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Mervin Jarman with trophy and Challenge emceesIt’s impossible really to communicate how inspiring it was to be in the august Stockholm City Hall and receive the full-on Nobel Prize treatment, but maybe this picture of Mervin Jarman, one of the Education winners for his excellent Container Project, gives you some idea. You can find a full list if the winning projects here.

World Without Oil did very well in the Challenge, bringing home a Special Mention (i.e., it was a runner-up) in the Environment category. The Environment winner is the World Weather Information Service, a global source for free, updated weather information based  in Hong Kong. A vitally necessary service indeed in a food-challenged, climate-changed world.

(Below: The Stockholm City Choir serenading the diners. We are in the Blue Hall of the Stockholm City Hall, the same room where Nobelists meet and present their awards.)

at the Stockholm Challenge Awards Dinner 2008

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As seen in SwedenEverywhere I go in Sweden, I see messages about energy. Car ads list fuel types first, car names second. Car magazines splash “Diesel Sport!” on the cover. New buildings have huge banners on them touting their green designs.

Even the toilets have their message. I encountered one that has a Stop button – stop flushing, that is. Another had a dual flush button – one for a big flush, one for a small. Which may seem puzzling for a country that doesn’t have much of a water problem, until I remembered that moving water around is one of the prime energy drain (so to speak). Back in California, it is the state’s single biggest energy use, for example.

The Tunnelbana – the subway – works like a dream. It’s pleasant to ride and efficient. And it’s growing: the land around my hotel is all torn up for a new spur line to be added.

The thing is, Sweden has a plan – it wants to wean itself off petroenergy by 2015. And the first step is to make efficiency a priority. This bus advertisement (at right) really summed up the attitude: whereas in the US it would probably read “Get more X for less money!” here in Sweden it reads “Get more X for less energy!”  That is a profoundly different mindset, and one that the World Without Oil game is helping to promote.

photo by bogers via FlickrI’m traveling, slowly making my way to Stockholm for Stockholm Challenge Week next week, noting the irony as gallon after gallon of petroenergy turns to vapor in my wake. Looking for something to do to while away the hours while our fully loaded plane sits idling on the tarmac for hours, I look in the seat pocket for a magazine – nothing.

So I find a flight attendant and ask her if there are any extra issues, and she says no, they get one per pocket these days and nothing more. Any other magazines? No, they were the first frill to go, she tells me, way back in 2001. I make some sort of sympathetic noise, about how it must be tough to try to do her job with less and less, and now with oil prices rising so fast, and suddenly her guard goes down and I see how terrified she is. She practically grips my arm.

She knows that soon she is going to lose her job.

The thing is, I know this too. It’s right out of World Without Oil. If only she had played the game, I can’t help thinking, she would at least be more ready for this, might feel less alone. She and OrganizedChaos might have really bonded. As it is, all I can do is tell her not to worry, I’ll scrounge up my own magazine.

(photo by bogers via Flickr)

It was the world's first serious alternate reality game, a cooperative pre-imagining of a global oil crisis. Over 1900 players collaborated in May 2007 to chronicle the oil crisis with their own personal blog posts, videos, images and voicemails. The game ended after simulating the first 32 weeks of the oil shock, but its effects continue, as game designers analyze its unique gameplay and we all watch the continuing drama with global oil prices and supply.