INSIDE THE GREENHOUSE | Re-telling climate change stories

Game On! Promoting Commitment Into Positive Action

Read about Beth Osnes at the Drawdown Learn Conference

There are ‘given ups,’ and there are ‘grown ups.’ ‘Grown ups’ are adults who are still in the game. They are the ones who still believe that, despite the odds, how we think and what we do in the coming years can reverse global warming. Grown ups believe we can gift the next generation with a stable climate in which they can grow and thrive. I have just spent the weekend in the company of about 200 amazing grown ups (and about 10 amazing activist youth) at the Drawdown Learn conference in New York at the Omega Institute. In 2017, I was very excited to learn about the publication of the book Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever to Reverse Global Warming because it was a solid plan that listed and explained the top 80 most impactful solutions. In the fall of 2017 I used parts of the text in my freshman seminar on climate comedy and in spring of 2018 for our ENVS course, Creative Climate Communication. In each of these courses, student groups participated in a public-facing project I created, Drawdown Act Up, which challenged students to design embodied activities/games and skits to activate the solutions for youth visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park. The activities/games physicalize the science behind a Drawdown climate solution, and the accompanying funny skit contextualizes the solution and cleverly demonstrates how to activate that solution locally in daily life. This is based on the evidence that embodying concepts is beneficial to learners. Engaging youth in a solutions-oriented performance in regards to climate change can increase youth levels of empowerment and promote commitment to positive action. This is based in ongoing research by Max Boykoff and myself into the effective use of comedy for communicating climate (see our most recent article in Political Geography “A Laughing Matter? Confronting climate change through humor”). In the summer of 2018, a small group of students led and performed these activities and skits for Discovery Day at Rocky Mountain National Park for visiting families. At the Drawdown Learn conference I presented on this curriculum, the experience of sharing it at RMNP, and on the research we did on the positive impact of this curriculum on our ENVS students.

During the rest of the conference, I was encouraged to hear very smart gown ups say that when we are told the goal seems impossible is when we become most brilliant. What calls forth the best in us all is when the stakes are the highest and the odds the toughest. It will take a mighty many of us to get this done. We each have our own unique contribution to make. As a performer, I take it literally that we each have a ‘part to play’ in reversing global warming. For me it means supporting students in writing the plays and playing the parts of a new story based on a solid plan being put to action. Although the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report may have given some of us fleeting ‘game over’ thoughts, I am fortified in my conviction that in this moment right now, each of us with our own unique and necessary talent, is more than ever before, GAME ON.

Photo: Paul Hawken, founder of, highlighting the Inside the Greenhouse project, Drawdown, Act Up, in his plenary talk to open the Drawdown Learn conference Oct. 19, 2018. Credit: Beth Osnes.