Discussing climate change in informal education
"With many zoos and aquariums now working with conservation organizations and financed by individuals who feel strongly about threatened habitats and species, managers have been wrestling with how aggressive to be in educating visitors on the perils of climate change," reports The New York Times (August 26, 2012). "Surveys show that American zoos and aquariums enjoy a high level of public trust and are ideally positioned to teach," the Times explains. "Yet many managers are fearful of alienating visitors — and denting ticket sales — with tours or wall labels that dwell bleakly on damaged coral reefs, melting ice caps or dying trees."
The solution: "a patter that would intrigue rather than daunt or depress the average visitor." Paul Boyle, the senior vice president for conservation and education at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, told the Times that most of the association's 224 member institutions have some sort of climate message. The AZA itself is encouraging its member institutions to engage their visitors in understanding climate change, observing, "Overwhelming international scientific consensus confirms that human activities are disturbing Earth's climate ... Effects from climate change are already threatening biodiversity and human health and are expected to increase."