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Engineering LibreTexts

1.2: Food Systems Combine Natural and Human Systems

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  • Introduction

    Module 1.2 continues the goal of the introductory module, which is to introduce the course themes of integrated perspectives on the environmental and human systems that are related to food production and consumption. In the case of the first (environmental systems), the course places emphasis on the Geosystems and agroecology of soil, nutrients, crops, water, and climate that form the fundamental basics of food-growing environmental systems. In the case of the second (human systems) the course emphasizes factors such as population and the roles of culture, social interactions, economics, and politics. Module 1.2 builds on the concepts of multidisciplinarity introduced in Module 1.1 by introducing the Coupled Natural-Human systems framework as a conceptual tool where multiple natural and social disciplines are used to understand food systems. Building from simple examples of home gardens and hunting/fishing considered as natural/human systems, Module 1.2 provides an introductory description of food systems both as integrated production/transport/production chains and as interacting natural and human subsystems. Both of these themes will be deepened in Module 8, but the purpose here is to introduce them in basic form so that the subsequent modules on domestication, water, soils, and agroecology can utilize the framework and place even emphasis on both human and natural factors. Module 1.2 also advances the thesis (and key geosciences concept) that the global food system is a major area in which humans are transforming earth surface properties and processes during the Anthropocene. In Module 1.2 students are asked to complete a formative assessment in identifying introductory concepts in real examples of food systems which span local to global scales, and which take place both within and outside of the United States. The module concludes with a summative assessment that applies systems thinking and asks students to map a food system example and explore how relationships between parts of a food system are as important as knowledge about each part.

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