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Sustainable Food Security: The value of systems thinking

Learn how to solve the 'Rubik's cube' of systems thinking and how it's applied to improve the environmental sustainability of food production systems!

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29,227 already enrolled! After a course session ends, it will be archived.
Starts Sep 24
Ends Dec 28
Starts Jan 4, 2022
Estimated 6 weeks
8–10 hours per week
Self-paced
Progress at your own speed
Free
Optional upgrade available

About this course

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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

At a glance

What you'll learn

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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

Learner testimonials

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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!”

About the instructors

Frequently Asked Questions

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Do you have questions about the MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and/or related online programmes of Wageningen University & Research? To help you find answers to your questions, we created a list with frequently asked questions about enrolling, participating in- and finishing a MOOC.

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