Earth Under Siege: The Game of Sustainability


  • Paulo Vicente dos Santos Alves


This article introduces a solitaire game for the classroom or personal use based on an adaptation of the States of Siege game engine used in many commercial wargames to model the global sustainability challenge of the 21st century.

The Earth systems are modeled by five variables (deforestation, ocean pollution, greenhouse gases, water scarcity, and soil degradation). These variables are impacted along the game due to population growth and consumption level growth. These impacts are countered by action units representing NGOs, regulation, R&D (technology), space resources (space), and governance (diplomacy).

The goal of the game is to limit the damage of the impacts so that the Earth systems don't enter a collapse. Civilization, as we know it, would come to an end, leading to a new dark age of hundreds or perhaps thousands of years. Instead, the aim is to achieve a new golden age of sustainable growth with a more manageable population level, new technologies, space resources, and prosperous global coordination.

It was designed for a two-hour session in a classroom or at home. Although designed as a solitaire game, it can be played in small groups of up to three students in a classroom.

The model simulates the challenges of increasing the population level during the 21st century, up to a forecasted 11 billion people, while increasing consumption levels to eradicate poverty and famine. This will generate several negative impacts on Earth systems with environmental and social consequences, limiting consumption growth itself. The way to mitigate those impacts and allow for a sustainable level of consumption is through the development of new technologies, obtaining access to space resources, and improving global governance through diplomacy.

The model is simple enough to give players a better view of the contradictions and solutions of this sustainability dilemma without entering too many calculations and statistics.