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assignment Level : Introductive
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Key informations

credit_card Free access
verified_user Fee-based Certificate
timer 48 hours in total

About the content

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 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

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Syllabus


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.

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Intructors

Gerrie van de Ven
Plant Production Systems Group
Wageningen University & Research

I.J.M. de Boer
Lead, Animal Production Systems
Wageningen University & Research

Carolien Kroeze
Professor, Environmental Systems Analysis Group
Wageningen University & Research

Eddie Bokkers
Associate Professor, Animal Production Systems
Wageningen University & Research

Martin van Ittersum
Professor, Plant Production Systems
Wageningen University & Research

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Wageningen University
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