Can a material change the world

Eat - and change the world?

The students ...

  • get to know the central relationships between food production and resource requirements,
  • learn about ecological challenges that arise from the food needs of the growing world population,
  • get to know approaches of sustainable agriculture,
  • develop recommendations for action for responsible consumption.


A "puzzle game" is used to start: The teacher presents a satellite image that shows the problematic effects of food production. Examples include:

Depending on their previous knowledge, the students can directly express ideas on the topic. However, it may first have to be clarified that it is a satellite image. Based on the following questions, a joint, step-by-step evaluation of the image can then take place:

1. Where could the picture have been taken?

2. What could be shown?

3. What main message can one formulate for the picture?

4. What connection can there be between the picture and the lesson subject?

In addition or as a resolution, photographs of the places previously shown in the form of satellite images or comparable places and events can then be shown:

As a result, it can finally be stated that food production is changing the landscape. However, depending on the image selection, this does not necessarily have to be a negative change.

In a question-led class discussion it will now be clarified which consequences food production can have on the environment worldwide and which methods can be used to counteract this. The mentioned consequences and ideas for countermeasures are collected on a blackboard, which the students can add independently, if necessary also as homework. The result is a mind map on the consequences of global food production and possible solutions.

Requirements for sustainable food production

Figure: Environment in the classroom / CC BY SA-4.0, according to

As expected, the students will also use terms such as "biological" or "ecological". These can be used by the teacher as an opportunity to present “ecological agriculture” using the example of a sustainable approach. Their guiding principle is economic activity in harmony with nature. It should be emphasized that the farming methods for this ...

  • achieve an operational nutrient cycle that is as closed as possible,
  • maintain soil fertility,
  • Do not adversely affect people, animals or the environment.

Work phase

These three aspects can be noted by the teacher for all to see. The pupils can now research and discuss implementation examples in group work. Important examples can be found in the list below. The students present their results to the class. They are also noted down for everyone to see under the headings "nutrient cycle", "soil fertility" and "environmental damage".

Examples of implementation options for organic farming can be:

  • Plant protection without synthetic chemical agents
  • increased cultivation of less susceptible varieties in suitable crop rotation
  • mechanical control of weeds (burning, chopping off) instead of chemical control
  • no use of easily soluble mineral fertilizers, but use of organically bound nitrogen in the form of manure or compost, maintenance of soil fertility through a pronounced humus management
  • limited livestock adapted to the area
  • largely renouncing antibiotics


The class discusses the influence that each individual consumer has on the food production and industry and collects ideas for sustainable consumption. According to the thesis "It is only produced what can be sold", this question can also be expanded to include the aspect of economic efficiency or, following on from the discussion, can be discussed by the students as a homework assignment.


  • The students independently research the satellite images from the beginning of the lesson. Central questions could be: Where is slash and burn operation carried out and what are the effects? What negative or positive consequences does fish farming have in aquaculture?
  • The students are confronted with the following supposed contrast: 795 million people worldwide are starving, two billion people suffer from malnutrition. Nevertheless, the development of the calorie supply and the increase in world population do not appear to be a problem when viewed together. The discrepancy between supply and hunger can lead to a discussion approach and to the question of possible solutions. The forum for international agricultural policy has developed numerous digital educational materials and method booklets on the subject of sustainable agriculture and agricultural policy as part of the youth education project "Biopoli".
  • Organic farming has advantages and disadvantages. The pupils independently research the most important positive and negative aspects and compare them. The pupils explore the possibilities of sustainable consumption in their surroundings, evaluate them and develop possibilities for improvement.
Background Elementary School Secondary Education

The world population will grow to over nine billion people by 2050. The increasing demand for food creates challenges. Food production is already causing major environmental problems. How can everyone be nourished in the future and how environmental damage can be avoided?

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Peter Menzel / Agency Focus

The photographer Peter Menzel has photographed families all over the world. They show what foods they consume in a week. The photo shows a family from France. It is the same with many people in Western Europe.

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