An Environmental History of Food and Farming (ENV2204.01)

Kerry Woods

Modern Homo sapiens have been around for about 200,000 years and for about 95% of that time, our ancestors lived as hunter-gatherers. Around 10,000 years ago, several distinct sets of our ancestors came up with agricultural technology (active ecosystem management for enhanced food production), and immediately began changing their world irreversibly. LongÔÇÉterm feedbacks triggered by adoption of food production have transformed climate and local and global ecosystem properties; they have also shaped human population dynamics and cultural and economic systems. These potent feedbacks must be addressed in any consideration of the human condition and how we understand ╩╣natural states╩╣. Deep historical perspectives and context from ecological science are both essential for understanding relationships between agriculture and food production and, ultimately, for understanding and addressing issues concerning conservation, sustainability, and human well-being. Such perspectives are likely to call for reassessment of basic assumptions and beliefs about the nature of nature, what constitutes sustainable behavior, and how human well-being might be reconciled with protection of natural systems. We will begin with simple but challenging questions. Why did (some) people take up farming? Why at particular times and locations and not others? Were collapses of agricultural civilizations driven by internal/cultural or external/environmental factors (or interactions between them)? These explorations will motivate analysis of how the adoption of agriculture changed humans (both biologically and culturally), their domesticated plants and animals, and global system function.

Learning Outcomes:

Delivery Method: Hybrid in-person and remote, with faculty in-person
Course Level: 2000-level
Credits: 4
M/Th 10:00AM - 11:50AM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 18
Course Frequency: One time only

Categories: All courses , Biology , Earth Science , Environment , Hybrid In-Person and Remote