Meet our next generation of climate justice leaders

As thousands of people converge in New York for the People's Climate March this weekend for the largest climate change action in history, NOC is proud to be here in collaboration with our partners at MN350, the Center for Popular Democracy, and GAIA fighting for climate justice for our communities.

We've brought some powerful young leaders along for the trip, and are excited for you to get to know them!

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Filsan in New York.

Filsan Ibrahim is a senior environmental studies major at Augsburg College. Filsan, whose family is Somali, grew up in Pakistan surrounded by the natural beauty of mountains and rivers. When Filsan visited Somalia for the first time, she started thinking about the environment differently. "There's no system there," says Filsan. "Garbage is in the trees, on the ground, everywhere. It affects everything. It's bad for health, it's bad for animals, you can't grow much in the ground. You can't get it out of your mind. Here in the U.S., it's out of sight, out of mind. We have so much unnecessary stuff that we just throw away, like the stickers on fruit or DVD packaging. But it's going to catch up to us."

Filsan dreams of opening a waste and garbage company, first here in the U.S. with an emphasis on more composting and recycling, and then in Somalia. Meanwhile, she's an active leader in MPIRG currently working on civic engagement and pledging people to vote.

"We use so many resources to make new ones, but if we shift how much we make and take from the environment, we can reduce our impact on the earth," says Filsan. "This march is a way for all of our voices to be heard collectively and loudly. Individually, we can be silenced, but together we will be heard." 

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The sendoff rally for the Minneapolis buses to the climate march.

As Mica Grimm, the MPIRG campus organizer for the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, puts it, "Environmental justice and racial and social justice are one and the same." Mica became an activist when she realized her high school was deeply segregated into two separate buildings, and ran a successful campaign to switch up the classes between the buildings, effectively integrating the school. In college, she started an Eracism program to help improve diversity and cultural awareness, holding panels and inviting speakers. Her work included successfully pressuring the college to hire a vice president of diversity and multiculturalism, even allowing her and other students to sit on the hiring panel.

Mica sees her work on climate change as part of her racial justice activism. "For a long time the environmental movement was one-noted, directed toward one narrative," she says. "It didn't accommodate me in a legitimate, non-superficial way. That's changing now because of this new consciousness about intersectionality."

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Fathi on the bus to New York.

At age 20, Fathi Mahad, an environmental science major at the University of Minnesota, is already the vice chair of the Frogtown Neighborhood Association. Growing up in Frogtown, Fathi has seen her community consistently have less access to resources and services than other neighborhoods in St. Paul.

"A lot of what's happening in Frogtown stems from what happened in Rondo," says Fathi, referring to the displacement of a historic African-American community when I-94 was built through the middle of the neighborhood. "They were displaced, and had to start their lives in a new area. That's what's going to happen with climate change. I believe in environmental justice. This is a chance to make history and advocate for my neighborhood, my community, the world."

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Former NOC board chair Sunday Alabi addresses the sendoff rally.

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