This was written by Samantha Schmitz, Moms Clean Air Force intern:
1,001 Voices on Climate Change is the firsthand account of journalist Devi Lockwood in her quest to foster empathy in the global environmental movement. She records the stories of real people on the front lines of the climate crisis and infuses her own reflections as she recounts people’s experiences from around the globe.
Throughout the book, Devi brings us along on her journey. She traveled largely by bicycle wearing a cardboard sign that read: “Tell me a story about water.” This opened her up to the stories of anyone willing to share. “Climate can feel like a very abstract, inaccessible, and numerical issue,” Devi says. “It’s really hard to visualize something like a degree – or half a degree – of temperature change, or a millimeter of sea level rise.” She explains that everyone has a story about water, and this more personal lens can make an overwhelming topic more tangible.
The moving stories that Devi shares in her book were a product of the method of deep listening that she developed. In order to gain the trust of storytellers, she vowed to treat every story as a gift – one that merited undivided attention. “There’s something really powerful about taking the time to slow down and listen to each other at the level of ‘story.’ To the extent that we can do more of that, I think it will help move the conversation forward,” Devi explains.
She also provides powerful insights on how to approach those with differing views when it comes to the legitimacy or extent of the climate crisis. Devi turns to the expertise of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, a program that helps understand and shape public opinion on climate issues, as well as her own experiences of having tough conversations. “There are ways of starting a conversation with someone first and foremost with a common ground,” she says.
Devi is an advocate for “values-based communication,” which allows people to break down barriers and party lines. “For example,” she says, if two people value family, they can “start a conversation from the point of view of something you both share rather than coming at it with an attack or a fact.” Throughout her journey of listening, Devi came in contact with a wide spectrum of beliefs, yet she remained adamant in approaching each storyteller with empathy through deep listening.
1,001 Voices on Climate Change follows Devi first to Tuvalu, a coral atoll nation in the South Pacific that is vulnerable to sea level rise. Here, she was forced to reckon with her complicity as an American in one of the most dire examples of global environmental injustice. The Tuvaluans she met are some of the most impacted by climate change but have contributed the least to causing it.
Later, Devi traveled from the Amazon Rainforest all the way to the Arctic Circle listening to other storytellers at the forefront of climate impacts. She heard numerous stories from parents – particularly, mothers – taking action. Devi even crossed paths with Moms Clean Air Force National Field and Legislative Manager Trisha Dello Iacono (formerly Trisha Sheehan) during the People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C., whose story of her family’s farm is featured in the book. Devi also shared the story of a Ugandan woman named Gertrude whom she met at the UN Climate Talks in Morocco. Gertrude traveled to the conference driven by gender equity, pointing to the disproportionate impacts of climate change on women.
Devi told us that she hopes her book “widens the conversation about climate change and redefines the notion of expertise.” She wants readers to know that each and every voice matters, and she encourages you to submit your own story here. The diversity of stories and voices recorded in her book remind us that everyone has a role to play in building solutions. From a mom in New Zealand restoring a wetland to a student in Kyrgyzstan studying to be an environmental engineer, 1,001 Voices on Climate Change illustrates how everyone around the world will be impacted by climate change, but more importantly, that anyone can be a catalyst for climate action.