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Sustainable Food Systems in an Era of Climate Change


Admission requirements

This course is part of Sustainability, Climate Change and Food and therefore only accessible to students enrolled in that Minor.


We are living in an era of unprecedented environmental change which is driven by growing human populations, increasing prosperity and resource consumption. Food production alone is responsible for about a third of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and agricultural areas cover nearly 40% of the global land surface. Resulting environmental impacts such as biodiversity loss, climate change, freshwater depletion and loss of fertile topsoil undermine human development, prosperity and food security. This course explores answers to the question: Can we feed 10 billion people and stay within planetary boundaries?

To answer this question we touch on a range of topics:

  • Definition of food systems and food security

  • Food systems and environmental change

  • Biodiversity and food systems

  • Environmental pollution and food production

  • Disruption of biochemical flows and impacts on ecosystems

  • Links between soil management and water issues

  • Comparison between industrial and traditional agricultural systems

  • Supply side solutions (‘sustainable intensification’), with examples

  • Demand side measures (shift in diets, reduce food waste)

  • Social transition and tipping points

Course Objectives

  • Understand the importance of natural systems for food production

  • Understand how different components of food systems interact with planetary boundaries

  • Critically evaluate supply side solutions for sustainable food production

  • Understand social, economic and governance drivers of change

  • Evaluate social justice aspects of demand side solutions


TBA; information will be published before May 2023.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures

  • In-class activities

Assessment Method

  • Individual practical assignment, 30%

  • Final Exam, 70%

  • Grade must be 5,5 or higher to pass the course

  • Resit of a fail is possible

  • Resit will take the same form

Reading list

  • Steffen, W., Richardson, K., Rockström, et al. 2015. Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet. Science, 347(6223): 259855.

  • Behrens, P., Ehrhardt, D. and Bosker, T. eds., 2020. Food and Sustainability. Oxford University Press, USA.

Additional course readings TBA


Registration starts early May. Additional information TBA.