Rollenspiele werden seit dem letzten Jahrhundert als Methodik eingesetzt, um das Bewusstsein und die Beteiligung von Gemeinschaften in verschiedenen Problembereichen zu fördern und so die Suche nach Lösungen für Interessenkonflikte zwischen den Parteien zu erleichtern. Unter diesen Problemen wecken derzeit die zunehmenden Umweltkonflikte insbesondere bei jungen Menschen, aber auch bei älteren Gruppen, besonderes Interesse. Diese Methode der Konfliktlösung ermöglicht es uns, unsere kreativen Fähigkeiten durch eine interaktive Dynamik zwischen Gruppen und Menschen zu entwickeln, indem wir in einer fast theatralischen Aufführung eine Situation von ausgeprägtem Realismus und Bedeutung simulieren, aber in einem sicheren Raum.

People unleash their imaginations by putting themselves in the shoes of others, in an empathetic effort to understand the interests of those parties whom they may denounce in real life. In a clear exercise of otherness, it becomes clear why it is so difficult to reach consensus on problems of marked sensitivity but in urgent need of a solution.

In recent years, the University of Belgrano together with Mundus maris have been developing, with both university and high school students, a specific role-play linked to plastic pollution in the seas. This is one of the most pressing sources of pollution today, the solution proposals of which are very diverse but are far from solving, to date, the problem on a global scale. Plastics are often spread through the seas traveling vast distances around the globe, far from their place of origin as waste. The marine litter can affect marine life through various physical and chemical mechanisms.

The proposal for this role play consists of four stakeholder groups that are acted out by the participants: a plastic materials manufacturer company, a fast food restaurant chain, an NGO committed to nature conservation and the environment, and the municipal authority of a tourist village. Likewise, participants are invited to bear in mind the sustainable development goals of Agenda 2030, considered as guiding principles of good action in the search for solutions for a more sustainable world.

Until the middle of this year, our concrete experiences had shown a remarkable enthusiasm by both advanced middle school  pupils and university students of various careers, achieving a climate of marked cordiality and concluding with original solutions during past exercises. From 4 to 6 August of this year, the XXIX Argentina Meeting of Ecology opened the possibility of new forms of interaction within the academic community. The programme called them in general terms innovative sessions. One of these activities was our role play. Under the circumstances of the pandemic, the congress had to be conducted virtually.

Both circumstances made the game a new and even more challenging experience, but it was no less successful and interesting. This is due to the fact that the academic community has more rigorous and current information, with knowledge of the true scope of possible technologies for mitigating environmental impacts, both in terms of costs and results. Additionally, some of the participating members had had previous experiences with different sectors of society, both industrial and NGO contexts as well as in government administrations. All of this made a notable difference compared to young students, even university students. And this is probably why the results were also different from what would be expected after working with younger groups. The realistic framework of experienced people made us reflect on the urgent need to promote dialogue between the parties, since this exercise of otherness mentioned above clearly shows that there are no unique truths and that interests, even when sometimes divergent, can be legitimate. That is why that gift of our species called intelligence, together with goodwill, are the only tools that will allow us to leave a more sustainable planet, but even more so a way of interpreting the universe with much greater humility.

Now another challenge awaits us, in virtual form, with secondary schools. Paradoxically, this virtuality can be enriching by putting us all in a situation of geographical equality, allowing the participation of different schools in the country as an additional exercise of integration.

In another focus of work within the framework of collaboration between Mundus maris and the University of Belgrano, Carla Bonelli and Camila Condomiña presented their research projects at the congress, led by the writer. The first related to contamination with microplastics in fish from the Río de la Plata and the second related to the ages of first maturity of a species of commercial and sporting interest, the boga (Megaleporinus obtusidens). Both advanced students follow the same path that Penelope Quirino (see the photo on the dock) started a few years ago. Penelope completed her Diploma (licenciatura) in July 2021 when she earned her title as a biologist with praise from the jury.

Text by Marcelo Morales Yokobori