making in response to climate change has provided an opportunity to bridge this gap.

“By traveling to 20 countries on six continents and hearing 1,001 stories about this topic, I gained a more nuanced understanding of the global scope of this issue and its intimate impact on people’s lives,” notes Lockwood. “It becomes harder to ignore climate change when you hear the voice of someone who is affected.”

Although she did not initially intend to write a book documenting her experience, upon her return Lockwood recognized the importance of using her privilege and platform as a writer to open a conversation about environmental injustice and amplify the voices of those affected. Climate change is about environmental justice, and storytelling can be a way for victims of climate disasters to become an integral part of the climate change conversation, Lockwood suggests.

“1,001 Voices on Climate Change” by Devi Lockwood.
Photo courtesy of Kirsten Sheppard.

Lockwood has witnessed firsthand the impact of climate catastrophe and the valiant efforts of locals to reverse the damage, from stories of a woman restoring a desecrated wetland to a mother making tough decisions about how to to use the limited availability of clean water for his family during times of drought.

Lockwood notes that one of the most valuable tools she unlocked as a librarian in this experience was active listening. Providing a space for storytellers to share their lived experiences helps empower those who might not otherwise have had the power or resources to do so. Lockwood found that many people ended their story by simply saying, “Thanks for listening.

After his speech, Lockwood opened the floor for questions and answers. Several listeners were interested to hear his perspective on how to dampen conversations surrounding climate change and environmental injustice, especially as political divisions on the issue become more pronounced.

A lack of empathy or understanding can be one of the biggest barriers to achieving meaningful change in environmental justice, Lockwood says. People need to understand what is really going on in the communities.

“It means moving beyond the mundane nature of our daily lives and recognizing that people’s lived experiences can be very different from what we know,” notes Lockwood.

She also advocates for values-based communication when engaging in climate change conversations, which means seeking common ground and shared values ​​during difficult climate change discussions.

While climate change can be an uncomfortable conversation, Lockwood encourages us to sit in that discomfort and welcome that fear into the conversation. An integral part of this process is embracing the stories and lived experiences of those affected by climate change and providing them with a platform to share these experiences.

If you want to learn more, check out “1,001 Voices on Climate Change,” currently available from the Maryville College Library. His book is also on sale at Southland Books in Maryville.
Additional online resources are available, including his website (

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