Search | Directories | Reference Tools
UW Home > Discover UW > Student Guide > Course Catalog 

Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Michael Kucher
Seattle Campus

Special Topics in Environmental Studies

Format may range from seminar/discussion to formal lectures to laboratory or modeling work.

Class description

Field trips and speaker tentatively include:

A visit to the Skagit River Ranch in Seedro Woolley, A trip to the U-District Farmers Market, A visit to Full Circle Farm in Carnation, where Andrew Stout and his crew grow Ozette Potatoes, one of the region's first foods to be welcomed into Slow Food's Ark of Taste, as well as full range of vegetables, from which some of Seattleļæ½s top restaurants are supplied.


How What We Eat Affects the Environment and Human Health

Concerns about the loss of farms west of the Cascades, rising rates of obesity, and the increasing length of food chains have been coming to a head in recent years. Scholars and citizens alike are concerned about the impact of these trends on the land, farm workers, and consumers. Using recent work such as Gary Nabhan, Coming Home to Eat; Joan Dye Gussow, This Organic Life; Michael Pollan, Omnivore's Dilemma; Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation; Marion Nestle, What to Eat, this course will examine the state of food in the Pacific Northwest. It will be taught as a seminar course with a field component. Drawing on methods from several disciplines, including history, geography, ecology, and economics, it will address human and environmental dimensions of the American food system. It will cover topics including human health, food security, ecological degradation, petrochemical inputs to the current food system, as well as near and long term alternatives. The focus will be on the Pacific Northwest and changes to the industrial food system including farmers markets, Slow Food, agro-tourism, Chefs' Collaborative, "Big Organic," and the movement for sustainable fisheries. Activities will include visits to working farms, markets and kitchens. Students will examine their own relationship to the food chain by keeping a log in which the note what they ate and where it was grown, processed, and packaged. Those with GIS skills will have the opportunity to create a map depicting the sources of the food they eat. From there we will take a cue from Michael Pollan's work and trace several items backward to their points of origin. Group projects will include visits to a local food co-op, a branch of Whole Foods, Wal-Mart, the Pike Place Market and the University Farmers Market, and a trip to the Skagit Valley where we will have lunch with a local rancher. The course is designed to give students an overview of the food system and will be open to students in any field. They will gain a sense of the interplay between food, the environment, and human health. Through field work, individual research, and class discussions they will learn to do interdisciplinary research and to synthesize information from across disciplines. Course will require one all day field trip as well as shorter trips, mostly by using King County Metro Bus system.

Instructor: Michael Kucher, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Environmental Studies,Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

Student learning goals

Trace the food you eat to the place in which it is grown and the people who grow it.

Understand what Carlo Petrini means by a food system that is "Buono, Pulito, Giusto" (Good, Clean, and Fair)and how to become a "co-producer" not just a consumer of food.

Learn the impacts of food production and consumption on the environment.

Learn the role of local, sustainable agriculture in providing habitat for land and marine species.

Explore the impacts of petroleum-fueled "Big Organic", flying out-of-season produce to North American markets.

Explore ways in which our own consumption choices have upstream and downstream effects on the environment.

General method of instruction

About half the course time will be spent in the field. Students will write a proposal for a research project on some aspect of our food system, using methods and frameworks from their own discipline(s).

Recommended preparation

This course is open to all undergraduate and graduate students. A quick reading of Jenny Kurzweil's book, _Fields That Dream: Journey To The Roots Of Our Food_ will offer a nice background to local growers.


Class assignments and grading

We will read Michael Pollan's The Omnivoire's Dilemma. Much of the work will observation, followed by discussion and analysis. Students will write several short, analytic essays. Participation in field trips essential.

Based on quality of written and oral contributions to the class.

The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Michael Kucher
Date: 04/29/2008