September 02, 2004

9/2 - Zero Ocean Awareness: Welcome to U.S.C.!

Last week I spoke to 33 U.S.C. freshmen (whose career directions ranged from business to pre-law to journalism) about ocean conservation and gave them a little quiz to test the depth of their knowledge of ocean conservation, which turns out to be pretty much zippo. Asked to name three "ocean conservation groups," most left it blank, others offered up such enlightened answers as Red Lobster, Sonar, Save the Whales, and E.P.A. (three people). The only real conservation groups mentioned were Greenpeace (2) and WWF (1).

None were able to explain what MPA or MLPA meant (though one answered Motion Picture Association). Out of a list of five fish (halibut, mahi mahi, tilapia, Chilean seabass, wild caught Alaska salmon), 8 of 33 picked Chilean Seabass as the species least sustainable, which is slightly more than the 6.6 that you would predict from random choice. Most of them (18) chose wild caught Alaska salmon. When told that, "shrimp harvesting damages the oceans, but there are currently no major protests or boycotts underway against shrimp fishing. Knowing this, are you likely to stop eating shrimp today?" All 33 answered "no."

University of Skimpy Conservation (knowledge)

Posted by Randy Olson at September 2, 2004 12:27 PM

And why aren't these students more eco-savvy? I wonder how many of them were exposed to environmental issues in high school. I'd guess few, if any. Which makes me wonder how many of their teachers had a clue about environmental decline....or how THEY would far with the same questions.

I just returned from speaking to a group of students at San Jose State University, all training to be teachers. When I asked why they think so few teachers teach ecological issues in the classroom, the answers ranged from, "too busy teaching to state standards to veer from the traditional curricula" to "don't want to depress kids when they are young and impressionable."

If this is what many teachers think, its no wonder these USC students scored so poorly....

Posted by: Anna at September 2, 2004 03:32 PM