We live in the Anthropocene, an epoch whose predominant narrative is one of decline and fall—of transformation, deterioration, and loss. Transformative changes in production of secure and sustainable food, energy, and water (FEW) sources are among the most significant challenges of the Anthropocene. This course invites student to identify the most promising opportunities to increase sustainability at the FEW nexus, and to identify the most pressing scientific, engineering, social, and humanistic challenges that must be overcome to realize those benefits. This course will introduce you to the current state of each component in the FEW nexus before diving into the complexity of their relationships with each other and with underlying socialecological systems (SES). For example, we will understand antibiotic resistance as not only a biological phenomenon, but also the social, economic, and ecological underpinnings of its evolution as one of the greatest, multifaceted challenges for the 21st century. Throughout the semester we will discuss the demands that the production of FEW place on SES, and how these demands are under even greater strain in the changing climate. We will also examine the primary public and environmental health issues arising from industrial trends in food and energy production—i.e. population growth and shifting socioeconomic status, obesity and food safety, pollution and environmental degradation. In addition, we will explore policy level responses to these issues and the potential of proposed sustainability initiatives. We will focus on these issues as they are relevant to the U.S., but also draw from international examples that will inform our understanding of how they are treated in different geographical and/or political contexts. Ultimately, this course will provide a better understanding of pertinent human behavior drivers that can help identify the causal forces between FEW nexus and SES that shape perhaps the greatest challenges of the Anthropocene.
NIRAV PATEL is a Research Scholar at the Honors College who contributes to advancing its scholarly mission. Trained as a natural and a social scientist with expertise in coupled natural-human systems, his current research and teaching focuses on interdisciplinary learning approaches to human-environment interactions within social-ecological systems. He earned his Ph.D. in Natural Resources from Cornell University where he was recognized for his excellence in teaching, character, service, and advocacy for students enrolled in the core biology instructional program there. At the Honors College, in addition to furthering his independent research, he teaches courses within the core curriculum to first-year Honors College students.