The Climate Collage is an online workshop developed by a French NGO with the aim of providing a fun and accessible way for people to understand cause and effect relationships in climate science. The workshop, which is based on the UN’s climate science reports, has already been taken by over 90 000 people across the world.

What are coccolithophores and pteropods and why are they so important?

Five of us from Curious Earth jumped onto Zoom with Sophia Cheng – eco-activist and communications specialist – who trained specially as a facilitator of the game. For Sophia, it’s another way to fulfil her goal of explaining the climate crisis to people and organizations who care but are struggling to connect the dots.

45 cards, 5 rounds, 2.5 hours, allowed us to visually map out the causes, effects and factors in climate science from the micro – like methane hydrates – to the macro-systemic – like consumerism and capitalism. We were encouraged to ask questions and challenge ideas, to take it in whatever direction we needed to understand. Sophia would jump in occasionally with helpful analogies and alternative ways to see things, like “you can think of the additional greenhouse effect as wrapping an extra blanket around the earth.”

Some areas were definitely easier than others. Knowing that deforestation is one effect of agriculture, which then leads to more carbon in the atmosphere – we had that one down. But what are coccolithophores and pteropods and why are they so important? 

Well, these tiny-shelled sea creatures form the basis of the ocean food chain. They are eaten by small fish and crustaceans, which are then eaten by larger fish, and on scale by larger creatures like whales. One effect of having too much carbon in the atmosphere is that the ocean becomes more acidic, which stops their calcium shells from forming. So more CO2 equals diminishing ocean life. That was a new one for me.

Some areas were also emotionally heavier than others. Mapping out human effects like famines, diseases, climate refugees can still feel distanced, like an apocalyptic future. But seeing the lines of causation was a reminder that it’s already very much reality for many, which felt like an important prod towards the urgency of what’s happening.

The aim of the game is to progress conversations towards solutions. 

We finished up by covering the collage in optimistic green post-its, to represent all the climate solutions we could think of as. Zooming out to see just how much of the board was covered in green we breathed a collective sigh of relief. There were a lot.

Acknowledging that it’s as tough emotionally as it is mentally was important. One of the reasons why venturing into the depths of climate science feels scary is because on the surface we know it poses a very real threat, but there’s too much to take in. It’s overwhelming, confronting, and inevitably unearths some contradictions between the way we live our lives and the things that we care about. 

Playing this game I learned that I don’t need to beat myself up for not knowing everything, but that I do have a responsibility to get some fundamentals right. Which is not as hard or scary as I thought. As a team, we concluded that we also want to practice getting better at storytelling to help bring these causal relationships to life in a more creative way. 

One of the best things about doing workshops with Sophia is that you always receive a smattering of extra info as a gift at the end. So three days after the workshop we were emailed our final collage in all its glory, complete with extra links to recommended podcasts, documentaries, and books we might want to explore. I felt encouraged, empowered and eager to share after that, which I guess was Sophia’s intention!

You can find out more and book a Climate Collage for your team at: 

Or join an open community session (Curious Earth-lings can use the promo code ‘hope’ and register for free)