About this courseSkip About this course
Systems thinking and environmental sustainability: solve the Rubik 's cube
Have you ever considered how many aspects of food production affect the natural environment? Every aspect needs to be considered in attaining the future goal to produce enough food for the growing population while at the same time preserving our planet. It's as difficult as solving a Rubik's cube; changing one aspect may affect the environment in a major way.
Systems theory, or systems thinking, is a way of understanding and working with the complexity of sustainable food production systems, which requires training in different disciplines and an approach that can address this complexity. This environmental studies course enables participants to apply the principles of a systems approach to food production with a focus on environmental sustainability.
The MOOC Sustainable Food Security: The value of systems thinking is part of the XSeries programme Food Security and Sustainability, which learns you more about how we can feed the world with its growing population and wealth in a sustainable way. The other MOOCs in this XSeries are Sustainable Food Security: Crop Production and Sustainable Food Security: Food Access.
The professors at Wageningen University
The University of Wageningen offers an excellent combination of conducting research worldwide and educating in the area of 'healthy food and living environment'. For each course, professors from specific fields of expertise are eager to teach and share the University's mission: "Explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life".
This is why you should sign up
Sign up as a student if you want to acquire knowledge about environmental sustainability and the way systems thinking helps in decision-making in the complexity of food production. After successful completion of both practice and graded assignments related to this course, you will:
- Understand the complexity and diversity of food production systems
- Understand the principles of system analysis and apply it to environmental issues in food production
- Understand evaluation methods for the environmental impact of food production systems in different contexts and levels (e.g. farm, regional and global) Be able to evaluate strong and weak points of different food production systems regarding environmental sustainability
- Be able to contribute to a discussion about environmental sustainability and food production and ask relevant questions
What you'll learnSkip What you'll learn
In this course you will learn about:
- The concept of environmental sustainability and identify the main issues associated with food production
- The basics of systems thinking and understand how the different aspects of a system influence one another and how a system itself is affected by its context
- The relevance of crop and livestock productivity for environmental sustainability
- The environmental indicators and how to measure the environmental impact of food production at farm, village or regional level
- Decision-making and life cycle assessment
- Helpful tools and their strong and weak points
We will analyze production systems at both ends of the spectrum: highly productive systems with relatively high inputs and emissions to the environment, and low productive systems with low input use and depletion of soil fertility. Crop-livestock interaction is a focal point.
Module 1: Complexity of sustainable food production systems
Module 2: Introduction to systems thinking
Module 3: Productivity indicators of food production systems
Module 4: Environmental indicators of food production systems
Module 5: Trade-offs between sustainability indicators
Module 6: Integration module with two case studies
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“Well done to the course instructors. I am also now familiar with the extent and level to which relevant researchers at Wageningen University address both agricultural and environmental issues. Thanks for sharing your inputs."
“I want to thank the team involved for the excellent work they have done in this MOOC. I enjoyed it, it challenged me, and it learned me a great deal about systems thinking and the environmental sustainability in food production. Thank you all!”