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One of the main activities for almost everyone visiting Glacier National Park is to drive across the park on Going-to-the-Sun Road, which crosses the mountains and probably has some of the most spectacular scenery of any road in the United States. During our visit this week we entered the park from the west side, spent several days there hiking trails, then took this road across to the east side, where we did more hiking.
The highest point on Going-to-the-Sun Road is Logan Pass. The park service has built a visitor center there, where everyone stops to do a short hike and admire the views. The trail head for the more challenging Highline Trail, which we did soon after arrival, is also here.
Outside the Logan Pass visitor center are a variety of displays. One focused on the changing environment at Glacier, and not surprisingly, it made a point of talking about the documented shrinkage of the glaciers during the past century. Below is an image of the pertinent quote from that display:
When I saw this I was quite amused. The glaciers in the park are expected to be gone in only three more years, by 2020? Not a chance. I thought, they are going to have to change this sign soon. In fact, based on my experience with past failed global warming predictions, I was actually surprised they had let this display stay there this long, and hadn’t already made it vanish to be replaced with a new doomsday prediction that was far enough in the future that they could use if for awhile to generate new fear (and funding) before it too turned out to be wrong.
Anyway, in driving east and down from Logan Point, Diane and I eventually reached the east entrance to the park, where there was another visitor center. Like Logan Pass, this center also had a collection of outdoor displays, with one display once again focused on the park’s changing environment. Below is the pertinent quote from that display:
Ah ha! I thought. Here we have the expected new prediction, shifting doomsday from 2020 to 2030. This will work for another decade, when they will likely have to change the prediction again when it doesn’t come true. Why they hadn’t changed the other display at Logan Pass was probably just an oversight. The global warming propagandists in the National Park Servidce had simply missed it.
We went inside. In the main exhibit area was one of those 3D maps, showing the park. It had various buttons you could press that would turn on lights highlighting specific features of the park, such as its high peaks or glaciers. And as expected, there was a display at this map talking about the shrinking glaciers. Note my photo below of the pertinent quote from that display:
Sloppy, sloppy, I thought. They had forgotten to update this display also, and this was far more embarrassing, as it contradicted a different display only about fifty feet away.
We then went inside the auditorium and watched the 20 minute film about the park. The film was what you would expect, lauding the park’s beauty while also making heroes of the American Indians that were here when the Europeans arrived. The film also spent some time talking about the changing environment of the park, and this time noted that by 2030 all the glaciers are predicted to be gone!
I really wish they would make up their minds.
The movie was actually not bad. It didn’t make the Indians unrealistically saintly or noble, which too many of these National Park Service films do. And in discussing the melting glaciers it completely avoided blaming humans (or anything) for the recent warming. Instead, it focused on the warming itself, and how it has changed the environment in the park, and might change it in the future, depending on what happens. In other words, it stayed focused on the park service’s real mandate, maintaining the park for the future, rather than play scientific politics and promote a single theory about the climate that remains unproven.
Still, it is sad that the park’s scientific displays were so caught up in the doomsday predictions of global warming that they failed to include all the recent data, including recent research that showed no shrinking of many park glaciers from 2010 to 2014. Providing these facts would have given visitors a more rounded and detailed understanding of the situation. More important, it would have gotten them closer to the truth, something that scientists should always strive to do.
The park’s sloppiness and political posturing here however does serve to produce one good, though certainly unintended, result. It helps to discredit the National Park Service’s global-warming activism, which hasn’t been based on good science for quite awhile. It will also help to raise the skepticism of ordinary park visitors, who will either notice the contradictions, or laugh at the absurdity of the prediction that the glaciers will vanish only three years hence.