WE ARE ACTIVISTS — LEAH THOMAS

“Mother Nature should be for us all” — the work of environmentalist Leah Thomas is grounded in intersectionality, a theoretical framework that considers how one’s overlapping identities can collectively inform a more complex set of potential injustices and prejudices. In other words, it redefines the notion that activism ought to stick to one cause-driven lane by seeing that all systemic inequalities are interconnected. Read on for our conversation with Leah about what drives her work, the concept of intersectionality, and the movements that are bringing her hope right now.

 

Leah wears the Sophie Crop and Crop Wide Leg Pants in Conch 

  

  

  

  





How do class, appropriation, and privilege intersect with the current model of environmentalism?

I think the current model of environmentalism doesn't factor in class, appropriation, and privilege enough. Unfortunately the current environmentalism that we have today has led to many BIPOC facing the brunt of climate injustice which is inherently unjust. Those on the receiving end of privilege are more likely to develop a beautiful relationship with nature, which is incredibly unfair. Mother Nature should be for us all. 

How can environmentalism become more inclusive for Black, US Indigenous, Latinx, and other non-white communities who are most directly affected by climate change and environmental abuses?

It can acknowledge the data that clearly states BIPOC currently face environmental injustices disproportionately and make the conversation of intersectionality standard in all environmental settings. I think environmentalists have been able to ignore social justice in context to environmentalism because it's been framed as an optional "add-on" when really it is just as essential as conservation, energy, or recycling.

Tracing back, who in your life influenced your interest in environmentalism? What lessons did they instill?

I've honestly just always loved animals and ecology: my grandma would take us out camping in a cabin and I'd visit my grandfathers rural house in Arkansas for some holidays. I didn't do traditional "outdoorsy things" like skiing or hiking, but I spent a lot of my time outside in nature with my family, even if that meant in our own backyard or watching the sunset on my grandmother's roof. My grandmother is a Buddhist, and believes in the interconnectedness of all things... that likely rubbed off on me.






  

  

 

Leah wears the Clara Dress in Rosehip





 

 

Leah wears the Clara Dress in Rosehip and the 1930's Bandana in Oak 

  

  

  

  

 

  





When looking at Gen Z and the current progressive movement in America, what are some specific strides that give you hope regarding intersectional environmentalism? What aspects give you pause or concern?

 

What gives me hope is that the intersectional environmentalist account has grown to nearly 80k climate activists, many who are 18-34, in a matter of a few weeks. This made me realize that I'm not alone in my desire for a more intersectional future and I'm so excited for what's to come. What gives me pause is performative allyship, [or an interest that] is less about BIPOC and more about woke-washing and green-washing. That can be really hurtful to the environment.

 

Where is a place in the natural world that has specific sacred or personal connections for you?

 

Yosemite is such a beautiful place and I went recently on a camping trip with all BIPOC close friends, and environmentalists — it was such a beautiful experience. The mountains, the stars, the water. Such a beautiful land. 

  

  

Read more about Leah's work here, and follow her on Instagram here. Photos by Alexa Miller.

 

  

 

 

 

Leah wears the Sophie Crop and Crop Wide Leg Pants in Conch 

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