Our actions today will determine just how bad climate change will become. But which emotions best drive a person to become politically active? Hope? Anger? Persevering through complacency? What if the fundamental challenge is actually our attention?

This last question gets at a particular theory in psychology that has undergone a revolution in the past few years. It’s a hypothesis called the “finite pool of worry,” coined in 2006 by Elke Weber, a psychologist and Princeton University professor. It states that people can only handle so many negative events at a time. So when public concern about one issue rises, another concern should fall. The theory gained attention after the 2008 financial crisis for explaining why heightened economic worries led the public to tune out on climate.