Freshman Clusters

Cluster M1-A,B,CW
Food: A Lens for Environment and Sustainability

Sponsored by the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Lecture Schedule: Monday, Wednesday and Friday | 10:00 a.m. - 10:50 a.m.
Faculty:Raffaella D’Auria | Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, Coordinator
Jennifer Jay | Civil and Environmental Engineering
Cully Nordby | Institute of the Environment and Sustainability
Librarian: Julia Glassman | Powell Library
Doug Worsham | Biomed Library

This three-course cluster will address, through the lens of food, one of the most pressing issues of our time: the relationships between the world's rapidly growing human population and the sustainment of the global environment that makes human existence possible. The connections between food and the environment are complex, encompassing scientific, economic, cultural and social factors. We will address the interrelated problems of biodiversity loss, nutrient cycling, land conversion, climate change, sustainable energy, chemical pollution, antibiotic resistance, fresh water quality and quantity, equitable access to healthy food, and dietary trends. We will investigate how our current food systems impact all of these areas and the many exciting new approaches to food production and distribution under development. This course also serves as an entry to the Food Studies minor.

Course Format

Lectures will cover the four blocks of “basic” material each presented by a faculty member, taught with a focus on food (2/3 of lecture time). Themes include:
  • Relationships between agriculture, ecology, and biodiversity
  • Food production, water quantity, and water quality
  • Air quality, climate change, energy elements of food production
  • People, food, and the environment
Lectures will also cover “Case Studies” of focused material presented by all faculty and guest lecturers (1/3 of lecture time). Themes include:
  • Food from the sea
  • Agriculture and the California water supply
  • Food miles and impacts on greenhouse gas emissions
  • Alternative food systems and the environment
  • Antibiotics use in livestock and the growing resistance to these drugs
  • Feedlots versus pasture: comparison with respect to climate change

Discussion Sections

Discussion sections are two hours per week conducted by Teaching Fellows. These sections allow for students to engage in follow-up discussions and exam reviews. Additionally, “Labs” will help students quantitatively understand the carbon and water footprints of various foods and food systems, nutrient demands of our food production, food miles and related energy costs, and projections for how to achieve sustainable food production for a growing population.

Field Trips

All students participate in one field trip in the Fall and one field trip in the Winter. Possible field trips include: Vital Zuman Sustainable Farm; behind the scenes look at Disney Land food services; Healthy Family Farms.

Spring Seminars – previous food themes have included:

  • Environmental History of Agriculture and Food
  • Impact of Modern Lifestyle on Health
  • Coyotes and Chickens: Urban Ecology of Food and Wildlife in Los Angeles
  • Global Climate Change, Food, Health, and Sustainability
  • Making Films about Food: Collaborations in Los Angeles
  • Farm to Fork: The U.S. Food System and Public Health
  • Eating Sustainably in Urban Los Angeles
  • Mapping What We Eat: Geography of Global Food System

Writing II and Foundation Area General Education Credit

Upon completion of the yearlong cluster, students will fulfill the Writing II requirement and satisfy 4 GE course requirements:
  • 2 Foundations of Scientific Inquiry (1 in Life Science with lab/demonstration credit, 1 in Physical Science with lab/demonstration credit)
  • 1 Foundations of Society and Culture in Social Analysis
  • 1 of the following (student will choose based on need for GE credit): Foundations of Scientific Inquiry in Life Science (without lab), Foundations of Scientific Inquiry in Physical Science (without lab), Society and Culture in Social Analysis, Society and Culture in Historical Analysis


  • Students should enroll in the GE CLST M1 sections rather than the Environment M1 sections

Food Studies Minor

Students in good academic standing who complete GE Cluster/Environment 1CW with a C or better, are eligible to apply for the Food Studies minor. For more information on the minor and how to apply, please click here.

Environmental Systems and Society Minor

Completion of this cluster satisfies one lower-division course requirement for the Environmental Systems and Society minor. For more information on the minor and how to apply, please click here.