We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.

Martin Luther King Jr.


This is a simulation of a competition to find the greenest youth group. Will they be honest or will they cheat?

Related rights

• Right to equality before the law
• Right to life and survival
• Right to an international order in which rights and freedoms can
  be fully realised


• To develop understanding about the value of co-operation and
  the need for the monitoring and verification of agreements
• To build up skills of co-operation
• To promote a sense of justice and fairness


• Copies of the instruction sheet, one per group
• Copies of the score sheet, one per group
• One pen per group for the score keeper
• Space for small group work

Key Date
  • 5 JuneEnvironment Day


Set the scene: There is a competition to find the greenest youth club in town (or school or class). Each participant represents a different youth group and this is a play-off to see who goes on to the next stage in the competition. The aim is to score the most points possible.
1. Ask participants to get into groups of 5 and to sit in small circles.
2. Four people are to play the representatives from four competing youth clubs and one is the score keeper. Explain that the score keeper is also the umpire and responsible for giving the signal to play each round. S/he is responsible for filling in the score sheet and ensuring that everyone keeps to the rules.
3. Ask each group to decide who is going to be the score keeper.
4. Hand a copy of the instruction sheet to the score keepers in each group. Ask them to read it out to the group, and to make sure that the players know how to play and that everyone understands the rules for scoring. Place the sheet where everyone can see it, in case they want to remind themselves about the scoring.
5. When each group is ready, they can begin by playing one practice round. If everyone is clear about what they have to do, then the competition can begin.
6. When all the groups have played all 10 rounds, ask each score keeper to add up the total score for the group and to note the highest and lowest individual scores. Then go on to the debriefing and discuss how the game went and what they learnt, first in their small groups and then in plenary.

Debriefing and evaluationGoto top

In the small groups ask participants to consider:

  • Who got the most points? How did you play to win?
  • Who got the least points? How do you feel?
  • Does anyone feel cheated? Why?
  • Did you make any agreements before rounds 5, 8 and 10? What happened?
  • Did anyone break the agreement? Why?

COP 15 is an abbreviation for the 15th Convention of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
UNFCCC). It is also known as the UN Climate Change Conference 2009.

In plenary:

  • Ask the score keepers to report the highest and lowest individual score and the total score for the group. Record these figures clearly on the flip chart.
  • Which groups scored the highest total score? Were these where the players co-operated or where players cheated?
  • How does this game relate to reality? Give concrete examples.
  • When people agree to take an action to protect the environment, how can we ensure that all players do, in fact, play fairly?
  • Does it make any sense for one group to "be the greenest" at the expense of the others?
  • One of the reasons that the politicians failed to reach the hoped for agreement on CO2 emissions at the COP 15 Climate Conference in 2009 was that countries could not agree about verification. Might it have helped if they had "taken a step back" from focusing on practical details and looked at which human rights were being violated? Why?
  • In relation to climate change, whose rights are most affected? Which rights are being violated?
  • Bearing in mind that, in relation to climate change, poor nations suffer more and rich nations caused the problem, what do you think would be a fair way to resolve the equity issue?
  • The increase in severe weather events predicted by the climate change models mean that millions of people will be made homeless. How should your country respond to this?
  • Has human rights education a role to play in combating climate change? If so how?

Tips for facilitatorsGoto top

The result of the game will be that those groups where players co-operated will get the highest group score. Those groups where someone cheated will get a lower overall group score; in other words, an individual may well do very well for themselves, but at the expense of others. The learning point is that if people co-operate, they all stand to win.

When discussing the weaknesses of voluntary agreements and the pros and cons of government directives and laws, you can ask participants what they think about information campaigns to win voters' support for what may be unpopular, but necessary, measures. Consider this example: a few years ago the Tidy Britain group ran a campaign My Little Wrapper Won't Make Any Difference. It showed a street scene littered with sweet wrappers, many with speech bubbles with the slogan "I won't make any difference" on them. What would you have thought if you had seen this poster?

  • If I make the effort to take my litter home, then the streets will be a little cleaner and it might set a good example to others. (That's like 1 thumb and 3 fingers.)
  • If a few of us do it, it won't make much overall difference and it might make none at all if other people actually increase the amount of litter they drop. (2 fingers and 2 thumbs)
  • If we can persuade most people to take care, then the streets will be cleaner. However, there will always be a few who continue to drop litter but who benefit from the efforts of others. Why should they enjoy a "free ride"? (3 thumbs and 1 finger)
  • Why should I put myself out if no-one else will? (4 fingers)

The example could equally well have been, "my little car won't make any difference" (to reducing CO2 emissions) or "using the tumble drier instead of hanging out my clothes to dry won't make any difference" (to saving energy). You should find an example that people in your group will most easily relate to.
In many towns there are fines for dropping litter and letting your dog foul the pavement; voluntary action doesn't work. There has to be some sort of regulation. One of the key weaknesses of the Copenhagen Accord, the outcome of the COP15 summit, was that it did not include strict methods of monitoring and verification of CO2 emissions.

Suggestions for follow-upGoto top

The group might like to consider the effectiveness of different sorts of sanctions and punishments for those who infringe rules in the home, in school, youth group or locality. What are the best ways to get people to comply with rules?

Suggest to the participants that the best way of achieving the highest score would be to order everyone to play thumbs. In the real world, a parallel might be for the government to order everyone to stop driving cars (to reduce CO2 emissions), only watch TV for a maximum of one hour a day (to conserve electricity), buy a maximum of one technological devices, for example, a mobile phone, digital music player,  or video game console every three years (to conserve resources), and turn vegetarian (more efficient land use and less CO2 and NOx production from animal wastes). Can the group find examples of legislation which has the effect of telling everyone that they must "play fingers"? (Traffic regulations could be one illustration.) Ask the group to consider whether these examples infringe people's human rights? Which ones and how?

The activity "Scramble for wealth and power"  is another simulation that treats the injustices that result from the inequitable sharing of resources. If you want to explore the balance of nature and how we are destroying it, try "Web of life" .

Ideas for actionGoto top

The group may like to identify a local environmental issue and join with others to press local politicians to act.
If the group is interested in international politics, they may like to consider the example of the failure to reach an agreement at COP15 and how to promote trust and understanding between nations.

The need for action on climate change is the most pressing challenge currently facing mankind. Get the group to think about what they can do to reduce their CO2 emissions personally, locally and at a national and international level. Start iat www.footprintdiary.com, a mobile phone and web application, giving information about climate change consequences and helping users to act on their personal consumption.

Further informationGoto top

Voluntary action is not useless; it is better to do something
than nothing, and your example can lead the way. This is the basis for the WWFs Climate Savers initiative. The aim is to get companies to reduce their carbon emissions.

Transparency was a major theme of the COP 15 before the international leaders arrived on the scene for the conference's waning days. At an earlier COP, the principle had been agreed to that emission reductions from developing countries should be "monitored, reported and verified"— or MRV'd, for short. The MRV concept specifically was to be applied to "Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions" that developing countries take on a voluntary basis, hence the interest of having the largest emitters in the rapidly industrialising world, China and India in particular, set targets and agree to a  regime for monitoring and verification.
This failure to agree to a fair monitoring process illustrates the complexity of the issues, in particular those of justice and equity. Part of the opposition by the developing nations, and by China in particular, was that the proposal was highly unfair, that their per capita emissions are far less than those of the developed nations which, because they are largely to blame for the problem, need to take more responsibility for reducing emissions.

This activity is taken from “Let’s take the world in hand”, © Woodcraft Folk 1993

Environmental Justice Foundation makes a direct link between the need for environmental security and the defence of basic human rights. http://www.ejfoundation.org

HandoutsGoto top

PDFDownload as PDF

Instruction sheet

The aim of the game is to win as many points as possible.
How to play the game:
• On the count of three from the score keeper, put your fist forward with either a finger pointing or your thumb up. In each round you must play either a “finger” or a “thumb”.
• You may not communicate with the other competitors at any time, except just before rounds 5, 8 and 10.
• You have to play all 10 rounds.

How to score points

This depends on what combination of “fingers” and “thumbs” was played by the competitors.
• If each of the 4 competitors plays “thumbs” then each player gets +1 point
• If three players play “thumbs” and one plays a “finger”, then those who played “thumbs” each score -1 point and the person who played the “finger” gets +3.
• If two players play “fingers” and two “thumbs”, then the “thumbs” each score -2 and the “fingers” +2.
• If one player plays a “thumb” and the other three players played “fingers”, then the “thumb” scores -3 and the “fingers” each score +1.
• If all players play “fingers” then they each score -1.
This is summarised in the table below (combination of fingers and thumbs played and individual player’s consequent score):

+1 +1 +1 +1 -1 -1 -1 +3 -2 -2 +2 +2 -3 +1 +1 +1 -1 -1 -1 -1

Rounds 5, 8 and 10 are bonus rounds. You get extra points as follows:
Round 5 - your score for that round multiplied by 3
Round 8 - your score for that round multiplied by 5
Round 10 -your score for that round multiplied by 10
After each round the score keeper fills in the score sheet.

Score sheet
Player’s name        
0 (practice round)        
5 (score x 3)        
8 (score x 5)        
10 (score x 10)        
Total scores, rounds 1-10: