Friday, September 1, 2017

interview with kate from loam magazine

I stumbled upon Kate while watching a live interview video she did on Instagram, and got a mini girl crush. She was so poised and intelligent, then I found that she ran Loam Magazine and it confirmed my first impression. The magazine is incredibly well-designed and focuses on very niche topics that suck you in like no other. Kate was sweet enough to respond to my wanting to know more about her and her magazine, Loam.

What were you doing before you started Loam Magazine?

Before I started Loam, I was a college student, freelance writer, and community gardener. I’ve since graduated but continue to work as a freelance writer as well as an environmental educator. Much as I love working on Loam, it’s not my full-time job. And I think, for now, that’s a good thing. Nourishing new experiences in different spaces and systems makes the work as I do as an activist and as an artist much stronger.
What experience or experiences led you to create Loam

I founded Loam as a junior in college because I wanted to create an antidote to the statistic-driven conversations on climate change I was having in my classes. Science is vital and I’m thankful every damn day for those researchers who are studying our precious planet. But their work can’t catalyze the change it needs to without the support of a strong story. It’s in that spirit that I created Loam as a way to tell stories that inspire deeper engagement with our social, ecological, and cultural communities. 
Since then, Loam has evolved into a platform for exploring intersectional environmental activism and embodied hope. My contributor crew and I are passionate about celebrating the power of beauty to reinvigorate our relationship to the land, sharing strategies for resistance and resilience, and creating a space where art is acknowledged and embraced as a legitimate catalyst for change.

People are often afraid to pursue a simplified lifestyle because it is perceived as an "all-or-nothing venture." What advice or experience would you share with those individuals?

I totally get the fear. I’ve met several folks through my activist work who invoke the “all-or-nothing” mindset as a way to exculpate themselves from taking action in part, I think, because it can be scary to admit that we have the power to create change. When we convince ourselves we’re at the mercy of the intertwined capitalist and political systems that shape some of our world, we don’t have to take responsibility for our actions. It’s an easy out but it’s not the truth. We are so wildly powerful, so capable of building the world we want and healing the people and places we care for, and we can choose to either shirk that power or embrace it.

In my experience, learning to embrace that power is a process. You have to look at the stories you’re telling yourself about the world we’re living in and really rethink your framework for how you think about things. Simple living is as much about what you do as how you think. Zero waste doesn’t work for me but living “trash-light”? That terminology gives me the space to be my deliciously imperfect self. I’ve been doing this simple living thing for three years and I’m still learning!

It’s also important to remember that for simple living to be sustainable, what you’re doing needs to feel nourishing. You don’t have to make all your own everything — be it cleaning products for your home or fermented foods — if it doesn’t bring you joy. I love making calendula body butters and balms (it’s my kind of magic-making) but I don’t have the patience for preservation (and I’m not entirely convinced I wouldn’t poison myself). So dig into those DIY projects that bring beauty to your day and be okay with those that don’t.

Know as well that simple living doesn’t look the same for everyone and nor should it. Time privilege, the climate you live in, the culture you come from, the community you’re a part of—these factors influence how you relate to the land and yourself. You might not live near to a bulk store that makes shopping waste-free a cinch but you can still slash your carbon footprint by refusing single-use plastics or bringing your lunch to work or coordinating  a trash pick-up in your neighborhood. There’s no need to go all in or nothing when there is so much good you can grow wherever you are with what you already have.

One final thing: when you embrace your imperfections, you make room in your life to truly grow and learn. You stop wasting time on what you can’t change (particularly the fact that you are a person who is in no way exempt from making a mess of things like every other person) and start to focus on changing what you can. Challenge yourself to live lighter on this earth, celebrate your successes, show compassion for your setbacks, and savor creative collaborations with cool folks.

What has been the hardest thing about running the magazine?  The most rewarding?
The hardest thing about running Loam is that I have limited time and resources to pour into this passion project. I have SO many big dreams for Loam — where I want to take it as a magazine, how I hope to grow it as a movement — and although I’m proud of the effort I put in every day to support my community, I can’t do everything I want to do, not just yet. For example, I’m still working to find a sustainable system to pay my contributors because I want the incredible artists and activists who share their stories with Loam to know that their energy has value. As a freelance writer, I understand the frustration of being asked again and again to work without pay. My hope is that I can use Loam to prove that healing the environment through art and activism is a fruitful, viable, and sustainable career path. But that takes time and I’m learning to be patient with my passion.
The most rewarding thing about running Loam is pretty much everything else. I love that Loam has given me a way to connect and to collaborate with so many rad environmental activists whose compassionate energy and creativity is world-building. I love that it’s given me a space to share my imperfections, ideas, and inspirations with such an engaged and energized online community.  I love working hard on the million and one details that make up a magazine—from the features I choose to shape every issue’s narrative to the sustainable mailers I source—and seeing how those details make a real difference in the lives of Loam’s readers. Every day, Loam shows me that there are so many people sharing our soil who not only care passionately about healing this world but are also putting in the time, energy, and effort to make stuff happen. It’s a gift I’ll forever be grateful for.
It is undeniable that Loam is a beautiful curation of stories and examples of purposeful living. In contrast to educating others through fear and shock, why have you chosen to educate others in the tone and style that you do?

I choose to educate through the framework of “embodied hope” because I desperately want to heal this world. I know that in my own experiences, feeling fearful doesn’t give me the motivation to do that. When I’m feeling helpless or overwhelmed or anxious, I don’t take to the streets. I tuck myself into bed and fall asleep to Netflix because I’m scared of listening to the stuff that’s going on in my own brain.

Fear is a very strong emotion but it’s not always the truth. It might be easier to commit yourself to a course of action if you knew for certain that everything was (1) going to s**t or (2) would all be okay, but that’s not how the world works. I write about this often on Loam, but I really do believe that we disrespect our wildly complex and precious planet when we assume that there’s only one narrative linking our past, present, and future and it’s one of doom and gloom. The world is complex. There is bad, sad stuff happening and there is also good growing wild all around us. “Embodied hope” is my way of holding multiple realities in my heart. It’s why I strive to create a platform through Loam for folks to talk about everything — from the trauma of living through climate change to the delicious joy of growing your own garden to the incredible power of collective action.

What books have impacted you the most?

SO many! “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer changed my life. She’s a plant botanist, writer, and indigenous scholar whose essays on resiliency and relationship-building will revolutionize your world.

“Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert is a gorgeous guide for navigating creativity as is the luminous “Too Much and Not the Mood” by Durga Chew-Bose.

“Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Adichie's an incredible novelist and her body of work has taught me so much about what it takes to tell a compelling story that interweaves the political and the poetic. I once took the subway in the wrong direction for more than an hour because I was so engrossed in this book. And even though I was 3 hours late for work, it was WORTH IT.

“Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver. I first read this rich study in growing your own garden by the rad Kingsolver when I was 14 and her story was what inspired me to pursue work in sustainable farming and local food. Her recipe for chocolate chip zucchini cookies is also pretty kickass.

“No Time Like the Present” by Jack Kornfield and “When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chödrön help me do the hard spiritual work necessary to sustaining environmental activism.

“House of Spirits” by Isabel Allende. I haven’t read this book since I was 11 and I’m not sure if I’d even like it given the style that I’m drawn to now. But this work of magical realism was what made me want to be a writer and to this day I try to infuse the projects and partnerships I create through Loam with the sense of magic I encountered in these pages.

There are so many more books I want to share. I mean, I never experience my mortality more acutely than when I’m meandering through a bookstore and realize that I’ll never have enough time to read every book I want to read. But the books above are beloved to me and I hope you’ll find a reverence for the natural world and a roadmap for regeneration in these reads.

If you could could find a copy of Loam on the coffee table of anyone in the world, who would that be?
Ooh I love this question! But I don’t have any one person in mind. My wish would be for Loam to find its way onto the coffee table of anyone searching for affirmation that their creativity can be a catalyst for change.
Do you have anything exciting coming up that you would like to share with our readers?
Yes! This September, I’ll be starting my nine-month long fellowship with Spiritual Ecology. As a Spiritual Ecology Fellow, I’ll be working on Hope: Embodied, a multimedia resource guide to compassionate and creative environmental activism that’s really rooted in the philosophies and practices I explore in Loam. I want this book to truly reflect the diversity of the Loam community and I’m so excited to continue to work in collaboration with inspiring artists and activists to build a blueprint for a better world.

© Minimal Mess | All rights reserved.