Sam Levac-Levey has a game plan to win the race against climate change. This 29-year-old Montrealer has invented a board game called Solutions so adults and kids can have fun while they use science to learn how to do their part. Levac-Levey is also a leader at Work on Climate, an entrepreneurial global community.

This piece is part of a series of profiles that highlights the work of young people across the country who are addressing the climate crisis. These extraordinary humans give me hope. I write to pay it forward.

Sam Levac-Levey shows off the history of his prototypes. From left: The first was made from spare parts, printed paper and cardstock; a professionally made prototype sent to many play-testers; and the final pre-production sample from the manufacturer. Photo courtesy Sam Levac-Levey

Tell us about the game.

The yearly rise of global temperatures on the game board’s giant thermometer puts you under constant pressure. Players decide together which climate solution cards are most likely to keep us cool. Everyone wins if the temperature is at a safe level by 2050.

Some of the 100 solutions, like solar panels and electric cars, are familiar. Others are perhaps less so, such as improving rice cultivation or feeding seaweed to animals. There is even one for cloning woolly mammoths!

To win, everyone must work together and make choices. One solution might be fantastic but very expensive. Another might be important in some regions, but less so globally. The solutions are inspired by the ground-breaking work of Paul Hawken, the co-founder of Project Drawdown and founder of Project Regeneration.

The game has already been played by 600 elementary school kids, graduate students, climate experts and folks who had no particular interest in climate ranging in age from 10 to 90 years old in many countries. No matter the group, the players had fun while they engaged in meaningful and intense discussions with a dramatic buildup as the consequences of their choices were revealed.

What is the game’s current stage of development?

A virtual version is available now. The physical game is now available for pre-sale on Indiegogo, and will be distributed in early this year.

This 29-year-old Montrealer has invented a board game called Solutions so adults and kids can have fun while they use science to learn how to do their part to save the planet. #ClimateCrisis
Sam Levac-Levey directs a play-test session with friends and strangers in Halifax, N.S. He tested the game with over 600 people. Photo courtesy Sam Levac-Levey

Where did the idea come from?

I’m a mechanical engineer with no background in game design. I have a wide range of work experiences from rockets to energy storage to electric flying cars, but my heart has always been in entrepreneurship, and I knew I wanted to help solve climate change. I fell in love with Drawdown and at its first conference in September 2019, heard the entrepreneur behind Tetris, Henk Rogers, suggest a card game about climate solutions. With his encouragement, I designed a collaborative board game with a fun goal to save the world together, compelling players to have conversations they wouldn’t normally have.

Tell us about WorkOnClimate.org.

Work on Climate is a passionate online community running programs, hosting events and creating networks to help people who want to work on climate but can’t find a job, or don’t have the right network, or don’t know enough to make the jump. We help overcome those barriers.

What made you care about climate change?

One morning when I was in Grade 4, our teacher asked us to watch the classroom clock in silence for a full minute. Then she softly said: “In that minute, 150 acres of rainforest were cut down.” I couldn’t stop looking at the clock for the rest of the week. I felt my blood boil as I visualized each tree being cut down and each species going extinct. My journey in environmentalism had begun.

What keeps you going?

I’m incredibly lucky that I’m not doing this on my own! My girlfriend Tegan helps with editing, play testing, and overall support. I have a great business development adviser and partner, Mehrad.

The amazing conversations and the real change that we’ve seen after people play are so gratifying. For example, after students in an elementary school in Florida played, they reduced daily school food waste, brought back a garden and started a composting program.

My goal is for the game to inspire one million similar projects in 10 years.

Sam Levac-Levey and his girlfriend Tegan during a holiday in Germany. Photo courtesy Sam Levac-Levey

What gives you hope?

Climate is an exponential problem. The warmer the world gets, the less carbon is absorbed by plants and oceans and the more dangerous feedback loops like permafrost melting are triggered, which, in turn, warm the world even more. It’s a terrifying exponential cycle.

But the solutions are exponential, too! Our technological solutions are getting exponentially better as a result of both Moore’s Law and because human knowledge builds on itself. Equally important social change can also grow exponentially. It takes fewer people to make change than most people think. The 3.5 per cent tendency is a great analogy. I think rapidly growing awareness means we are near a social tipping point likely to produce the changes in climate policy we need. We’re in a race to see if the good exponentials can win. I hope the game helps build towards that tipping point.

Do you have any advice for other young people?

Every industry is already deeply affected by climate change — or will be soon. We need engineers, marketers, real estate agents, entrepreneurs, facilities managers. Everyone can help.

What would you like to say to older people?

Older people have a tremendous opportunity to make a meaningful impact. You often have more resources than younger people, more free time, and certainly more experience. There is no better time to be a hero!

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