Page Atcheson (continued)

After UVM, Atcheson moved back west to join The Northern Plains Resource Council as the Western Montana organizer. The organization was formed by ranch families concerned about the threat that industrial-scale coal mining in the Powder River Basin posed on their land and their ability to make a living from ranching.

“The fight I worked on was against plans to mine and export coal to Asia,” Atcheson said. “I organized communities along rail lines to oppose these proposals and involve them in the environmental impact statement process."

Later she joined executive Director of Our Climate, an organization that advances state-level climate policies and, like 350.org, actively recruits students passionate about fighting climate change. In 2016 she became executive director and under her leadership Our Climate grew from a statewide, volunteer-led campaign to a national organization with eight staff members.

Our Climate won a prestigious Keeling Curve Prize, which annually recognizes early-stage companies and non-profits leading the way in carbon capture, energy, finance, transportation and social and cultural pathways.

Earlier this year Atcheson was appointed as development director of the Global Warming Mitigation Project, sponsor organization of the Keeling Curve Prize. This month she travelled to the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.

“It was unlike anything I’d experienced,” she said, “There were some very encouraging announcements made there—most notably limiting methane emissions and deforestation, though I know there have been similar commitments in past summits that haven’t been followed.”

Atcheson says her experience at UVM lit the flame for what she describes as a “fierce commitment” to climate change mitigation. She has no illusions about the tough fight ahead. She acknowledges that personal commitments by individuals to reduce their own carbon footprint—recycling, adopting clean energy, driving less and taking public transportation more—will only go so far to reach the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius or less.

The urgent need to make a difference has only sharpened with the birth of her first child, Wilder, in 2020.

“Working in climate every day, I alternately feel optimistic and deeply frightened. There’s so much great stuff happening in terms of awareness, community action, technology and adoption of clean energy. We just need to go so much further at the policy level.”