Originally published in the Winter + Spring 2020 issue.
Amy Ippoliti’s passion for living a mindful, conscious and organic lifestyle is ever-present through her expertise as a yoga teacher, author and earth conservationist. Amy has studied yoga for over 30 years and has been teaching since 1997. She is the co-founder of 90 Monkeys, a school for advanced yoga education.
I asked here some questions about the current state of our environment:
I AM CURIOUS ABOUT WHERE YOUR JOURNEY BEGAN. WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO SPEAK OUT ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT?
My earliest memory of wanting to protect the earth or be a steward of the planet was at about 4 or 5 years old. It was a rainy day in New York City and my sister and I were on a playground when we noticed a massive puddle forming around this drain. As the rain continued, the puddle grew larger and we realized it was because of trash. We then noticed the poor pigeons didn’t have a dry place to walk and thought, “we must stop this!” It was really quite sad, but it was this palpable situation where we could see that human activity is affecting the environment and animals.
YOU ARE NO LONGER CALLING THE STATE OF AFFAIRS CLIMATE CHANGE, BUT RATHER, CLIMATE CRISIS. CAN YOU TELL ME WHERE THAT CAME FROM?
Language is so important. How we label things helps us to cognitively respond. If we are just calling it climate change, then is change really a threat? Not necessarily, but crisis certainly is. During the presidential debates, Kamala Harris called it climate crisis and a bell went off in my head. We need to call this what it is, crisis, so that it actually garners the desperate attention that it needs.
DO YOU BELIEVE THAT YOGA CAN CONTRIBUTE TO THE CLIMATE CRISIS?
I think it really depends on what kind of yoga you are doing, and I don’t mean style of yoga. I feel like there is a yoga where we can go to escape reality, and it’s not necessarily the kind of yoga I am all that interested in. Yoga for me is how can I do life better; how can I human better because I am in a practice? And as such, yoga can be a huge catalyst to change climate crisis, to get it to reverse, but if you are just going for an escape, it can actually cause a lot of harm.
BECAUSE I KNOW THAT YOU PRACTICE ENGAGED YOGA, ARE THERE ANY ENVIRONMENTAL PROJECTS THAT YOU ARE REALLY PASSIONATE ABOUT OR THAT YOU SAW EFFECTIVE CHANGE AS A RESULT OF?
I saw a huge move in the needle, in a positive direction, in the work we did with photography. We often associate activism, especially animal activism, with someone holding up a horrible picture with blood and gore, the goal being to raise awareness, but all it does is repulse people. We realized that if we created imagery where there was an interconnection between an animal and a human, we were able to tap into human compassion. It was such a foreign image to see a human body doing yoga, underwater, with no accoutrement, and with an animal. It was astonishing. It created this conversation, people were sharing and commenting on it. We protect what we love. People fell in love with the animals and felt a need to protect them.
I BELIEVE THAT EACH DAY WE VOTE WITH OUR DOLLAR. CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT SOME OF THE ORGANIZATIONS THAT YOU DONATE TO AND WHY?
I believe if you have the privilege to put aside enough money to give a little bit, that it is a way of paying forward that privilege so that the whole world can rise. Supporting change is woven into our business model; on our 90 Monkeys website we have a page that lists all the different organizations that we support. One of them is the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a great environmental organization because they actually work from the legal perspective. We love SeaLegacy, which is for marine conservation. WildAid and the Nature Conservancy are also doing great work for endangered species. American Civil Liberties Union is really important to us because of human rights, which is definitely under threat right now, and many more.
Another thing I want to say because you mention the idea of voting with the dollar, and I think that’s extraordinarily important, but at the same time, what I am learning more and more is that real change also occurs from the top. So that if we are not voting in people to positions of power that are aligned with our values around the climate crisis, around protecting animals, pollution, etc., it can very quickly go downhill. In contrast to electing people that are able to make a difference, we can stop for example, single-use plastic. It could be a ban from the top, just like that.
WHAT ADVICE COULD YOU GIVE TO OUR FUTURE GENERATION?
Please be registered to vote, research your candidates and get on top of the ones that are already in office. It is really about saving our democracy and respecting the rule of law. Keep your life biodegradable as best you can, and be unapologetic about fighting for that. Additionally, get curious about eating plant-based, vegetarian meals. The single most powerful thing we can do to help stop carbon emissions, which is causing the climate crisis, is animal agriculture. Transportation is second; we think burning fossil fuels is the thing that is causing it, but it is actually animal agriculture.