‘It’s a choice not to act’ – Climate activist Mikaela Loach chats to us about how important real action is
We chatted to climate activist Mikaela Loach about being an activist, breaking up with fast fashion and the importance of ensuring the climate discussion is inclusive.
Anyone with an interest in sustainability is likely to have heard the name Mikaela Loach before… and if you haven’t, she’s probably to be found just a few clicks away on your Instagram explore page. A 23-year-old medical student at the University of Edinburgh (currently on sabbatical after finishing her fourth-year clinical placements) she uses her social media following to rally others in the fight against climate change.
As one of the speakers at this year’s SX21 – TheSustainabilitySummit.Earth, she was joined some of the greatest minds in the industry to collaborate, share, learn and create. Here, Mikaela highlights the most pertinent environmental issues facing the world today.
Where to start
Giving her advice on the best place to start when making changes we can actually stick to long term, she said it’s important to first recognise the distinction between ‘me’ and ‘we’.
“Sustainability should always be about how all of us can make a change. Not just sustainability for ‘me’, but sustainability for ‘we’.
“With this understanding, we see that sustainability isn’t just about going vegan or flying less. It’s about being part of a community and lobbying for big structural and system changes.
“When 100 companies are responsible for 71% of all greenhouse gas emissions, we need to focus on them. So, join a group in your area. Make pals who also care and work together. Get excited and passionate and angry enough about this injustice that you won’t be able not to act,” she added.
Going on to explain what exactly the word “activist” really means, she maintains that it’s an accessible/achievable goal for others to aspire to in their everyday lives.
Being an activist simply just means being an active citizen.
“It just means you act to change or fight any injustice you see in the world. But also I don’t mind if you don’t want to call yourself one! Labels don’t matter as much as real action.”
Passionate about ensuring that the climate discussion is inclusive, Mikaela thinks that there’s great progress being made on that front.
“There’s so much more work that needs to be done, but we are already seeing conversations around the movement get more intersectional. It’s starting to get to the place where we all recognise that we can’t talk about climate without talking about white supremacy, ableism, capitalism, class and so much more,” she told me.
Also a firm supporter of the pre-loved fashion movement, she broke up with fast fashion some time ago and often extolls the virtue of the #30wears movement under her Insta outfit posts. Distancing ourselves from fast fashion is probably something that many of us would love to do, but going cold turkey can be daunting.
How does she recommend going about the process?
“Watch The True Cost documentary! Then try not to buy anything for 30 days and try and work with what you already have. From there on, shop your friends’ closets first, then try second-hand apps like Depop, eBay or Vinted. Buy less, but buy well!”
As for how she determines whether to buy something or not, Mikaela relies on a few key principles for bringing new (or at least new to her) clothes into her life. For one, each piece needs to be something that she can style with at least two or three other garments in her existing wardrobe. They also need to make her feel INCREDIBLE in them, obvs.
Later touching on the pandemic and how it’s given rise to a number of different environmental issues (single-use masks, increased usage of takeaway cups etc), some might argue that it’s become even harder to be environmentally conscious these days but Mikaela disagrees.
“I would actually say that the pandemic has awoken a true consciousness in all of us. Arundhati Roy wrote about this so well in her article The Pandemic Is A Portal for the Financial Times. The injustices of the world have been laid bare and the capacity the world has to react to a crisis has also been exposed. We’ve all seen that when there is a crisis and political willpower, HUGE changes can be made.”
This shows that all we need to tackle the climate crisis is possible, and it's a choice not to act.
Continuing on she said, “It’s also highlighted that we don’t all have the same amount of agency in making changes. Not all of us have a choice – or the same degree of choice – in what we have in our lives. To assume we all have the choice just further marginalises people. That’s why I don’t focus on lifestyle change much anymore. I don’t think it will save us. Movements will save us.”
“I think that talks and events are things which can have a huge impact. As humans, we want to connect and relate to each other and be moved by each other. Events like SX21 – with a wide range of speakers – should inspire and mobilise folk. Hopefully, we can encourage more people to join the movement to save us all!”