Category Archives: Uncategorized

To fix the food system, fix our democracy

People go hungry not from lack of food but from lack of political power.


Today’s multiplying threats are truly scary — a deadly pandemic with vast economic losses, police murders reflecting endemic racism, a president trashing constitutional protections, and . . . oh yes, a pending climate catastrophe.

So fear is inevitable, and, of course, it can ignite action that saves lives. But fear can also do the opposite.Supported By

Fifty years ago, our world was also gripped by fear. Paul Ehrlich’s book “The Population Bomb” predicted “mass starvation” on a “dying planet.” The ensuing scarcity scare triggered a fixation on ever-greater production of food.

Along the way, agribusinesses have warned that only their seeds and agricultural chemicals could save us. “Worrying about starving future generations won’t feed them. Food biotechnology will,” declared a 1998 Monsanto ad.

Continue reading To fix the food system, fix our democracy

Food system causes one third of greenhouse gases

Original Post – November 13th, 2020, by Tim Radford

A New Zealand feedlot, 2020: Not good for the cattle, nor us, nor the planet. Image: By SAFE, via Wikimedia Common

How we eat causes dangerous climate heating. It’s time to change not only our diet, but the entire global food system.

LONDON, 13 November, 2020 − If the nations of the world really want to limit climate change to the level agreed five years ago, it will not be enough to immediately abandon fossil fuels as the principal source of energy: the global food system demands radical overhaul.

Humans will have to make dramatic changes to every aspect of agriculture worldwide, to planetary diet and to much else besides.

That is because the global food system − everything from clearing land and felling forests for cattle ranches to the arrival of meat and two vegetables on a suburban family dinner plate − accounts for 30% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. And to contain global heating later this century to no more than 1.5°C above the levels that existed before the Industrial Revolution, urgent action is needed.

Continue reading Food system causes one third of greenhouse gases

Are their jobs for college graduates in sustainable agriculture?

gradOne of my most popular blogs was “Sustainable agriculture jobs after college”  in which I reflected on the process of getting work after graduating college. ”  In this next essay, I share a few thoughts about the jobs situation in sustainable agriculture.  My conclusion is that while there is much work that needs to be done, well-paying, meaningful lifetime “career” jobs that offer a sense of security are hard to find.  At the same time, many mid-career folks  who have security are finding their work unfulfilling.

It may be that getting hired for a lifetime job is an unrealistic expectation in our emerging “on-demand” economy.  And while that realization may feel disheartening, it Continue reading Are their jobs for college graduates in sustainable agriculture?

Sustainable Site Planning and Design

STOCKSCH 386 – 3 credits


To Enroll – Start Here

The most fundamental role of the Designer is to inspire and solve problems creatively and practically. Site design is both an art and science. Landscape designers are place-makers and space-shapers. Sustainable site design considers the impacts to future generations of the design solutions we choose to solve today’s problems. By thoughtfully synthesizing site information, namely the natural and human factors that affect a site, we can create forward-looking design solutions that well serve both our human constituents and the natural world well into the future.

Course Description: This course will be an exploration into the fundamentals of landscape design with particular attention to integrating both existing and new buildings sustainably into their landscapes and with a view to reducing maintenance needs.
Students investigate sustainable design strategies that address the ecological, water, energy and food system links between buildings and their supporting sites, as exemplified by the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system and Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES). Topics include: design principles and process, natural factors (e.g. topography, soils, vegetation), green roofs, green walls/vertical gardens, rainwater collection systems, native planting, edible landscapes and permaculture, sustainable forestry practices, post-industrial landscapes, and the
human use of outdoor spaces. Emphasis will be placed on cost saving techniques for creating self-sustaining, low maintenance sites. Many real world examples will be discussed.

This will be an introductory course focusing on the theory and practice of sustainable landscape design and planning. It is assumed that students have little or no background/professional experience in design or planning. The first half of the
course will rely primarily upon readings, videos, lecture and discussion. A five minute long mid-term student briefing presentation will be assigned and presented online. In the second half of the course students will delve more deeply into applying the design process culminating in a focused 10 minute long final design project to be presented online.

Course Objectives:

  • Gain understanding of sustainable landscape design principles and practices including natural and human factors
  • Relate sustainable landscape/site design to energy, food and natural resource issues and the built environment
  • Promote understanding of and hone communication skills related to, professional-client relations
  • Gain experience preparing a coherent sustainable landscape plan and plan set or related project

Instructor: Professor Thomas S. Benjamin, RLA, LEED-AP BD+C

For more information, see these resources:

Technology: please review the following.

Supported Browsers and Java Versions (Windows PC and Mac)
Please see the Blackboard Help page for the most current supported and unsupported browsers.

System Requirements: PC / Compatible Windows

  • Windows XP (32/64-bit), Windows Vista (32/64-bit), Windows 7, or Windows 8
  • 800 MHz processor (2 GHz or higher recommended)
  • 512MB of RAM (2+ GB recommended)
  • Cable or DSL connection. (dial-up modem is not recommended)
  • 500 MB free hard disk space (2 GB recommended)

System Requirements: Mac

    • Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) or higher
    • 867 MHz processor (2 GHz or higher recommended)
    • 512MB of RAM (2+ GB recommended)
    • Cable or DSL connection (dial-up modem is not recommended)
    • 500 MB free hard disk space (2 GB recommended)

NOTE: for more information, see Technical Support.


This class is part of the Sustainable Food and Farming Online Certificate Program and will count toward other UMass degree programs.   Online classes cost $482/credit.  If you would like to register for the Certificate program, you may apply here.

More Online Classes

NOTE: The UMass Sustainable Food and Farming Certificate has been declared eligible for Veterans Educational Benefits. For instructions see: Veterans Benefits.

If you are not interested in earning college credit, there are many non-credited workshops and short courses you can take outside of the university.  For a list see: non-university workshops and courses.