'atmos' is a new magazine bridging the gap between culture and climate

The inaugural issue of the biannual publication features contributions from Yoko Ono and Ryan McGinley.

by Erica Euse
23 April 2019, 9:45am

Photo by Ryan McGinley

This article originally appeared on i-D US.

How do humans fit in the future of this planet That’s one question Jake Sargent and William Defebaugh try to answer in the inaugural issue of Atmos magazine. As activists, industries, and everyday people look for ways to save the Earth from climate catastrophe, Sargent, the founder, and Defebaugh, the editor-in-chief, wanted to put the spotlight on the relationship between culture and climate. Through thoughtful stories and striking design, the print publication shows readers how humans not only have the power to destroy the planet, but also to save it.

Named after the Greek root of "atmosphere," the biannual magazine presents climate change through a personal lens, rather than a scientific one. The first issue themed “neo-natural” was released earlier this month. It features an interview with legendary artist Yoko Ono and a photo series by Ryan McGinley, along with stories on everything from lab-grown meats to futuristic fabrics.

"I think our job is to inform people of every solution so that they can make their own informed decision on what is the right step forward," said Defebaugh.

i-D caught up with Sargent and Defebaugh to learn more about the magazine, why we should be talking about the climate everyday, and how they hope to inspire readers to take action at a time when we need it most.

Why did you want to start a print magazine?
Jake: I live right next to Casa Magazines, and I consider it one of the best magazine shops in the city. I have always been struck by how many great magazines there are dedicated to various aspects of culture, but no single magazine was focused on exploring culture through an environmental lens, which is one of the biggest topics of our time. That was a glaring whitespace in the publishing world.

Why do you think a publication like this is needed now?
Jake: It has been widely reported that the timeframe is 12 years in order to avert global warming of 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. If we can accomplish that we can avert the worst outcomes: food shortages, climate related poverty, environment degradation, so I just see that as a call to arms. This is a topic that we need to be covering and we need to be talking about all day, everyday.

Image by Alexandra von Fuerst.

How do you bring culture and climate together in the magazine?
William: I think it is interesting that we are surprised at the idea of climate and culture being covered together. I think that right there tells you a lot about what our cultural values are. To us, especially in putting out this first issue and the theme of the first issue being "neo-natural," we were really looking at highlighting how inseparable they really are.

We think of human beings as being divorced from nature and being divorced from climate, but of course we know as a species we come from nature. We also know that the way we operate and consume as a culture is having direct and irreversible effect on our climate, so I think Jake and I both felt very strongly that in order to really make an impact on the future of the planet we have to start with our culture, showing that the two really are not just related, but inseparable, was largely important to us.

What can you tell us about the first issue?
William: The theme of the first issue is “neo-natural,” which is something we agreed upon right out of the gate. What we wanted to examine is what the word natural really means and what it looks like at this point in time.

Jake: In this issue and more broadly in the publication, we are committed to the outcome of environmental progress, but we are not taking a stance on the best way to get there. Even within the first issue we offer very divergent views on how to achieve these environmental goals. That is really amplified in Anohni’s piece, to really look towards our ancestors and history as a way to return to the earth and that is contrasted with pieces on drones that can replant forests 10x the speed that humans can. It is a tension between technology and artificiality and nature and how those things are separate, but can work together.

Photo by Ryan McGinley.

Who are you hoping to reach with Atmos?
William: Leaders and people who are in positions of power, in the sense that they can inspire others, this being one starting point as a catalyst for change. I think something that is so important about the fashion industry for one, is that its influence is so far-reaching. I think when people see leaders saying that they care about these issues, that’s how you start to effect change.

What do you hope readers will take away from the magazine?
William: We hope it will inspire people in one direction or another, whether it’s as Anohni presents, the possibility of what she calls retreat or a return to more historic models of success in how we interact with the environment, or whether it is to leap forward in the scientific world, either way we just want people to be inspired into action and to make changes in their own lives that will take us forward.

This article originally appeared on i-D US.

climate change