Written by Dan Sherrell

As soon as we landed we felt the heat. Dry, desert heat, wringing little drops of sweat from our foreheads and the backs of our necks. #SummerHeat was still a couple months off, but for the Fossil Free Fellows, it was 90° F in the shade, and the summer had just gotten started.

We met in Albuquerque, travelling from all over the country to kick-off the Fossil Free Fellowship with a week’s-worth of training, talking, and taking time to get to know each other. And even though by now we’re nearly halfway into our 10 week fellowships, it’s important to take a look back and how we got started, and where we went from there.

In short we’ve spread out, in placements all across the country, embedded with dozens of organizations campaigning for climate justice, from impacted communities fighting fracking in New York, to NGOs promoting environmental justice in Chicago. But before we all dispersed to go fight the good fight, it was important to get acquainted: with environmental organizing, with the climate movement, and with each other.

Every day, 36 Fellows came together for a crash course in climate activism on the campus of the University of New Mexico. Fueled on coffee and goldfish, we hashed it out, from the practical (how do I plan a rally in 30 minutes or less?) to the theoretical (what does it actually mean to have an inclusive movement?) In collaboration with the Ruckus Society, 350 brought in two lifelong organizers to help ground our activism in community and in humility. And when the formal trainings ended, the conversations continued, well into the night, over bowls of New Mexico green chili and shockingly large sopapillas. We couldn’t help it, really. When you put 36 students passionate about fighting climate change together in a room for a week, people get excited, and that excitement is infectious.

We came from everywhere, from San Francisco, to Boston, to rural Indiana. We came from public universities and private colleges and community colleges. Some of us came from storied organizing backgrounds, with more than a decade of experience promoting LGBTQ rights or supporting political prisoners. Others came fresh from campus, where they’d cut their teeth campaigning hard to divest their school’s endowment from the fossil fuel industry. We found strength in our diversity, and strength in what we shared: a desire for a livable life on a sustainable planet, and an unflagging willingness to work for it.

The work began in Albuquerque, and it’s continued this summer. With a Keystone decision looming, the divestment movement heating up, and the fight over fracking spreading to new counties and new states, our training in climate activism couldn’t have come at a more important time. The Fossil Free Fellows are getting down to business.