Acid Rain and the European Environment, 1979-89


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In Acid Rain in Europe, students represent the European nations at a series of major international conferences, beginning in Geneva in 1979 and ending in Helsinki in 1989. The goal of these conferences, held under the auspices of the United Nations, is to negotiate the first major international treaty to address long range transport air pollution. If successful, these negotiations will provide a model for dealing with other international environmental issues such as ozone depleting chemicals and Global Warming. In 1972, the UN adopted a statement that held nations responsible for the effects of pollution that travels outside their borders, but, prior to 1979, no treaty has been negotiated to implement this statement of principle. The long range transport air pollution treaty is negotiated against the background of the formation of the European Union and the beginning of Détente between the Soviet client countries and the West. These changes and the political events in the individual countries provide changing pressures on the negotiators during the course of the ten year span of the game.

The time frame of the game provides a rich context for these discussions in which both the scientific and ethical understanding of the environment are evolving but on a solid footing. Research on the impact of acid precipitation in the environment was at its peak, yielding a large body of primary and secondary literature, much of which is accessible to non-science majors. Similarly, the debate over whether environmentalism is simply a utilitarian reaction to the damage done or is an example of deeper inherent rights of nature as a whole is in full swing. Finally, the debate juxtaposes market economics as a tool for environmentalism against command and control approaches common in Europe during this period.

About the Designers:

David E. Henderson is Professor of Chemistry at Trinity College and a founding member of the Environmental Science Program at Trinity. His research has included studies of acid precipitation and its effects on stream chemistry. He is also an expert on liquid chromatography and has published widely in the field. He has a wide range of interests including environmental protection and the history of religion. He is author of two other Reacting games, Evolution in Kansas and Constantine and the Council of Nicaea.   Susan K. Henderson is Professor of Chemistry at Quinnipiac University. She has published research on food and environmental chemistry.  She also has a wide range of interests including human health, nutrition, and yoga.