theconversation | But of course events are unfolding in the world outside the hypernormal narrative of business as usual: the well-documented forces unleashed by the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, the ongoing extinction and displacement of countless species, warming and acidifying oceans, deforestation and arctic melting.
These forces are the product of industrial society and capitalism, now exacerbated by the demands of a globalised consumerism. We know that the practices and pastimes that make up these societies, including frequent and long-haul flying, are unsustainable. Every government leader in the world knows this. But the psychological and social processes we engage in to avoid confronting the implications of climate change are now well documented in the social sciences – as individual and collective forms of denial.
It is even claimed that the closer a threatening event, the more manically we defend existing worldviews and associated ways of life. There is no reason to assume that these dynamics are any less prevalent in our leaders and decision-makers in business, government and trade unions.
These dynamics of denial and displacement are precisely those that reflect and maintain a state of hypernormalisation. So airport expansion can be heralded unequivocally as “momentous”, “correct” and “bold” in the same week that global concentrations of CO2 pass 400 parts per million. It is a policy move which simply does not make sense … unless we are operating in an atmosphere of hypernormalisation.
Defending it on behalf of our “economic future” is a grotesquely comic perpetuation of that fakery. If it goes ahead, it is likely that history will judge the expansion of Heathrow as an act of collusive madness, a desperate attempt to add another coat to the painted theatre set of the hypernormal.