Some Zoos, Aquariums Still Ponder Approach to Global Warming

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JaySi /

August 26, 2012; Source: New York Times

Many nonprofits are specifically focused on educating the public about climate change and environmental stewardship, but in terms of “teachable moments” in these areas, zoos and aquariums may be among the best positioned to deliver the message about dangers to our planet. As reported in the New York Times, “Surveys show that American zoos and aquariums enjoy a high level of public trust and are ideally positioned to teach.” That would seem to make these venues an ideal place to encourage action that would help preserve and protect our environment, but there is one problem: people tend to view a trip to the zoo or aquarium as a fun excursion, and this has left some hesitant to tackle such weighty matters as Earth’s future.

“You don’t want them walking away saying, ‘I paid to get in, I bought my kid a hot dog, I just want to show my kid a fish—and you are making me feel bad about climate change,” says Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Vice President for Conservation and Education Paul Boyle.

In 2008, a coalition of aquariums received a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to train staff on addressing the issue without turning people away, and Boyle says that most of the AZA’s 224 member organizations currently communicate information about climate change in one way or another. Research has found that it is helpful to emphasize positive actions that individuals can take to help rather than just focusing on the enormity of the problem.

Many zoos and aquariums are structured as nonprofits with a mission emphasizing their educational nature. However, many zoo and aquarium attendees view a trip to these venues less as an educational outing and more as a chance for entertainment. Even if it defies attendees’ expectations, don’t tax-exempt zoos and aquariums have an educational responsibility to address major forces, like climate change, that are shaping our ecosystems? –Mike Keefe-Feldman

  • Mike Haseler

    As a non profit making organisation trying to promote common sense science rather than hysterical non-science of global warming, we know there are a lot of ordinary people who are fed up with the government and wind industry propaganda machine which has been feeding the public with lies for a decade.

    E.g. did you know that cutting down forest is a significant contributor to global warming? No? Well the reason you are not being told that changing land use causes heating (and flooding) is because certain people with a political agenda don’t want the public to hear that CO2 is not the main contribution to recent climate variation.

    Have you also heard that the success of reducing pollution after the 1970s, cleared the atmosphere and let more sunlight in … which also caused warming? No? Again, this doesn’t fit the anti-capitalist politics of certain environmental groups.

    So, this is the facts. CO2 is a greenhouse warming gas. If this trace gas doubles over the next century, this greenhouse warming effect will cause around 1°C warming. This is a figure agreed by most climate scientists and e.g. the IPCC, so it is not controversial.

    What is controversial is that between 1970 and 2000, there was a 0.48°C rise which certain academics say would continue. Obviously, as it did not continue after 2000, this assertion isn’t universally accepted, and their credibility isn’t helped because many are the same people who claimed we were going into an iceage in the 1970s after a short period of cooling. Perhaps more apt, is that it also warmed between 1910 to 1940, by 0.48°C at the same rate BEFORE CO2 rise and miraculously it did not end in doomsday warming. In other words, most of the 1970-2000 must be natural and not man-made.

    Science is on our side. The press are slowly coming around to our view. More and more of the public are sceptical of the non-science they’ve been told, so now isn’t the right time to suddenly adopt a failing bandwagon.