Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Hazardous Materials: Catan Scenarios: Oil Springs and Industiral Waste

There are two general environmentalist reactions to hazardous materials: leave it alone and let the government handle it. There are a few reasons for this, among them the belief that government is easier to hold accountable than commercial interests. This is of course a false dilemma, as any governmental or corporate agency with sufficient power is very good at obscuring fault, and hiding evidence. Last August, the EPA caused a mine to leak arsenic and other heavy metals into the Animas River, which ultimately feeds into the Colorado, and thus potentially affecting the water supply of much of the Western USA. While preliminary studies suggest that most of the metals spilled remained near the site of the spill, the EPA has not been fined, nobody has been charged, and it's likely neither of these will happen. The Atlantic has an excellent article on the potential effects of the spill on local wildlife.  Decades to understand the impact and yet no repercussions. And then there's Flint, MI: to save money, a court appointed city manager decided to switch to a river based water supply, and not pay for the appropriate treatments for an aging system of pipes, and the EPA either ignored or covered up results that should have brought action months before the media got hold of the story.

The leave it alone option also has the potential to spell disaster. Methane bubble plumes from the ocean have observably spiked(whether there's also a spike in observers is unreported). This gas, of course, will cause wildlife to drown. If a large plume occurs near a town, that town could be in danger. One potential answer: mine the crystals, and capture that methane for commercial use.

Now, onto Catan Scenarios: Oil Springs. Firstly there's a fixed setup, and roughly equal geographic distribution of the oil springs. Of course, that's not exactly a reflection of reality. There's a hard limit of storage of oil, another false assumption, as is the presence of populace being required for the oil to come up, but at least that ties to the other resource mechanisms. Oil has interesting uses: it can become two regular resources, or be used with other resources to turn a city into a metropolis. Of course oil presence/use has very little to do with either being an urban or religious center. A disaster phase is added for every 5 oil used; an interesting concept, but tying it to oil is a bit political- hurricanes, tornadoes, and other disasters existed long before petroleum use. As to the game itself, if I enjoyed Catan(I don't), I would find this intriguing; I like the idea of the disaster phase. There are some infoboxes with interesting data, some projections, etc., all of it at least a bit political.

Industrial Waste is a game about balancing efficiency and productivity with waste management in manufacturing. The game is more about engine building, and has a fine mechanic for having too much waste when an accident happens. Driven by action cards, it's mostly a partially random abstract. With waste management basically moving waste to other players, there's not much reflection of reality. In fact, the most realistic parts are the push to disemploy workers and the fines, with no other repercussions in the game. An interesting look at the corporate side of industrial/environmental issues.

For the next entry, I'll try to have Nat Levan interviewed via email to discuss New Bedford.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

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