JILL RICE | NOVEMBER 10, 2020 | PROFILES | PHOTOS BY YE RIN MOK
Leah Thomas is a California based intersectional environmental activist. She works to educate people about the connection between social justice and environmental issues and advocates for the people most affected by both. Here, we discuss her path to becoming an intersectional environmental activist and what we can all do to help her cause.Hello! First off, tell us a little about yourself and what you’ve been up to lately.
Hi, I'm Leah Thomas and I'm an environmental advocate and creative. I studied environmental science and policy and graduated in 2017, then went on to work as a PR assistant at Patagonia for a little under two years. In spring 2020, I decided to launch the intersectional environmentalist platform along with some eco-activist friends to create a platform dedicated to diversifying the environmental movement. I'm from the Midwest, but currently live in SoCal.
Duvet Set in Camel
“I just realized I no longer wanted to practice any environmentalism that didn't advocate for Black, Latinx and Indigenous people as well. Our lives and advocacy for our lives shouldn't be optional.”
I really need one! Hopefully one day soon haha, but right now it looks like sleeping in as late as possible (which is maybe until 9 am on a good day) because I'm usually working late. I wake up by either doing jump rope to get my heart pumping or with a super warm shower. I like to make a lavender spicy chai almond milk latte and get to work.Intersectional Environmentalism is a major focus for you, can you explain what that term means?
Intersectional Environmentalism is a type of environmentalism that advocates for the protection of people and the planet. It realizes the ways injustices done to marginalized people and the planet are interconnected and it seeks to be equitable, narrow in on environmental justice, and uplift diverse voices, perspectives, and solutions.
How did you get started on this path?
I think it grew out of being one of few Black spaces in a lot of sustainability or environmental spaces and constantly feeling a disconnect from my peers about the importance of discussing identity and race in the context of environmentalism. The link isn't always clear, but once you look at environmental justice data it's startling. Race is the largest indicator of who experiences environmental injustice - whether that's being located closer to landfills or toxic waste sites, or not having access to clean air or water. During the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement I just realized I no longer wanted to practice any environmentalism that didn't advocate for Black, Latinx and Indigenous people as well. Our lives and advocacy for our lives shouldn't be optional.What are some sustainable practices would you recommend to people who want to make more environmentally responsible choices but don’t know where to start?
Start with what you have and re-use! It's funny because people often think they need to BUY their way into sustainability by buying the most fuel efficient car and the nicest tupperware set, but that's pretty ironic because living sustainably is sort of an anti-excessive capitalistic take. So use and re-use what you have at home, repair clothes with holes, re-use your bags etc.
“What inspires me is that even though change might feel slow, intersectional environmentalism has essentially grown into a movement because of one instagram post I did earlier in the summer!”Expanding on the previous question, what can our readers do to specifically help the Intersectional Environmental cause?
You can follow diverse climate activists and sustainability advocates and also learn about environmental history from BIPOC perspectives - it's usually only told from a white perspective which doesn't showcase the contributions BIPOC have had in this space.What about your work continues to inspire you?
Climate justice doesn't have an end date, it's a journey and all about accountability. What inspires me is that even though change might feel slow, intersectional environmentalism has essentially grown into a movement because of one instagram post I did earlier in the summer! This has really just shown me the power of what can happen when people decide to collectively act. This has given me a lot of hope.
What are you reading / watching / listening to these days?
I do a lot of RHOA and RHOP to really turn my brain off, I also love Lovecraft Country. I've been gravitating towards re-visiting a lot of black cinema lately. I love cinematography + coloring that really highlights Black + brown skin properly, it's really an art.
Fill in the blanks:The coolest place I’ve ever woken up in is:
Joshua Tree during a meteor showerThe best cup of coffee/tea is at:
Lucky LlamaA thing about mornings I’ll never get sick of is:
A warm shower
Duvet Set in Camel