The Climate Change Playbook: 22 Systems Thinking Games for More Effective Communication about Climate Change

The Climate Change Playbook: 22 Systems Thinking Games for More Effective Communication about Climate Change


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The Climate Change Playbook: 22 Systems Thinking Games for More Effective Communication about Climate Change by Dennis Meadows, Linda Booth Sweeney Ed.D., Gillian Martin Mehers

Advocates and teachers often find it difficult to communicate the complexities of climate change, because the people they are trying to reach hold so many mistaken assumptions. They assume, for example, that when climate change becomes an obvious threat to our everyday lives, there will still be time enough to make changes that will avoid disaster. Yet at that point it will be too late. Or they assume we can use our current paradigms and policy tools to find solutions. Yet the approaches that caused damage in the first place will cause even more damage in the future.

Even the increasingly dire warnings from scientists haven’t shaken such assumptions. Is there another way to reach people?

The simple, interactive exercises in The Climate Change Playbook can help citizens better understand climate change, diagnose its causes, anticipate its future consequences, and effect constructive change. Adapted from The Systems Thinking Playbook, the twenty-two games are now specifically relevant to climate-change communications and crafted for use by experts, advocates, and educators. Illustrated guidelines walk leaders through setting each game up, facilitating it, and debriefing participants. Users will find games that are suitable for a variety of audiences—whether large and seated, as in a conference room, or smaller and mobile, as in a workshop, seminar, or meeting.

Designed by leading thinkers in systems, communications, and sustainability, the games focus on learning by doing.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781603586764
Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
Publication date: 05/05/2016
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 1,233,498
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Dennis Meadows is emeritus professor of systems policy and social science research at the University of New Hampshire, where he was also director of the Institute for Policy and Social Science Research. In 2009 he received the Japan Prize for his contributions to world peace and sustainable development. He has authored ten books and numerous educational games, which have been translated into more than 15 languages for use around the world. He earned his Ph.D. in Management from MIT, where he previously served on the faculty, and has received four honorary doctorates for his contributions to environmental education.

Linda Booth Sweeney, Ed. D., is an educator, researcher and writer dedicated to helping people of all ages integrate an understanding of complex, living systems into learning, decision making and design. She has worked with Outward Bound, MIT's Sloan School of Management, and Schlumberger Excellence in Educational Development (SEED). She is the author of The Systems Thinking Playbook; When a Butterfly Sneezes: A Guide for Helping Children Explore Interconnections in Our World Through Favorite Stories; Connected Wisdom: Living Stories about Living Systems; and numerous academic journals and newsletters. Sweeney lives outside Boston, Massachusetts. For more information see her blog, Talking about Systems (

Gillian Martin Mehers is a learning and capacity development practitioner working within the global sustainability community for over 20 years and the Founder of Bright Green Learning @Atadore SARL. Previously Gillian was the head of learning and leadership at IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and prior to that the director of capacity development for LEAD International (Leadership for Environment and Development.) Gillian's expertise is in creating dynamic experiential learning environments, interactive learning design, and process facilitation for diverse stakeholder communication and learning. With a particular passion for working inter-culturally, she has worked as a facilitator and trainer in over 50 countries, from Armenia to Zambia. For more information see her blog: You Learn Something New Every Day (

Table of Contents

Preface ix

How to Use This Book 1

Guiding Ideas 7

22 Games

1 Arms Crossed 11

When conditions change, habits must change

2 Avalanche 17

Understand the implicit rules. They can produce different results than desired or expected

3 Balancing Tubes 25

You can't achieve long-term goals with short-term perspective

4 The Bathtub Game 31

A level will decline only if outflows are greater than inflows

5 Biodiversity Game 39

You can't change only one thing

6 Circles in the Air 45

Our perspective affects the actions we take in complex systems

7 Frames 51

To obtain consensus be clear about the mental framework you are using

8 Group Juggle 61

Adding one more apparently minor problem can sometimes collapse the whole system

9 Hands Down 69

When trying to understand a complex situation, don't limit your focus to where the action is

10 Harvest 75

Over the long term, individuals often get more from cooperation than from competition

11 Hit the Target 85

Delays between perception and response can lead to overshooting the goal

12 Living Loops 93

It's easier to reach your goals by building a system that achieves them for you

13 Paper Fold 105

With exponential growth, small growth rates can quickly lead to extremely large numbers

14 Paper Tear 111

One-way communication is much less effective than interaction

15 Pens 117

Sustainability depends more on culture than on technology

16 Space for Living 123

Thinking outside the box can produce win-win solutions

17 Squaring the Circle 133

Without a shared goal, cooperation is ineffective

18 Thumb Wrestling 141

Life is not a zero-sum game

19 Triangles 147

If you want big changes, look for the high-leverage points

20 Warped Juggle

Incremental changes produce improvements; structural changes produce transformation

21 Web of Life 159

To better understand systems, make the interconnections visible

22 1-2-3-Go! 165

Actions speak louder than words

Acknowledgments 171

Notes 173

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