Can We Feed the World Without Destroying It? Jon Foley’s Spring Course
Although it seems like the semester just started, registration for spring classes is just around the corner. The next few weeks will be filled with a bustle of advising appointments, an overload of OneStop users, and a half-dozen trips per student to Schedulizer. While it is easy for students to stress over the concerns for the future and difficult graduation requirements, seeing the magnitude of available courses soon to be filled with like-minded people can also be inspiring.
An innovative new course this semester will be taught by Institute on the Environment Director Jon Foley. The course, called “Can We Feed the World Without Destroying It?”, falls under the new category of “Honors Challenge Courses” where students participate in real-world exercises both inside and outside of the classroom. This will be Jon Foley’s first course at the University of Minnesota, and since Foley is an extremely busy guy, taking this course from him will be an exciting opportunity. “The course will be totally different than anything we’ve seen at the University before. Students will be confronting a major global challenge, be exposed to real world leaders on the topic from a variety of different organizations, and focus on serious problem solving,” said Foley.
Besides being the Director of IonE, Foley is constantly involved in the environmental community, taking special interest in food security and sustainability. In his work and travels, Foley spurs conversations among people with a broad range of opinions–from conversations with his 2,791 Twitter followers, to a conference in Australia with the Dalai Lama. Jon Foley is also famous for growing 40 varieties of fruit in his back yard in St. Paul (most of which were developed at the U), hosting a TED talk, and driving a Prius.
The prospect of this course focuses on the global food crisis that is affecting everyone from farmers in Iowa to the starving in sub-Saharan Africa. There are more people alive today than have ever died, and the population is continuing to grow at an alarming rate. With an extra two billion people to enter the world in the coming decades, we need to prepare for the challenges. The number of people on the planet has doubled in the past forty five years, and as developing countries transition to a larger middle-class , the food system becomes an exponential problem and may have to double by 2050. It’s a little known fact that “agriculture already impacts 40% of the Earth’s land surface, takes 70-90% of our water consumption, and contributes roughly 1/3 of our greenhouse gas emissions,” but it is an issue that needs to be addressed. Throughout the semester, Foley will explore the problems with this situation and challenge students to work on solutions. Together, the participants of the course will tackle the problem and produce ideas that could change the way the world works.
Students have asked if this class will be more work than usual, and Foley’s answer. “In this class, students are going to be really challenged — not just by traditional “book learning”, but mostly by engaging with some of the thorniest problems facing the world today, and working alongside world-class experts from business, NGOs, government and academia, that will be involved in this class over the semester. But with that work will come great rewards,” said Foley. “I’m incredibly excited to be teaching this class.”
Although this course falls in the Honors Category, the class is open to both Honors and non-Honors students. The course also fulfills the liberal education theme for the environment. Interested non-Honors students should contact register under the course title SUST 3480. For Honors students, this class will fulfill both course and non-course Honors Experiences.