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

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MIT Press, 2011 - Psychology - 279 pages

Global warming is the most significant environmental issue of our time, yet publicresponse 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 andethnographic data from her study of "Bygdaby," the fictional name of an actual rural community inwestern Norway, during the unusually warm winter of 2000-2001.

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

Norgaard finds that for the highly educated and politically savvyresidents of Bygdaby, global warming was both common knowledge and unimaginable. Norgaard tracesthis denial through multiple levels, from emotions to cultural norms to political economy. Herreport from Bygdaby, supplemented by comparisons throughout the book to the United States, tells alarger story behind our paralysis in the face of today's alarming predictions from climatescientists.

The hardcover edition does not include a dust jacket.


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Excellent. Best book out there that I know of on public reception of climate change. Unfortunately it appears to be greatly misunderstood by many of the contrarian persuasion, who seem so eager to criticise it in comments on contrarian websites but not so eager to actually read the book (it is very easy to tell that many of them haven't read the book just from reading their overly defensive response to it). This book is not so much concerned with the science of climate change itself but how it is that societal relations influence our perceptions and ways of dealing with climate change. It is relevant to both sides of the climate change debate. Surely it is worth examining how it is that we come to perceive climate change in a particular manner, regardless of whether you believe or don't.  


1 Boundaries and Moral Order
2 Experiencing Global Warming
3 People Want to Protect Themselves a Little Bit
4 The Cultural Tool Kit Part One
5 The Cultural Tool Kit Part Two
6 Climate Change as Background Noise in the United States
List of People in Bygdaby Interviewed and Quoted

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About the author (2011)

Kari Marie Norgaard is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Environmental Studies at the University of Oregon.

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