In this edition of ‘What Inspires Me’ we feature Melissa Yoon, recent recipient of the inaugural Adam Majcher Legacy Program. Melissa was awareded the fellowship in June at this year’s Climate Reality Training in Brisbane hosted by Al Gore. The fellowship will provide Melissa the opportunity to receive communications training and mentorship by Common Cause Australia, a five-week paid placement working with ClimateWorks Australia, The Climate Reality Project and Common Cause. Melissa shares with us her journey so far including work she has done with AYCC, MEFL and Melbourne Zoo.
1. How did you first get started with environmental education?
I first got started with environmental education through volunteering with the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) as their Victorian Schools Coordinator. We ran workshops in high schools, organised a summit with over 100 students focusing on climate justice and we mentored groups of students to run their own advocacy campaigns. I had a blast working with the students and other AYCC volunteers who were also passionate and enthusiastic about sustainability.
2. What have been the biggest highlights of your journey so far?
Last month I got to meet the former US Vice President Al Gore! It felt a bit surreal. I think he’s such an inspiration to so many people that care about sustainability as he’s doing incredible work spreading the message about climate change through his documentaries (An Inconvenience Truth and An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power) and his advocacy organisation, The Climate Reality Project. I met him as part of a 3-day Climate Reality Training conference up in Brisbane where I learnt even more about climate advocacy, heard from some inspirational speakers and met lots of great people that are equally passionate about doing this work.
3. How do you engage with people that are not buying into the sustainability message?
I think not everyone has sustainability and climate issues as their main personal priorities so it’s valuable to find out and listen to what people’s own values are and what is important to them in their life. Then I can sometimes link those things back to sustainability and the climate in some way. For example, if someone really loves a good cup of coffee, I could tell them stories about how coffee beans will become harder to grow because of changing climatic conditions. I think linking climate change to how someone will be personally affected then helps motivate people to take up better sustainability practices.
4. Can you share a school sustainability project or story that you’ve heard about that stood out for you?
When I was volunteering with AYCC, there was a school, Melbourne Girls’ College, that was particularly amazing at sustainability. At the time, they had recently installed solar panels on their roof in the shape of the letters “M” “G” and “C” and created video of the panels by flying a drone over the rooftop. I thought that was a really creative idea and demonstrated real leadership.
5. What is your favourite environmental education resource for schools?
I contributed to a program at Melbourne Zoo called When Balloons Fly, Seabirds Die which raises awareness about how releasing balloons outdoors is not good for the environment as the balloons can end up in our waterways and harm marine wildlife. There was a performance by the seals illustrating how blowing bubbles can be an eco-friendly alternative to balloons and, to make it even more fun, there was a bubble blowing machine too! The program engaged with lots of schools to spread this valuable sustainability message. !
6. If you could be a sustainability superhero, what name would you choose and what powers would you have to make the world more sustainable into the future?
If I were a sustainability superhero, I would be Solar Girl and have the power to fly high over everyone’s houses and magically sprinkle solar panels onto every rooftop!
Thank you Melissa for sharing your story.
Adam Majcher worked with the ClimateWorks team from 2015 until he suddenly passed away in August 2017. A people person to the core, Adam was renowned for bringing people together to tackle and solve the climate challenge. The Adam Majcher Legacy Program seeks to honour Adam’s unique contribution by training and building the capabilities of a future climate leader. Learn more about Adam and the Adam Majcher Fellowship Program here