Seasons shift with subtle changes, especially in the Far North. Crocus and daffodils will never grace the tundra, where spring faces brown from sun glaring off the snow. Across Alaska, snow reshapes into icy granules. River ice cracks and tumbles off to sea.

Fresh snow glistening with meltwater clings to the mountains. Snow shakes off in rolling avalanches. Waterfalls cascade, freed again from winter’s icy spell.

Along highways birmed by banks of snow, trucks and snowmobile trailers crowd parking lots. Spring snowmachining is risky business. I hike a trail that squiggles along the side of a mountain. Below, the tide rushes in, tranforming the muddy inlet. Besdie the trail, a chickadee bathes in a puddle, dries off with drumming wings, and plunges in again.

Water is everywhere. Slippery puddles on the trail. Ruts along the snowy road. A creek tumbling down the hill. Like the chickadee, I delight in the melting wetness of it all.

Back home, it’s Alaska week on Discovery Channel. Melting spreads across the screen in high definition, an ominous warning. A glacier calves, fortelling, the narrator says, disastrous global warming. Another glacier retreats – Lord help us all.

No mention that calving and retreating are normal glacial behaviors. No mention that scientists are divided over whether the current period of glacial retreat is a sign of global warming or part of a normal hundred-year cycle.

Fade to a grizzly fishing fat salmon from a stream. No, the grizzly’s diet hasn’t been affected by global warming. Not yet. But what if? Music builds to a sinister crescendo. What if the climate changed and there were no more salmon? What would the grizzly eat? Could the bears possible adapt to another food source?

I’m all in favor of preserving salmon habitat, but could we skip the high-drama footage and the horror-show tunes? If bears couldn’t adapt to eating everything from trash to toothpaste, the camera crew wouldn’t have needed to cache their gear at camp.

We’re kidding ourselves if we think our collective consumptive footprint leaves no trace on this amazing planet. Global warming needs to be addressed. But hyperbole, half-truths, and trumped-up drama discredit the cause. Melting may portend disaster. But sometimes all it portends is hope – for spring, for life renewed, for yet another chance to get it right.

Make the distinctions, Discovery. Give us balanced facts, not just the ones that hype the show, and let us sort through to truth.

Scroll to Top