Imperative Change: Earth, Food for the Future

Spring 2018
Class Size: 25
Credits per quarter

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Taught by

Faculty: Peter Goldmark,

Human activity is having a dramatic impact on our home-planet earth. The burning of massive amounts of fossil fuels combined with the destruction of large areas of forests has released over 100 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere. The result is a threat to many life forms on earth, including humans. In the future, this threat will only increase as the human population is steadily growing and projected to reach 10 billion by 2050. With arable land constantly diminished by conversion and threatened by sea level rise and hot growing conditions, there is an increasing concern about our food supply. Further, current farming practices may not be sustainable, particularly to feed 10 billion. To clearly understand this global crises and possible solutions, students will learn answers to the following guiding questions: Where does food come from now? What production methods are in current use? Are these methods sustainable and what is the impact of these methods on terrestrial life? What is food justice? What changes in food production must occur to meet both the needs of a growing global population and the imperative of caring for all life on planet earth?

The course will consist of two units. In the first unit of study, students will learn about Washington State food production including past geologic events that have created both favorable food producing soils and climate thus enabling the unique crop growing diversity and capacity in this state. In addition, there will be a four-day field trip across this state to view, first hand, the broad diversity of both crops and production methods currently in use. Students will choose one food crop and study both the production requirements and the role of these foods in a healthy diet. Further, students will be introduced to the science of plant genomics for each chosen food crop and consider the emerging issue of food justice.

In the second unit of this course, students will then discuss, debate and design a potential model for global food production in the year 2050. Lectures and readings will guide this final course unit. This model will need to address both the nutritional needs of the expected 10 billion humans and the associated impacts of this food production on all terrestrial life. At the completion of this course, students will understand how food is currently grown, critical issues threatening the sustainability of this system, and new practices that are ecologically compatible and supportive of all life on earth.

Students in this course will learn and explore the critical intersections among food production, sustainability, and global warming. These issues will be introduced, unpacked, and understood through research, readings, lectures, guest presentations and student discussions and debates.

Learning objectives: 1) A synopsis of scientific evidence for global CO2 pollution and attendant earth warming; 2) An introduction to the geologic history of Washington state over the last 200 million years and resulting rich soil formation including emerging science on the rhizosphere; 3) An introduction to edible plant sciences, genomics and a diversity of crop production methods together with an evaluation for the ecological sustainability of each method.     

This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in:

Agriculture, land management, plant sciences, ecology, food production


Credits per quarter

Online learning:
  • Enhanced Online Learning - This offering requires access to web-based tools, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

$210 fee for overnight field trip (This fee will be charged to all students. If you do no attend the optional field trip, speak with the faculty about the process for a fee refund). 

Class Standing: Sophomore–Senior
Class Size: 25

Scheduled for: Weekend

Advertised schedule:

Meets Saturdays and Sundays, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. alternating weeks:

Week 1-4/7 & 4/8

Week 3-4/21 & 4/22

Week 5-Field Trip (optional) 5/3-5/6

Week 6-5/12 & 5/13 (for students not attending the field trip)

Week 9-6/2 & 6/3


Located in: Olympia

2018-03-16Fee reduced to $210 (was $250)
2018-03-05New offering added for Spring Quarter