This course engages students in one of the critical environmental and social issues of the 21st century—food—and all that it implies about the sustainability of current practices and emerging trends. Food, or more properly, food systems, has environmental, economic, ethical, and political dimensions. And they intersect with other major issues: health, ecological resilience, biological and cultural diversity, security, justice, democracy. What’s more, food is an issue that can be understood in terms of complex systems (natural and human), historical developments, and current practice. The course examines patterns of food production and consumption via histories, case studies and personal accounts, across cultures and across time. It examines the science of agriculture and the culture of growing food and eating food. Special attention is paid to patterns of economic expansion and environmental degradation and to the possibilities for sustainable food systems. A premise is that if society is to get on a sustainable path, it will have to do so first “on the ground,” in farming, fishing, and irrigating, for instance. And, for that, it will have to organize the distribution and consumption of food to support such efforts. The course thus approaches food from a multitude of perspectives, including those of ecology, economics, history, political science, planning and even some literature and art. The course is structured primarily as a lecture, but has features of a seminar (daily readings and discussion). Students must prepare daily, engage in discussions (including written submissions), and collaborate with each other for research, public presentation and discussion. They must also discipline themselves to “just observe.”
- Daily preparations — in-class discussions of readings and cases are designed to develop key concepts
- weekly observations — members of the class will spend at least 1 hr/wk observing some aspect of a food system
- Poster — teams of students will research a food issue of their choosing and publicly present results on a poster
- Midterm examination — covers readings and discussions on the substance of food and the dynamics of evolving food systems. Questions will derive from the reading guidelines, class discussion points, and lecture — that is, in-class activities
- Final examination — take-home exam that covers readings and discussions on the substance of food and the dynamics of evolving food systems discussed since the midterm
Intended Audience: Introductory course for new and potential PitE students interested in broad-ranging issues within environmental studies, e.g., from health to conservation to economic development to justice.
Class Format: Two lectures of 1.5 hours a week.