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  • The Rev. Barbara Ballenger

Rector's Note: Games that Change the World-3.7.24

Last night my husband and I were over at our neighbors’ house to play board games. Both we and they love to collect and play interesting and thought-provoking games.  Because our friends both work in the area of sustainability and climate awareness we brought over a new favorite called Daybreak.

The game models a response to climate catastrophe and global warming developed by Project Drawdown, which catalogues global projects that address climate change and can actually reverse or draw down rising temperatures. The objective of the game, much like the objective of the project: keep the planet from warming to unlivable levels. It is a complex game that requires a bit of work to learn – it helps to hang out with people who like to read game directions for a hobby. But it plays beautifully as you build climate responses using cards that represent the various climate solutions that can be enacted by countries and economic regions, from sequestering carbon, to sharing technology, to empowering communities to be resilient. Each card includes a QR code to take you to a website to learn more about the solution.

What I love about the game is that it takes complex responses to climate change and plays them out, so that you can see their social costs, and their risks as well as their economic strengths and effects. You get a sense of how global systems work, of what kinds of decisions can make big impacts on our climate. 

Often we are told that climate change is beyond our understanding, or that if we simply recycle, turn down our thermostats or shut off our lights, individuals can solve the problem. A game like Daybreak and an approach like Project Drawdown suggests that citizens can understand the complexities of the larger systems we are part of, and that knowledge can shape the conversations that we have about the climate, how we vote, what we invest in and how our collective power can be focused on making changes.

Last night’s game led to a wonderful conversations with our friends, who work on these issues in academia and in private industry.  We talked about the individual choices we make in our families and impacts we can have on larger efforts to bring change. We lamented what hasn’t changed in decades of doing the work, and talked about what can make a real difference, in our individual lives and in groups that we belong to, like churches.

One rule of thumb that I learned from my neighbors last night: the heavier the solution the bigger the impact.  For example, the age-old question of whether to request paper or plastic bags at the store, or whether to bring your own bags, involves items that weigh very little – the bags we pack groceries in. But the question of whether to buy a gas-powered car or an electric vehicle involves items of heft.  So if you need to prioritize how to make choices that best impact the environment, prioritize the heavy items over the light ones: cars, hot water heaters, heating and cooling systems.

This was helpful to me, in that I can get a little perfectionistic about trying to make all my decisions earth friendly. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to give up doing the simple things like taking reusable bags to the store or sorting our paper and plastic. It’s just that climate solutions literally don’t all weigh the same. I can’t stop at the light items.  We have some bigger decisions to make at our house about a new heating system, for example.  That has to take as much of my mental energy as what bags I ask for at the stores.

This is a good thing to keep in mind as we begin to explore the variety of ways that we as a parish can live more sustainably, can learn and discuss complex solutions and can have conversations that inspire and support individual and collective efforts.

Our recent forum with Tyler Fowler from Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and light was a good start. See the article in this newsletter about resources and programs that she has shared as a follow up to her presentation. Her visit has also stimulated some great conversations about how we might green some of our practices and purchases, such as using ceramic coffee cups instead of purchasing a steady stream of disposables for fellowship hour.

And I’m hoping that parishioners will join Jess and I this year in the annual bike and hike activities during the month of May to raise funds for PA IPL and awareness about climate change.  If you like to hike or ride a bike, let me know and we’ll put together a team and some fun outdoor events.

If you’d like to try your hand at playing Daybreak, let me know. It’s a four-person game and we’d be happy to show folks how to play it.


Rev. Barb



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