“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

How do we answer vital questions when they have become ideological fights in our politics? How do we mitigate and adapt to climate change consequences? How do we balance agricultural and economic concerns with breaching river dams to save local salmon and orcas?  How do we break down the barriers between those in denial and those overwhelmed by the emotional impact of what 97% of scientists are saying about climate change consequences?

If we viscerally understood the interconnected and interdependent nature of our bodies of water  (our own water bodies, and the more-than-human expansive bodies of water that surround us), would we be more engaged with stopping negative impacts humans have on our local water ecosystems? These are the questions I have been concerned with since I began considering water concerns and climate change consequences as an area of ongoing focus in my work through KSD.

In the fall of 2017, I gathered a group of folks interested in helping me sort through this vast subject.  The goal for these meetings was to begin to define the focus for the work-in-progress with the installation by Roger Feldman.  At one of the meetings I asked Roger to lead, he opened the discussion by asking us to share our personal water stories. We listened as one person described the violent sound experience of a massive ice chunk that broke free while kayaking in Patagonia.  Costume designer Sarah Mosher shared her experience in Antarctica and her first impression of the seemingly stark landscape that soon revealed to her that below the ice surface the sea is teeming with beautiful, abundant life. Marine biologist Jerry Erickson shared his experience as consultant to the clean up efforts after the Exxon Valdez oil spill.  I shared the story about the 1996 loss of my childhood home on the Seattle Magnolia hillside after record snowfall followed by rain that triggered a large shelf of land to slide.

KSD PR Coordinator Liz Dawson was contributing to the discussion and taking notes from the meeting.  In the deluge of information she was particularly struck by the repose cultivated through that opening conversation about our personal water stories.  Today it is easy to keep distracted and turn away from the face of climate data overwhelm, or the ailing health of another Southern Resident Orca; but with story––human story in relationship to these easily abstracted concerns––one takes pause to listen.  I was convinced by Liz’s encouragement to let story lead the way through the data, but how was I to collect global stories?!

Enter Devi Lockwood, a young woman on a bike, on a mission to collect from around the world 1,001 conversations on water and climate change! Sarah Mosher sent me an article that Devi wrote for Slate Magazine about a Chicago public art exhibit that simulated the sound of the Delaware sized iceberg that broke away in July 2017 from Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf.  In the article Devi mentions her own project.  I contacted her and she immediately responded with great enthusiasm to share with me for our project the 700+ stories she had collected.  Visit the new interactive 1,001 Stories Map that went live this year!

In January 2018, KSD flew Devi to Seattle for a week.  We walked together in Carkeek Park, and listened to 5 hours of her stories from USA, Norway, Sweden,Tuvalu, New Zealand––to name a few from the 16 countries she has visited. We did a few Art & Practice of Movement sessions together. We interviewed a Duwamish tribe indigenous leader, a policy influencer, a dancer/environmental activist, a composer/research scientist, a marine scientist, an atmospheric scientist, an arctic ice research scientist, an economics/policy/environmental advisor, and a biologist turned climate impact writer.  

I was struck by four things from these interviews that motivated me to press on with this project:

  • Every scientist we interviewed echoed the same concern about not reaching enough people.  

  • They were discouraged by the slow wake-up response in the general public.

  • They expressed concern that the manner in which scientists are trained (to be objective and data-focused) has diminished the natural and necessary human emotional aspects of the climate impacts we are facing, and therefore has caused a chasm between science and the public awareness of mitigating and adapting to concerns and consequences.  

  • Everyone we interviewed was dealing with their muddled dance between the poles of personal and climate change anxiety, and hope or action.  

I learned that every global problem affects us somewhere in Washington state from sea level rise, to migration, to floods and drought, to glacier melt, to acidic warmer waters and the impact on coastal and marine ecosystems. Some of our human impacts are not directly related to climate, but to water itself; our source of life.  The stalling of the Snake River Dams’ court-ordered removal is an example of people’s refusal to move beyond ideological fights and create new structures that serve everyone, including our salmon and orca kin.

In January, 2019, I collected two more interviews.  One was with a writer/activist who fought 19 years ago to remove the four dams on the Snake River. The other was with a UW Bothell professor in Environmental Science and the Humanities who created a seminar focused on grief, anxiety and climate change.  Text from most of the interviews Devi and I collected in Seattle were woven into sections of the sound score created by Kaley Lane Eaton.

My hope is that this work, with the voices of real people, combined with moving rigid structures of fluid images by dancing bodies, will play a part in awakening new movements for the evolution of our relationships with each other, water, and the earth.  For me, this is an act of prayer; a renewing of dance as vital for all that is needed to be overcome and ever coming into being through a moving love.

“We are a moment where the work of the earth is happening”

––Kimerer LaMothe, Author of Why We Dance  

We can join this dance or we can continue to deny this ancient practice of communing, conversing, and collaborating through the understanding that movement is the aim and source of life; vital in our awakening toward transforming the impoverished movement patterns we hold in our body selves, in the collective body and throughout the earth.

Destruction, change, and recreation are part of all of our stories.  But how do we choose to move, to be a part of this dance? Will we choose to create new rhythms of bodily becoming for our water bodies and the collective water body?  Do we move in denial, continuing to recreate our own separate empires of selfish distractions, needs and impoverished rhythms, or do we move through overcoming the path of accelerating accumulated sufferings?

I invite all of us in this city and nation to move toward facing the mistakes of rigid, supremacist, white, western, human-as-separate structures built from minds separated from bodies, minds dominating over other bodies and the earth.  I invite all of us to move to know ourselves and each other with greater awareness for the sensations of moving together for a greater loving good with and for all that is.

Karin Stevens Dance