“I feel far more connected to the Twin Cities now because I’ve been around this community a lot.” —Ahmed Abdalla Ahmed
Even though they grew up hundreds of thousands of miles apart, for Ahmed Abdalla Ahmed ’23 (Omdurman, Sudan) and Karsten Beling ’22 (Park City, Utah), the global climate crisis is immediate and personal.
“As a Sudanese, I feel that we are going to feel the brunt of the climate crisis,” says Ahmed, an environmental studies and computer science major. “We’ve already seen the effects through droughts in the ‘80s and ‘90s and the violent conflicts we’ve experienced as a result. It’s only going to get worse, and I want to know how to deal with these issues so that when I go back home, I can do something.”
In Beling’s home state of Utah, residents have experienced worsening wildfires as well as a diminishing snow pack. He’s done community organizing around climate justice in the past. “Everything I do needs to have something to do with stopping climate change,” he says, “or building up the resilience of communities to adapt.”
Both students were paid interns in the MacNest Climate Justice program, a new collaboration of the Department of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and the Office of Sustainability. During the 10-week summer program, four students partnered with Twin Cities organizations working towards just, equitable, and regenerative solutions to the climate crisis. Each intern received a $5,500 living stipend to work full time and attend workshops with their cohort to enrich their learning experience.
Beling, an environmental studies and history major, interned with Minnesota Renewable Now in north Minneapolis. The two-year-old nonprofit helps familiarize, educate, and connect underserved populations to renewable energy and energy efficiency resources and options. Working on communications and the website, and researching grants and fundraising, Beling says he got a behind-the-scenes look at what makes a nonprofit run.
He calls his supervisor, executive director Kristel Porter, inspiring. “My biggest lesson is just how deeply rooted she is in the community,” he says. “She knows everyone. That’s important when it comes to equality and environmental justice work. People need a face and they need to trust you. That type of relational organizing where it’s based on relationships is super important for the environmental movement because you’re making these huge shifts in people’s thinking.”
Ahmed interned at FRAYEO, which stands for Fortune Relief and Youth Empowerment Organization. The Minneapolis-based nonprofit is immigrant-and-refugee-led and focused on stabilizing the lives of East African families in Minnesota by providing free community service and civic philanthropy.
When it came to climate and environmental organizations, FRAYEO had noticed a gap in the availability of those programs and the communities it serves. “One of the projects I’ve worked on is bringing those organizations together monthly to talk about the challenges they face, the programs and resources that they have available, and the communities they reach,” says Ahmed. “The East African community has been largely and, we believe, unintentionally left out of these programs, even though we believe they can benefit a lot from them.”
Ahmed also worked on the Climate Investors Project, a joint project between FRAYEO and Minneapolis Climate Action (MCA) that trains Hennepin County youth about climate and advocacy so they can become ambassadors for their own communities to create what he calls “bottom up cultural change.” MCA also had its own MacNest intern whom Ahmed partnered with in this work.
“I feel far more connected to the Twin Cities now because I’ve been around this community a lot,” says Ahmed. “I’ve been able to get out of the Macalester bubble and learn about a lot of issues in the cities.” The experience, he says, is helping him to ask more questions about how to find the intersection to his majors. “I’ll probably start talking to my advisors and professors more, but in a way that is more directed and guided from actual experience.”
For many people, including Beling, the climate crisis can be overwhelming to think about. “I think that climate justice, finding the right people who are positive about it and who are hopeful, is something new in terms of the environmental movement,” he says. “The message that we can come together and build up our community resiliency is what’s most important. You aren’t going to solve these problems at the community level. You’re just trying to make our communities better so that when these huge climate disasters happen, we’re prepared.”
The MacNest Climate Justice program was made possible by the vision and generosity of Dr. Paul Rick ’64 and Dr. Margaret Rick ’64. “I’m grateful to Macalester and to the donors for this opportunity,” says Beling. “It’s a dream to be able to do this.”
August 17 2021Back to top