Literature Appetizer: Living in Denial by Kari Marie Norgaard

In Literature Appetizer, Ben gives you just a taste of a book. Not meant to replace the full meal, this is meant to whet your appetite. Bon appetit!

Fact: Our average global temperature is increasing at a very rapid rate.

Fact: This trend started to happen around the industrial revolution.

Fact: Therefore, humans have played a serious role in our global climate change.

We can argue over specific numbers and details, but you can't argue with the facts above. Even though they have been given a lot of air time, 'climate skeptics' are generally seen as misinformed at best and malicious toward truth at worst. Its true that America has the highest percentage of climate skeptics per capita, but Kari Marie Norgaard identifies an even larger threat: climate deniers.

Oil rig in Norway. Photo courtesy of  CNBC.

Oil rig in Norway. Photo courtesy of CNBC.

In her book Living in Denial, Norgaard practices ethnography (studying while living in the population) of a Norwegian town of around 14,000 people. While she changes names to protect identities, her findings show that even the progressive, truth loving country of Norway are over run with climate deniers.

Climate deniers, Norgaard argues, know that the climate is changing and that humans have played a serious role in that. However, even with that knowledge, they don't change their actions!

Taking a look at her case study, the town of Bygdaby is known for skiing. Advertisements feature children with skiis. There is an outdoor club which features skiing at its core. Even farmers in the winter ski during the winter for transportation.

But the town is facing two problems: the snow is coming later and leaving earlier, creating a shorter ski season and Norway is producing more oil. Can't they see that their use of oil is in part destroying skiing, their way of life?

Add about Bygdaby. Photo courtesy of  SkepticalScience.com

Add about Bygdaby. Photo courtesy of SkepticalScience.com

Living in Denial gets into the nuances of being a climate denier. People have to live one way, and think anther. She identifies socio-emotional barriers like fear, helplessness, and guilt that block the population from doing radical reform instantly.

If a country like 'nature loving' Norway has a problem with climate deniers, what hope does America have? As much negativity as this book can bring up in our own lives, it is a great opportunity for reflection and growth as we head into this new age.

Again, the book dives into so many more details, but I'll leave you with one of the more positive quotes. When you do have time, it is necesarry for all of us to confront the fact that we are climate deniers so that we can start making positive change.

There is already a momentum building for communities to uncover how climate change is manifesting in their local contexts and from there to respond.
— Norgaard