Food and the Future Environment

Module 10: Food Systems 


Module 10: Food Systems


Understanding Coupling in Natural and Human Systems

Module 10 continues the theme of human-environment interactions seen at smaller scales in agroecosystems in module 8 and elaborates on the coupled human-natural systems (CHNS) concept introduced in Module 1. As learners, in Module 10.1 you will explore different scales and types of food systems, learn about barriers food producers face within food systems, and look in detail at how the framework of CHNS allows us to see divergences of food system into different types, and transitions from one type to another. In Module 10.2 you’ll learn about the impacts of food systems on natural systems, and practice a method called Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) which is used to measure the impact of Human Food System components on the environment. LCAs can be applied to measure the impacts of both particular products as well as complex human systems on the environment. The food systems typology, the CHNS framework, and the broad ideas behind LCAs in measuring impacts across a system are tools that you can use to develop your ideas for the capstone project and other learning efforts beyond this course.

As you apply the CHNS framework and the LCA method, you'll be using a geoscience habit of mind introduced in module 1, that of systems thinking. Systems-oriented frameworks and methods are ways of interpreting and measuring complex systems in a way that incorporates the scale of an entire system as well as linkages among many interacting parts. As designers of this course, we believe that these frameworks and skills will be useful to you whether or not you go in some area of geosciences since systems thinking is a needed skill in today's complex world.