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Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life Paperback – March 11, 2011

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Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life + Pesticide Drift and the Pursuit of Environmental Justice (Food, Health, and the Environment) + Diet for a Dead Planet: Big Business and the Coming Food Crisis
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; 1 edition (March 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262515857
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262515856
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,121 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"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." -- Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine

"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"

"Drawing on the way Norwegians deal with the reality of global warming, Kari Norgaard provides an incisive account of the way individuals' avoidance patterns reflect social norms of feeling, attending, and discourse. As such, this book is an important step in the development of our sociological understanding of denial." 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

"Living in Denial is particularly interesting because of the ethnographic research methods employed, which are unusual in such a field as global climate change. We gain a rich understanding of how people react to information about climate change. This book shows why information-rich programs are inadequate to get the general populace to take action to address this most serious of issues." Randolph Haluza-DeLay , Department of Sociology, The King's University College, Edmonton; co-editor of Speaking for Ourselves: Environmental Justice in Canada

"Kari Norgaard has written a rigorous and insightful account about a subtle and profound social problem that confronts the mitigation of climate change--namely, the cognitive and social tools used to deny or ignore a problem even when the populace agrees it should be addressed. The population of Bygdaby holds a solid national image of itself as a humanitarian, egalitarian, nature-loving people who love their snow. Yet they fail to even think coherently about climate change. This startling mismatch makes the storyline of the book quite engaging, and it will undoubtedly be recognized for making an important contribution by explaining how this mismatch is socially produced." Peter Jacques , Department of Political Science, University of Central Florida

"One of the great unanswered questions in politics is, why is there not more mobilization about more issues? People see all sorts of things they dislike; why don't they do more to change them? 'Free riding' is hardly a sufficient answer. Kari Marie Norgaard provides a much better, ethnographic account by looking at a remote town in Norway, whose citizens work hard to deny the threat posed by global warming. One of the most surprising findings is the amount of emotion work they do to keep from facing up to climate change. Unfortunately for our future, but fortunately for the power of this book, 'Bygdaby' is the world we all inhabit." James M. Jasper , CUNY Graduate Center

"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." Robert J. Brulle , Professor of Sociology and Environmental Science, Drexel University

About the Author

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

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By viola meister on May 23, 2014
Format: Paperback
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.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By David Oaks on August 4, 2012
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.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Eleanor K. Sommer on December 31, 2012
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.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Applied Sociologist on July 2, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I considered this book for my class on deviance and social control and may yet assign it (in part because my program in the States has many visiting students from Norway). However, I was a bit disappointed. The Norwegians in her story don't seem to deny climate change, rather, they are paralyzed into inaction. The book would have been strengthened with more scientific evidence: while the year in her study was very warm, what about the years before and after? Data on snow fall, wetness of snowfall, warm days, days of precipitation would have added valuable support to her subjects perceptions about how once upon a time it was colder with more snow.

That said, her discussion on the social psychology of apathy is really quite good, and this would be a good book for a social psychology class. One of the applications for 'social control' is not in her book, but rather in the response to her book as can be seen in other reviews who dismiss it out of hand as 'rubbish' because it's about climate change.

The other flaw it has is that, being a dissertation, suffers from some repetitiveness and need for editing.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By C. Shearer on April 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover
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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