Motivations for

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					               The Coming Food Crisis
Global food security is stretched to the breaking point, and
Russia's fires and Pakistan's floods are only making a bad situation

Terrascope – Guiding Principles

  •   The Earth system provides a context for learning
      basic science and engineering concepts

  •   Students put those concepts to use in creative ways
      to understand the interdependency of physical,
      chemical, and biological processes that shape our

  •   Students explore how these concepts may be used
      to design protocols to ensure a sustainable

  •   Program emphasizes both theory and practice, and
      puts a premium on active learning
Terrascope – Structure

  First Semester
     •   Solving Complex Problems--Mission 2xxx

  Second Semester
     •   1.016
     •   Terrascope Field Experience (Spring Break)

     •   Terrascope Radio
Solving Complex Problems

  •   Multidisciplinary, project-based learning

  •   Students work toward a solution to a
      deceptively simple problem related to Earth’s

  •   Each year’s theme is different and referred to as
      “Mission XXXX”, where XXXX refers to the
      graduation year of the class involved
Solving Complex Problems--Motivation

  • To build in you the capacity to tackle the “big”
    problems that confront society

  • To encourage you to take charge of the learning

  • To show you how to do independent
    research, to evaluate the quality of information
    sources, and to synthesize different information
Solving Complex Problems--Motivation

  • To encourage you to think about optimal
        solutions rather than correct solutions

  • To help you learn how to work effectively as
        part of a team

  • To improve your communication skills using two
    media: the web site and the formal oral

  • To convince you of your potential!!
Past Missions

   •   Develop a viable plan for the exploration of Mars
       with the aim of finding evidence for life

   •    Design permanent, manned, underwater
       research laboratories and develop detailed
       research plans for the first six months of their

   •   Design the most environmentally sensitive
       strategy for hydrocarbon resource extraction
       from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and
       determine whether or not the value of the
       resource exceeds its financial and
       environmental cost
Past Missions

 •   To develop strategies for developing countries in
     the Pacific basin to cope with tsunami hazards
     and disasters. Due to the unique needs of each
     country, we specifically focused on developing
     plans for Peru and Micronesia.

 •   To develop a plan for the reconstruction of New
     Orleans and the management of the Mississippi
     River and the Gulf coast. The reconstruction of
     New Orleans and the management of the
     Mississippi River and the Gulf coast.
Past Missions

 •   To develop strategies to deal with the collapse of
     the global fisheries and the general health of the

 •   To develop a plan to ensure the availability of
     fresh clean water for western North America for
     the next 100 years.

 •   Propose an integrated global solution to the
     rapid rise in atmospheric CO2 that will stabilize
     concentrations at an economically viable and
     internationally acceptable level.
Subject Structure

    Problem divided into approximately ten tasks;
    students divided into teams

    Each team assigned a Teaching Fellow, Alumni
    Mentors, and Disciplinary Mentors

    Four meeting styles:

    •   Presentations on methodology
    •   Case-study discussions
    •   Team workshops
    •   Coordination meetings
Subject Deliverables

   •   Each student develops a personal wiki

   •   Each team will communicate through wiki-based

    Each class describes and justifies its overall
     plan in a web site

    Each class explains the design in a two-hour
     presentation before a panel of experts and a
     general audience
Mission 2011
Mission 2012
“What I have learned is that passion, along with curiosity, drives science.
Passion is the mysterious force behind nearly every scientific
breakthrough. Perhaps it’s because without it you might never be able to
tolerate the huge amount of hard work and frustration that scientific
discovery                                                        entails….”

“For the next four years you will get to poke around the corridors of your
college, listen to any lecture you choose, work in a lab. The field of science
you fall in love with may be so new it doesn’t even have a name yet. You
may be the person who constructs a new biological species, or figures out
how to stop global warming, or aging. Maybe you’ll discover life on another
planet. My advice to you is this: Don’t settle for anything less.”

Nancy Hopkins, a professor of biology at M.I.T., has been teaching since

Extracted from OP-ED contribution in New York Times, September 5 2009
Subject Grading

     Individual performance (30%)

     Team performance (30%)

     Class accomplishment (40%)

  Share files in teams, class
    –   Avoid large attachments (please!)
    –   All files online
    –   Set permissions - who can read, edit
    –   Know about others’ work
        • Avoid doubling up, missing topics
    – Get good quality writing early
        • You’ll be happy later, we promise
Wikis - structure

   • One wiki

   • One section per team
      – All read, team read/write

   • One section per student inside team
      – All read, student read/write
Wiki - requirements

 • Each student:
   – Keep ongoing journal as a wiki page
     • Ideas, progress, problems
     • One or two paragraphs
 • Each team:
   – Write research online, different pages
     per topics
   – Show progress every week
Mission 2014

 Your mission is to design a plan that will
 produce and distribute enough food to feed
 the planet over the next century, while
 ensuring that efficiency and equity are
 maximized with minimal disruption to the
In 2009, > 1 billion people went undernourished.
Undernourishment tracks with poverty--not necessarily with lack
of food.

                     Nature v. 466, p. 546-547
The number of hungry people had been dropping steadily for
decades until the food price crisis in 2008 reversed the trend.

 Population growth is slowing and
 overall availability of calories per
 person is rising. Producing
 enough food is possible, but not
 without sapping other resources,
 like water.
It is possible, but likely not advisable to nearly double the amount of arable
land--Most of it in Latin America and Africa.

Need to do more and
use less.

Increased public
investment in
agricultural research is
Phosphate-based fertilizers have     Phosphate mining generates 10’s
helped grow Ag in the past           of billions of dollars annually
century, but supplies are limited.

Phosphate is often THE limiting
nutrient to plant growth

Possible that reserves will vanish
within the century if growth
continues at 3% per year

Phosphate shortage MORE
important than oil shortage?

                                                 Nature v. 461, p. 716-718
Global food production is
increasing but farming systems
remain unchanged, undermining
long-term productivity.            We need a global system to
                                   assess and compare farming
Immediate need to evaluate the     practices.
impact of different farming
systems--on more than just yield
and productivity-based grounds.

Current monitoring focuses on
narrow criteria that are region-
specific, not global.

Does the practice:
•Produce greenhouse gasses
•use space efficiently
•limit pesticides
•limit runoff
•maximize yield
In Mozambique, 13 people were killed and 150 arrested in riots resulting from a
30% hike bread prices.                                      Overall food prices on
                                                            the global market have
What alters bread prices?                                   increased 5% since
drought                                                     July.
flooding                    “Their food security is excessively dependent on food imports whose prices are increasingly high and volatile.”

commodity traders
      driving up prices
Climate change could change
the way plants are pollinated
and how crops are irrigated,
which will affect food security

•plants flowering before bees
are awake for the season
•erratic rainfall leads to
drought, flood, and fire

     "We are getting to a point where we are getting more water,
     more rainy days, but it's more variable, so it leads to droughts
     and it leads to floods,"

Non-irrigated crops are most
severely hit
   66% in Asia
   94% in Africa          
Mission 2014

Recent studies by the the UN Food and Agriculture
Organization suggest that the world will need at least
70% more food by 2050 and will have to produce it on
less land.

Fertilizer and pesticide use is rapidly increasing

Climate change and patterns of precipitation are
changing our ability to grow crops
Mission 2014

 Enhanced agriculture means greater
 environmental impact including increased
 energy use, greenhouse gas production,
 reliance on pest management, nutrient run-off,
 biodiversity loss from land conversion and
 monocultures, soil loss, and overall water
 usage. We must utilize advanced cropping
 techniques, and possibly even an entirely new
 approach to agriculture, in order to mitigate
 those impacts.
Mission 2014

 Recently, fisheries' experts have warned that three
 quarters of the world’s fish stocks are in distress and
 nearing collapse, all the while overall marine
 ecosystems are rapidly deteriorating, making it more
 difficult for them to bounce back even if fishing were
 stopped. Given that fish provide more than 2.9 billion
 people with at least 15 per cent of their average
 animal protein intake, an contribute more than 50 per
 cent of total animal protein in many small island
 countries, the collapse of the fisheries will have a
 huge impact.
Important Questions to Address

    • What are the consequences of
      doing nothing?

    • Is access to food and clean water a
      basic human right?
Class Structure

     We will present possible team topics and allow you to “self-

   • Each of you will be assigned to a team, and each team will
     be assigned at least one upperclass teaching fellow (UTF),
     a library liaison, and multiple alumni mentors

   • Each team will be responsible for proposing to the class
     one or more options for its assigned part of the solution

   • Teams will work independently and will be responsible for
     their own solutions, although mentors and volunteer
     faculty resources may be called upon as “sounding
Important Contacts

  Sam Bowring

  Seth Burgess
First Assignment (Due this Friday by 2 PM)

  • Do wealthy countries buy farmland in poor
    countries? Should this be allowed under
    international law?
  • What country has the most number of people
    threatened by chronic hunger?
  • Is there a conflict between growing biofuels and
    feeding the world?
  • Do you think we should do more as a species to
    limit population growth?
  • Why are crop subsidies an issue for food security?

  • Send me a brief email ( with
    your answers
Meeting Places

   • Class will meet in three different places, so
     consult the “Syllabus” page before each class
     meeting to see where you will go

   • THIS FRIDAY WE MEET in 3-270