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Living in Denial
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.
About the Author
Kari Marie Norgaard is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Environmental Studies at the University of Oregon.
Table of Contents
- Living in Denial
- Living in Denial
- Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life
- Kari Marie Norgaard
- The MIT Press
- Cambridge, Massachusetts
- London, England
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher.
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- This book was set in Sabon by Toppan Best-set Premedia Limited. Printed and bound in the United States of America.
- Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
- Norgaard, Kari Marie.
- Living in denial : climate change, emotions, and everyday life / Kari Marie Norgaard.
- p. cm.
- Includes bibliographical references and index.
- ISBN 978-0-262-01544-8 (hardcover : alk. paper) — ISBN 978-0-262-51585-6 (pbk.)
- 1. Climatic changes—Psychological aspects. 2. Environmental policy—Citizen participation. I. Title.
- BF353.5.C55N67 2011
- 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
- To the future generations in my family: To my son, Cody, and to sister Addie, brother Matt, and niece Isabel. To all future generations. May your world flourish.
- Acknowledgments ix
- Prologue: An Unusual Winter xiii
- Introduction: The Failure to Act, Denial versus Indifference, Apathy, and Ignorance
- 1 Boundaries and Moral Order:
- An Introduction to Life in Bygdaby
- 2 “Experiencing” Global Warming:
- Troubling Events and Public Silence
- 3 “People Want to Protect Themselves a Little Bit”:
- The Why of Denial
- 4 The Cultural Tool Kit, Part One:
- Cultural Norms of Attention, Emotion, and Conversation
- 5 The Cultural Tool Kit, Part Two:
- Telling Stories of Mythic Nations
- 6 Climate Change as Background Noise in the United States
- Conclusion 207
- Appendix A: Methods 231
- Appendix B: List of People in Bygdaby Interviewed and Quoted 243
- Notes 245
- References 249
- Index 265
—Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine
—Eviatar Zerubavel, Board of Governors Professor of Sociology, Rutgers University, and author of Social Mindscapes: An Invitation to Cognitive Sociology and The Elephant in the Room: Silence and Denial in Everyday Life
—Randolph Haluza-DeLay, Department of Sociology, The King’s University College, Edmonton; co-editor of Speaking for Ourselves: Environmental Justice in Canada
—Peter Jacques , Department of Political Science, University of Central Florida
—James M. Jasper, CUNY Graduate Center
—Robert J. Brulle, Professor of Sociology and Environmental Science, Drexel University
Honorable Mention: 2012 Allan Schnaiberg Outstanding Publication Award, presented by the American Sociological Association’s Section on Environment and Technology