By Steve Prince, Managing Principal

“Because recycling is not enough.”

Who rules the earth? It’s an important question and is the title of Paul Steinberg’s new book, “Who Rules the Earth? How Social Rules Shape Our Planet and Our Lives,” that will be published by Oxford University Press in 2014. The book is part of The Social Rules Project, an extraordinary environmental sustainability advocacy and education initiative led by my friend Paul Steinberg, Associate Professor of Political Science and Environmental Policy at Harvey Mudd College. Professor Steinberg, whose teaching focuses on global environmental politics, has an impressive background, having received his undergraduate degree from UC Santa Barbara, master’s degree in public policy from Harvard, and Ph.D. from UC Santa Cruz in environmental studies. Paul and I met through our volunteer work with the Boy Scouts about a year ago.

When Paul told me about The Social Rules Project, I immediately thought that the initiative, because of its focus on environmental sustainability, would be a great fit for HMC and the Designing Futures Foundation. Earlier this year, I submitted a community project proposal and the DFF awarded a $5,000 grant to Harvey Mudd College to support The Social Rules Project.

Professor Steinberg’s goal is to create new and innovative ways to bridge academia and real world challenges, and to empower students to make a positive impact on the planet. Two weeks ago, Professor Steinberg invited a team from HMC, along with Michael Akavan of MA Engineers (who also donated $5,000 towards the project), to the Harvey Mudd campus to give us an update on his progress.

One compelling aspect of The Social Rules Project is that it is multifaceted and consists of four main parts: a book, website, film, and video game.

1. Book – Professor Steinberg’s new book, “Who Rules the Earth? How Social Rules Shape Our Planet and Our Lives,” is the centerpiece of the initiative. It is being published by Oxford University Press and is scheduled to be released in 2014.

2. Website – A portal where students can learn more about “Social Rules,” and how they can take action, is currently under development in beta testing.

3. Film – A nine minute film that addresses the questions, “Why is it so hard to take care of our planet?” and “What can we do to help?” It was created in collaboration with Dan Hanson, the chair of the character animation department at the California Institute for the Arts (CalArts). About 100 CalArts animation students were involved with the project.

4. Video game – Your father has been kidnapped and you are needed immediately, so you must jump on a plane to Central America to find out what has happened. This is the beginning of “Law of the Jungle,” a videogame that teaches players about the complicated issues surrounding rainforest conservation. Complicated community issues, political bureaucrats, and shady tree poachers are obstacles put in your way to keep you from finding your father and saving the endangered rain forests.

“The Social Rules” project has the potential to impact hundreds of thousands of college students throughout the U.S. and abroad. As Paul states on The Social Rules Project’s website, “recycling is not enough.” The next generations are going to be challenged to solve complex social problems that we can only begin to imagine. The Social Rules Project gives young people the information and tools they will need to bring about long term political and systemic change. I am proud that HMC and the DFF are supporting this important and innovative initiative.