HOW DENIERS THINK
'Living in Denial': Why Those of Us Who Believe the Science on Climate Change Still Do Nothing About It; Kari Marie Norgaard's new book examines why those who know about climate change fail to act on that knowledge.
Christine Shearer, May 19, 2011 (AlterNet)
"…Kari Marie Norgaard’s Living in Denial…is not a book about people who reject the basic science of climate change…This is a book about many of us, and how we to varying degrees live in denial. Although focusing on a small rural community in Norway, Norgaard sheds light on how people systematically interact in ways that serve to downplay or ignore climate change, and avoid the unsettling emotions it raises.
"In the Introduction, Norgaard says she is looking at climate change to build a model of socially organized denial, where denial is not just an individual, psychological process, but one that occurs through social interaction…[S]he means Stanley Cohen’s three varieties of denial: literal, interpretive, and implicatory. Literal is outright dismissal of information (i.e. climate change deniers). Interpretive means reinterpretation of information (perhaps thinking climate change is natural, or will not be that bad)."
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"Implicatory is Norgaard’s main focus…[T]he information is not rejected but the psychological, political, or moral implications are not followed. This is the heart of the book… [Norgaard asks] why so many who accept the science don’t act, and how this inaction becomes a cultural norm…[She] explores the topic of social denial through interviews and ethnography in Bygdaby, Norway, from 2000-1. Bygdaby is a small rural community of about 14,000 people, with many farms and a strong sense of tradition, yet also firm roots to the modern world, including the fact that 34% of Norway’s national revenues came from petroleum in 2008."
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"…[N]either the country nor the town of Bygdaby has the well-financed climate denial operations that other countries have, most notably the U.S. That makes Bygdaby an interesting case study, since most of the residents, Norgaard tells us, accept the science of climate change, meaning much of the inaction here is apparently not due to simply literal denial…[P]rocesses are not necessarily conscious nor deliberate… Acknowledging climate change…immediately invites questions over how you live…The result is that climate change is often only discussed during socially sanctioned times and settings…
"…Norgaard’s work indirectly raises the question of how and why people become active and push for social change…[A] recent Yale study found significant differences in how groupings of people respond to climate change, suggesting more variation between individuals than Living in Denial explores…But Norgaard’s main point is showing how a group of well-meaning people can be both aware of climate change and not addressing the problem – how they interact in ways that push climate change out of the range of full attention and action. In that way, it speaks to many of us…"