Teaching Activities (Free)

The Thingamabob Game: A Simulation on Capitalism vs. the Climate

Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow.
The Thingamabob Game helps students grasp the essential relationship between climate and capitalism.

Time Periods: 20th Century, 21st Century
Themes: Climate Justice, Environment, Economics

The premise of this activity is that an economic system driven by the profit motive inevitably collides with the health of the planet in general, and with climate stability in particular. A challenge for educators is finding ways to help students experience this fact—and wrestle with its implications.

The Thingamabob Game helps students grasp the essential relationship between climate and capitalism. And coming to this realization is not merely academic. How we think about solving the climate crisis depends, in large part, on what we think is causing it.

Climate Justice More Resources Ad | Zinn Education ProjectIn the Thingamabob Game, small groups of students represent competing manufacturers of “thingamabobs”—goods that, as in the real world, require natural resources to produce and whose production creates greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide. In the game, as in the real world, the more we consume and produce, the more carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, and the more we put at risk life on Earth.

The Thingamabob Game effectively highlights how the capitalist market has no built-in alarm system to protect the Earth. As social critic David Korten writes, “There are no price signals indicating that the poor are going hungry because they have been forced off their lands; nor is there any price signal to tell polluters that too much CO2is being released into the air, or that toxins should not be dumped into soils or waters…”

The essential lesson in this activity is that economic systems that put financial profit above all else are incompatible with climate stability and environmental responsibility.

Download lesson to continue reading.


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Lesson originally published by Rethinking Schools | Zinn Education ProjectThis lesson was originally published by Rethinking Schools in A People’s Curriculum for the Earth. The lesson was posted at the Zinn Education Project website as part of the Teach Climate Justice campaign.


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