UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"Bailing with a red SOLO® cup" : recognition, disregard, and the everyday horror of climate crisis in coastal Florida Jewell, Kendra


By many metrics, the state of Florida is “ground zero” for climate change in continental North America. The reasons for this are manifold: stifling heat, stronger hurricanes, and the swelling ocean combine with ambitious development policies and conservative state leadership that obscure environmental risk in service to capital. In urban centers like Miami, seemingly countless organizations and committees are working to confront the climate crisis head on. Five hours away, in Florida’s whiter, more rural zones, what can seem like extreme environmental risk doesn’t necessarily translate into a fear of – or even a belief in – global climate change. The end result in Florida is a morbidly fascinating cultural-epistemological dissonance, a contradiction in culture and risk perception that’s reaching a fever pitch as the waters rise. In this dissertation, which draws on multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork undertaken in Miami and along Florida’s Gulf Coast, I analyze how the stark realities of environmental shift are felt, integrated, and resisted by people on the front lines of the climate crisis. Specifically, I explore how seemingly different responses to the climate crisis in Florida are steeped in parallel habits of denialism and instincts of environmental mastery that have been ingrained in settler bodies over centuries of brutal domination. I argue that looking away from climate change – whether it’s denied outright or manifests in climate change dissonance – might be thought of as subsumed within a much vaster culture of denial and disregard that finds roots in the horrors of colonialism, slavery, and capitalism more broadly construed. Responsibly mitigating the climate crisis requires reckoning with this culture, lest people and policymakers end up thinking the horrors of climate change are “just part of the thing,” the white noise we all adjust to without even thinking.

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