November 11, 2007

Site Watch: DotEarth

Here's a nifty blog I found over at the New York Times: Dot Earth. In this environmentally-oriented blog, reporter Andrew C. Revkin "examines efforts to balance human affairs with the planet's limits." As you might imagine, the topic of Global Warming figures heavily in the examination.

Today's DotEarth blog entry discusses the new SimCity Societies video game. The better simulation video games are surprisingly realistic—often leading you to new and unexpected realizations of macro phenomena.

For a classic example, consider the original Civilization, one of the best early simulation games... Civ I forced players to consider the economic consequences of maintaining a large standing army. Many times, you had no choice but to maintain large, expensive fleets and defensive resources, but these same costs inhibited you from researching better, newer technologies. Fall too far behind in the technology race, and the next enemy invasion might arrive with new weapons that make yours completely obsolete. On the other hand, skimp on military costs, and you might run up an impressive technological advantage, only to be overrun by spear-wielding barbarians. So, on to SimCity Societies. In this game, it is your duty to build and maintain a city. Like the real world, fossil fuel energy sources are available to you on the cheap, while alternative technologies require expensive research and implementation costs (not to mention providing relatively little bang for the buck). Societies, however, also models climate change—and associated costs. Keep belching CO2 into the air, and watch those environmental costs skyrocket. Dot Earth argues that this model may help people more vividly grasp the reality of the energy choices we currently face, as well as the staggering hidden costs looming on the horizon. It's an interesting hypothesis, and an interesting blog. Check it out.

Andy Lewicky

ANDY LEWICKY is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer who enjoys good books, jasmine tea, long walks in the rain, and climbing and skiing the big peaks of the California Sierra. email | follow

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