In a recent interview with Wired, Whitman College sociologist Kari Marie Norgaard, discussed the problem as it relates to climate change:
"Climate change is disturbing. It's something we don't want to think about. So what we do in our everyday lives is create a world where it's not there, and keep it distant. For relatively privileged people like myself, we don't have to see the impact in everyday life. I can read about different flood regimes in Bangladesh, or people in the Maldives losing their islands to sea level rise, or highways in Alaska that are altered as permafrost changes. But that's not my life. We have a vast capacity for this. . .
"In order to have a positive sense of self-identity and get through the day, we're constantly being selective of what we think about and pay attention to. To create a sense of a good, safe world for ourselves, we screen out all kinds of information, from where food comes from to how our clothes our made. When we talk with our friends, we talk about something pleasant. . .
"Stanford University psychologist Jon Krosnick has studied this, and showed that people stop paying attention to climate change when they realize there's no easy solution. People judge as serious only those problems for which actions can be taken.
"Another factor is that we no longer have a sense of permanence. Another psychologist, Robert Lifton, wrote about what the existence of atomic bombs did to our psyche. There was a sense that the world could end at any moment.
"Global warming is the same in that it threatens the survival of our species. Psychologists tell us that it's very important to have a sense of the continuity of life. That's why we invest in big monuments and want our work to stand after we die and have our family name go on.
"That sense of continuity is being ruptured. But climate change has an added aspect that is very important. The scientists who built nuclear bombs felt guilt about what they did. Now the guilt is real for the broader public."
And there is another aspect that psychologist Bruce E. Levine noted:
"When one already feels beaten down and demoralized, the likely response to the pain of shame is not constructive action, but more attempts to shut down or divert oneself from this pain. It is not likely that the truth of one's humiliating oppression is going to energize one to constructive actions.
"U.S. citizens do not actively protest obvious injustices for the same reasons that people cannot leave their abusive spouses: They feel helpless to effect change. The more we don't act, the weaker we get. . .
"The U.S. population is increasingly broken by the social isolation created by corporate-governmental policies. A 2006 American Sociological Review reported that, in 2004, 25 percent of Americans did not have a single confidant. (In 1985, 10 percent of Americans reported not having a single confidant.) . . .
"Today, increasing numbers of people in the U.S. who do not comply with authority are being diagnosed with mental illnesses and medicated with psychiatric drugs that make them less pained about their boredom, resentments, and other negative emotions, thus rendering them more compliant and manageable.. . .
"When human beings feel too terrified and broken to actively protest, they may stage a 'passive-aggressive revolution' by simply getting depressed, staying drunk, and not doing anything -- this is one reason why the Soviet empire crumbled. However, the diseasing/medicalizing of rebellion and drug 'treatments' have weakened the power of even this passive-aggressive revolution."
"Let's live on the planet as if we intend to stay."