Climate Justice Campaign Coordinator

Melody serves as the climate justice campaign coordinator at Sojourners, a role she hopes to honor by lifting up the stories of people who bear the brunt of climate change (and who contribute the least to it) and cultivating leadership on earthkeeping within the church. She is compelled to advocate for urban sustainability and climate justice because of Jesus' calling to love the least of these and His invitation to love her neighbor as herself. As Jesus draws himself nearest to the people most oppressed and ostracized in society, so she seeks to do the same.  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.

Melody was born in Anhui, China and was raised in metro-Detroit, where she grew up in Asian American community and fellowship. She holds a B.A. in environmental studies and philosophy from the University of Michigan, and serves as co-chair at Young Evangelicals for Climate Action. Upon graduating, she traveled and volunteered through Rome, Zurich, and Copenhagen on an independent study and worked as an urban design assistant in the Netherlands out of a passion for understanding how the distinct culture and values of local people spell out its city infrastructure. In the past, she has led creation care conversations at her church, apprenticed on a small organic farm, helped start the first sustainable living community at U-M, and worked as a graphic designer.

In her free time, Melody loves exploring parks of all shapes and sizes, reading, jamming out to indie rock, and listening to the smooth, velvety voice of Krista Tippett on On Being. She looks forward to making ugly pottery to provide a home for her indoor plants.


Posts By This Author

Your Tired Body. Our Exploited Earth. They're Connected.

by Melody Zhang 10-22-2020

Photo by Ivan Bandura on Unsplash

The work of unlearning racism and undoing our habit of exploitation — of the earth, of other bodies, and other neighborhoods — is long.

If We Want Climate Policy that Works, Listen to Women

by Melody Zhang 04-09-2020

Photo by BBH Singapore on Unsplash

We must listen to women, pay attention to on-the-ground solutions they are already creating, and earnestly follow that leadership at all levels of environmental decision-making.

Don’t Overlook the Virulence of Racism Toward Asian Americans

by Melody Zhang 03-26-2020

Pedestrians are reflected off a window as they walk past boarded-up businesses in the Hayes Valley district after California Gov. Gavin Newsom implemented a statewide "stay at home order." March 21, 2020. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

In this moment, Chinese and Asian American communities are facing the double stress of having to reckon with the racism and xenophobia they encounter, compounded with having to deal with the virus outbreak itself.

Climate Justice Starts Locally

by Melody Zhang 02-19-2020

Photo by Alvin Engler on Unsplash

On-the-ground solutions to environmental challenges are becoming the most effective and practical strategy. Cities today are leading the way on climate resilience strategies, which are specific to the city’s infrastructural, geographic, spatial and topographic makeup, through initiatives like 100 Resilience Cities and Climate Ready programs, which help cities prepare for the long-term impacts of climate change.

In An Economy of Extraction, Plant Trees

by Melody Zhang 10-08-2019

Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

How would our world change if we let trees remind us that there exists a natural landscape that transcends the geopolitical, that their branches and roots will not be stopped by the lines drawn on a map by people with various agendas?

What I Witnessed on the Front Lines of Climate Collapse

by Melody Zhang 08-06-2019
In sub-Saharan Africa, people are really suffering—not tomorrow, but today.

THIS YEAR, THE seasonal rains in Kenya came two months late. “Even the weatherman can’t forecast the weather,” Stephen Katama, a local shopkeeper in Nairobi, told me when I traveled to East Africa in June. “We can’t tell the difference between the summer and winter here anymore.”

During the past two decades, rain in sub-Saharan Africa has increased in frequency and intensity, creating dangerously erratic patterns of rainfall and drought. A single day’s downpour may bring the amount of rainfall normally expected over a period of eight months, wreaking havoc on the livelihoods of countless subsistence farming families across Kenya and Uganda.

Sub-Saharan Africa is among the regions projected to see the worst of climate change in the coming decades. I traveled with the Climate Witness Project, hosted by the Christian Reformed Church in the U.S., to Nakuru, Kenya, and North Teso and Soroti, Uganda, to visit farming communities facing extreme shifts in weather patterns.

There’s No Debating Environmental Racism in Detroit

by Melody Zhang 08-02-2019

Photo taken by Melody Zhang

Thousands of activists gathered in Detroit to perform mass demonstrations on Tuesday afternoon, just hours before the opening of the second presidential primary debate. The effort, spearheaded by Frontline Detroit, a coalition of organizations made up of members deeply impacted by pollution and environmental racism, produced demands for addressing the pervasive environmental and economic injustices that have plagued Detroiters for decades.

True Climate Justice Is Impossible Without Racial and Economic Justice

by Melody Zhang 07-29-2019

Farmer-pastor Samuel Kinuthia tending to his crops. The maize is typically at waist height this time in May, in non-drought-ridden climates.

As the climate crisis intensifies and crystallizes, the tangible effects of climate change today are disproportionately dispersed on both the national and global scale. Communities and entire nations who do the least to contribute to rising greenhouse gas emissions bear the enormous burden of climate disaster first and worst on their bodies and their livelihoods.

The Faith Leaders Involved in the Extinction Rebellion

by Melody Zhang 04-25-2019

Image via Sean Hawkey 

Christian Climate Action played a key role in securing the protest site at Marble Arch as they arrived by a truck which was used to block traffic and was later transformed into a solar-powered stage. Rev. Sue Parfitt, 77, along with two other Christians, ensured that the truck was not removed by police by locking themselves to the underside with metal chains. Richard Barnard, a member of the U.K. Catholic Worker Movement, then climbed on top of the truck and unfurled a banner reading “tell the truth.”

It's Time for Policies That Rise to the Challenge of the Climate Crisis

by Melody Zhang 04-04-2019

As a Christian, I believe God calls us to a total and radical re-imagination and transformation of our relationship with others and the earth. We yearn for a vision of complete reconciliation for all of God’s created order. As political leaders, especially those of you grounded in faith and values, I implore you to respond faithfully and with full force to love God and neighbor by enacting just, compassionate, and transformative climate policies that rise to the challenge of the climate crisis.

Youth Leading on Climate Justice See the Interconnectedness of All Life

by Melody Zhang 03-27-2019

Image via Melody Zhang 

8-year-old activist Havana Chapman-Edwards, also known as the Tiny Diplomat, closed that day with a powerful statement on climate justice intersectionality. “I am here today because climate justice issues are not separate from other justice issues. It’s not right that wildfires, droughts and other climate disasters are being ignored. Black, indigenous, and people of color are doing the least damage to the planet but we are the ones who are paying the price first.”

The Mercury Rule Has Been Credited with Saving Thousands of Lives. The EPA Wants to Change It

by Melody Zhang 03-27-2019

In December, the EPA proposed to stop regulating hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions from power plants altogether under the Mercury Rule (Mercury and Air Toxics Standards), stating that it was no longer “appropriate and necessary” to do so after a limited cost-benefit analysis. Because of its imminent threat to the health of our nation, particularly people of color, women, and children, Sojourners felt called to take action on this issue.