Imagining a More Climate-Just World
You’re playing a game where mythical creatures have suddenly emerged from the earth, running loose and causing chaos in your local neighborhood. It isn’t possible to put the magical beings back into the ground — so your job is to figure out how to keep everyone safe by transforming the pandemonium into something positive.
Now, consider this: what if these “creatures” were actually fossil fuels that have been extracted? Now that they’ve been released into the atmosphere, is it possible to dream of real, positive solutions to reduce the damage?
This creative query stems from just one of ten environmental justice adventures in the The Mycelium Youth Universe Gaming for Justice Compendium. This collection of Dungeons & Dragons Style games is the latest brainchild to come from Mycelium Youth Network and is meant to encourage young players to approach climate and social change with an uninhibited imagination.
“We’re imagining a future that is more positive where we can build together — create space and time to dream together — the kind of world we want to see and adventure into,” says lead storyteller Marcy Brown.
While the games in the compendium are inspired by the landscape of the San Francisco Bay Area, they actually take place in a magical realist world called the Mycelium Universe, aka the Myc-U—or as Brown says, the “theater of the mind.”
Within this fictional universe, the adventures explore different social justice and environmental movements ranging from the 1800s all the way to the future, ultimately combining real historical issues with a fantastical element.
Whether it’s air pollution, rising sea levels, or gentrification, problems that exist within Myc-U are also real world problems. (A game played at the Exploratorium in August 2022 focused on clean air in a port city like Oakland.) But unlike the real world, this imagined world knows no bounds, giving players more creative freedom to uncover answers to the most pressing social and climate issues.
Brown says that by allowing players to approach intense climate justice topics through something as fun and light-hearted as a game, not only is creativity awakened, but a sense of hope is injected back into the climate movement.
“It’s an intentional space to create joy where there’s emotional catharsis, where [players] can speak more easily about how they’re feeling,” says Brown.
This imaginative space, says Brown, has allowed young players to flourish. Not only have students shown expressiveness and engagement while playing the games, but she has also witnessed the building of several skills, like collaboration, confidence, and empathy.
These essential skills, combined with historical knowledge and a limitless imagination, are the perfect recipe for players and people to collectively dream up and build a more climate-just world.
For Brown, this is perhaps the most important objective of the games: “We want to create a solution together.”
Other Recent Posts
Everyday Climate Champions Podcast
To get storm resilient, a stretch of El Camino Real in San Mateo may lose hundreds of historic eucalyptus trees.
When San Mateo Creek topped its banks during last winter’s relentless winter storms, Danielle Cwirko-Godycki’s home became one of thousands in the city to flood.
Tall oaks with submerged trunks are sure signs that the land is “flooded.” While for some areas that might be a negative, for Laguna de Santa Rosa it’s not only positive but protective.
Climate change messaging often falls short, dwelling on too much science, favoring the dark side. Researcher Richelle Tanner is exploring what could help.
A proposal for a 17,500-acre new sustainable city in Solano County’s rolling hills has locals worrying and dreaming. County voters will likely embrace or reject the resulting “East Solano Homes, Jobs, and Clean Energy Initiative” in November 2024.
Editor’s Almanac, monthly notes on my personal experience of climate events and the weather. Written with both grief and hope.
After experiencing wildfire, flooding, power outages, and even a snowstorm in the last three years, Point Arena residents are taking climate preparedness into their own hands.
Even though Dan Hoover’s been surveying the same stretch of San Francisco’s Pacific coast for 15 years on his ATV, it never looks the same. In summer it’s wider and in winter narrower. With El Niño the beach will erode more than ever.
KneeDeep profiles Arye Janoff and Bekah Lane. Janoff surfs and manages coastal dredging and restoration projects for the Army Corps; Lane monitors whales for the Marine Mammal Center. Climate change is their newest challenge.