Did colonization come to an end in the 20th century or are we still witnessing a neo-colonial era in which international corporations exploit resources from financially and politically unstable regions? Is it a matter of luck or of historic, economic and social injustice which causes disparity between the Global South and North? The world economic system with its asymmetrical power and unfair trade agreements is a complex topic, but understanding it is crucial for finding the purpose and impact of our local actions.
By using chairs, cushions and the participants’ physical movement, this activity explains the basics of the global distribution of wealth, poverty, population, CO2 emissions and refugees. A guessing game and a simple analogy with physical objects are used to engage the youth in thinking about the current state of world affairs.
Group / Experiential
Preparation: 15 min
To get a general understanding of the global distribution of the population, wealth and poverty
To get better overview of the issue of refugees and understand its economic roots
To reflect on the economic and social injustice in our world and realize the disparity between the global South and North
Required Materials and Tools:
5 big signs with the names of the continents (N. America, S. America, Africa, Europe, Asia - Australia is included in Asia)
1 chart per each continent with the following names of the ROWS in the chart: “Population”, “Wealth in $ (GDP)”, “CO2 Emissions”, “Refugees” and of the COLUMNS in the chart: “Estimated”, “Actual number”, “Difference”. You can put each chart on a separate paper or fit all of them onto one paper, but it is important that each continent has its own chart
Chairs, one for each participant
Cushions or pillows, one for each participant
Create a world map of the continents by placing continent signs in different corners of the room and leave enough space in the middle for participants and their chairs.
The total number of participants represents the whole world population. Ask them to guess how they are distributed over the continents, let them position themselves on the continents according to their guess. Write the group’s guess in each continent’s chart in “Estimated” for “Population”.
Present and write the actual number in the “Actual number” column (see the Spreadsheet attached under “attached support files”).
Count the difference and write it up in the “Difference” column.
Let the participants distribute themselves according to the corrected numbers.
WEALTH IN $ (GDP)
The total number of chairs represents the whole world income. Ask people to guess how the chairs are distributed over the continents and position them physically as such. Write the group’s guess in “Estimated” column of “Wealth in $ (GDP)” row in the chart for each continent. The participants representing the population of a certain continent can sit only on the chairs available for that continent and this will cause uneven distribution of chairs among people. Make sure that people on continents where not enough chairs are available somehow squeeze on the chairs available.
Present the actual distribution of GDP (see the Spreadsheet attached under “attached support files”) write in the column “Actual number”.
Count the difference and write down the difference in the chart in the “Difference” column.
Let the participants distribute the chairs according to the correction. The population of each continent can still sit only on the chairs available (in Asia many people for a few chairs, in N.America the other way around).
GLOBAL CO2 EMISSIONS
The cushions represent the global CO2 emissions from burning the fossil fuels. Ask people to guess how the cushions are distributed over the continents based on the continents’ CO2 footprint and position them physically as such on the chairs. Write the estimated guess in “CO2 Emissions” in the chart for each continent. Now the participants representing the population can only sit on the chairs with cushions on them.
Write up the actual distribution of CO2 emission (see the Spreadsheet attached under “attached support files”).
Count the difference and put it in the chart under the “Difference”.
Let the participants distribute the cushions according to the correction. The population of each country should sit only on the chairs with cushions. There will be not enough chairs and cushions for some while too there will be too many for others.
All participants now have to quit the role of world population and become refugees and they spread out over the continents in the way they guess refugees to be spread over the world. Write their estimated guess in the “Refugees”column on the chart. The chairs (wealth) and cushions (CO2 emissions) stay and people can only sit on chairs.
Present the real numbers of the distribution of refugees and write them up in the chart.
The participants should try to fit onto the chairs, but be aware that there will not be enough in Africa and Asia. Some of conclusions regarding the wealth distribution become obvious.
Gather the group together and organize a reflection session on what they have observed. It is important to bring into the discussion the distribution of wealth and the sources of wealth - why some countries are richer while others are poorer and what implications this income disparity has in terms of refugee migration.
Attached Support Files
Spreadsheet for Population, GDP, CO2 Emissions and Refugees real distribution and calculated numbers of the participants.
Gapminder World: Visualisation tool for the world population growth, wealth and other topics
Was any information a surprise to you?
What do you think about the root causes of such a skewed distribution of the wealth in the world?
Why do many people think that most of refugees go to Europe while actually, the large majority settle in neighboring countries?
Instructions for Submission
Upload a photo of the workshop and submit a short summary on how the game was for the group and what topics surfaced in the discussions. Instructions on how to upload photos and how to submit things in Moodle can be found here: Instructions on Submission&Uploading
Instructions for Assessment
Provide feedback to at least one participant that has done this activity. Instructions on providing feedback can be found here: Instructions on Feedback
Creative Commons - ySI4R Content Team, inspired by Migrants and Refugees. A Challenge for Learning in European Schools (MIRACLE), experienced at SCI Climate for Peace training
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