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A New Shade of Green

By Sherry Listgarten

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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)

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Someone hung a swastika in my front yard

Uploaded: Sep 6, 2020
Around 4am on Friday someone hung a swastika in our front yard. They biked down our street in the wee hours with a sheaf of carefully stapled papers, stopping to hang one over each Black Lives Matter sign. At our house they walked across the yard, stepping over the plants to get to the placard by our stone wall, where they draped their own notice over it.

The notice, printed on legal-size white paper, had a prominent swastika and a long essay equating the Black Lives Matter movement with fascism. I didn’t read it. I am not interested in listening to people who engage in such tactics. They may not have known that nearly all of my father’s family was killed by Nazis. But they must have known that they were distributing a virulent symbol of hate on their neighbors’ property.

So. What is there to say about this? And why am I writing about this in a blog on climate change?

For one thing, people should not be so afraid to express their views that they resort to skulking around their neighborhood at 4am. Own your views and use your own yard. Write a letter to the editor, or whatever the equivalent is these days. Speak up at city meetings and in conversations with your community.

This Mountain View homeowner was always happy to own his views on his own property. (Photo courtesy of the Mountain View Voice.)

To help with that, our community should be tolerant of considered dissent. There is nothing wrong (and much right) with expressing gratitude for the police, for lauding the good people of the force, for cautioning that they have a difficult and essential job, for worrying that we may throw out the baby with the bath water, for asking questions and suggesting alternatives. There are all kinds of good reasons why a person may be concerned about the Black Lives Matter movement. Dissenters do us all a favor when they speak honestly, cogently, and empathetically about their concerns. We can help with that by welcoming respectful debate and working to minimize feelings of defensiveness.

But. If you find yourself lurking in the shadows to promote your views, if you cannot respectfully advocate for them, you need to find other options. Hate symbols like swastikas have no place in our neighborhoods. A neighbor who saw these signs hesitated at first to remove them, concerned about suppressing dissent and a right to “free speech”. But this is neither respectful dissent nor legitimate free speech. It is disseminating hate symbols and trespassing. One neighbor notified the police and later stopped by to talk with affected households about what she had seen and done. A few early-risers cleared away the signs. They were all gone before 7am.

I am posting this in a blog about climate change because it reflects how divisive our messages have become and how parts of our society are increasingly inured to hate and hate speech. We must work against this by encouraging productive conversation and combating hate when we see it. We have faced some difficult problems this year and more are sure to come. Climate change is and will be a powerful stressor, while also providing tremendous opportunities. We need to work together to make the most of those opportunities, to find solutions, to provide productive and satisfying livelihoods for all, to strengthen our economy and our communities, and to help our most vulnerable. These times call for a generosity of spirit and an openness, not a withdrawal into isolationism and meanness. Respectful and thoughtful communication is a big part of that.

Reminder: Please avoid unnecessary electricity use between 2pm and 9pm today and tomorrow (Sunday and Labor Day), and especially 6pm-9pm. The forecast peak is nearly 50 GW and close to California’s record high. If you have A/C, set it to 78 if possible. Pull down your window shades, park yourself in the slipstream of a low-powered fan, and sip an icy drink! Stay cool everyone, and let’s keep the lights on!

Power outlook for Sunday September 6 posted at 5:30am by CAISO.

Notes and References
1. The Atlantic had a thoughtful article a few years ago on a framework for thinking about various movements on the far right and left.

Current Climate Data (July 2020)
Global impacts, US impacts, CO2 metric, Climate dashboard (updated annually)

Record-setting heat was pervasive in the southwest this August. (Source: The WestWide Drought Tracker. Click on Climate, then Temperature, then Anomaly, then Last Full Month)

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Posted by David Page, a resident of Midtown,
on Sep 6, 2020 at 9:17 am

David Page is a registered user.

Dear Sherry,

I'm so sorry to hear about this disturbing incident. I hope you know you have much community support.

I'd also like to express my sympathy to you and your father's family. When I was stationed in Germany in the 70's, we were housed in former Nazi buildings. I worry that sometimes, these days, people don't appreciate how real those cruelties/dangers/inhumanities were...and why it's so important to treasure kindness and tolerance.

David Page

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown,
on Sep 6, 2020 at 10:10 am

Nayeli is a registered user.

Hi Sherry!

I am so sorry that you had this happen to you. If you haven't done this yet, I would urge you to get security cameras. There are even some inexpensive cameras that work surprisingly well (such as Wyze). They are very easy to set up and work either via Wi-Fi or through an installed micro SD card.

As a conservative Hispanic woman and an immigrant, I hurt for you. This should not happen in this day and age. I have some friends in Portland who have been threatened during the protests (which they called "riots"). I urged them to avoid generalizations and stereotypes -- because most people are not like that.

I appreciate your blog. Even if I might disagree on some things, I enjoy reading your perspective and views. I appreciate the fact that you provide evidence for your views too -- and even allow that evidence to be scrutinized.

Be well!


Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Sep 6, 2020 at 12:58 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@David and @Nayeli, thank you for your comments, your wise words, and your always constructive participation on this blog.

Nayeli, on the point of immigration, my Dad survived, and I am here, only because he had two incredibly courageous, determined, and resourceful parents, and because of the humanitarian policies and generous people of Switzerland and Canada. My Dad received his first real education, in 11th grade, in Canada, where he worked his butt off at the same time he learned English. He went on to graduate top of his class at Harvard. So I fail to understand leadership that is anti-immigrant. It is not only cruel, it is stupid.

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown,
on Sep 6, 2020 at 9:12 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

Hi Sherry! You had an incredible set of parents.

I feel something very similar to my parents. My parents had less than a sixth grade education. My father worked hard and saved the money to pay for the immigration process.

On the day that we were approved, we crossed the border -- legally -- with (literally) the clothes on our backs. In fact, my mother told us to wear THREE outfits atop one another.

We spent years working as migrant farm workers. During the school years, we would return to south Texas with the money that we earned as a family unit. We bought several acres of land, built a house (with our own labor). My parents pushed education. Consequently, I and my nine siblings graduated first from high school and then college. Six of us earned post-graduate degrees.

While my father still mops floors at his local Wal-Mart Supercenter, the rest of us work in education (including higher education), architecture, business and the tech industry. We gained admission to colleges like Stanford, Harvard and other fine schools.

It is our opinion that the present administration is not "anti-immigrant." Rather, it is pro-legal immigration. We feel that unbridled and ignored illegal immigration cheapens what our family -- and other immigrant families -- worked so hard for.

We also believe that a nation has a right to decide who can or cannot be admitted into this country. While most would-be immigrants are good and hard-working people, there are some who aren't coming because they believe in the American ideal.

In fact, some are very bad people. As someone who lived along the Rio Grande border, we were all aware of this. I crossed the border and the 100-mile checkpoint often. The stacks of illicit drugs and weapons was visible almost every time. The numbers of humans who were trafficked is also an issue.

This nation has a responsibility to our fellow citizens to say "yes" to the good people and "no" to the bad. However, the current influx of people flooding into the southern border don't allow any sort of determination to be made. And, of course, open immigration is not a real policy either.

Posted by MVresident2003, a resident of Mountain View,
on Sep 7, 2020 at 12:03 pm

MVresident2003 is a registered user.

I am a Republican and a conservative and I find this to be abhorrent. I am thankful though that this is not representative of most, and that most people do not have this level of hate in their hearts. Good to know that it was discovered and removed quickly, there is no place for this kind of thing in our streets or community.

And while I agree that everyone should be able to voice their opinions, I will tell you Sherry that I am in no way comfortable or open to doing that. I would be vilified, castigated, shamed. My kids could be affected at school and in their sports. My souse affected at his job. And THAT is the “silent majority" that the left just cannot understand or see.

It should tell you something; your community is by no means tolerant of considered dissent. I know this as I have experienced it several times is why I no longer speak up and will be using my voice at the ballot.

Posted by eileen , a resident of another community,
on Sep 7, 2020 at 12:07 pm

eileen is a registered user.

We do not have a coherent immigration system and have not had one for years. Nor do we have the legal system to process applications in anything like a reasonable amount of time. Until those are fixed, immigration will never be compassionate, consistent or even enforceable.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Sep 7, 2020 at 2:22 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Nayeli: That is just a remarkable and inspiring story. I love your comment. Thank you for posting it.

This isn't a post on immigration (sorry, my bad), so I won't follow up in detail. I will say, though, that I think it's a real shame that our country is now so divided on this issue. It didn't used to be and there is no need, since there is a huge amount of very reasonable middle ground. Well-run countries have a variety of immigration policies and practices, so there is plenty of room. We just keep making things harder than they need to be, and I don't know why.

@MVresident2003: I believe you, and I'm sorry. It's something that we have to change. I have a high schooler and I've spoken to her about it because she sees this intolerance in places like reddit all the time. It's not acceptable to even consider where the "other side" might be right. Ugh. How can we possibly get anywhere when we think that way? I don't know if you recall when Obama spoke up against this intolerance, and even Ann Coulter gave him a rave review. Change has to come with the younger generation, and I worry that social media is making that harder, not easier.

Thanks for the very thoughtful comments.

Posted by Staying Young Through Kids, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Sep 7, 2020 at 5:21 pm

Staying Young Through Kids is a registered user.

@Sherry I come to your blog for a regular dose of well reasoned commentary on our energy needs/consumption & our environment. With this post you give evidence that there are many other issues worth our attention happening right here in our community. Cowardly, un-American, and hateful acts, both large and small, are only found not only in Charlottesville, Rochester, Minneapolis, Louisville, Portland, The Villages...they're found all over.

I would like to say it's "appalling" or "stunning" to hear of this kind of act of antisemitism, of racism, of a view so despicable it might only be expressed via anonymous defacement under the cover of darkness, but it's not. It's become a type of truly unacceptable normal in our country and, sadly, in our community.

I am saddened that someone would do something this hurtful to you. The story of your family and of your dad's escape and the life that followed is the kind of story that defines America. It shows how exceptional our opportunities can be. It's a story that resonates today: how far someone can go from immigration. An escape from something unspeakably terrible to a life of possibility and ultimately a life of learning and great service to all of his students.

There is no excuse for the cowardly act of defacing your sign. I would like to think that the person who did this did not target you, but just your sign. That it was a ridiculous and ignorant attempt to promote an anti-BLM message as opposed to an anti-semitic message directly at you or your family's faith.

My attempt to look for a less threatening way to explain this is no excuse for the stupidity and hatred of the act. It just makes it feel less targeted.

I do hope that is the case here.

You have many supporters and allies in your quest for sanity and your joy in creating (and accepting) dialogue across many different ideologies. Please continue to do as you've done here as wall as in your global and local energy and climate posts!

Posted by MVresident2003, a resident of Mountain View,
on Sep 7, 2020 at 10:21 pm

MVresident2003 is a registered user.

Thank you for your response Sherry but with all due respect I'm going to call you out. Several months ago I responded to one of your posts and provided a link to a video from a highly respected, educated scientist. It was sent to me by my sister, also a respected, knowledgeable scientist (geophysicist).

You refused to even watch the video because it was from a source that you completely discounted. You wouldn't even watch the video. Because it didn't align with your views. I even asked you a second time to please give it a view. You didn't. You didn't even give it a consideration. And that is exactly what your daughter is seeing on Reddit. It's shameful, all around.

THIS is the problem. You can talk all you want, you can say you're “open to views, tolerant, willing to listen". But actions speak puller than words and thankfully people are truly starting to wake up to this,

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Sep 8, 2020 at 10:03 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@SYWK: Yeah, I don't think this was personal. It happened up and down the street to all of the BLM signs. The person was also not lauding the Nazis, they were accusing us of being Nazis, which is weirdly less disturbing to me.

@MVResident: Yeah, you’ve mentioned that before. I think you are referring to this incident. If you look, you’ll see I did not refuse to view it and in fact offered to view at least part, which I did. FWIW, my lack of enthusiasm about watching it had nothing to do with the speaker’s views. If a dyed-in-the-wool climate advocate were to send me a pointer to a random 48-minute video and tell me generally to “watch it”, I would have the exact same response. The best way to get me to watch something is to provide pointers (e.g., timestamps) to your favorite parts and talk a little about why they are your favorite and/or what questions you have about them. I do not watch most videos people tell me to watch. But not for the reasons you mention.

FWIW, just now I looked up recent written things from Scott Tinker. Here is one. He says two things. The first is that Germany’s CO2 emissions leveled off when it moved away from nuclear and fracking because it switched to using more coal. There are no references in that brief article, but I’ve read that before and it’s pretty well documented. German environmentalists are aware of it and the country has gotten more aggressive about moving away from coal. Here is the latest I can find on that.

The second thing he says is that it can be misleading the way we compute emissions, both wrt how we account for imports and also wrt consumption emissions. Yes! I’ve talked about both of those at some length in this blog. In a recent post, for example, I said that to some extent California’s clean power strategy has been predicated on 24x7 dirty imports, and that is having to change as neighbors clean up. (Which is great.) I’ve also talked at length about consumption emissions, for example when people point to China as the problem. (China is making stuff for us!)

So, my 2c, in this article Tinker is making good points, though points I hear about often from the “green” side as well. To his credit, Tinker doesn’t discount the severity of climate change, nor does he discount the real progress that’s being made. He wants to see less misleading marketing, which I hear from all sides, and probably in more depth from the "green" side. (Tinker also wants more credit given to fracking. I do struggle with that because the methane leaks from that type of intensive extraction are not counted right now and are very significant, arguably making it as problematic as coal.)

I don’t want to beat a dead horse, and there is no doubt that I am subject to confirmation bias and motivated reasoning like everyone else. I also have limited time/attention and a strong bias towards expertise. But since you mentioned this incident, I thought it worth going into a bit.

Thanks for sticking with it and speaking up and trying to educate yourself and others.

Posted by Alice Schaffer Smith, a resident of Downtown North,
on Sep 8, 2020 at 10:57 am

Alice Schaffer Smith is a registered user.

Cowardice. The need to sneak around shows that whoever did this knows that the message is evil and probably that he/she is ashamed to stand up tall and speak his or her mind. I would be curious to know if any of the cameras on nearby homes picked up pictures of the perpetrator(s). Also curious to know how you know it was at 4.30 AM.

In any event, I think the act is despicable. I accept free speech but not skulking around like thugs.


Posted by David Ross, a resident of Portola Valley,
on Sep 8, 2020 at 12:33 pm

David Ross is a registered user.

Am I the only one who finds it ironic that in response to this blog, which advocates "owning your opinions." so many commenters feel the need to hide behind pseudonyms?

I don't mean this as a criticism of anyone's comments. While it may be irritating to put up with pushback on one's opinions, in my view anonymity defeats accountability for one's remarks. While I'm interested in all points of view, I pay less attention to those offered by hidden figures.

No single "side" has a monopoly on rude behavior. It's too bad we even have to talk about "sides," since that polarization ignores nuanced positions and opinions. I've been shouted at (figuratively, anyway) for expressing myself by people who aren't willing to identify themselves, and whose claims about me have been knee-jerk and based on limited, distorted information. I'm sure it has happened to all of us.

Wouldn't it be more civilized to know who is disagreeing/agreeing with you, or simply advocating a position?

Posted by Palo Alto Grandmother, a resident of College Terrace,
on Sep 8, 2020 at 1:37 pm

Palo Alto Grandmother is a registered user.

@ MVresident2003

There is a big difference between having an "opinion" about something and "having verifiable facts" about something. If you don't believe in climate change and have not gone out on your own and done a credible job of investigating the science which provides concrete evidence of climate change, as well as proven solutions, then your opinion is open to question. It's your responsibility to yourself and your children (who will suffer most if climate change continues as it is going) to do your homework and not just sit back and expect someone to convince you.

Posted by Claude Ezran, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive,
on Sep 8, 2020 at 2:57 pm

Claude Ezran is a registered user.

Sherry, I am so sorry about what happened to you and some of our Palo Alto neighbors who also have BLM signs. This shocking incident must have been very painful. Although it is impossible to know for sure, I have a feeling that such an abhorrent behavior would have been much less likely to occur a few years ago, specifically pre-Trump era. There is absolutely no doubt that president Trump with his blatant racism, xenophobia, and praise for white supremacists ("very fine People") provides moral cover for, inspires, and incites such despicable acts. Furthermore, very unfortunately, the GOP - which has completely lost its moral compass - provides protection to the Coward-in-Chief. Everyday our country is sinking to new lows. I cannot begin to imagine four more years of this mayhem.

Posted by Penny, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 8, 2020 at 4:47 pm

Penny is a registered user.

Sherry, I am so very sorry this happened to you. Many of us have friends and family, good people, who were imprisoned, tortured, forced to flee their homes and work as slaves, and murdered by Nazis.

This symbol reflects on the people who use it. They align themselves with the worst behavior humans are capable of. It must have been a terrible thing to wake to that. I am sorry it happened to you, but I appreciate your thoughtful response in this article.

Hate has no home here.

Posted by Albert K Henning, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Sep 9, 2020 at 11:03 am

Albert K Henning is a registered user.

The theft of the swastika symbol by NSDAP in Germany in the 1930s was a perversion. Its development as a symbol of Nazism attached the indelible stain of evil to it. Its continued use perpetuates that evil. I'm sorry you have been the target of this evil.


Regarding your personal pique, that Sherry Listgarten failed to give credence to information you posted from Scott Tinker:

You are committing several logical fallacies.

First, the fallacy of 'cherry-picking': you offer Dr Tinker's perspective as uniquely factual, against the tens of thousands of contrary, fact-based perspectives of scientists and researchers every bit as qualified as Dr Tinker. I do not have to cite all of them to say: his perspective is not uniquely factual. The IPCC has already compiled our collective understanding, and updates it regularly. Dr Tinker's perspectives are included in it, through Working Group II (which has heavy representation among its leadership from the leading oil-producing countries of the world.)

Second, the fallacy of 'the appeal to authority': Dr Tinker is indeed an authority (he is the State Geologist of Texas); but, his status as an authority does not make his arguments 100% factual; his status merely conveys an increased probability, that his perspectives may be factual.

Indeed, when one reads his blog carefully, and watches the video to which you earlier provided a link, one finds Dr Tinker makes several assertions -- essential to his thesis -- which are false. His 10 Feb 2020 blog article entitled, "‘Zero Emissions' of Carbon Dioxide Relies on Magic Math," is an example. He uses the logical fallacies called 'false dichotomy', 'false equivalence', and 'red herring'.

He asserts implicitly that California, for instance, must be judged, either solely or primarily, by the ratio of energy it uses, to the energy it produces; and, that it must be judged instantaneously, and not over time; and, that its reductions of emitted carbon are unimportant. He also asserts that the success of German energy policy be judged solely on the basis of instantaneous cost of energy.

These are false dichotomies; the ratio he suggests be used as a metric is immaterial to the matter of emissions. They are false equivalences; comparing energy costs in Germany, and Texas, also is immaterial to the matter of emissions.

He acknowledges that per-capita energy use in CA is far less than in TX; then he brings in a red herring, claiming that Californians and New Yorkers use/buy more 'stuff' than Texans, and that the energy costs of 'stuff' have to be accounted for; which might be true, but we don't know if this implied use offsets the energy and emissions saved by Californians, because he offers no facts, no accounting, to back up his assertion. We only have his say-so. But even if it were true, it's irrelevant to the issue of emissions.

He also makes a sweeping generalization about the source of US energy, which is not true, and which is trending to be even less true. A simple examination of the US Energy Flow Charts, maintained by Lawrence Livermore National Lab, proves the point. Generated energy from coal is dropping dramatically; generated energy from natural gas, wind, and solar PV are filling the gap; US GDP continues to grow, without requiring new energy, proving energy efficiency continues apace.

He also makes sweeping generalizations about energy storage, which are at best incomplete, and at worst outright false. The greatest coming changes in energy technology lie in the arena of energy storage; to assume only 'giant batteries' of conventional construction will fill this need, is incorrect.

And his use of the pejorative 'magic math', is simply false; it is used to persuade the persuadable, but has no basis in fact. His energy assumptions are wrong, his assumptions about carbon emissions are wrong; yet, his math is 'real'?

Above all, his free-market-based assumption -- that cost of energy is all that matters -- is wrong, because the instantaneous market has no way to price in, the long-term costs of emission of carbon into the atmosphere.

Finally, Dr Tinker makes a claim that US greenhouse gas emissions 2030 target from the Paris Accords will be achieved *this year*. This claim is false. The US EPA's annual report belies the claim; see: Web Link Figure ES-2. And, widely accepted projections show the world will *overshoot* its target by 2X, with the US being a strong contributor to the overshoot; see: Web Link

In conclusion: Dr Tinker's perspectives are important; but, they must be considered critically and constructively, and not taken to be Gospel -- either because they resonate with one's personal perspectives, or because he is an 'authority'. If global emissions are important (because, as he agrees, we all share a single atmosphere), then whether TX creates more energy than it uses, is a valid selling point for the Texas Chamber of Commerce, but irrelevant and immaterial in the arena of global climate change.

Posted by Lee Forrest, a resident of another community,
on Sep 9, 2020 at 11:40 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

> "...I come to your blog for a regular dose of well reasoned commentary on our energy needs/consumption & our environment."

^ It was noted in the September 18th 'The Week' that according to Google's mobility data for the month of April 2020, 4 billion people cut their travel in half. As a result, worldwide daily CO2 emissions dropped by an estimated 18.7 million tons, falling to levels not seen since 2006. Reduced car, bus and truck traffic contributed to 43% of the drop-off though emissions from residential buildings increased 2.8%, most from air conditioning.

According to Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at UC Berkeley, to reach emissions targets of the 2015 Paris climate accord, CO2 would need to drop as it did in 2020 for the next decade.

That said...was the Covid-19 global pandemic and its subsequent public health restrictions a 'blessing in disguise' in terms of curtailing global warming & climate change to a certain extent?

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Sep 9, 2020 at 10:57 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Lee: I understand the question. But keep in mind that the pandemic has decimated the global economy, scared people away from urban areas and mass transit, and taken much of our time and attention. All of those things are terrible for the effort to address climate change. I would not call it a blessing in disguise.

The wildfires in California, the hurricanes in the gulf, and the flooding on the east coast have all made people somewhat more aware of climate change, and some may care enough to act on it. But likewise, I'd also hardly call those human and environmental tragedies a blessing in disguise.

I would much rather we make progress on climate change without terrible things happening. To the extent that discontinuities are agents of change, we should seize all such opportunities, whether from terrible things or not, to push ahead on climate mitigation and adaptation. More generally, we need to create and make the most of all opportunities to make our planet more sustainable. We can call progress a "blessing" but I consider it more of an urgent necessity, and one that we choose to make happen or not.

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