Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Sociology Professor Kari Norgaard thinks people believe in global warming, but behave as if it wasn’t an issue, by numbing themselves to the reality.
Climate Change in the Age of Numbing
“We live in one way, and we think in another. We learn to think in parallel. It’s a skill, an art of living.”
By: Kari Marie Norgaard
It was not long after my arrival in Bygdaby — a pseudonym I use for an actual rural community in western Norway — that I began to sense a paradox. Norwegians are among the most highly educated people in the world. Global warming was frequently mentioned during my time in Bygdaby, and community members seemed to be both informed and concerned about it. Yet at the same time it was an uncomfortable issue. People were aware that climate change could radically alter life within the next decades, yet they did not go about their days wondering what life would be like for their children, whether farming practices would change in Bygdaby, or whether their grandchildren would be able to ski on real snow. They spent their days thinking about more local, manageable topics.
Ingrid, a local high school student, described how “you have the knowledge, but you live in a completely different world.” Vigdis told me that she was afraid of global warming, but that it didn’t enter her everyday life: “I often get afraid, like — it goes very much up and down, then, with how much I think about it. But if I sit myself down and think about it, it could actually happen; I thought about how if this here continues, we could come to have no difference between winter and spring and summer, like — and lots of stuff about the ice that is melting and that there will be flooding, like, and that is depressing, the way I see it.”
Community members describe climate change as an issue that they have to “sit themselves down and think about,” “don’t think about in the everyday,” “but that in between is discouraging and an emotional weight.” People in Bygdaby did know about global warming, but they did not integrate this knowledge into everyday life.
Read more: https://thereader.mitpress.mit.edu/climate-change-in-the-age-of-numbing/
Kari seems to assume people believe and are desperately worried, but psychologically numb themselves to the awful knowledge of imminent doom so they can function in their daily lives.
The other possibility of course is that people are a bit worried, but not worried enough to act on their concern.
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