Climate Mama: Joylette Portlock


Grab the kids in your life and introduce them to a very “Cool Mama” Joylette Porlock, our featured Climate Mama and real life CLIMATE HERO!

Current project/position/adventure:

Don’t Just Sit There – Do Something! – a video series about all things climate. In short, digestible videos, we have fun with the latest news, the science, and always include easy actions for you to take, at an individual level and a larger level, to reduce climate pollution. (see for more info and to watch the latest!) Please share!

Also, am on the Allegheny County Board of Health, here in Pennsylvania. and I’m on the board of the Citizens Climate Corps, a nonprofit in SW Pennsylvania that engages groups of regular people in promoting climate friendly actions in their communities.

And also also, I’m a stay-at-home Mom of two ridiculously amazing boys, both under age four. 🙂

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, the steps you took, life events, decisions you made, that helped you arrive at where you are at today?

Wow, where do I start? …My parents were both teachers, my dad a science teacher, and so I have a good idea why I find science so fascinating, and love learning in general. I’ve always been a huge nerd, though I like to think it’s not quite as obvious these days. I’ve always had a broad range of interests, too. After finishing my undergraduate degree in biology, I took a year off before grad school and worked on Capitol Hill in D.C., to get a better understanding of how government works. Partway through my Ph.D., I realized that while lab work was interesting, it wasn’t completely fulfilling for me. Upon graduating, I decided to dedicate my future career to science outreach, bridging the often-enormous gap between scientists and the public.

I’ve been very lucky, with a strong start from amazing parents, right up through the opportunities I continue to find to make a difference. Maybe it sounds cliche, but I feel very strongly that it’s a moral obligation to take what we are given and use it to make the world a better place. And I’ve been given so much.

What inspires you to keep going, to keep fighting this challenging battle against climate change?

I fight to prevent the worst effects of climate change because there’s never been a bigger threat, to more people, from completely preventable human action. I would be furious with myself if I had to look back and know that I could have done more. Now is when it counts. We will be judged, not just by historians, but by all future generations if we fail to act.

What are the three greatest challenges and/or opportunities you feel the world faces with climate change?

The biggest challenges all come from human nature. First, that climate change is overwhelmingly complex and unpleasant and requires change, and humans really don’t like to focus on overwhelmingly complex, unpleasant things, and change is really hard for people. It doesn’t matter that what we need to change to is way better in almost every measurable way (environmental toll, human health, sustainability) – the status quo is always going to be incredibly tempting, for individuals and society.

In terms of opportunity, the biggest one is that fixing our climate pollution problem really is actually possible. Individually, of course, there are a ridiculous number of easy things we can do, and the benefits are immediate. And, once you’re doing those, maybe it doesn’t seem so scary to think about changing the way we get power in the first place. The opportunity is lost, though, unless we can educate people about the options.

The Environmental Protection Agency (with the leadership of the current administration) has finally been taking some really important steps to combat climate change. Of course it can’t be done all at once, and we still need legislation, but these first steps are so important in focusing the environmental movement, giving us tangible progress to rally around, and building momentum.

Scientific studies and real world scenarios seem to be pointing to more frequent extreme weather events, a shorter time frame for a warmer planet and all of the negative ramifications that this will bring. Yet here in the US, we still seem to be debating the “reality of climate change.” What can we do to move beyond the “debate” and work towards averting these consequences?”

Well, I think we’ve gotten to a point where very few people are standing up to insist that the science is settled. Every time someone makes an off-hand, self-assured comment that of course this is all a hoax, they should be countered. Politely but firmly. Otherwise, in a vacuum, people will continue to believe the many, many climate myths out there.

Do you see any hopeful signs that people are waking up to the dangers of climate change?

Sure, there are some. More people are linking extreme heat and weather to concerns about climate, but at the same time there’s a lot of backsliding. We need to keep doing more and better PR.

Watch our videos – ha! But seriously, that is the whole point of the Don’t Just Sit There – Do Something! videos, to give people that easy in, both individually and collectively. Other than that – communicate and network with each other. No matter what your politics are, if you stand with science, we need to be working together and presenting a united front wherever possible.

Contact information, website, or related story you would like us to link to this post?

Favorite book or movie?

I really can’t pick just one, or even ten, in either category!

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