University of Albany Students “Driven to Make a Difference” with C-ROADS

Today we have guest post by Professor Eliot Rich at the University of Albany, SUNY, who recently held the World Climate exercise for a group of undergraduate students.

University at Albany students and faculty at the World Climate exercise, April 2011

“When I left the simulation, I was driven to make a difference”

In April 2011, students and faculty at the University at Albany, State University of New York, used the C-ROADS model and the World Climate Simulation to gain perspective on the environmental and political challenges facing their generation.  The simulation was part of a semester-long class on business strategy and sustainability offered to undergraduates by Prof. Eliot Rich, Department of Information Technology Management and the University’s Honors College.

As part of their study of sustainable systems, these freshmen and sophomores received instruction in basic dynamic modeling, accumulations, and feedback models.  During the simulation activity they were joined by faculty and students from the University’s Sustainability Council, where they identified the need to combine science, negotiation, and deep listening skills to achieve progress.

Student reactions were positive, insightful, and directed towards inquiry and action:

  •  “Before the simulation, I always wondered why countries could not bargain and make adjustments to reach consensus to combat climate change. I also did not understand much about each blocks’ motivation on why they persist on current path”
  • “I always figured that if it was such a serious problem, extreme measures to prevent and reduce greenhouse gas admissions would have already been implemented by governments around the world. The simulation that our systems class showed me that it is not always that simple.
  • “[D]oes sustainability here means we may have to allow a downfall in the current system in order to sustain in the long-run? Are we willing to see a period of less economic vitality in order to have a future?
  • “I think more people need to be exposed to this simulation because it really got me into the idea of change in our society.  This simulation can be made into an educational class that is necessary for school kids to take.  I think the younger generation of kids should be taught the possible effects climate change will have on our environment because they will be the ones living through it.”
  • “I have always been for the environment, and I have always recycled what I could. This simulation has further hardened my resolve to do what I can to work towards sustainability both on campus and in the world. That is part of the reason why I am an Environmental major. I realize changes need to be made and the World Climate Simulation is a great way to begin, or further that process.”

Participating faculty saw the simulation as an opportunity to grow environmental activism and campus sensitivity to the problem.  Mary Ellen Mallia, the University’s Director of Sustainability, remarked that “students were very energized by the experience and they are talking about integrating this into their student sustainability conference next year, enabling us to reach out to student environmental leaders from schools in the area.   One of my students discussed the conflict he felt.  He was true to the role play but it made him take a position that was contrary to his personal beliefs and what he knew needed to be done to address climate change.  Each group felt that they had given in and made large concessions yet when the impact on the future global temperature was revealed, we all realized that these “large” concessions were not enough.