Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 21 Issue 03

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Volume 21, No. 3
Pages 66 - 73

Fantasy or Fiction: Waking Up to the Public's Lack of Understanding

Ellen Prager | NOAA’s Aquarius Reef Base in Key Largo, FL, operated by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and a freelance writer based in Miami

First Paragraph

Once upon a time, in a land faraway, there was a society in which people understood and were excited about science, especially ocean science. I first dreamed of this place a few years ago as I sat behind a wall of one-way glass watching as group after group of coastal residents participating in a marketing research activity revealed their ignorance, and even worse, indifference, about the environment and, specifically, the ocean. They were a diverse group of individuals in terms of ethnicity, affluence, and education; they were brought together by an ocean-related industry to assess their responses to and understanding of certain environmental and ocean issues. My horror reached a peak when all but a few, including the educator in the bunch, explained or agreed that global warming is due to sun shining through the ozone hole. “Nooooooo!” That’s me knocking my head on the wall behind the glass. Several people said they did not think that the environment affected them personally and, while many of the individuals present were aware of ocean issues, they had little knowledge or understanding of the science involved.


Prager, E. 2008. Fantasy or fiction: Waking up to the public’s lack of understanding. Oceanography 21(3):66–73, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2008.37.