I currently teach three courses within the Environmental Studies Program

ENVS 3525 - Sustainable food systems (Fall semester)


The UN predicts that world food demand will increase by 70% by 2050. Given the already-high environmental and social impacts of food systems globally, how can such large growth in food production be achieved in a more sustainable manner? This course will first examine the broad environmental and social costs of the current food system, and then explore the opportunities and challenges for alternative (or modified) models of food production. Can organic feed the world? Should we buy local? What contribution might GMOs make? What dietary changes are needed and expected? In all cases, we will ask: can this potential solution be scaled up, and what are the changes in science, policy, and values that would better-enable that process? The course draws on seminars, discussions, readings, activities, and visiting speakers to explore these themes of sustainable food systems. Assessment is based on a series of experiential assignments, to encourage engagement with the topic.

ENVS 4800 - Demanding sustainability: deforestation and food (Spring semester)

Cocoa, sugar, palm oil, beef, coffee, and soy are a daily part of the diets of millions of people globally.  Yet large-scale production of these commodities in the tropics is frequently associated with high rates of deforestation, soaring greenhouse gas emissions, and significant social inequality.  In response, an increasing number of NGOs, government agencies, and private sector organizations are trying to improve the sustainability of commodity production.  This important challenge presents numerous real-world questions.  Can Rainforest Alliance certification help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Brazil?  What does it mean when Unilever, Nestle, and Proctor & Gamble promise ‘zero deforestation’ supply chains by 2020?  Are companies more effective than governments at achieving sustainability?  What contribution can science make? We use a case-study approach to examine the relevant science, values, and policy issues related to 1) the environmental and social challenges posed by expanding global food systems, and 2) the potential for greater sustainability presented by governance mechanisms and market innovations such as certification programs, payments for environmental services programs, commodity moratoria, industry-led roundtables, and consumer boycotts.

ENVS 6305 - Food system solutions? (Fall semester)

The course will address proposed solutions to food system challenges, by tackling some of the most important contemporary food system debates. Classes will ask: in enhancing the sustainability of food systems, what roles can be played by genetically engineered food, organic foods, local food systems, dietary changes, and reductions in food waste? Students will critically evaluate the best available evidence to understand a) the environmental, social, and economic implications of different strategies of addressing food system challenges, b) the science, policy, and ethics of different options, and c) the opportunities for, and barriers to, these potential solutions gaining traction and becoming more mainstream. This course will introduce students to many of the individuals and ideas that have shaped an emerging body of expertise in sustainable food systems in Colorado’s Front Range, by incorporating a series of seminars and field visits, each exposing students to different facets of food system sustainability. Guest speakers from across the university, NGO, for-profit, and farming communities will visit the class or invite the class to visit them. In many cases, they will present real-world challenges from their own careers for students to tackle.