words by Willow defebaugh
photograph by daniel shea
Welcome to The Overview, a weekly newsletter in which Editor-in-Chief Willow Defebaugh offers an expansive look at the latest events in climate and culture—and how it all fits together. This week’s edition serves as a special introduction to Atmos Volume 04: Cascade, coming October 26th.
“Nowhere on the shore is the relation of a creature to its surroundings a matter of a single cause and effect; each living thing is bound to its world by many threads, weaving the intricate design of the fabric of life.”
At the beginning of this year, the Atmos team knew that we wanted to explore the idea of the ripple effect with our fourth issue. We decided we would call it “Cascade”: a collection of stories about calamity and consequence, cause and effect, and how the smallest actions can ripple outward into expansive change. Every event, action, and inhabitant of the Earth is a consequence of everything else that has preceded it and that surrounds it. We are bound to one another.
Consequence is an important theme of not only our fourth issue but this year as a whole. After all, this issue was created against both the backdrop of a pandemic and a burgeoning civil rights movement—a world reckoning with the repercussions of centuries of colonization. In our first cover story for the issue, “Living Legacy,” contributing editor Rachel Cargle spotlights the rich history of Black American cowboys and cowgirls who are often excluded from Western stories—and those who are banding together to rewrite the narrative.
On the subject of strength in solidarity: One Sunday in June, I found myself among 16,000 people gathered at the Brooklyn Museum to march for trans rights and trans women of color. It was my first time attending a trans rally as an openly trans-nonbinary person, and the words of speaker and GLITS founder Ceyenne Doroshow continue to reverberate with me. Weeks later, I got to speak with her about community, chosen family, and the transformative effect a single act can have on a person’s life for a story called “A Mother’s Love.”
Speaking of community, for “A Wave of Change,” we paired youth climate leaders, including Xiuhtezcatl Martinez and Jamie Margolin, with their environmental heroes, like Vandana Shiva and Jane Goodall. The result is a testament to how inspiration travels across time and how we can never really know the ripple effect that our actions will have on those who follow in our footsteps. After all, it would be impossible to talk about facing the consequences of our actions without discussing the climate crisis.
Of course, just as we as individuals are all intertwined, so are racism, the climate crisis, and the pandemic. In “Toxic Waters,” Danni Washington dives into the myriad ways in which racism and climate change amplify one another and how they must be addressed together. In another story, “Going Viral,” Leah Thomas reflects on how the subject of intersectional environmentalism went from a post to a pledge overnight.
Indeed, it is this sense of interconnectedness that weaves together so many of these stories. As the brilliant Maggie Rogers tells me in “A Glacial Pace,” the pandemic has reminded her of what it means to be a human being, inseparable from the whole realm of nature. And if Mother Nature truly does present solutions to all of her own problems, then what if, through isolation, she intended to teach us the value of togetherness and that a worldview of oneness is the only solution to the crises we now face?
Assuming Mother Nature is right, then let this be your challenge: If you learn something from the stories contained within this new issue of Atmos, tell someone. Better yet, tell five people and encourage them to do the same. If everything is a consequence of everything else, then we each possess the power to reweave the fabric of which we are all a part. And in so doing, we might just sew something beautiful.
Cascade explores the notion that every action, including inaction, is a choice—and each choice we make has a series of consequences, cascading across time. The choices we make now in regards to the planet will determine the trajectory of the human race for generations to come. Water can conform to its container, or it can gather in force as whelming as a wave. What will you choose?