Final Takeaways: Contemplation and Complexity

I think the greatest takeaway from this past quarter is that our food system is really very complex and worth contemplating! This was the first quarter that I encountered systems thinking applied to any topic, and my learning about this way of thinking was reinforced by an overlap of this topic with my ENVIR 300 course (Analysis of Environmental Cases). As complex as the global food system is, discussing it in these terms was incredibly helpful for understanding the many intersections that exist in that system. For example, understanding how conflict, land grabs, and hunger relate was new information to me. In defining consistent topics (those presented for the action projects), we were able to go into great depth on a particular topic without losing an understanding of where it fell in the larger context of the system. Just as one would expect, complexity can be overwhelming, however. The contemplation practices we had in class provided the perfect opportunity to address that complexity in a different way. Though some of my classmates were certainly thrown off by the contemplation practices, I have had them in other courses and practice similar mindfulness in my personal reflections. The contemplation practices enriched my understanding of the food system tremendously. Not only do they allow students to reflect on what they have just heard or discussed in lecture, but they also provide space for one to contemplate their personal connections to the topics. As ultimately self-concerned human beings, much of what we learn is better understood when it relates back to our own lives. This is exactly what the facilitation of these practices did for me. I think it allowed me to embrace and order the complexity of the course material on my own terms.

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