Sustainability of Food and Community

Discipline: Semester at Sea Seminars
Instructor: O’Sullivan
Credits: 3

Field Class: Costa Rica Download Syllabus

The United National Millennium Goals One [Eradicate Extreme Poverty & Hunger] and Seven [Ensure Environmental Sustainability] provide important direction for policy related to human well being, agriculture and environmental sustainability. This course will explore these policy directions in terms of food and the resources needed for sustaining the production of food while protecting the environment. Sustainable agriculture integrates the goals of environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity. The overriding principle is to meet current food needs without compromising the rights of future generations. The link between food production and environmental protection, both present and future, is easy to state but challenging to make. Given the multi-dimensional phenomena around food in human society, this course will focus on understanding the issues pertaining to the concepts, constraints, history, and modern technologies of food production and environmental management, in the United States, the Caribbean countries, Central America, Peru, and their implications for going in the direction of these twin Millennium Goals. Strategies to strengthen agriculture so as to feed present and future generations while protecting the environment from degradation will be reviewed. Through case studies and discussion of the countries and sites we will be visiting, we will strategize on how to meet the challenge of creating sustainable food systems based on social justice, local concerns, and democratic decision-making that will ensure all people’s right to food in a context of sound environmental stewardship.

Field Class

Country: Costa Rica

Earth University was created in 1986 to teach sustainable development practices with equal emphasis on entrepreneurial skills, commitment to the community and responsibility to the environment. EARTH is located in the humid tropics of Costa Rica on a 3,300 hectare property which includes the university campus, academic farms, a commercial agri-enterprise with extensive production areas, a biological reserve of more than 1,000 hectares and residences for faculty and students. Touring the banana plantation will provide an excellent example of their commitment to sustainable development. When a banana farm came with the land acquired for the University, an advisory group recommended eliminating the plantation because traditional banana production requires heavy use of chemicals and produces massive amounts of organic and solid waste and dangerous working conditions. Rather than accept the advice, the University saw an opportunity to be an example to the world that sustainable agriculture is possible. Producers worldwide have incorporated the sustainable banana production methods pioneered at EARTH. Participants will experience EARTH's innovative educational programs by attending a workshop on recycling in peri-urban agriculture. The tour will conclude with a visit to the Ethnobotanical Garden, a medicinal plant collection of native and non-native plants from the Caribbean region for germ plasm conservation, research, and seed production purposes.