Sunday, June 6, 2010

Global Warming Games

Thinking about teaching for sustainability, I've come around to the view that it's going to take all sorts of techniques, tools and contexts in order to indigenize approaches to the environment across the curriculum. So one of the things I'm flirting with is how to use environmental simulation games, models of decision-making and policy analysis that will enable students to witness the effects of assumptions, actions and consequences. Wikipedia has an entry listing "global warming games" that I'm going to start looking into.

At the same time, I'm inspired by some remarks of Michael Maniates, prefacing a book on Encountering Global Environmental Politics. "Muddling towards sustainability," Maniates writes (invoking Kai Lee)

is messy work--it means, at times, coloring outside the lines, in imaginative, unanticipated ways.... This suggests that education for sustainability, rather than training experts and rewarding passive acceptance of facts, should be about reproducing this messiness in the classroom (at least some of the time) in order to acclimate students conditioned by years of sitting in neat rows and raising their hands before speaking....higher education should be training students to patiently cope with ambiguity , to systematically evaluate conflicting expert claims about the state of the environment, to dissect the ways in which competing interests mask risk and highlight uncertainty to their advantage, to cultivate a passion for civic engagement, and to roll up their sleeves and set to work on local and regional causes of environmental decline that sum to global environmental degradation (10)
I like this very much as a pedagogical aspiration, though it's undoubtedly hard to do. A mess can be instructive, but it's always frustrating; teaching can be about tolerating frustration--one's own as well as students'--but there has to be some sort of narrative recuperation towards "the end."