In the New York Times today, reporter Leslie Kaufman writes about zoos grappling with how aggressive to be in educating visitors on the perils of climate change, fearful that too much bad news about damaged coral reefs, melting ice caps or vanishing species, might dent ticket sales.
Some zoos and aquariums have held back, relegating information about climate change to nothing more than signs—about Arctic melting, for example, posted in the polar bear exhibit. On the other hand, many zoos and acquariums have put climate change “front and center.”
This month, the National Science Foundation awarded a coalition of aquariums $5.5 million for a five-year education effort to train staffs to develop ways of conveying information about climate change that will intrigue rather than daunt or depress the average visitor.
Most of the 224 members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums now have some sort of climate message.
Unsurprisingly, talking about climate change in some locales is a tough sell. At the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Brian Davis, the vice president for education and training, says to this day his institution ensures its guests will not hear the term global warming. Visitors are “Very conservative,” he said. “When they hear certain terms, our guests shut down. We’ve seen it happen.”
Denial is not just a river in Africa.