Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life

Paperback | March 11, 2011

byKari Marie Norgaard

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Global warming is the most significant environmental issue of our time, yet public response in Western nations has been meager. Why have so few taken any action? In Living in Denial, sociologist Kari Norgaard searches for answers to this question, drawing on interviews and ethnographic data from her study of "Bygdaby," the fictional name of an actual rural community in western Norway, during the unusually warm winter of 2000-2001.

In 2000-2001 the first snowfall came to Bygdaby two months later than usual; ice fishing was impossible; and the ski industry had to invest substantially in artificial snow-making. Stories in local and national newspapers linked the warm winter explicitly to global warming. Yet residents did not write letters to the editor, pressure politicians, or cut down on use of fossil fuels. Norgaard attributes this lack of response to the phenomenon of socially organized denial, by which information about climate science is known in the abstract but disconnected from political, social, and private life, and sees this as emblematic of how citizens of industrialized countries are responding to global warming.

Norgaard finds that for the highly educated and politically savvy residents of Bygdaby, global warming was both common knowledge and unimaginable. Norgaard traces this denial through multiple levels, from emotions to cultural norms to political economy. Her report from Bygdaby, supplemented by comparisons throughout the book to the United States, tells a larger story behind our paralysis in the face of today's alarming predictions from climate scientists.

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Global warming is the most significant environmental issue of our time, yet public response in Western nations has been meager. Why have so few taken any action? In Living in Denial, sociologist Kari Norgaard searches for answers to this question, drawing on interviews and ethnographic data from her study of "Bygdaby," the fictional n...

Kari Marie Norgaard is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Environmental Studies at the University of Oregon.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:304 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.62 inPublished:March 11, 2011Publisher:The MIT PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0262515857

ISBN - 13:9780262515856

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At a time when most climate denial scholarship focuses on an extreme right-wing fringe, Norgaard's strikingly original and fascinating research invites us to see the many ways in which we are all in denial about climate change, and the profound challenges it poses to our identities and cultures. A rare and important book with powerful insights on every page. This is an original and extremely important intellectual contribution. The analysis of social responses to climate change information has primarily focused on individual values and beliefs. Norgaard's work moves beyond this individualistic focus and brings a social dimension to the analysis of climate denial. She demonstrates that climate denial is a social process in which collective actions are taken to restore a sense of equilibrium and social stability. This book advances our understanding of climate denial and lays the ground for new approaches to climate change communication.