Devi Lockwood, author of 1,001 Voices of Climate Change and Commentary and Ideas editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, shared her experience traveling the world gathering and writing about people’s firsthand accounts with floods, fires, droughts and displacement as a result of climate change at the university’s Flynn PLEX. The event, sponsored by Alvernia University’s First Year Program and Berks Nature, is part of Alvernia’s First Year SEARCH Seminar: Enduring Questions.
“Alvernia’s liberal arts curriculum encourages students to explore ‘enduring questions’ as they spend time in contemplation, debates, lectures and other programming considering their place in the larger world,” said Alvernia University President Glynis A. Fitzgerald, Ph.D. “I’d like to thank Berks Nature for their partnership for today’s event and the tireless work of Dr. Elizabeth Matteo and Dr. Nicholas Nicoletti, among many others, in shaping our First-Year program and formulating this year’s theme, ‘Storytelling and Sustainability.’ Given the urgent nature of climate change, now is an opportune moment to engage in this meaningful and timely discussion.”
In her talk, Lockwood encapsulated some of her most memorable experiences while traveling, often by bicycle, and documenting 850 stories across 20 countries on six continents. She shared how she frequently carried a cardboard sign with her reading, “Tell me a story about climate change” and that the joy and kindness exhibited in the communities worldwide kept her going during the most grueling parts of her journey. Lockwood also shared her perspective on how people’s stories advance understanding and empathy about climate change more than even the most alarming statistics and studies.
“The language that we use to discuss climate change is often really abstract and inaccessible,” said Lockwood. “We hear about things like feet of sea level rise, degrees of temperature change or even parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but what does this really mean in people’s everyday lives?”
All of Alvernia’s first-year students read Lockwood’s 1,001 Voices on Climate Change as part of the SEARCH course lecture. Following the lecture, students had the opportunity to ask Lockwood questions based on her book and her experiences and get their copies signed.
“I think it was nice to not just be reading a fiction story and get real examples of what’s going on in the world. I think it is an eye-opener for a lot of people,” said Nicholas Bauer, first-year biology pre-physician associate major. “I understood it on a personal level, like [Lockwood] discussed, more so than the graphs and statistics that you see. You get a better viewpoint of how individuals are struggling.”
Students also left the talk equipped with knowledge about the community resources available that are in place to combat many of the environmental concerns that Lockwood highlights in her book in Reading, Pa. and Berks County.
“We work with landowners all over our region to help protect nature and manage many programs that connect people to nature,” said Berks Nature Vice President of Community Relations, Tami J. Shimp. “As students and as neighbors, there are many ways for you to get involved. We are a resource here for you.”
Designed specifically for new college students, the First-Year SEARCH Seminar promotes academic success, personal growth, and community engagement by emphasizing the expectations and values of Alvernia’s academic community. This three-credit course required for graduation focuses on cultivating success skills, advising and vocation, ethical leadership, and being a part of Alvernia University’s mission-driven community. With these four areas serving as points of reference, students are supported through their first semester to help them become aware, active, and intentional learners.