Shifting baseline syndrome

Experimental visualization of narrower problems
Other Names:
Deceptive new normal

As circumstances change, what we think of as normal and healthy -- the baseline -- shifts to keep up with experienced reality.


The new normal tends to surface after two main sorts of occasions: traumatic national events — like the World Wars and 9/11 — and catastrophic economic events: the Great Depression, the oil embargoes of the 1970s and the market crash of 2008.  The phrase began to be associated with global warming around the early 2000s and its use has ramped up in reference to extreme weather events driven by climate change; also after disastrous wildfires, hurricanes, heatwaves and drought.  All of these circumstances have something in common: they are times of transition and times of uncertainty; they describe situations that are radically different than what came before them.


There is a complacency in the face of radical climate change:  that we’ll forget the way that things used to be, become blind to the environmental destruction happening around us and fail to act to save what’s left.

Counter Claim:

The idea that normal is this fixed star by which we orient everything else around us — that’s not rooted in actual reality.  When people invoke the “new normal,” they’re not referring to an unchanging, static condition, but rather “a measure of uncertainty and worsening danger.” 

Broader Problems:
Global amnesia
Using baselines
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
14.08.2018 – 04:22 CEST