Just because it doesn’t affect you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care

By Skylar Bouchard, Columnist

As of right now, we are going through the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, but everyday life seems to have continued on as usual.

Since I haven’t seen a change in my day-to-day life, it is all too easy for me to forget about the government shutdown in its entirety. It’s probably the same case for many people in the U.S. One can easily forget about a problem affecting others once the story gets old. However, real problems do not go away as quickly or easily as people’s attention spans are capable of forgetting.

Although life hasn’t seemed to change for the average American — the post office is still sending mail, airports are remaining open and the military is still running smoothly — obvious problems persist. In the 32 days of the government shutdown, there are still around eight hundred thousand Americans that are not getting paid. We can’t forget about a problem simply because it does not affect us directly.

This is a recurring theme when it comes to the way people consume news. An issue arises, and at its peak, it sure looks like everyone the entire world is focused on this issue. Until the next piece of news arises. The problem then fades from the spotlight until it’s no longer mentioned, even at the dinner table. It’s these same problems where, in most cases, nothing was done to address or fix it.

When Josh Fox, director and environmental activist, released his 2010 documentary “Gasland,” almost everyone who watched it possessed an interest in the issue of fracking, which is when workers pump water or chemicals into rocks in order to extract oil. This documentary had caught the attention of the everyday American, even inciting images of people lighting their faucet water on fire. The public became extremely concerned about fracking’s impact on water contamination. As time passed on, people lost interest, and the problem was never thoroughly addressed.

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According to a study done by Duke University, water usage from fracking has increased by 770 percent. Despite the public’s awareness, the problem has gotten worse rather than better because it is so easy to forget something after the initial outcry. In the long run, Josh Fox’s documentary did nothing to lessen the damage caused by fracking.

It is human nature to focus on problems that appear more urgent rather than focusing on long-term issues. This instinct is further magnified by the internet and the 24-hour news cycle, which further lessens the public’s attention span. Most Americans care about what directly affects themselves or their family and friends, and that’s definitely not a bad thing. But at the same time, forgetting a problem you see on the 5 o’clock news because it’s convenient only makes you more apathetic.

Don’t allow the tragedies and atrocities to quietly slip away from the public’s attention where they could continue causing further damage.

Skylar is a freshman in ACES.

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