Can visiting a zoo lead us to care more about climate change? Susan Clayton, a conservation psychologist and professor at the College of Wooster, says it can.

Child at the zoo

Clayton: “There’s so many reasons why people don’t pay attention to climate change, but one of the important ones, I think, is that it seems very distant to people.”

Clayton does research at zoos and aquariums, observing how visitors interact with animals and other species, and studying how these experiences change their attitudes towards conservation. She and her team have surveyed over seven thousand zoo and aquarium visitors, and have identified two key findings: one – people tend to go to the zoo with friends and family, and two – seeing the animals in person often evokes positive emotions of awe, wonder, and caring.

Susan Clayton
Susan Clayton

So, Clayton says that when information about climate change is provided near the exhibits, it can encourage both education and conversation about the threats to these animals in a politically neutral setting.

Zoo experiences help people ‘leap over’ the barriers of political ideology. Click To Tweet

Clayton: “I think the kinds of experiences we have in the zoo help us to transcend or leap over that barrier that political ideology can present to learning about climate change.”

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Zoo photo: Copyright protected.

More Resources
Science in action: the human zoo
Connecting to nature at the zoo: implications for responding to climate change

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