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This Earth Day, Ask the Tough Questions About America's Food System

posted on April 21, 2014

This Earth Day, Ask the Tough Questions About America's Food System

Consider the environmental impacts of America's current food system. In the 21st century global food economy, why are most foods traveling an average of 1,500 miles from farm to plate? Why does it take twenty calories of fossil fuel energy to produce two calories of food energy today, whereas 100 years ago, it took only one calorie of fossil fuel energy to produce the same amount of food energy?

The complexities of our food system and its impact on the environment are at the forefront of a national debate. Use this PBS LearningMedia video and accompanying handout to examine how the eating choices of humans affect not only the landscape of the natural world, but also the balance of species on earth and the global climate crisis.

According to some estimates, agriculture is a 15-25% contributor to climate change. Michael Pollan, the author of In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, explains how the shift from solar-based agriculture before World War II to fossil fuel-based agriculture after World War II, affected the efficiency of both food production and fossil fuel usage. With rising oil prices and dwindling non-renewable resources, our current system of food production cannot be sustained forever, which has led some to explore alternative sources of food.

This eye-opening lesson plan will get your students thinking more seriously than ever about buying local. This resource for grades 9-12 can be found at:

Tags: Earth Day education educators teachers

Subjects: Literacy & LanguagesScience & TechnologySocial Studies


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