Published on March 7th, 2019 | by Carolyn Fortuna0
What If Climate Change Were A Game? Earth’s Existential Threat Made Tangible
March 7th, 2019 by Carolyn Fortuna
During the design of a Sports and Popular Culture course, I wanted my students to grasp keenly the concept of socioeconomic status (SES) differences. So I created a game called, “Take Me out to the Ballgame,” where each student would be assigned the fictitious task of bringing a favorite niece and nephew to a matinee for the Boston Red Sox. During the course of the game, students would pick cards that would have an associated cost. These included travel to and from the stadium, tickets, snacks, souvenirs, lunch, and bonus cards. Students could find themselves with low transportation costs, as the game prescribed that they lived near the stadium. Their tickets might be affordable bleacher seats or the extraordinarily expensive Monster Seats. They might have refillable water bottles or $6 sodas. Even a rain delay could make a difference, as a bonus card required the additional cost of a hotel room for the play the next afternoon.
Students were smug if they had accumulated affordable costs by the end of the game — say, $300 or less — and wide-eyed if they had been charged around $1000. We deconstructed afterward by describing how something as innocuous as a MLB game could be accessible for some and prohibitive for others, based on SES differences, regardless of work ethic or intense fandom.
This game has been on my mind lately as I’ve been advocating alongside Sunrisers to promote a legislative agenda around the Green New Deal. Many climate deniers contact the group, berating everything from the reality of climate change to what they deem as unnecessary financial costs to local communities. I realized that, if these resistors had an opportunity to play “The Climate Change Game,” they might have an opportunity to see how their decisions really do have an effect on the sum of all emissions of greenhouse gases like CO2 which are induced by daily activities.
The Climate Change Game
Each player starts with 100 points. You gain or lose points based on decisions that you make which do or do not contribute to anthropogenic climate change.
You’re out to dinner with your good friends. You have a choice to order a big juicy cheeseburger or a salad brimming with nuts, berries, and a wide assortment of vegetables. You are aware that switching to a plant-based diet not only benefits your health — it can help protect the environment, as well. You see that your pals are going full burger, baby, and you join them. Lose 5 points.
You survey the origin of the produce and other foodstuffs that you’re buying at the grocery, favoring local items because they incur fewer travel miles and associated emissions. Earn 5 points.
You retrieve plastics that have washed up onshore every time you walk the beach on those sun-sparked summer days. Earn 5 points.
You bring the kids to the new wind turbines in your region and explain to them their long-term benefits. Earn 5 points.
You gather together a dozen neighbors on Earth Day and, wearing bright orange vests, pick up litter that has accumulated over the long winter. Earn 5 points.
You ask your kids to sit with your parents and have them listen to stories about what the life, earth, and climate was like 50 years ago. Those stories would likely include references to earlier frosts in northern geographic areas, sleeping in forced hot air bedrooms rather than climate controlled rooms, growing vegetables in a backyard garden, lakes healthy with indigenous plants, or biking rather than driving well into their late teens. Earn 10 points.
You replant a farmer’s fallow field with neighbors in an effort like an old-fashioned community barn-raising. We know that replanting and improving how we manage forests and avoiding wetland conversion could tackle a third of global greenhouse gas reductions needed by 2030 to stay on track with the Paris Agreement to keep global temperatures increases well below 2°C. Earn 10 points.
You advocate with your local school board to make a climate change curriculum required in all grades. Earn 15 points.
You divest your stock portfolio of all fossil fuel holdings. You see your ROI drop, but you know your fiscal decision has real consequences for renewable, clean energy in the future. Earn 20 points.
Your neighbor asks you to join their carpool. You know that driving yourself to work in your internal combustion engine (ICE) everyday adds significant emissions to the atmosphere, but your personal convenience of being able to come and go when it’s good for you outweighs the environmental costs. Lose 20 points.
You weigh your options when it’s time to purchase a new personal transportation vehicle and decide to stick with an ICE. You’ve never been an early adopter, and, anyways, who wants to drive something little more than a golf cart, anyways? Vehicle electrification policies can contribute at least 1% of cumulative emission reductions to meet a 2-degree target through 2050. Lose 50 points.
You listen to your neighbor, who has taken out a loan to purchase solar panels, electric heat pumps, and battery storage system for her residence. You think about the years it would take to pay off such a system in your own residence and decide to keep with your oil burner and regional utility authority. Lose 60 points.
In a recent New Yorker piece, Bill McKibben described standing with a broad field of cross-country skiers in Sweden, waiting for the race to begin. He realized that a race that commemorates a 16-century revolt against a tax hike might have a finite future, with winter shifting later into the calendar and the little future snow underfoot creating more of a mud fest. What he described as a sensation as “glorious as pushing down hard against the snow and feeling that energy converted into uphill glide” could soon be a sheer memory.
This is the existential threat and reality that we are all facing — the way of life which seems to be a norm could dissipate very quickly unless we each take individual action.
If you played along with “The Climate Change Game” as you read, how did you do? There are many more ways that we can make conscious decisions on a daily basis that would help to lessen global temperature rise. The list of items in “The Climate Change Game” is just a start. You can help us to build this game. Add your ideas for points earned or lost based on carbon footprint decisions in the comments section below.