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Growing Environmental Literacy: On small-scale farms, in the urban agroecosystem, and in school garden classrooms


Food systems in the United States are in need of transformation. The current globalized, mechanized, chemical-based, fossil fuel-powered food system causes negative impacts on ecology, human health, social justice, and local economies. This dissertation explores places where alternatives to the dominant food system are being advanced, and investigates how such alternatives could be scaled up, better supported, or reinforced through food systems education. The crisis of global climate change intersects with the challenge of sustainably (and nutritiously) feeding a growing global population, leading to synergistic opportunities to engage in integrated food systems and climate education. As branches of environmental literacy, which is increasingly promoted in new state standards for K-12 education, food and climate literacy offer opportunities to educate young people while building a climate resilient, equitable local food system. How to build food, climate, and environmental literacy effectively remains a question requiring further action-research. The following chapters address this question through case studies of relocalized food system transitions in Lopez Island, WA and the East Bay region of California’s San Francisco Bay Area. Lessons from these two case studies inform a food and climate change curriculum, a work in progress presented in Chapter 4 alongside an overarching analysis of effective, experiential climate change education pedagogy. Ultimately, efforts to reform our food system with the realities of climate change in mind will require young people partnering with allies in older generations to create and scale alternative production, distribution, and consumption practices. Education has a critical role to play in enabling food system transitions and climate solutions, implemented at a community scale but integrated in a global network of climate-friendly food system transformation.

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