Universiteit Leiden

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Sustainability, Climate Change, and Food

About this minor

This minor critically examines the complexities of food sustainability through ecological, socio-economic, political, and cultural systems.


The minor consists of 6 courses of 5 ECTS each and takes place during the first semester. The semester is divided into two blocks of eight weeks. Each block corresponds to a track (Block 1: 'Production, distribution and consumption' and Block 2: 'Natural Resources, Rights and Conflict') and each track is made up of three courses.

This minor is a consistent package of courses designed to help you build your knowledge in a logical and connected way. It is not possible to follow single courses and the minor needs to be completed in one academic year. It is possible to register for a 15 EC semi-minor consisting of either the full first or second track.

Analysing those complexities requires the involvement of the natural and applied sciences (biology, ecology, earth sciences), the social sciences (anthropology, sociology, international relations, economics), and the humanities (history, philosophy, cultural studies).
The study of food production, distribution and consumption opens up crucial questions related to a changing climate, water and soil quality, and disease, as well as the issues of social injustice, violence and war, historical legacies, and cultural traditions and norms. These challenges are shared at the global level, but create diverse realities at the local level depending on specific circumstances.

Learning goals:

  • Understand the meaning of sustainability from different disciplinary perspectives;
  • Identify and investigate the various stakeholders involved in managing sustainable food systems;
  • Identify and analyse the environmental impacts of food production and consumption at the global and local level;
  • Identify key issues related to the nexus between climate change, sustainability and food production;
  • Examine legal frameworks related to food sustainability;
  • Compare and contrast industrial and indigenous attitudes to sustainability;
  • Analyse connections between cultural behaviour, cultural diversity and food sustainability.

By placing food at the centre of investigation, this Minor explores current-day debates on political, environmental, economic and cultural change at both the local and global levels. We are more aware than ever of how challenges and threats at a global level impact our social reality locally. The war in Ukraine has demonstrated the vulnerability of specific supply lines for staple products such as grain and sunflower oil, while global environmental change increases farmers vulnerability around the globe. Over the past decade or more, there were concerns that financial speculation was artificially driving up prices for selected products. And for several decades before that, Western narratives of the dangers of overpopulation growth illustrated the socio-economic inequalities behind global food flows.

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