A New Leaf
Leah Thomas is the author of the new book The Intersectional Environmentalist and the founder of a digital hub for activists. We caught up with her to ask what Earth Day and going green mean in 2022.
How do you look at “environmentalism” today?
Being an environmentalist is more than recycling and drinking from reusable straws; it’s more than an abstract idea of “saving the planet.” Being an environmentalist in 2022 means advocating for communities impacted by pollution, toxic waste, and lack of access to healthy foods and understanding which people are impacted the most.
Where does change need to happen?
Environmental hazards are more prevalent in lower-income and Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities; the goal is to end that. Everyone deserves access to a safe and healthy environment. Clean air, water, and communities are a human right. This is environmental justice, the intersection between social justice and environmentalism.
How can one person help?
Research nearby environmental and climate justice organizations to learn what actions they are taking and which community issues they are highlighting. Conduct a Google search, ask around, contact a local supervisor, and have a lot of fun getting involved. When locals team up, we often see more immediate results.
What’s your outlook for the future?
I have a lot of hope! Overall awareness about living sustainably is increasing, there are innovations like accessible clean-energy vehicles, and environmentalism seems to be making its way more and more into policy with cross-political support. I’m most inspired by youth activists. The next generation is pushing for real change. —Interview by Jake Henry Smith