Meet the globetrotting cyclist collecting 1,001 climate change narratives

On Saturday, Devi Lockwood will be at the Peoples Climate march in Washington, DC, hoping to add to the 600 interviews shes done in the US and beyond, about how peoples lives have been impacted by climate change and water

Im 24 years old, and I believe that water and climate change are the defining issues of my generation. The way I see it, listening is a form of activism.

This Saturday I will be in Washington DC for the Peoples Climate March, and I will have my audio recorder with me as part of my mission to collect 1,001 audio interviews about how climate change and water have impacted their lives.

My journeys as a poet-activist-touring cyclist began three years ago at the Peoples Climate March in New York. I wore a cardboard sign around my neck that told tell me a narrative about water on one side and tell me a narrative about climate change on the other, joining a rising tide of 400, 000 activists.

That day people told tales about all sorts of things: of the health the health effects of newspaper mill pollution on a community in northern China; climate changes threats to Vermonts maple syrup industry; and the experience of being stuck in an office build for 62 hours during Hurricane Sandy.

Since the 2014 Peoples Climate March I have been traveling through 11 countries, mostly by bicycle( and sometimes by boat ). To date I have recorded interviews with more than 600 storytellers in the US, Fiji, Tuvalu, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Qatar, Morocco and the UK.

You can follow my progress on my 1, 001 narratives website.

Here is a sample of some of the stories I have recorded on my journeys so far.

Devi Lockwood has recorded more than 600 interviews with people about climate and water. Photo: Courtesy of Devi Lockwood


I satisfied Rebecca and her daughter Athena at the September 2014 Peoples Climate March in NYC. At the time, Athena was five months old; she slept on her mothers chest as we strolled.

Rebecca told me that she and her husband moved to Ojai, California because they wanted to start a family and get out of the big city of Los Angeles.

We moved to a five acre avocado ranch in Ojai and we have 300 -plus avocado trees, Rebecca told. Our whole objective is to build and generate this farm so that we could raise our daughter Athena that she could live on for her whole life and have her children.

Their goal was to have a farm that could be passed down through generations. A prolonged drought constructed that goal more complex than Rebecca foresaw. Were now at the end of a five year drought and our water is running out, and so our trees are exceedingly thirsty, she told at the time. The cost of water is soaring. Were not sure if were going to be able to keep our trees or not because of how water consumptive it is.

All of the water in Ojai comes from Lake Casitas. After 5 years of drought, the reservoir was then on its last reserves. The climate, just since weve moved to Ojai, has completely changed, Rebecca said, and so our big dreaming and our vision of moving to this beautiful place where we could grow our own food and we could live sustainably on the earth is starting to die, quite literally. Its drying up.


The highest point on this low-lying coral atoll nation in the Pacific is only four meters( 12.5 ft) above sea level. With a population simply shy of 11, 000, Tuvalu is one of the smallest and most remote countries around the planet.

I lived in Tuvalu for a month, from December 2014 to January 2015, and during that time I stimulated friends with Losite, a Tuvaluan my age, who invited me to the outer island of Nukufetau to spend Christmas with her family.

Losite( far right) with members of her family in Funafuti, Tuvalu. Photograph: Courtesy of Devi Lockwood

Losites mother, Nisikata, runs as a primary school teacher in Nukufetau. We sat overlooking the sea. She told me the story of a drought that lasted from April to December 2013: Our local taro harvests[ and] the fish died because of the drought, she said. We usually get water from rainfall. And when we[ went to] fetch water from our tank its all empty.

The underground well water[ was] also salty, Nisikata told. There used to be a freshwater lens under Tuvalu. In the last 15 years, due to sea level change, that freshwater lens has become salty and impossible to drink.

A well near Nisikatas home in Nukufetau, Tuvalu, that used to provide freshwater but since 2000 has become salty due to sea level rise. Photo: Courtesy of Devi Lockwood

With the drought, so many things that affected our life, like our livestocks. We depend on pigs,[ and were] also facing problem by determining food. Coconuts are not bearing fruit green nuts are all falling down.[ It was] very hard to find anything to drinking, she said.

Donors from overseas devoted bottles of water and those waters[ were] distributed to each island and also into schools by the government of Tuvalu. And from there we are capable of survive.

Rations of food is likewise provided to each island. Bit by bit we used those and when we run out of the ration, the government still providing us with more until “were in” back again to our normal weather: sunny, warm and then sometimes rain.

New Zealand

I satisfied Dr Mike Joy, a senior lecturer at Massey University, during my motorcycle journey down the length of Aotearoa. Joy told me this story from his home in the Horowhenua, on the lower north island, in February 2015.

Water and climate change are entirely interrelated here, as I guess they are everywhere, Joy told. As a country we are going along a very clear track towards maximizing agricultural production. Our government has decided that it wants to doubled agricultural production in the next decade or two.

We already have extreme effects of intensification of agriculture, he told. 62% of the length of all our rivers in the country are unswimmable through pathogens, mostly from farming but also from urban impacts.

Pretty much anywhere in lowland New Zealand youll find polluted waterways, and in the preservation estate, which is mostly the alpine areas, we have amazingly clean ponds and rivers, Joy told.

With the intensification of dairy agriculture, we now have 6.5 m dairy cows in this country, Joy told. If you want to think about the impact of 6.5 m dairy cows, a very conservative comparison is that one dairy cow creates as much waste as 14 humans. So you multiply that out a country the size of the United Kingdom and has 90 million human equivalents.

The current human population of New Zealand is 4.8 million: The waste from these animals doesnt get some form of therapy like human waste would in a developed country. It largely just goes into waterways.

The other big downside to that is more than 50% of our greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, and so we effectively, while our CO2 emissions are comparatively OK because were quite a low human population, our greenhouse gas emissions in total are massively increasing, Joy said.

We trade on this clean green image, but in reality weve junked an amazingly unique and diverse country, and weve junked it in the name of producing a very low-value commodity thats milk powder. Of the milk thats traded in the world, more than 35% of it comes from New Zealand. Were a leading player in global markets, but merely at the cheapest possible aim of the scale.

And at what cost? The other reality thats well conceal here is that New Zealand has the highest proportion globally of threatened species overall. We have the highest incidence of waterborne diseases of any developed country as well.


Partway through my six months of cycling up Australias east coast, I pedalled through Wooyung, in New South Wales. Enticed by hand-painted signs for peaches, nectarines, lychees and mangoes, I pulled into Wooyung Rd Fruit and Vegetable Stall. I propped my bicycle next to an array of coconuts.

I bought a banana and a nectarine and listened as Terry, a lifelong farmer in Wooyung, told me the story of how deluges are more unpredictable than ever before. He told: Here we used to get deluges in January, February. March was your wet monsoon. Now they can come any time from wintertime. The biggest flood we had, 2005, was the end of June 34 inches in about three days.

This unpredictability impacts which crops Terry is able to plant. Theres danger planting any crops on the flats now, Terry said. You used to be able to plant watermelons, rockmelons, and things on the flats and you seldom got flooded out before maybe January, February. Now, anytime, theres such a risk, he told. Too much fund concerned in order to put many harvests down on the flats, Terry said.

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