Gulf
Main image: ‘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.’ Illustration: Eiko Ojala

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

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?

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