"I didn't want to be 'that guy'" | A New Shade of Green | Sherry Listgarten | Mountain View Online |

Local Blogs

A New Shade of Green

By Sherry Listgarten

E-mail Sherry Listgarten

About this blog: Climate change, despite its outsized impact on the planet, is still an abstract concept to many of us. That needs to change. My hope is that readers of this blog will develop a better understanding of how our climate is evolving a...  (More)

View all posts from Sherry Listgarten

"I didn't want to be 'that guy'"

Uploaded: Jul 30, 2023

Last week I went hiking in Glacier National Park. It was absolutely beautiful, the meadows filled with flowers, and lakes, streams, and waterfalls brimming with clear cool water.

Lush meadows were filled with flowers in mid-July in Glacier National Park.

Flowers were buzzing with insects, and butterflies were everywhere. It reminded me of what a vibrant garden should be. This robust lower layer of the ecosystem supported many birds, from a ptarmigan mother with her babies in the subalpine to a golden eagle flying high over meadows. At one stop an ornithologist in our group observed 25 different bird species. There were many larger animals as well. We saw three mule deer, two vigorous bull moose, two cinnamon-colored bears, and one very healthy looking mountain goat, along with signs of the local sheep population. The park was resplendent.

Bees, butterflies, and other insects (here a grasshopper) were all over the plants in the park.

There were also indications that the park’s ecosystem is changing. The glaciers are disappearing as the climate warms. While the park hasn’t updated its 2015 estimate of 26 glaciers, down from over 100 in the 1800’s, our guide said he believes only 16 or so remain. In the Two Medicine area, there are no longer any glaciers. As a result, the lakes are green rather than turquoise (the light entering the water no longer reflects off of ground-up glacial “flour”), and the animals have less access to year-round water. The park service calls attention to a variety of impacts from the warming climate, as shown in the signs below.

Signs in Glacier National Park reflect the impact of the changing climate on the park’s ecosystems.

The park has also been warm this year. The week I visited was the hottest stretch of July in memory, with six straight days of 90+ temperatures. Our guide said that in May the temperature hit 80 degrees, unheard of in an area where 40-50 is more normal at that time of year. The snow melted early, the bloom is early, and he worries about what that means for late summer and fall.

Signs of fire are everywhere throughout the park, which has seen fire almost every year but with more acreage affected in recent years.

Source: Glacier National Park Wildlands Fire Map

Among the signs we saw were uniform stands of young trees growing back in fire-scarred areas. The lodgepole pine grows back quickly after fire, though over time the trees will be killed by the mountain pine beetle, making room for other species to grow.

A uniform stand of young lodgepole pines has grown after a fire.

Even though our area has been relatively cool and wet, fire and heat have been a topic of conversation here as well. Have you been on a video call recently where participants talked about heat or smoke where they are living? Were you on an unusually hot vacation recently?

Yale Climate Communications reports that people are increasingly worried about extreme heat. If you consider that not only is this one of the hottest July’s in history, it is also likely to be one of the coolest July’s of the rest of our lives, that concern is understandable.

This survey was done before this summer’s heat. Source: Yale Program on Climate Change Communication

And this brings me to an anecdote from the trip, one that has nothing to do with climate change on one level, but everything to do with it on another.

Our guide in the park was a dog lover, the happy owner of a rescue mutt from a nearby Indian reservation. Yet he agreed with park policy forbidding dogs on park trails, explaining among other things that their waste contains bacteria that can be toxic to native wildlife. While we saw dogs in campgrounds and on roads, we did not see them on Glacier trails, at least until the last day. About two miles from the trailhead, a couple were walking up the trail in mid-afternoon with two large dogs.

Glacier National Park allows only one company to guide in the park, and the guides are well trained. They are aware that they have a responsibility to maintain the park, especially given that staffing in the park is thin. And yet our guide said nothing. At the end of the hike, I asked him why not, and he replied “Oh, I didn’t want to be ‘that guy’”. And that got me thinking, because I see this kind of avoidance as well when it comes to climate change. People might be reluctant to challenge climate misinformation, or to explain that they are getting a heat pump not only for the air conditioning but also to reduce their carbon footprint, or to acknowledge in a restaurant why they are choosing the vegetarian option.

I certainly understand the reluctance to say something. It’s easier to keep your head down and be quiet. Sometimes it’s even the best thing to do. On the other hand, it is the job of a park guide to educate people and to protect the park. And in my opinion, it is our job to find ways to talk productively about climate change. Positive conversations can improve our understanding, make it seem less daunting, encourage action, and build bonds. Yet we still aren’t talking enough about it.

What say you? With so many more people worrying about the impacts we are seeing, have you been able to push aside your concerns about virtue signalling or moral policing to reflect in an empathetic way on what you are seeing and some changes you are making? Or is it still proving too difficult? I’d love to hear about any productive conversations you have had during this hot summer.

Notes and References

1. For those who are curious, I did buy offsets for the round-trip flight between SFO and Kalispell. Offsets don’t make up for the emissions, but it is a positive step that I can take and I enjoy the process. Here is what that looked like.

My airline and FlightAware both told me that the plane I used was a CRJ-700. I looked up the flight on atmosfair and found that the round-trip released 665 kg of CO2. An estimate from myclimate was 522 kg and from carbonfootprint was a much smaller 380 kg.

I then went to ClimeWorks, which will sequester an amount of emissions for you, as close to negating the impact of those emissions as it gets, but found the cost to be $900 for 665 kg, more than the cost of the flight itself. So I visited the much(!) cheaper Gold Standard offset marketplace, which offers good quality (e.g., permanent, additional) offsets. Rounding up to 1 ton, I found a project that resonated after my visit (planting biodiverse forests in Panama). I purchased the offsets and they sent me a certificate indicating that 1 ton worth of offsets had been retired.

Current Climate Data (June 2023)
Global impacts, US impacts, CO2 metric, Climate dashboard

Comment Guidelines
I hope that your contributions will be an important part of this blog. To keep the discussion productive, please adhere to these guidelines or your comment may be edited or removed.
- Avoid disrespectful, disparaging, snide, angry, or ad hominem comments.
- Stay fact-based and refer to reputable sources.
- Stay on topic.
- In general, maintain this as a welcoming space for all readers.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Peter B, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Jul 30, 2023 at 4:15 pm

Peter B is a registered user.

I think much of the reason for not pointing out a problem such as the two dogs is fear of getting into a fight instead of a rational discussion - there is so much anger in people today.

Posted by Jennifer, a resident of another community,
on Jul 30, 2023 at 5:50 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

Glazier National Park is gorgeous! Montana is a very conservative state, and most residents probably couldn't care less about climate change. It's not your job to tell the park guide how to do his job. MYOB.

Posted by diesel, a resident of another community,
on Jul 31, 2023 at 11:03 am

diesel is a registered user.

As a volunteer trail patroller for a local park district, I believe in being "the other guy". Often I know that the person I'm requesting to leash their dog/not be on that particular trail/bag and take the poop with them will ignore my information about rules and benefits to the wildlife and environment, but I hope that once in a while I'll get through to them or they will simply get fed up with their hike being interrupted. As you say, almost everyone is a responsible dog owner - it's the few who give a bad name to many. Your guide would have been in a good position to say something, both from the position of a "real" guide to the area and as a dog owner.

Posted by Malcolm Hex, a resident of San Ramon,
on Jul 31, 2023 at 11:23 pm

Malcolm Hex is a registered user.


The reason your guide did not want to be “that guy" is because he's well aware of the lunatic fringe that parade as “activists." Don't get me wrong, there are people out there who are good stewards of the earth. But there appears to be an element that does more harm than good.

These groups are dedicated to interrupting business as usual through civil disobedience, mostly in the United States, Canada and Europe. Tell me something Sherry, how is it that people who vandalize works of art, such as Van Gough, help change the atmosphere? And you wonder why that park ranger didn't want to engage with you? You couldn't enjoy a simple hike and leave the politics behind?

Jennifer was right, mind your own business.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Aug 1, 2023 at 10:17 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

Thanks for the comments. I agree that there's a sort of intimidation factor at play. We see it at the national level as well. The question is, to what degree should we let that suppress important conversations, particularly when the intimidators are a shrinking minority?

@Malcolm, fwiw, the ranger was happy to engage with me. I don't think it occurred to either of us that dogs in parks would be a political issue. Sad if that's the case. Conservation not so long ago was a very bipartisan issue.

Posted by MichaelB, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Aug 2, 2023 at 7:46 am

MichaelB is a registered user.

"And in my opinion, it is our job to find ways to talk productively about climate change. Positive conversations can improve our understanding, make it seem less daunting, encourage action, and build bonds. Yet we still aren't talking enough about it."

What's "positive" and "productive" about having a conversation with someone who thinks that the world is going to end if I don't get rid of my gasoline powered car, stop eating beef, retrofit my house to run electric, stop flying, be forced to use public transit, not be allowed to purchase/live in a single family home, etc? What are climate activists prepared to concede/give up, if anything?

We're past the "conservation" phase. Let's start talking about this. This is looking more and more like a homegrown version of communism where the government meddles/micromanages every aspect of people's lives (while simultaneously crashing the economy and lowering our standard of living) - to "save the world". Some of us like living in a free society.

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 2, 2023 at 8:17 am

Bystander is a registered user.

Michael B Thank you for your comment and yes we are getting close to saturation with this talk. This is particularly true for children. When we scare them, yes scare them, with the idea that the world won't exist when they grow up unless they start preaching at the adults around them to change everything to make the world survive for them then we are not teaching reality but just scaring them. It is something that I do worry about.

From my experience in life I see so much progress. We used to call it conservation and it started in the 70s. We conserved nature, we changed habits, we cleaned up the environment, we stopped putting lead in gas, we stopped smoking inside, we cleaned up buildings that had grime for 100s of years, we stopped acid rain, and those are just the things that come from the top of my head. Yet we are still being blamed for not doing anything.

Our world is improving and it is so much better than 50 years ago. The smog around San Francisco and Los Angeles nowadays is a fraction of what it was then.

Of course it doesn't mean that we should sit back and do nothing, but we should most definitely stop scaring the next generation and let them feel secure in their futures. We have come a long way and they are not being told just how much better things are today.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Aug 2, 2023 at 1:17 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@MichaelB: You forgot "... and tells them not to have any kids." Yeah, I don't see much helpful in that conversation. Then again, if that's the only conversation you can imagine, that is a problem!

I also agree that there is a lot of distrust in our country, and that is contributing to some of the pushback we are seeing around policies to address climate change. It's interesting to look at this chart to see how our country compares with other top emitters. We are an outlier. (Source: Yale Climate Change Communications, surveys done March-April 2022)

On the other hand, we look pretty similar to the big oil producing states in the Middle East. (Norway too, btw, looks even more dismissive!)

@Bystander: I agree that it’s important to think about how kids are impacted by what we say and how we say it. I can say that many kids I know feel angry or worried but also empowered, and proud of actions that they and their families are taking, whether it’s a choice of career or a change in diet or an e-bike commute. We all want to see an empowered and energized younger generation rather than a despondent and resentful one, and it’s great that you are thinking about how to make that happen.

Posted by MichaelB, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Aug 2, 2023 at 2:30 pm

MichaelB is a registered user.

"I also agree that there is a lot of distrust in our country, and that is contributing to some of the pushback we are seeing around policies to address climate change. It's interesting to look at this chart to see how our country compares with other top emitters. We are an outlier."

Not surprising at all. The "outlier" United States does not have the same type of government system that other nations do. Citizens have personal freedoms, government is limited/can't do whatever it wants, and elected representatives are supposed to be abiding by the US Constitution. Not the dictates and/or emissions reductions of international bureaucrats.

John Kerry looks silly begging the Chinese government to reduce their emissions. They will do what they wish, are laughing at him behind his back, and are economically/strategically better off as a result. The Biden Administration also looks silly by insisting that future military vehicles be "green". That's not going to make us "better prepared" and/or "safer" for national defense purposes. Don't forget to plug in/recharge the armored vehicle or tank before the next battle?

In addition to alarmist claims the "world will end", the economics don't work either. You can't run the nation on solar panels/windmills because they are unreliable. We're seeing that in this state right now. We don't have the resources to build electric cars for everyone, people do not want them, and middle income/working class people can't afford to buy them. What we're left with is more government control over the citizens, fewer consumer choices, higher inflation due to excessive government spending on "green" projects (that can't survive economically on their own), and managed decline - for theoretical "benefits" in the future. No thanks.

Posted by Jennifer, a resident of Danville,
on Aug 2, 2023 at 3:44 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

Most of us like living in a free society. Micromanaging is all about control, and control is rooted in insecurity. Thinking the world is going to end is the mindset of extremely insecure people. They're a tough pill to swallow but they're out there. Laugh them off.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Aug 2, 2023 at 5:43 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

The state of Utah is mining coal. And they are selling it to China. It is coming down by trains to Richmond. Before the A's ballpark issues the goal was to ship from the Oakland port. Now that the A's ballpark deal is not going to happen the Oakland port for the shipment of coal to China is now coming up again in the papers. So much for the "coal" issue and China - Mitt Romney - Utah, Jerry Brown and Tagami - CA. I think that John Kerry knows all about this.

Was in Central Valley for an event. The local news on the hotel TV came from Fresno. The car radio local news came from Fresno. As I crossed the county border from Merced to Santa Clara the radio band in the car switched from Fresno to the band I expected to hear in Santa Clara County. Fresno is concerned with water coming down from the mountains, water control, weather relative to crops, kids sports teams, and local politics. Did not hear any of the contortions that I typically hear from the "Silicon Valley" transmission bands. Look at the local news shows on TV - Channel 4 - only goes east to Livermore, North to Marin cities, and south to Gilroy - sometimes. News functions in transmission of bands that only go so far. Fresno does not care what Silicon Valley does or thinks. It has different problems and concerns. As do the National Parks.

Posted by Michael Austin , a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Aug 2, 2023 at 9:02 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

"Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is equal sharing of misery." -Winton Churchel

Posted by Malcolm Hex, a resident of San Ramon,
on Aug 3, 2023 at 10:12 am

Malcolm Hex is a registered user.


The distrust in this country you speak of comes from politics - on both sides of the aisle. However, the rage from the left when Trump won was at a level I've never witnessed before. Folks on the left openly cried and swore the world was going to end tomorrow. And then there was the George Floyd incident.

The so-called peaceful protests were anything but peaceful. Antifa and BLM torched buildings and took over neighborhoods while city and state governments looked the other way. But once things settled down, the rise of CRT and other leftist propaganda muddied the waters. Now, we have people who want to indoctrinate children with porn in schools, all the while attempting to keep this from their parents. And you wonder why people are mad?

The left also called for defunding the police. In fact, your Mayor over there, London Breed, screamed at the top of her lungs to defund the police. Yeah, how's that worked out for her? And now your “judicial activism" up there in Sacramento want to pass legislation that race should be a factor when sentencing someone for a crime. Wow, so much for the 14 Amendment, eh?

As I stated in an earlier post, not all activists are bad. But there are plenty out there that want to shove their leftist activism down everybody else's throats. Just remember this: the Nazi party started out the very same way. Slowly but surely personal freedoms were taken away and eventually accepted as the norm. Take a trip to the National Holocaust Museum in Washington DC to learn more.

Activism is being hijacked. Be careful.

Posted by Michael Austin , a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Aug 3, 2023 at 3:55 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

I watched senator John Kennedy and other senators ask questions of president Bidens nominees for federal court judge positions.

The nominees could not answer questions, stated they "will have to get back to you" and "that matter is not coming to mind." They smirked as they replied with that answer. They know their nomination will be approved regardless.

That is the future state of our justice system. Political cronies serving as federal judges.

Posted by Robert Neff, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 6, 2023 at 9:54 pm

Robert Neff is a registered user.

Thanks for the report of your travel to Glacier, and the carbon offsets. I'm going up that way for a family occasion, and am distressed by the carbon emissions. (A long-planned trip to Europe will be much worse.)

Carbon offsets are a good way to reduce your personal impact, but they will not solve our problems until they must be purchased for everything. It is depressing to realize how much carbon capture is required to meet current world-wide goals, yet we do not have any technologies yet that are successful, and prices that might allow rapid scaling to an impactful level. How many offsets would need to be found to offset all of the CO2 emissions in California? What percent of all the land in Panama?

So I'm considering making gifts to advocacy organizations as a personal carbon-use offset, equal to co2 equivalent price of burning a gallon of gasoline. For example, for an upcoming road trip that may use 45 gallons of gas, plan on taxing myself that cost of gas, and giving that away. Actually there should be a ~15-30% surcharge for using gasoline, because it takes more petroleum to refine gasoline, so total emissions are more than what comes out of the tailpipe of a car. So, at $5 / gallon, plus 20%, I'll have to give away $270. There should probably be a similar +20% for jet fuel. I haven't done the C02 conversion from the flight to Flathead Airport, but am considering slower travel, doing part of it that round-trip by train.

Thanks for your articles.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Aug 7, 2023 at 5:25 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Robert: Thanks for the note. I think there are lots of ways to remind ourselves of our continued emissions, and investing in advocacy seems like a great one. You are right, though, that we cannot offset our way out of this. We are going to have to push on many fronts and just do our best. Thanks again for sharing your idea.

Follow this blogger.
Sign up to be notified of new posts by this blogger.



Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Mountain View Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

Burning just one "old style" light bulb can cost $150 or more per year
By Sherry Listgarten | 12 comments | 2,992 views

Banning the public from PA City Hall
By Diana Diamond | 26 comments | 2,146 views

Pacifica’s first brewery closes its doors
By The Peninsula Foodist | 0 comments | 1,867 views

Premiere! “I Do I Don’t: How to build a better marriage” – Here, a page/weekday
By Chandrama Anderson | 2 comments | 1,418 views

Holiday Fun in San Francisco- Take the Walking Tour for An Evening of Sparkle!
By Laura Stec | 7 comments | 1,405 views


Support local families in need

Your contribution to the Holiday Fund will go directly to nonprofits supporting local families and children in need. Last year, Voice readers and foundations contributed a total of $84,000.