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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

Kelsey Reichenbach

Engineering Livestock and Meat: using non-determinist systems thinking to example sustainable engineering problem definition

In sustainable development discourse, climate change mitigation and adequate food
provisioning feature prominently and become positioned almost as competing interests.
The agriculture sector makes up about 9% of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of
the United States (EPA, 2017). GHG emissions for the country contribute 12% of the
global emissions. Agricultural practices release methane, nitrous oxide and carbon
dioxide totally about 528 MMT of CO2-equivlance on average annually (EPA, 2017). This
dissertation started with a basic understanding of ecosystem relationships; the vital
nutrient, carbon, and water cycling systems that are interspersed within the
relationships between animals, plants, the soil and its microbes.


This research heeds the call of sustainability theories for interdisciplinary study by
weaving together disciplines like history, political economy, biology, and the problem
solving ethos of the engineering discipline to (1) redefine the problems conventionally
articulated around meat production and (2) to reshape the problem definition stages of
engineering to focus on simultaneously meeting the social, economic, and
environmental pillars of sustainable development through end goal definition.