Tassos Stevens / Leslie Hook
The global effort to combat climate change requires countries and individuals to make different trade-offs in order to meet their commitments. This has follow-on effects on energy and economic policy, creating a complex, interlocking set of constraints and consequences This context is difficult to convey to readers but crucial for understanding any individual piece of news about climate policy.
It therefore creates a dilemma for journalists: Focus on trying to explain the system and people get confused and lose interest, but writing only about touching individual stories doesn’t help people understand the real forces at play.
This tension became a focus of the conversations between Tassos and Leslie.
“We talked about the difficulty of understanding the complex chains of cause and effect in the human impact on climate, and how that gives wriggle room for doubt when people want to doubt,” Tassos said. “As a species, we are wired to perceive our impact on systems when there is immediate feedback for our actions, where individual actions can be tallied. We are wired for stories.”
Ten was the resulting work. The audience, as a group, won if exactly ten people stood up at the end of the game, but the rules created incentives for individuals to act against the group’s interest. At the end of the contest, Tassos brought the game back to the central theme by asking the audience to discuss, and collectively answer, a climate change-related question:
I aimed to design a game which would not in any way literally model a climate system but rather some of the experiences of agency which we have when trying to decipher actions. Not much would happen. It might be uncertain what was in play. It would require a coordination of a group. There would be a tension between individuals and the group.
Tassos Stevens is artistic director of Coney. As interactive theatre-makers, Coney create games, adventures and play where people can choose to take a meaningful part.
Leslie Hook reports from London on carbon, the environment and the renewable energy transition worldwide. Her previous roles at the FT include San Francisco correspondent, Lex writer and Beijing correspondent. Prior to that she was at the Wall Street Journal.