Earth Rising: Can we make environmental education fun?
Here at The Curious Environmentalist, we like to explore ways to improve accessibility to environmental education, so when we heard about a board game that was in production that aimed to do just that, we knew that we had to hear more!
We took some time to speak with the team at ‘Stop, Drop & Roll’ to hear more about their company and their upcoming environmental education game – ‘Earth Rising’.
You will have 20 turns, each representing one year, to prevent global chaos. Yet those invested in the Status Quo have no intention of giving up their power, and will resist you every step of the way. Do you have what it takes to change the world?
Stop, Drop & Roll – Earth Rising
Can we successfully make environmental education fun through gameplay?
Can you tell me a little bit about ‘Stop, Drop & Roll’, it’s overall mission and goals for the future?
Of course! Stop, Drop & Roll Games Studio is committed to bringing games to your table that are inclusive, conscientious, and immersive. Inclusive means that our games are for everyone and do not exclude anyone, as we take the time to ensure equal representation, diverse perspectives and actively steer away from anything that may encourage or condone intolerance in any way. Conscientious means that we ensure our games have as small a footprint as possible, utilising pioneer materials and adopting cutting edge green manufacturing, along with minimising plastic in any way we can in order to provide high quality games without it costing us the earth. Finally, we create games that are immersive – an experience you can invest yourself in! Focused on making them easy to learn and play, while emotionally fulfilling, we want to make games you’ll want to play again, whether you win or lose!
Tell me more about the upcoming game ‘Earth Rising’ and what you hope to achieve with its release?
Earth Rising is a medium weight co-operative family strategy board game that takes the large subject of climate change and puts it into an accessible and fun format – creating a game where the players have to work as a team, playing as 6 societal sectors to transform society into a more sustainable future, where it can support our population without costing the earth. The practices within the board game (both sustainable and unsustainable) are all taken straight from real life, and have been checked over and edited by professionals within the fields of agriculture, energy, infrastructure, industry, politics and culture.
There is not one aspect of the current climate that sparked the creation of this game, but more of a culmination of all of it. I wanted to find a way to give people hope, rather than focusing on the doom and gloom, because the fact is we don’t need to wait for science to come up with a solution. It’s already there, we just need to implement it.
The game comes with an informational booklet that makes it easy to learn about the practices involved throughout gameplay, along with ideas about what small but impactful actions you can take as an individual. With it, we hope that it’s the first step for many people to recognise that the fate of our planet is in our hands, and through engaging with these solutions we can not only make our society better for our planet, but also for ourselves.
We’re also donating 50% of our profits towards charity and non-profits dedicated to making the game’s objective into reality. You’ll be able to play the game confident that you’ve already made the first step towards making a difference.
Can you go into some detail about the various characters within the game, their role both within gameplay and in real life?
The Ecologist, specialist for transforming the Agriculture sector, is able to implement Regeneration tokens across the board, which allows Sustainable Practices to remove one extra Strain. These represent the work ecologists do in the real world – analysing local ecological systems and working out how we can live alongside them, allowing both humans and nature to flourish together.
The Activist, specialist for transforming the Culture sector, speaks out about injustice and unacceptable practices with their Protest token. This allows players to flip a practice straight to its sustainable side, rather than having to disband the practice first.
As the front line force for making our concerns heard in any society, activists are strong, passionate people and without them we’d be lacking every social victory we enjoy today. The list of these victories is long, but we hope it’ll only keep getting longer as we fight to improve ourselves and our societies.
- Grass Roots Politician
The Grass Roots Politician, specialist for transforming the Politics sector, utilises their knowledge of the system to transform it from the inside out. They’re able to see ahead in the Influence deck and rearrange it as they see fit, allowing their allies in other fields to be better prepared for their work ahead.
Real life grass roots politicians are those who speak to and listen to their constituents, and vote accordingly within their institutions. A political system is a tool for deciding what laws govern our society, and any politician who values democracy will know that only a transparent and accessible system will be one that represents the society it governs.
The Innovator, specialist for transforming the Industrial sector, is willing to embrace new ideas and ways of working, putting Start Ups into play that counteracts and addresses people in poverty, lowering Strain on both people and the environment.
In reality, we hear about incredible innovators all the time, and we believe that championing human ingenuity is paramount to the belief that we can overcome our current crisis. After all, if human beings can accidentally affect an entire planet’s biosphere, imagine what we could accomplish on purpose.
- Eco Investor
The Eco Investor, specialist for transforming the Infrastructure sector, is putting their money where their mouth is and investing into ways to transition into a better society. Every turn they’re able to draw additional cards, then hand those cards out to other players – or place them on the bottom of the deck.
In real life, people investing into ecologically sustainable practices are the reason why those practices get to start. The more people call out for new ways to live, the more inclined investors become to make that change.
Finally the Climatologist, specialist for transforming the Energy sector, has the understanding of how our actions are affecting our climate and can warn us of impending disaster. They’re able to move Strain tokens onto a different Ecological Burden during any player turn, allowing them to respond real time to predicted problems… before it’s too late!
In real life climatologists have been warning us of climbing temperatures and collapsing ecosystems for decades. We’ve started listening, and with their help, it’s our hope that we can address the problems we’ve created before it’s too late.
Are there any further games in the pipeline that aim to address environmental and/or social issues through gaming?
While not an environmental game, our next game will be a strategy game set in a post-climate catastrophe city, working on the assumption that no action was taken to mitigate it. Further down the line, we’re also experimenting with a premise for a game about rewilding, which is a subject close to our hearts.
What is the science/research behind ‘Earth Rising’?
Earth Rising is exhaustively researched. I don’t phrase it that way lightly! I spent a year and a half talking and learning from charities, not-for-profits and scientists, all experts in their fields, discovering which practices impacted our climate most (some of which, like carbon credits or bio-refineries, really surprised me!), and in turn which practices we can turn to that would not only do the same job the unsustainable practice did, but the reasons why it’d do them better. A key part of my challenge was not, at any point, to incorporate any “solution” that has yet to have its effectiveness proven in the field. No science fiction. No maybes. Everything had to be certain solutions that existed in real life. Nobody can put their hope for the future into maybes, and I know so much more now than I ever could have imagined. The great thing about it, though, is that knowledge isn’t depressing. Learning how we can overcome the challenges we face was the most inspiring thing I’ve ever experienced!
How do you think using games to spread environmental education will make a difference to the issues our planet is facing?
People learn the most when they’re having fun, which means that our game is designed to be just that, first and foremost. We’ve shown our players, our reviewers – you’re going to have a great time! But everyone walks away having learnt something, even just by osmosis. Being able to define the results of something as huge as a society gives you a sense of perspective of what needs to be done, and how it can be changed, without losing anything in the process.
The biggest issue with climate science is how inaccessible it is as a topic. There’s so much information out there, all the time, and most of it is horrifying because that’s what gets clicks and views. Earth Rising isn’t here for shock factor, it’s here to present a solution. What’s more, it’s tough to get your head around how our societies are causing the problem – it’s not as simple as just deforestation, or just overfishing, or just coal plants. It’s all of these things, all at once. Our creation of a tipping point isn’t the fault of one sector or nation, it’s all of them. But it’s also about solutions. Yes, these things need to change, but change how? It’s easy to point at a problem, but a clear idea of how we fix it is what changes apathy into action. We need to change our way of life, and Earth Rising is a demonstration of how we can achieve that in just 20 years, without losing any quality of life. In fact, in many ways, it would improve!
In your opinion, what is the most pressing environmental challenge that we are currently facing? Any ideas on how to mitigate its impact?
There are many, and while there are things that need to be changed in all sectors, there are certain practices that contribute far more damage to our environment than any other. The three I mentioned above (deforestation, overfishing, coal energy production) are without doubt some of the worst, but above them all is meat consumption. In fact, 80% of deforestation is done to make room for cattle ranches, which in turn make 23 times as much greenhouse gas as all petrol vehicles put together. But it’s important to remember that those emissions are on top of those petrol emissions. Something being worse doesn’t make the other go away. That said, eating less meat is arguably one of the few individual life-style changes that would make a real difference.
Yet, if there were one thing that’d change the world it’d be the diversification of wealth. Our societies will never be sustainable until we eradicate poverty. Ensuring an effective tax on the extremely wealthy and multi-national corporations would easily afford everything on the Earth Rising board. Strong social safety nets, guaranteed minimum incomes and controlled rents would transform the lives of people living in developed nations and stop anyone from falling into poverty.
What is your hope that people will take away from playing ‘Earth Rising’?
First, I hope they’ll have a great time! Beyond that, I hope they walk away with a greater idea about what things we need to change. If a player decides to read up on why single use clothing is unsustainable after having played Earth Rising, and as a result decides to buy more sustainably produced clothing? That’s a win. Not just for me, but for everyone. If they decide to buy food because it’s sustainably produced or buy an electric vehicle, that’s a win. If they play it with friends and family, or even just talk to them about it, and that influences more people, then it’s made a difference, because how we think influences how we live, and if we change how we think then we’re that much closer to succeeding in making our world sustainable.
If readers (or players) are inspired to learn more about the world and to continue their environmental education, where should they turn for information?
Well we’re including a chunky little informational booklet with every game! It’ll be filled with information on each individual practice, both the unsustainable side, the sustainable side, and why one can (or should) replace the other. It’ll also have information about what players can do themselves that makes a real difference, allowing people to do their part if they want to. After all, one person’s actions may not amount to much, but each extra person makes for one more in an ever growing crowd.
Beyond that, my message to anyone who wants to learn more is to start digging! I was a passionate board game designer, I had no prior knowledge or understanding of the concepts I was looking into. Sharpen those critical thinking skills and start looking for evidence. Start questioning everything, and above all decide what evidence you require to consider something seriously. Sign up to your local charities that deal in ecological matters; they’re all run by passionate people eager to talk about what they’re doing and why it matters.
Where can we learn more about ‘Earth Rising’ and ‘Stop, Drop & Roll’?
We’re sending out developmental updates on Earth Rising via our SDR newsletter – where you can hear about what we’re doing regularly!
For folks who want to know when our campaign goes live, check out our prelaunch kickstarter page.
Otherwise, you can chat to us in person in our Discord channel.
A huge thank you to Laurie Blake (below), Rhi Saunders and the team at ‘Stop, Drop & Roll’ who took the time to answer my questions. We will most certainly be following the journey of their new game ‘Earth Rising’ and we hope that we are able to play it (and learn!) really soon.
Written for The Curious Environmentalist by Rebecca Hansell – June 2021.
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