A central conundrum in the need to infuse a long-term perspective into climate policy and other environmental decision-making is the widespread belief that humans are inherently short-term thinkers. An analysis of human decision-making informed by evolved adaptations—biological, psychological and cultural—suggests that humans actually have a long-term thinking capacity. In fact, the human time horizon encompasses both the immediate and the future (near and far term). And yet this very temporal duality makes people susceptible to manipulation; it carries its own politics, a politics of the short term. A “legacy politics” would extend the prevailing time horizon by identifying structural factors that build on evolved biological and cultural factors.

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