In 2010, Harvard released a study that tracked the attention spans of more than 2,200 subjects and concluded that we are not paying attention to our present moment 47 percent of the time.
And who can be surprised? The news and public conversations are moving faster than ever (they measured collective attention on Twitter by looking at how long individual hashtags stayed in the list of 50 most popular hashtags; in 2013, they remained, on average, for a shockingly-short 17.5 hours. In 2016, that was reduced to 11.9 hours and that number is dropping).
Our lives are busy and full. I read climate news and I follow climate science, but I have a lot to be keeping up with: a full-time job, a house and garden to care for, a dog in desperate need of training, family concerns, an exercise routine to maintain, and a lot more besides.
Layer a pandemic in there and keeping up with the climate movement seems inconvenient, if not impossible. About 73% of Napans say they believe that climate change is real, caused by human activity, and requires intervention.
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Our attention and our time are both at an all-time premium and the very large, urgent problem of climate change seems out-sized, intimidating, but beyond the immediate pressure to get dinner on the table.
How then can we ask individuals to change? How can we better prepare ourselves to take action? Well, in this case, software and technology has given us a simple time management method, called batch processing. Others call this time management approach “batch tasking.”
Essentially, early engineers found that grouping similar processing tasks simultaneously (in batches) offered more efficiency for those computer programs. And our human minds work similarly. Instead of worrying about climate change in our small spare moments where we can’t make any real headway, we ought to set aside some dedicated portion of time (not whole days, not an overhaul to our lives) and take a few key actions that will give you the best bang for your buck. And then you can return to your regularly scheduled program where you’re making sure to give the cat her flea medications and calling your uncle to wish him ‘happy birthday’ and not distractedly thinking about the warming of the planet.
Napa Climate NOW! decided to address this challenge by creating a single half-day course that will give anyone in the community the skills they need to talk about climate change in their community, generate action in their local government, and inspire action in others. They can then take all that learning and apply it when necessary, during specific times instead of defining their entire lives by this issue.
Nearly two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions are linked either directly or indirectly to human consumption. The choices we make every day in what we buy, how we dress, and where we go contribute to our climate footprint. But that journey to change those choices can start in discrete categories of time: a half day here, an hour there, an afternoon now and then. And in this way, we can start to embody the solution over time.
Napa residents care about this issue. More than the rest of the country, in fact. That’s several points above the national average – probably because here in Napa we are experiencing the first wave of climate impacts from our fires. Napans just need to have the time and space to take meaningful action and then get back to the rest of their lives. The way that I get to go to the gym for one part of my day, but don’t spend my whole life trying to become a body-builder.
Don’t you have an afternoon to get started?
Actions you can take:
1. Apply to attend our Napa Climate Advocacy Training on July 25 – it’s meant for people with busy lives who still want to make a difference in their spare time. You’ll meet climate scientists, local elected leaders, and some of your neighbors. Visit napa.350bayarea.org/climate-advocacy-training
2. Watch or listen to Climate Action Committee meetings. Meeting times and agendas are available at napa.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=32.
3. Start with a simple change: switch out your light bulbs for some energy-efficient ones, start rotating in a few delicious vegan meals a week or start composting food scraps. Not every shift needs to be seismic.
Napa Climate NOW! is a local non-profit citizens’ group advocating for smart climate solutions based on the latest climate science, part of 350 Bay Area. Find us at Facebook or through http://napa.350bayarea.org
Jessica Day is co-founder and chief marketing officer at IdeaScale, a crowdsourcing software. She holds an MFA in creative writing, is a member of Napa Climate NOW! and regularly speaks about climate action.