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Attention Span

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"Attention Span"

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Kevin Grandia, Dave Roberts, and Brad Johnson (my photo available under cc license)

Kevin Grandia, Dave Roberts, and Brad Johnson (my photo available under cc license)

I’m sitting here at a climate change panel and one theme in a lot of folks’ presentations is something I’ve heard at pretty much every climate panel I’ve attended in the past two years—people complaining that the progressive community isn’t sufficiently interested in their issue. And, yeah, climate change is really important! But is there any issue community that doesn’t feel this way? It seems to me that health care gets about as much coverage as a substantive policy issue possibly could be and then after that everyone else is just starved for attention.

I mean, how much do I read about tax policy? Or housing? On some of my pet interests in transportation and land use, you pretty much only here about these things as a sub-set of the climate change issue. And of course that’s an important aspect of transportation and land use policy, but there’s more to it than that.

At any rate, people don’t necessarily focus very much on this, but one of the fundamental facts of the modern world is that technology progresses and the stock of human culture grows, but we don’t add any more time to the day. Attention is, in many ways, the scarcest resource of all. This is why people don’t cook as much as Michael Pollan thinks they should, people don’t read as much as they used to, and people don’t pay as much attention to climate change as they should.

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