ACLS19 Climate Leader Q&A: Melody Zhang

The American Climate Leadership Summit 2019 (ACLS19) on May 1-2 will feature conversations with prominent climate experts and advocates. This year’s theme is “Breakthrough,” and we’re looking for just that — breakthrough strategies and ideas to help transform the climate action into a true national priority. ecoAmerica offered some of this year’s guest speakers the opportunity to answer climate-related questions, including how they think we can make a breakthrough on climate change in the U.S.  

Melody Zhang, serves as the Climate Justice Campaign Coordinator at Sojourners and Co-Chair at Young Evangelicals for Climate Action. In these roles, she lifts up the stories of people who bear the brunt of climate change (and who contribute the least to it) and cultivates leadership on earthkeeping within the Church. Melody was born in Anhui, China and was raised in metro-Detroit, where she grew up in Asian American community and fellowship. She believes deeply that although the Church is historically late to this conversation, it can and must play a critical role as the people of God through embodied practice of environmental justice.

What do you wish more Americans knew about climate change?

I wish Americans, Christians especially among them, would see that the climate change is not an intangible, distant threat that we can’t relate to. Its impact is already full-fledged around the world! Exacerbated natural disasters and increasingly unpredictable weather patterns pull the most vulnerable in our society into poverty, housing and food insecurity, and public health crises like increased rates of asthma, polluted groundwater, and more. In the Christian tradition, as Jesus calls us to love the ‘least of these’,  we must open our eyes to the ways in which our brothers and sisters around the world have been devastated and are experiencing the ravaging effects of the climate crisis on their livelihoods. I wish everyday Americans would come to see that the climate crisis is not ‘just for liberal environmentalists’ to rally around; It really is both the greatest and at the same time most insidious humanitarian crisis in this generation.

What current climate breakthrough or initiatives inspire you?

Both the energy and intimate understanding of our interconnectedness that young people bring to the movement is so refreshing, and is its own form of wisdom. Young people are often characterized as impatient and immature, but in this case, I believe that they are the only ones  that truly rise to the urgency and the scale of the climate crisis mobilizing and demanding action on climate. For instance, I’m awed by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden, who testified in front COP24 and stood for climate justice, which transformed into a global movement of young people standing up for their future and their health. I’m often surprised and inspired by the boldness and faithfulness of young Christians, when they shift the dialogue on climate with their pastors and congregations, many of whom are Republican. I am amazed to see them begin to dislodge the conversation from a deep history of partisanship, by starting from shared values and a biblical rootedness.

Why should others join you at ACLS19?

Come to be challenged by other leaders through conversations about solutions that work for everyone, but especially championing the needs of frontline communities who are being most strongly affected by the climate crisis. Come to explore what a just transition and bipartisan cooperation on climate might look like, with people from all sectors represented in the polylogue. Come with a posture of learning and listening to environmental justice leaders. Come to build community and to foster unlikely partnerships. There are so many reasons to join us. I look forward to seeing you at ACLS19!


Hear more from Melody Zhang at the American Climate Leadership Summit 2019 in Washington, D.C. on May 1 and 2. Click Here to Register

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