How to Do the Thermostat Species Demo in Schools


“Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards”

— Goethe

How to do the Greenhouse effect/Thermostat species school demo with:

1. one child to represent the Earth,
2. one stuffed toy to represent Mother Nature,
3. one stuffed toy to represent animals,
4. one long green blanket to represent greenhouse gases,
5. Vegan World 2026! buttons


1. Explain that without greenhouse gases, the Earth would have a surface temperature of 0 deg F, which would not be hospitable for life. It is only with the help of greenhouse gases that life thrives on Earth.

2. Wrap the child holding toys with green blanket (see photo) completely. With the blanket on, the temperature on Earth is 60 deg F and the time is 250 million years ago.

3. The sun gets warmer over time from 250 million years ago to 3 million years ago by about 5%. Life sheds atmospheric greenhouse gases in response. Unwrap the blanket until only one layer is left. Then unwrap some more until toys are exposed and child (and audience) shouts, “It’s freezing in here!” and wrap back. That is the ice age and interglacial period. Explain that during the ice age, there would be a mile of ice on top of Chicago and life would struggle to survive. Do that repeatedly several times until human “civilization” begins about 10K years ago.

4. Explain that humans burnt down forests for 10,000 years and grew the greenhouse gas blanket on Earth to unknowingly prevent Earth from going back into another ice age. Then 200 years ago, we started burning fossil fuels as well to grow the blanket some more. Have the child now say, “It’s hot in here!”

5. Then pin the Vegan World 2026! buttons on the blanket to prevent it from unwrapping and explain that if we all go Vegan and bring back most of the forests we burnt over the past 10K years, the fossil fuel carbon will still be up in the atmosphere and prevent the Earth from going back to another ice age. This is how humans can become a conscious Thermostat Species on planet Earth!!

6. Explain that when we burn down forests to heat up the planet, we are being mean to animals and indigenous people. So what do we have to do if we want to cool the planet? – Be kind to animals and indigenous people, of course!…

Thanks to my nephew, Kavi, for doing the demo with me and my brother-in-law, Milan for taking the photo!…


Diagnosing the Climate Emergency
Beyond Vegan
Sailesh Rao
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