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Bikepacking, Climate Change, and the Power of Storytelling

By Frantiska Blazkova

Although it might be hard to put all these things into one equation, they all have one person in common – Devi Lockwood. This inspirational young writer, poet, multimedia journalist, traveller, and explorer from Boston has set out on her cycling journey on September 21, 2014, in the wake of the People’s Climate March in New York City, USA, and has been pursuing her cause ever since. With a packed bicycle, a few cardboard signs, an exquisite ear for listening, and determination, she brings a serious environmental issue to world’s attention – in a personal way.

Words like ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ come down pelting on us so often these days that a lot of people tend to dissociate those from their worldwide impacts, which are, indeed, very real. Devi Lockwood decided on the personal approach – lives of millions of people all over the globe are intimately affected by environmental shifts and they have stories to tell. Behind all those statistics and rising graphs, percentages, and other figures, that are sometimes hard to project onto reality and might feel a little abstract, there are concrete humans with whose lives we can identify and/or sympathise. That’s the groundwork of Devi Lockwood’s message. And that’s how the 1,001 Stories project was born.

In the words of the author: “The core belief of 1,001 Stories is that both telling and listening to stories is a form of activism. Listening builds empathy, and empathy is a powerful tool to dismantle apathy. It becomes harder to ignore a problem if we hear the voice of someone who is impacted.”

Devi Lockwood is a prime example of the ‘put your money where your mouth is’ approach. Ditching the car, the bus or other kinds of transport in need of fossil fuels to make her travels and opting for a bicycle instead (or, sometimes, a boat), is the polar opposite of ‘slacktivism’ aka ‘couch activism’. To this day, she has recorded interviews in 19 countries: the USA, Fiji, Tuvalu, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Qatar, Morocco, the U.K., Canada, China, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkey. Once she travelled full two years by bicycle, self-supported. One of the visual features of her head-on approach is the repeated motif of a cardboard sign around the neck, which she also translates into local languages. The varying signs feature two main messages: “Tell me a story about water,” and “Tell me a story about climate change.” In Lockwood’s (justified) opinion, water is life, and that’s why she’s decided to collect climate change stories that affect water reserves worldwide.

With over 850 recordings to date, she’s constantly closing on her goal to collect 1,001 stories in total. There’s no deadline on the task and Lockwood continues at her own pace and picks the locations according to her research, upcoming workshops or speeches she gives regularly. 1,001 Stories is an app for iOS or Android for now, which you can download either here or here, for free, and it’s basically an interactive online map of the world with pinned points containing the stories. It’s a work-in-progress project and recorded stories are being pinned and added as fast as her tiny one-developer team can manage. The future goal is also to launch a full-fledged website with “a toolbox of resources on how to conduct an oral history interview, techniques of deep listening, and ways to get involved with environmental activism in your community.”

She listened to Kazakh sheep herders about disappearing lakes, Tuvalu families battling severe droughts, dying fish, and dried-out wells, Australian farmers robbed of their fruit crops and livelihood by unprecedented floods, and many more. And you can too as some of those stories can be found on her Soundcloud or you can follow her blog, One Bike, One Year, which she updates regularly. Or download the app, of course.

She’s the master of the art of listening and storytelling on a bicycle who you’ve never heard of – until now – and she doesn’t seem to be putting her bike down any time soon.