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Planet Transit: Profit or Survival?

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Originally appears in the Spring 2008 issue

Eight teenagers are squeezed together awkwardly on five cushions — their planet! Things didn’t start out this way for the team, who are now very vocal as they enter the last round for a chance to see if they can rebalance life aboard planet “Karabaw Deeng.” Citizens of another planet, “Man Overboard,” gaze over smugly, as they have ample space to sit, with nine cushions. They are carefully hiding their list of development choices from the other two planets and hoarding a large amount of money (beads) in a bowl. The citizens of the third planet, “Fried Rice,” are struggling to make decisions. They have seven cushions to sit on, but they possess a smaller amount of money than “Man Overboard.”

It is difficult for most of us to imagine running out of natural resources. We may experience minor shortages of out-of-season produce and other goods, but these shortfalls are easily overcome if we are willing to pay higher prices to purchase these items from elsewhere. What happens, then, when the natural resources of our planet become so depleted or deteriorated that there is no “elsewhere” and we have no money to buy our way out of the problems we have created? Planet Transit is an extremely animated game that raises students’ awareness of the environmental impact of the industries that support our comfortable lifestyle. In planet teams, students are taken through three industrial eras, beginning in the early 20th century. At the start of each era, they must decide what industries to invest in to bring economic development to their planet. However, the outcome is not as simple as “development equals prosperity.” As we know, planets have carrying capacities and cannot tolerate exploitative development forever. As the game proceeds from one era to the next, the consequences of investing in polluting or environmentally destructive industries are revealed and students must choose between profit and survival.

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Georgi Marshall has spent the past ten years working in the fields of environmental education, waste management and community development in Australia, Southeast Asia, Africa and Canada. She currently resides in Tasmania, where she runs an organization developing pedal-powered activities and technology for community sustainability, energy awareness and health.