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- Stage 1: Experts and activists call attention to a public problem.
- Stage 2: The "alarmed media and political class discover the issue" and often stir up "euphoric enthusiasm ... as activists conceive the issue in terms of global peril and salvation."
- Stage 3: The "hinge," characterized by "a gradually spreading realization that the cost of ‘solving’ the problem is very high indeed."
- Stage 4: The "gradual decline in the intensity of public interest in the problem."
- Stage 5: A "prolonged limbo—a twilight realm of lesser attention or spasmodic recurrences of interest," which often involves "painful trade-offs" that activists simply aren't willing to make.