Food and the Future Environment

Module 11: Human-Environment Interactions


Module 11: Human-Environment Interactions


Human-Environment Interactions: Resilience, Vulnerability, and Adaptive Capacity (RACV) of Food Systems

In Module 11, we focus on human-environment interactions in food systems under stress. Just as a human body does not persist in a constant state of perfect health, farms, fisheries and other components of food systems face adversity. These components must have sources of resilience and restoration to overcome these challenges. Shocks and perturbations from the natural world are a major negative coupling force from the natural systems to human societies and are sometimes compounded by problems and crises within societies. Such shocks are most evident where the natural world meets human management in production areas, and so Module 11.1 focuses on the resilience and vulnerability of agriculture. As a premier example of this, we build on the material from module 2 and learn about the way that humans’ manipulation of seeds and plant varieties has created agrobiodiversity. Agrobiodiversity, along with crop management techniques, make food production systems resilient or vulnerable to shocks and perturbations. In Module 11.2 we take up the theme of food access and food insecurity as a major example of vulnerability and an ongoing challenge for a significant proportion of humanity. Food insecurity also manifests as acute crises that carry the formal designation of famines. We will also study these since they are large-scale failures of the modern food system, which currently produces enough food for every person on earth. Just as health sciences and medicine are ways to improve and guarantee health for all persons, our hope is that by understanding vulnerability and resilience in food systems we can address food insecurity for all people as a facet of sustainable food systems. Addressing food insecurity is a serious consideration that you will contemplate in your capstone project.