Agriculture and Food Systems

Casey Walsh

Professor Walsh researches the anthropological political economy of the Mexico-US borderlands. During the last decade, he has studied the ways in which water, land, and labor have been organized to produce commodities in areas marked by aridity, especially northern Mexico and the southwestern United States. His work in this field has been documented in his publication, “Building the Borderlands.” Professor Walsh is currently writing a book about mineral springs and water cultures in Mexico. His most recent project “Groundwater and Grapes in California’s Central Coast” assesses expanding wine grape cultivation on groundwater management in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties. Particular attention is given to the recent capitalization of the sector, the depletion of aquifers, and the ensuing creation and implementation of laws regulating groundwater in California. It situates the local social and environmental dimensions of the expansion of wine grape production within global markets and climate change.

David Tilman

Professor Tilman’s research focuses on the causes, consequences, and conservation of Earth’s biodiversity, and on how managed and natural ecosystems can sustainably meet human needs for food, energy, and ecosystem services. His current research explores ways to use biodiversity as a tool for biofuel production and climate stabilization through carbon sequestration. His work on sustainable agriculture and renewable energy has critically examined the full environmental, energetic and economic costs and benefits of grain crops, of current food-based biofuels, and of biofuels made from diverse mixtures of prairie grasses and other native plants growing on already-degraded lands.

Oliver Chadwick

Dr. Chadwick’s research relates soils to ecology and earth system science. He has studied how humans prior to the Industrial Revolution and development of industrial nitrogen fixation managed their natural ecosystems and agricultural systems sustainably. He also looks at how humans impact the environment through extracting nutrients from it for agriculture and industry and then, in some cases, concentrating them or spreading them to return them to the natural environment.

Anabel Ford

Dr. Anabel Ford works with the MesoAmerican Research Center and combines archaeological research with traditional Maya knowledge. Her work involves studying patterns of settlement and environment by examining the common human aspects of the ancient Maya civilization that shed light on sustainable farming practices. Much of Dr. Ford’s work takes place at the ancient Maya city center of El Pilar, which she has transformed into a living museum and laboratory. Using the landscape as a tool of conservation, Dr. Ford has turned El Pilar into a model of synergy between nature and culture, and her focus on cultural ecology is being applied to benefit of contemporary populations while simultaneously studying the co-evolution of human societies and the environment.

Director of BRASS/El Pilar Program

Kum Kum Bhavnani

Dr. Bhavnani’s documentary film “Nothing like Chocolate,” offers a glimpse into the global chocolate industry, where there are allegations that enslaved children are used to harvest beans in Ivory Coast, which produces 40% of the world’s cacao. “Nothing Like Chocolate” focuses on the Grenada Chocolate Company founded by Mott Green, as well as on an independent farmer, Nelice Stewart, who grows organic cocoa beans. Green (deceased June 2013) created a worker-owned cooperative which brings profits back to the working shareholders, who include the farmers and all factory workers at the company. The film discusses how solar power and ethical technology can create a sustainable, community-based business, and, therefore, can undermine global unethical practices.

Hilal Elver

Hilal Elver is a Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, part of the UN Human Rights Council. She has presented two reports to the UNHRC, one on the impact of climate change on the right to food and the other on gender and right to food. She also two book published: Headscarf Controversy: Secularism and Freedom of Religion and Reimagining Climate Change, which she co-edited. Elver is also recently working on UN Sustainable Development Goals (2030 Agenda), focusing on food systems, food security and nutrition, climate change, and human rights.

Global Distinguished Fellow at Resnick Food Law and Public Policy Program at UCLA Law School
United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

Chris Funk

As a founding member of the UCSB Climate Hazard Group, Dr. Funk’s research has focused on drought monitoring, drought prediction, and the evaluation of long-term trends in climate and food security. Recently, Dr. Funk has worked to implement improved methods of monitoring trends and predicting droughts, primarily in Sub-Sarahan African communities. This monitoring and predicting is done by using satellites to track precipitation patterns that can be linked to long-term trends. Dr. Funk’s research allows African officials to make sustainable decisions concerning community development and future food security.

Founding Member of the UCSB Climate Hazard Group (CHG) now the Climate Hazard Center (CHC)