Official Blog of the Education Exchange Corps

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Day 2: Global Climate Change and the Art of Negotiation

In the summer of 2015, a group of about twenty students in grades K-11 undertook a monumental task: run the world. Every decision - from trade to competition to war - was made by these young leaders. They could approach adults for advice, but the young leaders ultimately built this world. This series of blog posts documents how a group of children dealt with some of our planet's greatest challenges.

Scientists agreed: The world was getting warmer. The ice caps of the planet were melting at a
high rate. This melting was causing the sea levels to rise, which meant that beaches and lands at low elevation were slowly being submerged.

Although weather is harder to predict than sea levels, many scientists also believed that the warmer temperatures were affecting the climate, causing the weather to be more extreme. They predicted that resulting droughts, famines, storms, hurricanes, and tornadoes could cause destruction and potentially large loss of life.

Although rising sea levels could eventually affect the world’s largest countries, the islands were feeling the effects already. Perhaps the most politically prominent of these islands, The Rock, announced that it would host an international conference on global climate change.

Happiness Scores after the first day.
Each morning, the countries receive feedback from their people based on the decisions the leaders made the day before. This feedback results in a "Happiness Score." When a country does not submit national decisions by the deadline, their country is in anarchy. On the first day, this happened to Tiger. Their people were not too happy.

On the second day, Teen Land (the country governed by our teenagers) and Anyone's Land (governed by 4th-6th graders) both had problems with a particularly pesky weevil problem that threatened to wipe out much of the countries' agricultural production. Anyone's Land, one of the poorest countries, had found a way to use very small but feisty organisms to control the weevil population, but they had little money to implement their solution.

Anyone's Land discussing strategy.
The 3rd Graders (the country managed by 2nd-3rd graders) discovered that markers were causing global warming! Tiger (governed by Kg-1st graders) really liked using markers.

While countries rotated to work with our resident art expert to make passports, other delegations were hard at work conducting their first international negotiations.

Teen Land and Anyone's Land eventually reached a deal trading money for nematodes. But the problem of global climate change was yet unsolved.

So began the global conference on climate change. The Rock hosted the event, and all of the major countries sent delegations to attend. The countries' representatives were initially unsure about what they could do. It just so happens that none of the leaders of any of the countries had run a country before!

After a discussion about what could happen to the world if no one did anything, and after The 3rd Graders revealed that marker usage was causing global warming, the conversation started flowing. Somehow, the countries decided to have The Rock write up an agreement limiting marker usage to 30 minutes per day.

Some countries had no problem coming to such an agreement because they had no markers. But Tiger had a bit of a problem. Their people LOVED markers!
The Rock started to parade the draft treaty from one country to the other, getting signatures from national leaders.

Tiger's oldest leader was concerned about limiting marker usage.
But Tiger's government wasn't so sure they could sign the deal anymore. With only two members of Tiger's government present as the day was winding down, the kindergartener was all about limiting marker usage. But the 1st grader was not. She was quick to point out that their people loved markers. Even when she was faced with the possibility that animals could suffer (the people of Tiger really like their animals too), she thought the people just liked their markers too much to limit their usage.

But this resistance crumbled when the leader of The Rock made a personal plea to Tiger to be the final signatory to the agreement.

And so, at the end of the second day, the countries had agreed to a climate accord. All countries promised to limit their marker usage to 30 minutes or less per day.

Global Agreement on Climate Change.
But time would tell that, on this day, what the countries didn't do was more important than what they did do. They did not come up with a way to enforce their climate agreement. They did not include ways to monitor marker usage. They did nothing to make sure the country that was so dependent on markers - Tiger - would be given some kind of concession to encourage them to put down their markers.

Still, the countries started their journey into this brave new world with cooperative spirits. The next day would challenge all of that as the heat of global trade threatened to melt some of this good will away.

Part 1: And the Children Shall Lead

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