David S Battisti
H A&S 220
Evolution of an idea or concept central to the natural sciences. Intended for non-science majors. Content varies from year to year. For university honors students only. Offered: A.
The production of food to supply the human population has a large impact on the environment, and this impact is on a global scale. In this course, we will examine the impact of global agriculture today on the physical environment (e.g., on the water cycle, the groundwater, the climate, the soil) and on the global ecosystems (e.g., dead zones, decreased biodiversity). We will also estimate the resources that are required to feed humans in the 21st Century (projected to increase 50% by 2050) -- who will likely demand a high protein diet similar to that enjoyed in the US today -- and the impact this enterprise may have on the biosphere.
A big focus of the course will be to examine the effect of subsistence farming and industrial agriculture and aquaculture today on the global biodiversity and on the important global-scale biogeochemical cycles. We will look at some case studies to illustrate the role and impact of subsistence farming and industrial farming on a global scale today: subsistence farming of rice in Indonesia; industrial wheat and livestock production in NW Mexico (places I am currently working in); aquaculture world-wide; and industrial agriculture in the US (to illustrate the impact of subsidies) and India (to illustrate the influence of culture and society within a single country). We will also examine the link between protein production in China and the deforestation of the Amazon to illustrate the profound impact of globalization and industrial agriculture on the environment.
We will then examine the demands for food production for the next 50-100 years and the resources that are required and available to produce it: how many people will need to be fed, and how much land, water, nutrients, etc is available to feed these people -- assuming various types of diets, mainly forms of protein consumption? We will examine how global food production is being affected by the rush to produce biofuels and how global food production will be affected by Global Warming. One of the goals of the course is to produce and evaluate scenarios for global agriculture that can sustain the projected human population over the 21st Century, and to assess the impact of each scenario on the environment.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Lectures and Discussion
Class assignments and grading
Critiques of reading assignments, short papers and one longer research paper