As a third generation ecologist, I have been waiting since the first Earth Day for the rest of the world to wake up to recognition of the polluting factors we are doing to our world, especially the melting ice of the polar caps. I was therefore pretty excited in 1990, when I introduced the new television cartoon, Captain Planet, to my (then young) son. As I watch each year, we seem to move three steps forward on the global awareness scale, and then take two steps back. Many years have passed and now parents have a new way to participate with their children in environmental awareness: Meltdown: a board game designed to save polar bears from melting ice at their homes.
A German science magazine designed this ingenious game and it’s played in a similar format as Monopoly®. However, in this case, the players don’t compete against each other, as it requires team work to work together. This is, after all, based around the same concept as working together to save the planet. In this game the small versions of polar bears sit on top of blocks of ice, and these are ice blocks, created from trays that are included with the game. The purpose of the game is to try to rescue the polar bears from the melting blocks of ice and it is a race against time to accomplish this task. As you roll the dice, the polar bears can be moved from ice block to ice block and eventually rescued to land. The board game itself is made of a sponge material and absorbs the water as the ice blocks melt.
There is a strange design around the board game, as the only winners will be the successful rescue of the polar bears, but the twist is that the ice is going to melt no matter what you do. Some may call this a fatalist attitude in the board game design, others may refer to it as a wake-up call to bring attention to the melting polar caps and ice sheets of the world.
This board game, like Captain Planet, was created to bring environmental issues into a world that children could understand. When you impress the importance of saving the planet to kids at a young age, some of the priorities tend to stick with them the rest of their lives. This includes all topics for the environment: energy reduction, recycling, renewable and sustainable energies and helping to save species that we are losing due to global changes caused by humans. There is no denying that the polar caps are melting and that the polar bears, along with all of the other polar life is soon to head to extinction. No matter what side of the environmental plane you exist on, these are facts. The board game is a very bold statement of our existing world situation spun down into a simple to understand process that even kids get: Unless we do something, there aren’t any winners, everyone and everything on the planet faces a loss.
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