1,001 Stories on Water & Climate Change

My name is Devi Lockwood and I’m a folklorist, environmental journalist, and sound artist from New Hampshire, USA.

This week I’m attending #UNLEASHLAB2017, a global innovation lab where 1,000 talents from around the world gather to create real, scalable solutions to the Sustainable Development Goals.

collecting stories on the Great Wall of China, August 2017

For the last three years I have dedicated myself to building bridges between storytelling, environmental justice, and the parallel issues of water and climate change.

Humans are storytelling creatures — so much so that we tell ourselves stories even while we are asleep. As a student of Folklore & Mythology (B.A. Harvard, 2014), I have learned that while numbers and data points are an important piece of understanding climate change, the risk in communicating in purely numerical terms is that we dehumanize the issue.

First-person stories are a powerful way of building empathy (and cultivating science literacy) across lines of difference. Storytelling helps give a human voice to sea level rise, permafrost loss, intensified storms, migration patterns, biodiversity loss, and other impacts of the climate crisis. When we know the story of someone who is impacted, it becomes more difficult to ignore the issue.

recording a story about water conservation in Chengdu, China. July 2017.

My goal is to create a platform for human stories about water and climate change.

Since the September 2014 People’s Climate March in NYC I have recorded interviews with nearly 700 storytellers in the USA, Fiji, Tuvalu, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Qatar, Morocco, the U.K., Canada, and China.

I want to make these stories accessible to students, educators, policy makers, artists, and curious minds the world over.

I set myself the goal of collecting 1,001 stories, a nod to the character of Scheherazade in One Thousand and One Nights. I’m nearly 3/4 of the way there.

many incarnations of the cardboard sign. September 2014.

As I learned from my time at the 2016 U.N. climate talks in Morocco, the older generation is not fixing climate change, so my generation has to think differently and act creatively to address environmental injustice and a host of related issues. The conversation isn’t including the right people, so I make a point of seeking out underrepresented voices.

(I plan to extend this project to all seven continents — which still leaves Africa, South America, and Antarctica. If you have suggestions for communities I should visit, please let me know!)

I’m coming to UNLEASH via China, where I spent a month recording stories ranging from folktales about carrying wishes across the ocean at low tide––to the large-scale movement of water from the south of China to the north via pipelines––to the impact of coal mining on drinking water in surrounding areas.

My work intersects with Sustainable Development Goals:

6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all

13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

At the 2017 UNLEASH Innovation Lab in Copenhagen I hope to find collaborators (both for design and coding) who can help make the 1,001 Stories map a reality.

I’m interested in any storytelling-based collaborations––ways that I can lend my skills in audio recording and editing to other projects.

I would also love to record stories about water or climate change from other UNLEASH talents. Come find me! I’ll be wearing a cardboard sign that says “tell me a story about water” on one side and “tell me a story about climate change” on the other.

For more on the journey, visit devi-lockwood.com and my blog onebikeoneyear.wordpress.com. Older posts here. You can also support my work on Patreon.