Blessed to be working on things I care about
Updated: Jan 15, 2021
My Year as a Climate Project Manager
by Anna Michel
“Wow, you’re so lucky you work on stuff you actually care about...” I hear that often— with family and friends, people I’ve just met, and that voice in my head reminding me to count my blessings during the pandemic.
I’m relieved and grateful that I’m no longer one of the many people in the world who dread, on some level, the job they go to every day. I believe everyone has the right not only to earn a solid income, but to gain a sense of purpose, dignity, and even joy in what they do. And, as it turns out, this kind of work can be found anywhere: in supporting each other; in healing the broken relationships among human beings, and between humanity and nature.
I'm truly in awe that I get to create, write, and produce content on interesting, important topics like climate change, clean energy, public health, and numeracy. And it's been super cool to be a part of developing Active Allies. As co-founder and the first alumna, I’m looking forward to helping onboard my successor, the Active Allies Campaign Manager.
Several years ago, I became aware of small-scale lifestyle changes, such as reducing waste or eating plant-based, that take better care of the planet and other people. But I knew I wanted to have a bigger impact than that. I dreamed of being paid to dedicate hours every day to advancing climate solutions, and helping others do the same.
Nearly everyone I’ve shared my story with lights up at the idea of applying and expanding their own skills on climate projects. In fact, that’s the idea behind Climate.Careers— where I discovered the job post that led me to where I am today. (Climate.Careers is now ClimateBase.org.)
How did I get here? I ask myself that a lot. Let’s rewind to July 2019: I’d just wrapped up a ten-month Climate Corps fellowship, doing green travel marketing (with my partner Kean, pictured right). I’d graduated a year before, with a bachelors’ in environmental studies and a minor in journalism. I got to learn and write about some of the many intertwined challenges facing our world, and then I got to be more hands-on in my fellowship. So I was ready to see what more I could learn and do. I felt poised to jumpstart really my career in climate.
That summer, I applied for countless nonprofit, public, and corporate positions in the environmental field. With a few years’ work experience in communications, marketing, outreach, and events, I was disappointed to find that after dozens of interviews, I wasn’t really getting anywhere.
Then, one auspicious day in early August, I came across a job post on Climate.Careers called “Personal Climate Associate”, working part-time with a retired cleantech entrepreneur who’d founded ClimateChangesEverything.org.
I instantly resonated with the idea of climate restoration, and grew increasingly more excited and inspired as I read through the content on Climate Changes Everything and at the Foundation for Climate Restoration.
And the work itself intrigued me: collaborating with someone many decades my senior, who had a wealth of experience and knowledge to offer. From the moment I met Felix for my interview, I wanted to work with him on spreading the message that we can restore a safe & healthy climate.
So I started doing just that: helping Felix reach out to his networks via personalized email campaigns, introducing them to me and promoting blog posts that Felix and I wrote together about climate restoration. Felix and I have very different writing styles, so it proved to be an interesting, thought-provoking experience, that's helped both of us grow as writers, communicators, and collaborators.
When we first started working together in late August, I had no idea that just a few weeks later, I would find myself at Climate Week 2019 in New York City. Along with Felix, I got to attend the first-ever Global Climate Restoration Forum, held at the UN. It was incredibly energizing to meet so many driven, dedicated changemakers, including youth climate activists and artists.
The highlight of my trip was the NYC Youth Climate Strike. On Friday, September 20, 2019, I joined hundreds of thousands of other young people and our allies in the streets of lower Manhattan. Marching and singing and chanting for the love of Earth and each other, we protested climate inaction and demanded climate justice. The energy was as cathartic as it was exhilarating.
At the end of the march, I met up with the Climate.Careers founders, Evan and Jesse, in Battery Park for a rally, live speeches, and musical performances. We stood in awe and rapture as we watched Greta Thunberg, live, giving one of her most evocative, awe-inspiring speeches ever. It had been a long day and I was exhausted, but my heart felt so incredibly full.
Back home in the Bay Area, the next major event I attended with Felix was the 30th annual Bioneers conference. We both appreciated the deeply intersectional approach that Bioneers has always embodied, and wrote our reflections in a blog article about the hopeful trajectory of the climate movement.
At that point, in October 2019, I was starting to dip my toes in the Sunrise Movement’s Bay Area Hub. During Bioneers, I helped some of the Hub leaders facilitate a training on strategic organizing and actions, which definitely piqued my interest in actually joining the movement (participating in more actions, etc.).
I’d heard of Sunrise when they got started in 2017, but never saw myself as the hardcore in-your-face “activist” type, so I’d assumed it wasn’t really a space for me. My perspective started to shift, though, the more I came face-to-face with the impacts of just how fast our climate is changing.
During California’s 2018 wildfires, I walked to and from work under Oakland’s dark orange skies, choking on toxic smoke, even through my mask. After a similar situation again in fall 2019, this time with multiple blackouts and friends evacuating their homes, I’d had enough. My climate anxiety was through the roof.
So, I resolved to start going to Sunrise meetings, actions, and trainings. I was nervous at first, but these feelings of hesitation and even intimidation dissolved as I learned more about all the different roles needed in community organizing (many of them behind-the-scenes) and Sunrise’s goal of making climate activism accessible for everyone.
Sunrise’s emphasis on community-building, people power, and political strategy gave me the strength I needed to face my fears and channel that anxious energy into taking action. I participated in several protests that autumn at BlackRock’s SF headquarters, to call on the company to divest its many investments in fossil fuels, deforestation, and private prisons.
At that point, in December 2019, I was still working with Felix part-time. My goal was to get up to full-time by working part-time with another local climate organization. When Felix introduced me to Frank and Richard at the Anthropocene Institute, our rapport was pretty much immediate, and in January they asked me to come onto the team as a full-time employee. On February 1st, 2020, I was official!
The way we set up my working arrangement was perfect: I could still be half-time with Felix, starting out half-time with Anthropocene, and see where both projects led. Since October 2020, I’ve been transitioning out of my role at Active Allies to become full-time with Anthropocene, where I’ve been building the SpaceshipOne brand, and helping with a few other initiatives under its umbrella.
The first initiative was Quizicist, a quiz game website featuring quizzes on COVID-19, which we’ve advertised widely to counter disinformation and encourage numeracy. Then, we worked on a proposal for an initiative called Wear to Care, promoting public health and mask-wearing while raising funds for COVID treatment research. This summer, using Climate.Careers to recruit talent, I hired three recent college graduates (looking to enter the environmental field) and led the small team on content strategy and content creation for Quizicist and SpaceshipOne— including planning for our new podcast!
Collaborating with the bright thinkers, creatives, and techies on my team has been a very fun and rewarding experience, that continues to this day. It’s also been immensely gratifying to be part of an organization that’s so aligned with the goals of climate restoration. And I’m still part of the team at Active Allies, where we aim to advance climate action and justice through youth employment and intergenerational collaboration. I’m brimming with gratitude for the whole experience!