CENV 110

Introduction to Food and the Environment C ENV 110

Autumn 2012


Ray Hilborn                                                                            rayh@uw.edu

Office: 352b Fishery  Sciences                                               Tel. 543-3587

Office Hours:  M,W 1:30 and by appointment

Teaching Assistants: 

Amy Yahnke                                                                           aey@uw. Edu

Beth Phillips                                                                            emp11@uw.edu

1.  Introduction

Food is produced in a variety of ways;  crops are grown, animals are fed on crops and or grazed,  fish are caught in the ocean and fresh water, and fish are raised in aquaculture.  Each method of food production impacts the environment in many ways through transformation of habitats, consumption of energy and release of CO2,  pollution of waterways,  soil erosion, and reduction in biodiversity.  Understanding how food production affects and shapes the environment can help us make choices about what kinds of food we eat, but also provides a window for learning about the basics of environmental science.

In this course will use food production and consumption as an introduction to many of the elements of environmental science including nutrient cycles, population growth,  food webs, water supply and demand,  impact of exploitation on natural populations,  land transformation,  energy consumption and its impact on climate.  We will also explore how environmental changes impact individuals and societies in how they produce food.  In the 1960s there were apocalyptic claims that the world would run out of food in the 1970s and wars would be fought over food.  This did not happen and world food production has increased faster than human populations.  However, the methods used to increase yields seem to have reached a plateau, and climate change, water and land shortages all threaten the ability to match food production to human population.

This course will cover a range of natural and physical sciences and will meet the Natural World requirement.  The material will also cover how individuals, communities and societies have changed the environment and have responded to environmental changes and will meet the Individuals and Societies requirement.

2.  Course Objectives:

By the end of the course you will

  1. understand how different kinds of food production impact the environment both locally and globally
  2. explore how individual, communities and societies have responded to environmental changes induced by food production
  3. understand the relative environmental costs of different kinds of food
  4. understand the major processes that shape the earths’ environment
  5. be introduced to key research areas in environmental science
  6. have further developed your analytic, interpretive and critical thinking skills
  7. have further developed your comprehension, communication and writing skills

3.  Course Policies

To request academic accommodations due to disability, please contact Disabled Student Services indicating your needs and inform me as soon as possible about special accommodations.  Disabled Student Services, 448 Schmitz, Box 355839, 206-543-8925 (Voice/TTY), uwdss@u.washington.edu

Plagiarism, cheating, and other misconduct are serious violations of your contract as a student.  You are expected to know and follow the University’s policies regarding academic integrity.

4.  Course Requirements and Grading


There will be two mid-term exams and one final exam.  In the discussion sessions grading will be based on (1) the food diaries, (3) written questions you provide on the readings (4) quiz results on the readings and (5) a book review.

Item Percent of Grade
Mid –term I 15%
Mid-term  II 15%
Final exam 20%
Food Diary 5%
In class quizzes 10%
Book Review or Service Learning 10%
Discussion questions 10%
Discussion participation 5%
Quiz results from readings 10%

5.  Methods of Instruction

Lectures: there will be 3 50 minute lectures each week

Projects:  each student will keep a food diary for two 1 week periods during the course.  Computer software will be used to translate the food consumed into tables of  nutrients consumed and environmental impacts and students will perform some basic data analysis of the results of the food diaries.

Book Reviews:  each student may chose one book related to the course material and read the book and make an oral presentation on its relevance to the relationship between food and the environment.

Service Learning: An alternative to book reviews is for students to participate in service learning.


Service-learning provides students a unique opportunity to connect coursework with life experience through public service. Offered as an integral part of many University of Washington courses, service-learning provides students an opportunity to experience theories traditionally studied within classrooms come to life, through serving with community-based organizations. Choosing to engage in service-learning is a way to demonstrate your commitment to your community and your ability to link your academic studies to practical, real-world experiences. The Carlson Leadership and Public Service Center, located in 171 Mary Gates Hall, facilitates contacts with community-based organizations and will help you to coordinate your service-learning opportunity.


Instructions for how to browse a list of organizations and service-learning positions matched with this course will be presented the first day of classes. You can also visit the Carlson Center web site at http://exp.washington.edu/carlson/ and follow the link to AUTUMN 2012 Service-Learning. You can log in using your UW Net ID to browse positions starting on Monday, September 24th. The Carlson Center will send you an email if browsing is available before this time. For this class, service-learning registration opens on Thursday, September 27th at 8 am and closes on Monday October 1st at noon.

All students are expected to complete an orientation with their registered service-learning organization as soon as possible after registering for service-learning (unless otherwise noted in the description). Please be proactive in contacting your organization (after your service-learning registration is confirmed) by phone and e-mail to either 1) schedule an orientation or 2) confirm your attendance at an already scheduled orientation session. It is expected that all service-learning students will have completed an orientation and begun their service-learning experience no later than October 8th.

Readings and discussions:  This will be a reading intensive course,  with readings from the classic literature of environmentalism and recent scientific papers.  Each student will prepare written material in the form of commentary for each discussion section based on the readings for that week.  We will use a series of chapters from text books  for readings in the associated basic science.  Students are expected to spend 10 hours a week outside of class on course matters.  This will include approximately 100 pages of readings each week.

6.  Course Schedule


Each week of the course will be devoted to one major element of the interaction between food and the environment.


Week Weekly Topic
1 The history of food production and associated impacts on the environment.  The green revolution. The organic revolution.
2 Human population growth and population dynamics of exploited populations
3 Life cycle assessment:  how we measure the inputs and outputs from food production.
4 Water:  world supplies, use in agriculture, the hydrologic cycle
5 Nutrients and pollutants.  Pesticides, dead zones, eutrophication
6 Soils:  the formation of soils,  geological cycles,  impact of soils on history.  Interaction between agriculture and soils.
7 Energy:  Analysis of world energy consumption, use in agriculture, aquaculture and capture fisheries , impact on the environment
8 Food webs:  and ecology.  How agriculture, aquaculture and capture fisheries transforms ecosystems
9 Biodiversity:  the impacts of food production on biodiversity. Impacts of Genetic Modification
10 Climate and food:  The dynamics of climate, how it affects food production.  How food production affects climate.

7.  Readings:  full articles and selected chapters of the books.

Barney, J. N., and Ditomaso, J. M. 2008. Nonnative species and bioenergy: Are we cultivating the next invader? BioScience. 58: 64-70.

Branch, T. A., Watson, R., Fulton, E. A., Jennings, S., McGilliard, C. R., Pablico, G. T., and Ricard, D. 2010. The trophic fingerprint of marine fisheries. Nature. 468: 431-435.

Carson, R. 1962. Silent Spring. Crest Books, Greenwich, Connecticut.

Cohn, J. P. 2008. How Ecofriendly are wind farms. BioScience. 58: 576-578.

Cunningham, W. P., and Cunningham, M. A. 2010. Environmental Science: a global concern, 11th ed. McGraw Hill, Boston.

Donald, P. F., Green, R. E., and Health, M. F. 2001. Agricultural intensification and the collapse of Europe’s farmland bird populations. Proceedings Of The Royal Society B-Biological Sciences. 268: 25-29.

Ehrlich, P. 1968. The population bomb. Ballantine Books, London.

Enger, E. D., and Smith, B. F. 2010. Environmental Science: a study of interrelationships, 12th ed. McGraw Hill, Boston.

Federico, G. 2005. Feeding the world:  An economic history of agriculture 1800-2000. Princeton University Press, Princeton N.J.

Godfray, H. C. J., Beddington, J. R., Crute, I. R., Haddad, L., Lawrence, D., Muir, J. F., Pretty, J., Robinson, S., Thomas, S. M., and Toulmin, C. 2010. Food Security:  The challenge of Feeding 9 Billion People. Science. 327: 812-818.

Hall, S. J., A. Delaporte, et al. 2011. Blue frontiers: managing the environmental cost of aquaculture. Penang, Malaysia, World Fish Center.

IPCC. 2007. Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report. http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/publications_ipcc_fourth_assessment_report_synthesis_report.htm.73.

Kaufmann, R. K., and Cleveland, C. J. 2010. Environmental Science. McGraw Hill, Boston.

Lomborg, B. 1998. The skeptical environmentalist:  measuring the real state of the world. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge UK.

Malthus, T. 1798. An Essay on the Principle of Population. J. Johnson, London.

Montgomery, D. R. 2007. Dirt: the erosion of civilizations. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Myers, S. S., and Patz, J. A. 2009. Emerging threats to human health from global environmental change. Annu. rev. environ. resour. 34: 223-252.

Paddock, W., and Paddock, P. 1967. Famine 1975! America’s decision: who will survive. Little Brown, Boston.

Pauly, D., Christensen, V., Dlasgaard, J., Froese, R., and Torres Jr., F. 1998. Fishing down marine food webs. Science. 279: 860-863.

Reisner, M. 1986. Cadillac Desert:  The American west and its disappearing water. Penguin Books, New York.

Roy, P., D. Nei, T. Orikasa, Q. Y. Xu, H. Okadome, N. Nakamura, and T. Shiina. 2009. A review of life cycle assessment (LCA) on some food products. Journal of Food Engineering 90:1-10.

Schwarzenbach, R., Egli, T., Hofstetter, T. B., von Gunten, U., and Wehrli, B. 2010. Global Water Pollution and Human Health. Annu. rev. environ. resour. 35: 109-136.

Shellenberger, M., and Nordhaus, T. 2004. The death of environmentalism:  global warming politics in a post-environmental world. WWW.THEBREAKTHROUGH.ORG.1-37.

Turner II, B. L., Clark, W. C., Kates, R. W., Richards, J. F., Mathews, J. T., and Meyer, W. B. 1990. The earth as transformed by human action. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge UK. p. 713.

Tyner, W. E. 2008. The US ethanol and biofuels boom: Its origins, current status, and future prospects. BioScience. 58: 646-653.