lam ’19 focuses on building a better future

Kelly LamKelly Lam ’19 is the communications program coordinator at The Environmental Grantmakers Association, an environmental funder affinity group. Kelly received her BA from Wesleyan in environmental studies and earth and environmental sciences.

Why did you choose to be an environmental studies (ENVS) linked major here at Wes? How did ENVS tie-in with your earth and environmental sciences (E&ES) major and other interests?
Coming into college, I knew that I wanted to study the environment. However, it wasn’t until I spent my freshman summer as a Doris Duke Conservation Scholar at the University of Michigan that I realized I was particularly interested in studying human relationships to the environment. Environmental Studies and E&ES made the most sense to me as a major pairing. E&ES established the foundation for which I would understand the environment, climate, and Earth; while ENVS gave me the flexibility I desired to study across disciplines to better understand the social science behind our relationships to the environment. The best class I took at Wes was an anthropology class during my senior year, Toxic Sovereignties: Life After Environmental Collapse, with Professor Joseph Weiss, which I was able to take because it fulfilled an ENVS major requirement. It was such an amazing class that I wished I had also studied anthropology at Wesleyan.

What was your ENVS capstone project and why did you choose to explore that topic?
My honors thesis, “Building Community with Earth: An Ethnography of Long Lane Farm,” was born out of my interest in the interactions between humans and non-humans, and how we worked together to create thriving ecosystems. What happens when we damage our relationships with each other and our non-human kin? How does this all relate to the climate crisis, ecological destruction, and social injustice? I had just started working at Long Lane Farm (Wesleyan’s student-run farm) when these ideas were percolating in my head, and I was seeing all these interactions play out in real time.

I ended up writing an ethnography about Long Lane which examined the farm’s collective management practices, community-building approaches, and student farmers’ interactions with the farm’s non-human creatures. Long Lane was a place where its caretakers could reimagine and practice restorative relationships with each other, the broader community, and Earth. At the same time, we had to face the messiness and challenges of doing so in a hellish world. Long Lane is one microcosm of what was/is possible when we talk about building a just and sustainable future. What’s possible even if we’ve messed up? And continue to mess up? How do we repair, shift, and build? These questions continue to guide my work today.

You are currently the communications program coordinator at Environmental Grantmakers Association. Tell us about the organization and your role in it!
The Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA) is one of the largest environmental funder affinity groups. We convene our members and work together with them to shift philanthropic resources and norms to support people and the planet. Again, how do we repair, shift, and build? How are we centering and collaborating with the people harmed to build a livable and sustainable future? Last year, we released our Racial Equity POV which reflects our institutional commitment to racial equity and uplifting the leadership of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) across our work. As EGA’s communications program coordinator, I work with our team, members, and partners to ensure that our organization’s communications are in alignment with our Racial Equity POV by amplifying BIPOC-led initiatives, highlighting the innovative work of our membership, and encouraging learning and connection.

You were also the social media manager and humxn voices editor for Platform magazine. Can you tell us more about the publication and how you got involved?
Platform magazine was started by a Doris Duke Conservation Scholar alumnus during the pandemic. The digital magazine, which is not currently active, elevates the environmental stories of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). I’m passionate about storytelling as well as the environment and community, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. When I became the social media manager, I noticed that we didn’t have enough content to post consistently on our Instagram. So I started the Humxn Voices column to fill that gap and to also continue to do what the magazine set out to do, by elevating the amazing things BIPOC are doing in biweekly interview spotlights. 

What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about?
I’m doing a lot of self-work right now. I’m learning how to be more confident in my voice and self, and to live intentionally and in a way that makes me feel good. I’m excited to continue growing with the people I love.

For fun: What’s your favorite enviro-lit book(s) everyone should read?
I’m a big fan of Octavia Butler and N.K. Jemisin. For rock nerds (and non-rock nerds), I highly recommend Jemisin’s The Broken Earth Trilogy. Thanks for having me!