Climate Change, Environment, Population and Climate Change

Playing for Keeps: How Games Can Help Us Tackle Climate Change Challenges


A. Tianna with partners from Eminence, PRAN, and HumanityWatch.

Climate change is not a game. In Bangladesh, communities are already facing its consequences daily, and women are disproportionately affected.

But last week in Dhaka, Bangladesh—alongside nearly 300 policymakers, scientists, and practitioners from over 40 countries—I found that games can be an innovative way to assess these challenges. The 7th International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change (CBA7) featured several climate change games that brought the issue to life. Using dice, beans, and spin-wheels, players translated simple game dynamics into the real world complexities of decision-making on disaster preparedness and climate adaptation. These games provide a way for participants to learn from one another and interact far beyond the typical powerpoint presentation.

During PAI’s session on connecting population dynamics and climate adaptation, participants completed a “Connect the Dots” exercise, where they were challenged to link population and climate concepts on cards. For example, “shifting rainfall patterns” (climate dot) could to lead to “agricultural decline” (climate dot), which is linked to “migration” (population dot), which can have an effect on “gender” (population dot), if men are migrating and women are staying behind. In this way, players made connections not only between population and climate change challenges, but saw how issues at the global level could impact individual households and women’s lives. Participants also began to think differently about what a climate adaptation strategy might look like outside the silo of planning and development — into health, education and gender.

Bottom line: We need to be thinking differently not only about our tactics for climate adaptation, but also about how we engage the decision-makers in thinking about adaptive capacity. If we are engaging women in those decision-making conversations and games, as well as those in the health sector, reproductive health and population dynamics will soon rise to the surface.

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