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Narrative: Ocean Acidification
Background
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Narrative: Ocean Acidification
Background
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Teaching goals of this narrative

The Ocean Acidification (OA) narrative has the following main learning objectives:

  • We have a shared obligation to find and use ways to manage our natural resources responsibly, for the interests of future generations.
  • Society’s reliance on fossil fuels is changing the chemistry of the ocean. When the ocean absorbs the excess CO2 emitted through the burning of fossil fuels, it becomes more acidic, harming marine life and undermining the stability of the whole ecosystem. This is called ocean acidification.
  • The key to addressing ocean acidification is to shift to forms of energy that do not emit carbon dioxide.
  • Initiatives, programs, and policy-level solutions are changing the way our communities use energy—shifting our energy use in more responsible directions.

Communications challenges to consider

Ocean acidification is a new topic for the public—people are typically not aware of it. When they encounter the term, most guess that the cause is acid rain or ocean dumping. Despite the “cognitive hole” around OA, we know from social science that our visitors bring prior knowledge and perceptions that need to be considered in crafting the learning experience. Specifically, be aware that these widely shared patterns of thinking are likely to shape the way your visitors think about this topic:

  • Environmental problems are big, scary, and depressing…and there’s nothing we can do.
  • Nature works in cycles—nature will self-correct.
  • The ocean is vast and invincible; any damage we do is a “drop in the bucket” and it will heal itself.
  • Contradictory patterns in public thinking about seafood: The ocean is inexhaustible, like a bottomless grocery store. And/or, supplies are running out, so better eat it while you can!
  • What happens in the ocean does not affect life on land.
  • Carbon dioxide is a part of the natural world; therefore it is not harmful to people.
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