Amy Westervelt

A climate journalist and mother

Amy never intended to become a climate journalist (especially since it wasn’t a job she’d ever heard of, or that anyone had when she first started). She stumbled into the position by accident: one of her many freelance writing jobs involved doing case studies for Shell, in which she was asked to deliberately cover up the negative effects of drilling. Instead of writing the study, she pitched a story to magazines on the manipulated findings.

When an environmental magazine picked it up, that was that. Amy has since become one of the most prominent climate journalists in the country, with articles and podcasts that reach millions.

But what had seemed so simple as a young freelancer—do the right thing—grew more complicated when she got married and had kids. How could she prepare her children for a world that might be unlivable? When she turned down an article to care for her kids, was she a bad person for not devoting all her energy to the climate fight? Or a bad mother for even wondering if something else was more important than her kids?

Then Amy’s father took his own life, and she really lost her bearings. Her father had been crushed by the social pressure to be the unbreakable provider, the one who never cracks or shows vulnerability. He was of a generation of men who didn’t think they were allowed to ask for help. The cruelty and destruction in the world were overwhelming—yet they were all expected to “just deal with it.”

Soon after, Amy was sent to cover yet another wildfire. A dazed mother asked her if she had any spare diapers for her two-year-old, who had just barely been snatched from a burning house, and Amy’s heart broke.

She didn’t want to treat the woman like a source—she just wanted to give her some damn diapers. She wanted her reporting to do more than provide facts. She wanted to reflect the very real pain she and others were feeling. The next time a middle-aged man shushed her for getting “too emotional” in a discussion on climate disasters, Amy snapped back, “Why the hell else should we get emotional?” She was done with being the strong, silent type—people were going to know how she, and so many others, felt.