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Journalist Devi Lockwood reflects on her book '1,001 Voices on Climate Change'

Devi Lockwood, left, interviews someone for her book, "1,001 Voices on Climate Change."
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Devi Lockwood, left, interviews someone for her book, "1,001 Voices on Climate Change."

Climate change is a global problem, and its impacts vary from place to place. From floods in the southern United States, fires in the northwest and hotter than average temperatures here in New England, the changing climate prompts different responses.

Journalist Devi Lockwood has gathered more than 1,000 stories from people who have had their lives touched by climate change. She's collected them all in her new book, "1,001 Voices on Climate Change."

Lockwood spoke with All Things Considered host Peter Biello about her new book and how she starts a dialogue about climate change. A transcript of their conversation is below.

Peter Biello: Welcome, Devi.

Devi Lockwood: Thank you so much for having me.

Peter Biello: How did you go about choosing which stories to feature in this book?

Devi Lockwood: In general, to choose a story for the book I just thought that it had to be interesting and to pique my interest in some way, and I hope that that would also lead to a connection with the reader.

Peter Biello: You profiled former New Hampshire state representative Mindi Messmer. What made her story interesting?

Devi Lockwood: Gosh, I mean, Mindi has such an interesting background of how she came into politics through science and really the way that she's relentlessly advocated for the voices of families in her community and their concerns about water contamination to be considered both at the state and national level, I found to be really interesting and kind of a prime example of ways that people can advocate for solutions in their own communities and the kind of sustained work and effort that that takes.

Peter Biello: You did some of your work on this book while in New Hampshire. What, if anything, stood out to you about the impact of climate change here in New Hampshire or perhaps northern New England more broadly?

Devi Lockwood: Yeah, I mean, one of the first days that I was recording stories was at the People's Climate March in New York City. That happened in September 2014. And I remember being in the Brooklyn Museum, of all places, and meeting a woman from Vermont there who was really eager to tell me about her just lived experience of having shorter and less intense winters and the climate anxiety that that gave her and ways that she's thinking about kind of the changes in her own life, but also projecting forward to what that might mean for the future. Another story I recorded at Climate March, but I met a woman named Susan Marie Steadman in D.C. during the 2017 March For Climate there, and she told me about how in 1969, an oil barge called Florida hit the rocks off the coast of Cape Cod, near west Falmouth, Massachusetts. And on that foggy day, some 189,000 gallons of oil spilled into Buzzards Bay and the wind and the waves pushed that oil onto the beaches and marshes nearby. So this was an event that Susan Marie remembered because she was 10 years old when it happened, and she spent her summers on Cape Cod learning the names of the creatures who lived in that wetland. And she explained to me how that oil spill killed so many of those creatures living in the salt marsh. And she remembers watching that marsh, throughout her childhood, come slowly back to life over the course of about 20 years and witnessing that destruction and then the renewal galvanized her to want to learn more about science and how to protect salt marshes. And so now, she writes policies that protect wetlands for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Peter Biello: Is there a way to describe the many diverse feelings that people must have surrounding climate change? I mean, you've talked to people in so many different countries. I imagine there's a wide range of feeling, but how would you describe the way people feel about this moment as the climate is changing?

Devi Lockwood: You know, it's one of those things that perhaps our language doesn't have enough words for it, even right now. I think that there's a profound sense of loss and fear. I think that many people can be quite pragmatic about it when they have to in terms of making plans to migrate if if the place they call home is no longer inhabitable or even, I don't know, making dramatic changes to the ways that communities get food and water. It's difficult and there is, of course, a sense of loss that comes along with that. But I think that humans as a whole are very creative and adaptable and work best together in community oftentimes, and that there are so many things that people are doing right now in order to address this issue as it impacts them in kind of not only the future, but in the present.

Peter Biello: Devi Lockwood, we're asking our audience this month as part of our Big Question series, a question about climate change, and I wanted to put it to you. The question is: "What are you doing to fight climate change?"

Devi Lockwood: For me, it's all about finding interventions into climate silence. Right? This is an issue that can often be described in numerical terms that are abstract and inaccessible to the majority of people unless they've trained in in climate science. So I see my role as a journalist and a science communicator to bridge the gap between what scientists are working on in this field and what the everyday public understands, and furthermore, what I'm trying to do in this book and in my work beyond is to break down the idea of expertise because lived experience is a form of expertise and by putting people's stories of how they're experiencing climate change right now in dialogue with that science and with those experts, kind of in the more conventional sense, will move the conversation forward and it'll bring more people into the fold rather than pushing them away.

Peter Biello: Devi Lockwood is the author of the new book 1001 Voices on Climate Change, a collection of stories from people around the world adapting to a changing planet. Debbie, thank you so much for speaking with me.

Devi Lockwood: Thanks for having me, Peter. This is great.