March 03, 2010

Teaching Sustainability through Simulations

The other day I had my NATSCA2 students go through a simulation on sustainability. My objective was to get them into a more learner centric experience. I wanted them to have a personal insight into the tensions of sustainable development. The situation I gave was that of a contingent of people forced to flee Earth because of global warming and famine. They just woke up from stasis and are about to land into the world they intend to colonize. A council has just been convened to define a settlement strategy for the 1 billion population of the contingent. The council is made up of the three dominant factions of the expedition: The Free Trade Conglomerate, who turns the industrial hand wheels; The Liberation League who safeguards the welfare of the people in the contingent as well as on the world they will settle in; And finally the Gaian Alliance, the champions of nature. I had each faction present their position and had the others interpellate. It was quite an emotional experience though the solution space for their trilemma became significantly smaller as the class drew to a close. They proposed settling on the oceans, tundras and desserts without any interaction with the indigenous population. I was quite happy that the students seemed to be involved in the topic as opposed to having a lecture. I will likely have another simulation to teach energy and resource use in a manufacturing setting.