Tuesday, January 23, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Our attitude matters!!!

Dear All,

While learning Sustainability and working with different people on executing Sustainability, I came across something that is very basic to humans, its our own behaviour, attitude or way of looking at resources. People's behaviour and their approach towards resources is one of the reasons that led to consumerism and hence unsustainable production.

I realized this, while conducting an activity for undergraduate students on using resources sustainably. The students were divided into two groups of three each. Each group was given a set of 12 coins and each one from the group was instructed to pick up as many coins as they wish from the set. The rule was to pick at least one coin from the set in order to survive in the game. They were not supposed to communicate with each other while playing the game. Once all the students were done with picking the coins, whatever coins remained in their set, exactly same number of coins were provided to the group for playing the next round. We played four such rounds. 

Note that, here the coins represent a renewable resource available to us. At the end of the game, the group that had at least 6 coins remaining in their set was using their resources sustainably.

One of the two groups ended up exhausting all the coins by the third round, so that effectively none of them survived in the fourth round. The other group managed to have a few coins left over at the end of round 4.

We asked the students what did they feel while playing the game. Their answers reflected on the various human behaviours we see in society. While the rule was to have only one coin for survival, only one student had figured out that having leftover coins at the end of each round was necessary for survival, and that the best strategy was to pick up only one or two coins in each turn. One of the students in a group having left with no coins at the end of the game simply mentioned that she was thinking only for herself and didn't want her colleagues to have any coins at all. 

It is noteworthy that in the instructions we had never mentioned what would be the 'win' state. Most of the students worked towards amassing as many coins in their own hands as possible. Some tried to figure out a strategy that would maximise own benefit while leaving a balance on the table in order to get additional coins for the next round, but other members of the group did not quite catch on to the strategy, as no communication was allowed among the group members.

I feel that in every situation having an attitude of considering our fellow beings is crucial, because if all the coins in a set would be over the entire group would be out of the game. Having a greedy attitude will lead us nowhere, inspite of having resources that are renewable. And now that we are going towards the use of renewable sources of energy, its important to use them wisely as well.  

Pournima Agarkar.