ENVIR 385 A Sp 18: Political Ecology Of The World Food System

ENVIR 385 A Sp 18: Political Ecology Of The World Food System

What We Will Study

This course will address these questions and more: Where does our food come from? What are the social, political and environmental roots and consequences of current agricultural practices? Who wins and who loses? To what extent are non-state actors altering the world political system? How is climate change likely to impact the world food system? In particular, we will focus on the pivotal role of petroleum in the world food system, the global carbon and nitrogen cycles, the questions of meat and genetically modified food, and new food movements around the world. How does our planetary food web challenge our sense of personal identity and ethical responsibility?

What You Will Learn

If you participate actively in this course—which means seriously grappling with lectures, videos and readings, engaging yourself dynamically in quiz sections, and writing thoughtful papers—I expect that you will improve your skillfulness in many arenas, especially the following:

  • Critical thinking skills about some of the most important issues of our day
  • Your capacity for integrative thinking, linking science, politics and ethics
  • Your ability to articulate ideas and feelings about these issues, in writing and conversation
  • A deeper sense of what it means to be a human being living at this moment in history
  • Students who write a research paper will learn how to think systemically about global problems.
  • Service learners will gain hands-on skills from organic gardening to data analysis.

What You Will Do

  • Participation: You will read 80-120 pages per week. Please read course material beforehand and bring your full presence to both quiz sections and lectures.
  • Weekly Takeaways: These will be short (300-word limit) essays on weekly prompts; due on Sundays.
  • Course blog: At least four required posts; dates TBA:   https://courses.washington.edu/ps385s18/
  • Hungry planet paper: A 4-5 page paper drawing connections between the photographic essay, Hungry Planet, and course material. This paper is due April 25 on Canvas.
  • Group action projects: You will collaborate with three or four of your classmates to bring what you learn to the larger polis.
  • Final paper: A 5-7 page essay synthesizing what you learned from the action project and the course as a whole. Due June 4.


Required Texts (in order)

Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food (Penguin, 2008).

Michael Carolan, The Real Cost of Cheap Food, Second edition. (Earthscan, 2017).

Lester R. Brown, Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity (Norton: 2012).

Online readings on Canvas


Course Summary:

Date Details Due