Why people in the US south stay put in the face of climate change

(The Guardian, 24 Jan 2019) From New Orleans to the Florida panhandle, many have built up psychological resilience after living through years of extreme weather.

I’ve long felt America, particularly the south, where I grew up, is in the “denial” stage of grief when it comes to our psychological response to climate change.

The sixth mass extinction has begun, our oceans are warming 40% faster than scientists anticipated, and the US’s carbon dioxide emissions rose 3.4% in 2018. How, I wonder, is everyone so calm? So business-as-usual?

The field of ecopsychology explores our connection to nature, and the way it affects our state of mind. Many of us fail to realize how essential that connection is.

Given that southern Florida – with its billions of dollars of vulnerable real estate on exposed coastline – is considered by many scientists as ground zero for climate change, I started my listening tour there. Floridians receive a constant stream of bad climate news. I was curious: does the state of the environment – specifically, the pending losses of biodiversity, tourism and property, and the prediction of category 6 hurricanes – keep people up at night?

After a long morning of driving through the Everglades, I stopped at Joanie’s Blue Crab Cafe, a vibrant red shack on the side of Highway 41 in Ochopee. “Sit anywhere you like, baby,” Lisa, the waitress, said.

I grabbed a bottle of Coors from the cooler, and sat on the sun-soaked back deck overlooking a stretch of water lined with sawgrass and frequented by alligators. Over a few hours I saw cypress swamps, mangrove forests, osprey, bald eagles, roseate spoonbills and sandhill cranes. Even though there has been a 90% loss of wading birds in the Everglades this century, there is still so much left to lose.

External link

The Guardian, 24 Jan 2019: Why people in the US south stay put in the face of climate change