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Talking climate change and civil disobedience with 23-year-old Insta-activist Mikaela Loach

Photography By MIKAELA LOACH
Published 29.06.21

There’s no shortage of appellations to use when introducing Mikaela Loach.

She’s a climate justice activist, podcast co-host, writer, sustainability advocate and medical student. She’s also a prominent figure on Instagram with more than 110k followers , a community dedicated to hearing what Loach has to say on issues ranging from climate action, antiracism, and migrant rights to intersectional environmentalism.

Based in Edinburgh, Loach is full of vigour as she begins our interview with an account of her journey into activism. She describes two simultaneous paths: one heavily involved in migrant and refugee rights, volunteering at a refugee camp in Calais and advocating for migrant justice. The other focused on sustainability, making lifestyle changes like quitting fast fashion and going vegan to help the planet. Then, one day her paths coalesced.

“These two things were going parallel to each other but I didn’t really see how they were connected,” Loach explains. “At some point, I realised how big and all-encompassing the climate crisis was, and how much migrant justice and all these other things were so inherently connected to climate justice.”

This awakening led Loach to more direct action; she attended protests and made greater use of her platform for advocacy. As someone who has previously engaged with high-profile environmental groups, the importance of protest and acts of civil disobedience is one of many points I’m curious to hear Loach’s view on. “We live in a world created by different systems and different systems are upheld by people not disrupting them,” Loach says.

“If we want to see a different world, one that protects the climate and protects the people who are going to be affected by climate change, then we have to cause agitation and disruption to these systems and I see civil disobedience as a way of doing that.”

I ask Loach about when she first felt confident calling herself an activist, a title that carries a certain weight of responsibility. “I still struggle with that sometimes, like what does it mean to be an activist?” she says. Throughout her life, she always thought of activists as prominent historical figures like Dr Martin Luther King and activist and writer, Angela Davis.

“It wasn’t until I went to the refugee camp in Calais that I realised the people who were doing the work there were just normal people…normal people who saw the issue and decided to do something about it. That’s all activism really is, standing up against something you see that’s wrong and all of us can do that.”

Communicating complex information is one of Loach’s fortes, evident in her explanation of intersectional environmentalism, a topic she passionately champions. As we discuss the exploitative history of the fossil fuel industry, Loach contends the climate crisis is inherently linked to health issues, and disproportionately affects marginalised groups in society.

She goes on to describe displacement as a result of the climate crisis, mainly affecting BIPOC individuals, black and indigenous people of colour from the Global South. “If you look at who is experiencing the brunt of the climate crisis, you can see it’s a social justice issue because there’s inequality in who is being impacted.” This is what intersectional environmentalism ultimately highlights: the interconnectedness between social justice and environmental issues.

Depending on the day, if you check Loach’s Instagram you might hear her talking about climate and social justice issues and posting educational resources for her followers. Or you might see her joyfully dancing around the kitchen, sometimes with her mum. It’s part of her self-care, ensuring the stress and weight of her advocacy doesn’t become too overwhelming. Though she does admit she finds reading activist books equally calming “because they remind me that other people do care about this stuff and then I learn more and I think that gives me stress relief”.

I finish the interview by asking if being so heavily involved in these issues has challenged or reinforced her optimism for the future. She replies that her outlook relies on hope and using a hopeful mindset to create a better world, before quoting Indian author Arundhati Roy: “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

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