Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Even though some of the more severe consequences of climate change such as forest fires and long-term drought are increasingly impacting communities in Northern Arizona, climate change itself is rarely talked about. If it is, it is fogged in alternative theories for why large-scale ecological changes are occurring. In this paper, I take as an ethnographic starting point a Republican Party picnic held in a remote location in the Havasupai Mountains prior to the 2018 Midterm elections where I try to talk about climate change with attendees. The responses reveal the varying flavours of denial with inflections towards alternative political, scientific and religious explanations. Wedded with material from long-term ethnographic engagement in rural Northern Arizona, these responses offer a route to complexify climate change denial. Some responses adhered to the explanatory framework offered by Oreskes and Conway’s contribution to Agnotology (2008), in which climate change denial was a politically constructed form of ignorance. Yet other forms of climate change denial are absent from Oreskes and Conway’s topdown account that describes a trickle-down effect of self-serving denial spread by scientific and political elites. In this paper, the ethnographic material elaborates the varieties of everyday climate change denial and the wider counter-narrative discourses that could be deemed conspiratorial, casting doubt on all forms of elite knowledge and the authority claimed therein. It problematizes the assumption of naive masses spoonfed denial by cynical elites, and instead examines the questions of complicity and expectations of the future raised by respondents.