Published July 30, 2020 by Rebecca Goldfine

Caring for a Small Planet: Aoguzi Muhameiti ’23 Interns for an Instigator of Global Change

This summer, Aoguzi Muhameiti is working for Frances Moore Lappé, the author of Diet for a Small Planet and eighteen other books about world hunger, democracy, and the environment.
Aoguzi Muhameiti
Aoguzi Muhameiti in his favorite city.

Browsing the internet last fall while looking for political science internships, Muhameiti found a posting for the Small Planet Institute, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was founded by Moore Lappé and her daughter in 2001.

“It fits my political views and what I am passionate about,” he said, “which is democracy advancement and climate change.”

Working remotely this summer, Muhameiti is creating online information for voters about upcoming US elections, and communicating about the state of democracy around the world via social media posts. He's also doing research for Moore Lappé's next book, which argues that it's not too late to act on climate change and to protect democracy.

And he gets to work on the causes he cares most about under the guidance of a leader he has come to admire. “Learning about politics is my passion, something I truly enjoy, and being able to do that as work and to contribute to something greater than myself has been very fulfilling,” he said. “And Frances Moore Lappé, she is someone who has done work that will take me decades to even match. It is incredible. I have lunch meetings with this person who is responsible for starting a whole movement in the United States.”

Diet for a Small Planet argues that the most effective way to eliminate world hunger is to end industrial meat production—as it's wasteful, inhumane, and contributes to global food scarcity—and for people everywhere to adopt a vegetarian diet. 

Muhameiti is one of approximately 100 students this summer who have funding to pursue unpaid internships from Bowdoin's Career Exploration and Development office—his opportunity comes from the Scott and Anne Perper Internship Fund.

Early in his life, Muhameiti developed political awareness and an activist spirit. He is a Muslim Uighur—a group persecuted by the Chinese government—from northwestern China. His grandparents were killed by state authorities when his father was just ten. As adults, his parents fled to Japan. Though far from home, his family has continued to fight for their people.

“My father is an active activist, I'd say. I grew up watching him lead protests and write op-eds,” Muhameiti said. “At a young age, I saw how important politics are to everyone's lives.”

Muhameiti and his mother moved to the US as political asylum seekers in 2010. While Uighur independence will always be an important issue to him, he has turned his attention to saving US democracy, which he perceives is under grave threat.

Attacks against democracy are effective when people don’t pay attention,” he said. “That's why the work of the Small Planet, ACLU, and all these watchdog organizations is extremely important... The only way you can preserve democracy is to pinpoint attacks against it—like disappearing polling stations, or the lack of funding for polling stations, or issues with voter ID laws and mail-in ballots, and these small things people do to impact voting in the US. In order to prevent those, people need to be aware that they're happening.”

He will dedicate himself to these causes as a career. “I want to go into law. I want to live in DC for the rest of my life. I love DC, I love politics. I love law because it is supposed to be blind to politics, and my favorite quote is ‘The law is the sun in a citizen's winter,’” spoken by the mom of his friend.

“I want to be able to work in a court, be blind to politics, and fight for individual rights,” he said.