At the end of the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, the besuited leadership of the world had one small — but crucial — change to the wording of the final statement. Ultimately the wording had to be that nations of the world "phase down” rather than “phase out” fossil fuels.
Close to tears, the COP26 President Alok Sharma apologised to the world, at the tragedy of this small change.
The Australian Conservation Foundation's winter fellowship cohort followed these global negotiations while their participation in the program for 2022 drew to a close.
For many people, the aftermath of the Glasgow conference may have led to a sense of despondency, but the mood has never been better among this fellowship team.
It is time for positive energy, a renewed focus on the work at hand.
Twice a year, the Australian Conservation Foundation welcomes a new group of participants to its fellowship program and as it draws to a close for 2021, the current crop of fellows will reflect on their journeys into the field of climate action: from bystanders to actively working toward a cleaner planet.
They take up specific roles across the organisation's campaigns, media, community, fundraising and administrative teams.
Digital stories and communities fellow, Tshireletso Motlogelwa caught up with two fellows to learn why the program inspired them to take more action for a clean and healthy planet.
Marcus was motivated to join the Australian Conservation Foundation fellowship program after witnessing the impacts of the Black Summer fires [Picture: Supplied]
Marcus Overman grew up in the rural Victorian town of Moriac and experienced the enjoyment of camping from the earliest parts of his youth.
But it was an encounter with the Black Summer bushfires of January 2020 that changed his views.
He was preparing to go camping in the fishing town of Mallacoota when the fires made their way across Australia leaving carnage in their wake.
“You could see the trajectory of the fire, but I was sure that no place I knew would be affected," he says.
"I then saw the shot of the Navy ship out from the beach where we would swim, snorkel and play beach cricket all day. The trees that hid the carpark were either engulfed in flames or charcoal black.
"The sky was a lit inferno and Mallacoota was completely evacuated, except for few who stayed on their properties to save houses or cattle."
As the inferno raged across the country, Marcus instead spent that summer at home in deep reflection. It was his experience of Black Summer that saw him search for opportunities like the Australian Conservation Foundation fellowship program.
“It was then that I realised that we were living through what could be our foreseeable summers in the future," he explains.
"The effect of climate change had actualised in front of me. It was here, it was now.
"I felt like I had a choice. A choice to wait for the smoke to clear, go back to business as usual and have this event as a traumatic, yet temporary memory — or I could make a change in my life."
Michelle has built her knowledge of environment, gender and migration through the fellowship [Picture: Supplied]
South Korean-born Michelle Ok's favourite nature memories are of her seaside childhood house in the country’s most populous city Busan.
From the front of that house she took in ocean views, from behind it she could see the rolling hills.
“It was a beautiful place”, she recalls about the home to which she returns for holidays.
Michelle, from an academic background in human rights and women’s rights activism took a more circuitous route to the environmental movement: Her decision to engage in environmental work came about because of her concern for migrant women.
A profound encounter with a Sudanese refugee woman during her stint as a student in New York brought her attention to the climate change causes of global migration.
The ACF fellowship takes people from diverse backgrounds through a rigorous induction program in their chosen area and other aspects of the environmental movement.
For Michelle, this experience served to confirm the belief in the global interconnectedness of environmental work.
“I think my passion for refugee issues, brought about my interest in the environmental movement,” she says.
“I came here believing that there was a link between climate change and migration, and I have been able to explore that area while I was here.
"The supportive environment of the fellowship, and the amount of people with so much drive, gave me more confidence to engage with people."
Australian Conservation Foundation Fellowship applications are opened bi-annually at our official fellowship page. The next round of applications will open in Autumn 2022.
Tshireletso Motlogelwa is a 2022 ACF Fellow and journalist. Follow him on LinkedIn here.