Silence about Climate Change doesn't just afflicts US politicians.

This summer, Grist has been running a series of videos called Slow Ride Stories, produced by Erik Fyfe and Albert Thrower, who are traveling the Northeast by motorcycle, talking to people about extreme weather and climate change. What strikes you about these videos is not the different opinions about global warming, but the fact that, almost without exception, people squirm when Fyfe and Thrower raise the subject.

Connecticut farmer Art Talmadge put it this way:

"We know what we’re dealing with — that the climate is changing — but we don’t really talk about it as climate change … When I talk to other guys that are growing, it’ll just be, “Man, it was hot,” or “Man, it was cold,” … but that’s the end of the conversation and nobody ever talks about why …" [emphasis mine]

Elephants In The Room: Urban Poverty, Climate Change, And Other Pro...

If you think Climate Change Deniers are just the right wing fringe who refuse to face scientific facts, your concept of denial is too simplistic. In her sociological study of of climate change denial,Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life, Kari Marie Norgaard speaks of (chapter 2) "Experiencing" Global Warming: Troubling Events and Public Silence. She describes what we perceive as normal reality as a social process, wherein public failure to mention climate change is an unconscious common  agreement to avert attention. In other words this is how denial manifests socially, even when individuals admit climate change to themselves. In chapter 4 "The Cultural Tool Kit, Part One: Cultural Norms of Attention, Emotion, and Conversation" she describes ways we escape uncomfortable emotions through norms of averting attention and public silence.

Even those of us who are concerned, even anxious about Climate Destabilization, are pressured by these norms. We may find it difficult to raise the topic or express strong feelings about it, in public spaces.

Tags: climate change denial, cultural norms of denial, elephant in the room

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Replies to This Discussion

Describing to my cousins the violence that occurred in my family, my aunt Martha yelled at me. I told her everything I said was true. Aunt Martha said, "I know it is true but we don't talk about it!"

Fingernails on a blackboard!

That is what happens to people who describe climate change and its potential consequences; "We don't talk about it!" 

Yes, I'm afraid that they think that by not talking about it then it will just go away.

The elephant is in the room and everyone is avoiding the topic.

The US House GOP eliminates even "concern" over climate warming this year.

Blinded By The Right: House GOP Deletes Climate Change ‘Concern’ Fr...

...the new version of the House anti-climate bill omits a “sense of Congress” statement that was in the April 2011 bill the House passed:

There is established scientific concern over warming of the climate system based upon evidence from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.”

Even that uber-mild statement is now apparently too much for the blinkered anti-science crowd in the U.S. House.

In fact, “concern” is about the weakest possible word you could use to describe how most climate scientists view our current predicament (see Lonnie Thompson on why climatologists are speaking out: “Virtually all of us are now convinced that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilization”).

 

At last, in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy a few TV news reporters and commentators are mentioning climate change! See the link for video excerpts.

Watch: Television News Starts Covering The Link Between Climate Cha...

... as broadcast journalists transition from tracking Superstorm Sandy to covering its aftermath, some television outlets are starting to explore the role of climate change in more detail. Starting yesterday afternoon, there was an increase in climate-related stories, with extensive segments appearing on Al Jazeera, Current TV, MSNBC, and NBC. (There were also a couple segments on Fox, both of which were used to raise doubts about climate science).

... New York Governor Andrew Cuomo lamented the “new normal” for extreme weather.

“There has been a series of extreme weather incidents. That is not a political statement, that is a factual statement. Anyone who says there is not a dramatic change in weather patterns is denying reality,” said Cuomo.

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