The theory was tested by asking 50 villagers in Cherry Burton, Yorkshire, which birds they thought were most common in the village 20 years ago, and which were most common in 2006.
The results showed that only the older residents could correctly identify the most common birds from 20 years ago – both young and old were equally accurate at identifying current species. Also, people who said that there had been no change in bird population(whereas, in fact, the number of sparrows and starlings had been in decline) were more likely to name birds that are common today, rather than those in the past.
The researchers believe that this shows wildlife knowledge is not being passed from older to younger people, meaning that the current state of affairs becomes the new ‘norm’ and people will more readily accept a degraded environment.
This article first appeared in the Ecologist April 2009