Sierra Summit

Conversations and observations about California's mountains

August 30, 2008
Responding to climate change

Not long ago, I interviewed William "Bill" Tweed who recently retired as chief of interpretation at Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park. 

Like most Sierra naturalists, Bill is very concerned about climate change and believes major changes are inevitable for the Sierra Nevada and its diverse array of ecosystems. 

But as we wrapped up the interview, he took a different approach to the subject and spoke not about the threat of climate change but our response as a society to it. I found his observations intriguing and have included them here. 

"Scientifically, we understand climate change," Bill told me. "But we haven't got the body politic to understand it. The challenge of global climate change is not to understand what we are doing to the planet. It's to try to change how we respond to what we have learned.

"We live in this bizarre society, this strange society, where we happily accept science that gives us toys and pleasures and we consistently reject science that challenges us to think about limiting and controlling ourselves. But it's the same science. We just pick and choose. The same people who happily sneer at global climate change are fascinated by what comes from the Hubble space telescope."

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About Sierra Summit

The Author
Tom Knudson lives in the Sierra Nevada and travels widely throughout the range. His hobbies include fly-fishing, backpacking and cross-country skiing. He is the recipient of numerous journalistic awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes, one for a 1992 Sacramento Bee series "Sierra in Peril," a watershed work about environmental threats to the mountain range. E-mail Tom at

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