Getting Warmer


My family was hiking in Wyoming’s Grand Tetons this summer when we came upon a grizzly bear just a few feet off the trail. Of course, we had seen the signs posted all over the park: “You are entering bear country. Proceed at your own risk.” Still, even as you’re staring at the big bear hump that tells you yes, that is a grizzly, another part of your brain is insisting, “Nah, can’t be.” And that’s good, because it’s that little dash of denial that allows you to slip away quietly instead of running off screaming, and winding up in one of those stories that do not end well.

Just a few minutes down the path, we met up with a ranger who was giving a talk on the geological history of the park. Though eager to report the sighting, we were pretty sure that shouting “Bear!’’ was not the best way to do that, and contained ourselves as the ranger marched her audience through several ice ages. I wasn’t really listening until I heard her say that although no one actually studies the glaciers in the park any more, “you can see from aerial photos that they have receded dramatically in the last thirty years, due to warm weather in the park and elsewhere.’’

“Do you mean global warming?’’ a man in the group asked her. “I don’t like to call it that,’’ she said, “because some people don’t believe in global warming, and I’ve had people get very upset with me for calling it that. So now I just say ‘warm weather,’ because no...

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About the Author

Melinda Henneberger, a Commonweal columnist, is the former editor-in-chief of