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Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life [Paperback]

Kari Marie Norgaard
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 April 2011
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. The hardcover edition does not include a dust jacket.

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Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life + Climate Change Denial: Heads in the Sand + Requiem for a Species
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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: MIT Press; 1 edition (5 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262515857
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262515856
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 485,654 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"This is an extremely important intellectual contribution. Research on climate change and culture has been primarily focused on individual attitudinal change. This work brings a sociological perspective to our understanding of individual and collective responses to climate change information, and opens up a new research area. It also has important practical implications...This perspective calls for a much different approach to climate change communications, and defines a new agenda for this field." Robert Brulle, The New York Times "Dot Earth"

About the Author

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

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading 21 Dec 2013
Kari's comprehensive study of a Norwegian community details the process by which climate change, although recognised as real, is perceived through an interpretive lens as distant and un-actionable and therefore irrelevant.

Discussion of climate change is key in creating the necessary social presssure to enable political action.

We need to talk about climate change to our friends, relatives and work colleagues. This is the way forward.


Btw, Johan RF's comment would classify him as a literal denialist - someone who dimisses evidence without consideration.
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1 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars does not understand what the word climate means 22 July 2013
I got a couple of chapters in and then binned it. Its total rubbish. Essays and observations on weather does not amount to a comprehensive understanding about climate and the science of climate change ( natural or otherwise ). The author is totally confused and does not realise that weather is not climate. Weather is just weather and it does vary in short cycles, medium cycles , long cycles and very long cycles....poor
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.9 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exceptional work of scholarship 23 May 2014
By viola meister - Published on
Ignore the tin-foil-hatted fools who gave this a "1." This is an incredible work of scholarship. The author brings a number of academic perspectives (sociology, psychology, anthropology, history (and I'm probably forgetting others)) to attempt to understand why an educated, enlightened Norwegian village (that is exposed to the consequences of climate change) still experiences widespread denial, skepticism, and apathy. If there's anything lacking, it's clear-cut solutions to deal with denial, skepticism, and right-wing propaganda, but we can't fault the author for not having answers that no one has.
7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Our generation's challenge: The "Normality" of Climate Crisis 4 Aug 2012
By David Oaks - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life

This book has my absolutely highest recommendation on an urgent basis.

While this book clearly meets academic standards of scholarship, I found it very human: The author brings us into a small town in Norway that is prosperous and well-educated, and where iconic activities for Norway such as skiing and ice skating are becoming more difficult because of the climate crisis. We hear stories, and we get quotes.

Why does the local newspaper cover the odd weather, without including discussion about climate crisis?

Why in a town with so much citizen activism, is there so little local activism about one of the biggest threats ever caused and faced by humanity?

This book helps explain what is mistakenly called "normal" in our society. I say mistakenly, because what is generally called normal brought us into the 'climate crisis,' which along with other environmental devastation is our generation's biggest challenge. Why are so many who are fully aware of the climate crisis, and that it is human caused, staying silent and inactive? Why is there this numbness?

It turns out what is called 'normal' has a lot going on beneath the surface, like one of the enormous icebergs that is slowly melting before its time.

Ultimately, this is a compassionate book, because the author recognizes the '100 percent' nature of our all being both harmed by the climate crisis, and also having a role in contributing to this disaster as a society. But the author also goes further and calls for us all to hold one another accountable.

When one of the Norwegians interviewed in the book holds up a hand in front of his face and says his numbness comes from protecting himself a little bit... This becomes for me a visual symbol for the poignant denial we all face. This denial is not from ignorance. It is not from ignoring the disaster. The denial is coming from a deep-seated awareness of an unprecedented crisis.

This is my 36th year working as a human rights activist in the field of mental disability, so I am particularly interested in discussions about what is considered "normal." Along with the book Collapse by Jared Diamond, I consider this to be one of the most important explanations. Professor Norgaard (who won tenure after the publication of this book) presents a rational, analytical approach that recognizes the importance of gut-level emotion.

Simply for speaking about the clearly illustrated stories in her book, Professor Norgaard was targeted by a media personality who has a proven track record of denigrating women leaders with disdain and distortion. Some of this individual's listeners predictably turned to hate speech against Prof. Norgaard. She is one of the environmental heroes who some are seeking to silence, but thankfully she remains unbowed. The silver lining of this witch hunt, is that this controversy led to a front page headline in my local newspaper of Eugene, Oregon that brought this book to my attention. I had no idea Prof. Norgaard was at the University of Oregon.

Ironically, the media personality apparently thought this book was about him and others who bizarrely and sadly claim there is no human-caused climate crisis. However, this book is actually much more significant. This book is about 100 percent of all of us, including the majority of the population who understand and accept the sobering scientific evidence.

This book is about re-defining being human... Reading this compels us to all ask, "What can I do? What can we do?"

To the extent addressing the climate crisis needs the equivalent of a nonviolent D-Day, this book helps provide research on the terrain, the obstacles, the opportunities for the unprecedented astoundingly enormous response that is now undeniably required... that we may not do adequately... but that is undeniably required nonetheless.

I've already gotten several copies to give away, such as to my friend Patch Adams, the physician/clown who questions what is called normal, because of his support for Martin Luther King's vision of an "International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment." Clearly, this book is one of the handbooks for that IAACM. Get it, read it, get more copies, talk it up... And act on it.

When you read this book, you will not just enjoy learning about a small town's challenges, but you will be lighting a candle in a mysterious immense cave called 'normal'. Know you are not alone. We are all there with you. 100 percent of us.

David W. Oaks, Director, MindFreedom International
4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Ethnography about Climate Change Denial 31 Dec 2012
By Eleanor K. Sommer - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you want a firsthand perspective on why people deny climate change, tag along with Norgaard on her six-month stay in a small Norwegian town to learn about the emotional, social, and political responses to a changing climate. This is based on her dissertation but quite readable.
9 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars will use this book in my courses 6 April 2012
By college professor - Published on
Living in Denial is an excellent example of how effective ethnography can be in helping to understand society and begin fruitful dialogues. I will use this book in my course. The in-depth research will provide a rigorous model for my students who are learning about this type of methodology. Kari Norgaard has successfully demonstrated that she not only cares about the topic, but also that she has the utmost respect for the people who participated in this research. A fantastic study on a timely issue -- one in which students will connect with and lead to engaged discussion
3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very important book 6 April 2012
By C. Shearer - Published on
This is an excellent book - well-discussed and well-researched with lots of insight. It looks at a small town to examine how we all are in various forms of denial about climate change. It explores what are arguably some of the biggest barriers to acting on climate change: our own and often subconscious resistance, making it a very important topic. The book draws upon a wide variety of studies across different disciplines, but is well-written and accessible, and could be of great interest to people both inside and outside the classroom.
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