Bhutan- Committed to remaining carbon neutral


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This week’s assignment was inspired by a TED Talk that I recently watched, about Bhutan discussing the nation and climate change. Bhutan is a small country in Asia that has promised and is making the commitment to remain carbon neutral. The above diagram gives a few hints on how Bhutan, this small underdeveloped country is dedicated on remaining carbon negative. Please check out the video in the link below.   

As I watched this video, I was instantly captivated by Tobgay Tshering’s presentation about Bhutan. In this short twenty minute video, a great synopsis of Bhutan is clearly portrayed. Bhutan located on the Himalayas between India and China has a population of about 700,000. What was most fascinating about the TED Talk is that currently Bhutan has a holistic and balanced approach to development that is driven and maintained by the government. What is holistic development? It is right balance between equitable and sustainable livelihood, ecological conservation, good governance and a thriving culture. The Gross National Happiness, now a revolutionary initiative was proposed and implemented back in the seventies by Bhutan’s former emperor. GNH promotes harmony and connectedness with nature amongst the people. As a result, collectively as a nation Bhutan has kept its pristine forests that currently covers 72% of its land mass. In addition, the constitution has put into effect a policy which demands that 60% of Bhutan’s total land mass shall be maintained under forest cover. How does Bhutan manage to be carbon negative? The entire country generates about to 2.2 tons of CO2 which they offset is various ways. To begin with, they give free electricity to rural farmers, hence limit the use of firewood. The government invests in sustainable transportation by subsidizing the purchase of electric vehicles. Also subsidies of LED lights as well as programs that focus on planting trees and cleaning up the country are prevalent. Ultimately, it is the forest cover which absorbs about 6.8 million tons of CO2, thus making Bhutan carbon negative.  

How does Bhutan compare with my hometown? One of the key drivers of Bhutan’s edge and success with commitments to making a difference in climate change comes down to leadership / governance. Bhutan’s innovative governance that began in the seventies has set the path that some nations recently began adopting, for which here in the US there is still some catching up to do. In my community, Falls Church, a Washington DC suburb, the Gross National Happiness or holistic development isn’t the government’s main focus.  Neither is government / leadership steering widespread sustainability programs such as the standards supported in Bhutan. Campaigns like tree planting, sustainable development, regulating greenhouse gas emissions, pushing subsides for purchases of electric cars should be headed by government. Even so, sustainability is a collective action, therefore the communities and government need to come together to put into effect and accomplish these initiatives. There are some advancements towards sustainability and reducing carbon footprint that the Falls Church community could drive. Planting trees, preserving the little greenery that is left in the county and cleaning up the community are simple initiatives that can easily be jump started. Needless to say there are a few US cities that making strides towards sustainability, now it’s up to the rest of us to come together collectively and take action.



Natural Hazards – Maureen A

Contrary to the belief of some residents like myself, the Washington DC region faces its share of extreme events. As indicated in Nathan World Map of Natural Hazards, the Falls Church area, my hometown and a Washington DC suburb, is susceptible to tornadoes. Nathan’s maps, cover extensive details about natural extremities around the world and their intensities, which are quite accurate. I was born and raised in Kenya and growing up I do remember El Nino as being the wettest season, which is also represented in the map. The visuals give an effective global view of extreme events which provide insights of vulnerabilities to natural hazards for various regions around the world. In addition, to tornadoes the Washington DC region gets warmer during El Nino, grapple with more storms during La Nina and experiences moderate hail storms.

Upon visiting the The Hungarian National Association of Radio Distress Signaling and Infocommunications’ (RSOE) Emergency and Disaster Information Services (EDIS), I clicked on a couple of biological hazards, which to my surprise were more than expected. From the EDIS, there is a yellow fever outbreak in a couple of areas in Africa, as well as an Ebola outbreak in Guinea. Closer to home there is an outbreak of ‘Elizabethkingia meningoseptica’ in Wisconsin and Michigan states that has killed 17 people plus infected 44 individuals. Just like any another region in the world, Washington DC could be subject to a biological hazard. Nonetheless, in general most areas in the United States and developed countries are not vulnerable to biological hazards because of the policies, education and technology in place. Washington DC could experience a biological hazard if it was introduced by an outsider, or through the exposure of an unfamiliar infectious biological agent. Due the population density in this area the impact of a biological hazard can become widespread very quickly and result into a natural disaster. However, because of the resources like response from the CDC and the Health Department, an outbreak would contained promptly. The severity of a biological disaster in the Washington DC region would be severe, from fatalities, to the effects of economic and social disruption, which in turn would impact a lot more than just the immediate area. Overall, Washington DC region is home to some of the most powerful and wealthiest individuals in the world, therefore due to governance, technology, wealth and education a biological hazard is less likely compared to some poorer regions.

Unfortunately, I have to admit that there are two words that frequent the media in my region, that I personally don’t take seriously enough; ‘Tornado Watch’. Leading up to this lesson, my personal experience with an extreme natural event has been mostly fun filled as an extra day off from work. As I was reading and watching this week’s lesson pages, I recalled my personal experience with Superstorm Sandy. The media and government leaders advised the population along the East Coast that would be affected by the storm in advance, plus gave tips on preparation. The Governor of Virginia and Mayor of DC declared state of emergencies and the public transit systems were shut down on Oct 29th. The information concerning the storm was everywhere in media as well as social media. I also recall that my coworkers, friends and neighbors prepared for the storm plus cautioned others to get ready. The meteorologist predicted that the Washington region would be hit by the storm, and they were accurate. The damage from the storm in this area wasn’t as costly as Jersey Shore and New York. Most households in the Washington metro area didn’t have power for a minimum of two days, others up to a week and some lacked road access due to trees that fell down from the storm blocking the streets.  A close friend’s home was destroyed when a large tree hit their house during the storm. The day following the storm there was a ton of debris from the wind breaking down branches and trees in my neighborhood. The recovery from the storm in Washington area was quick, due to the response teams in various sectors. The city was shut down for a day a half before the transit resumed service.

Two key factors for reducing vulnerability to natural hazards involves the pre-event preparedness and post-event recovery and reconstruction. Pre-extreme natural event, the government leaders and the media are responsible for getting the message to population. After the extreme event, the government plus the communities and outside help can facilitate quick recovery and rebuild. Other factors that could help reduce vulnerability are resources like technology, education, wealth, and appropriate governance which are limited in poorer countries. Factors such as education and awareness that have impact on preparedness and some of the aforementioned resources, can begin amongst communities like the indigenous groups in Indonesia.

Hello ‘Susturbia'(Sustainable Suburbia)

My relocation to Joppa, Maryland happened about six months ago, consequently I’m more familiar with my previous locale which for this assignment I will reference – Bailey’s Crossroads in Falls Church, a Washington DC suburb. Falls Church is located in Fairfax County a few miles south of Washington DC, the capital, where there are several employment opportunities particularly in the Federal Government. With a high urban density as well as being a mixed use area, Bailey’s Crossroads has several urban planning features in its landscape. Therefore, it has a mix of mostly automobile suburb with a few pedestrian-oriented areas. Bailey’s Crossroads has a population of about 23,643 (2010 Census) people in approximately 2.1 square miles. For almost fourteen years I lived in this area and really grew to love the community plus made quite a few friends. Bailey’s Crossroads is a great neighborhood with several options for employment, shopping and entertainment. In addition, the public transportation system was available and accessible. As a result, it’s a very easy commute for most of the working professionals going into Washington DC.

My first city for discussion is Bogota, Colombia – Ciclovia. It is quite remarkable to see how a collective action in a community such as the city of Bogota, can take off and become a celebrated weekly event. This car free event that takes place every Sunday and on public holidays is driven by the city’s sustainable development. Several people from the city participate in the Ciclovia event that accommodates a breadth of diverse individuals. Ciclovia is an example of how easy it is to implement goals of sustainability and fitness that bring people together. Bailey’s Crossroads is in the middle to two of the busiest streets in Northern Virginia; King Street /Route 7 and Columbia Pike. The vehicular traffic is constant throughout the day and weekends with several heavy rush hour periods. An event like the Ciclovia could promote a much needed sustainable development and increase the quality of life for the community. An initiative like this event can grow the pedestrian-oriented areas, increase safety and the sense of community. This video clearly shows how a collective action problem can be solved by a simple community and government measure, perfectly in line with what Bailey’s Crossroads needs.

The bus system in Curitiba enamored me. The BRT’s express lanes, bus routes map, prepaid entries, single fare tranfers as well as the same level boarding mirrored several Metrorail systems in large cities like New York and Washington DC. It is refreshing to know that this type of efficiency for a bus transportation system exists. The vision involved in creating, implementing and continuously improving Curitiba BRT is commendable. Some cities around the world could learn from this type of urban transport system. There are several bus routes to and from Bailey’s Crossroads to nearby Metrorail stations or going into Washington DC. The color coding and consolidating of the bus routes, could facilitate a more efficient urban transportation system for Bailey’s Crossroads and neighboring communities. Looking at Curitiba, this would be a very economical way to implement sustainable development and improve the urban transportation system in some parts of Northern Virginia. A more efficient and user friendly system, will make mass transit desirable hence increase ride-ability, economy and ultimately promote sustainable development by minimizing the amount of vehicles on the road today.

Module 6: Food & Agriculture – Maureen Awitty

Food and Agriculture

For over seven years now, I have been a vegetarian and a couple of my close friends are flexitarians (a diet that is plant-based with the occasional inclusion of meat products). Restaurant or fast food dining is a widely appreciated, and frequently practiced amongst most American families and social groups, it is part of the American culture and a social norm. Therefore the social norm amongst my friends and I, is dining out at restaurants and sampling their vegetarian dishes. Since most of us have diverse ethnicities, eating ethnic food is something we truly enjoy as a group, it’s also a big part our social gatherings, especially given that Washington DC is home to some of the best restaurants. Fast food eateries are frequented by my group as well. My battle with beef began when I was questioning what I was consuming, and that’s when I became a vegetarian. My take-away from Module 6 is that unfortunately, our eating habits as a group is not the ideal food choice. Our food consumption is taste based as opposed to a locally grown, nutritious, sustainable, and-GMO food choice. Given that industrial food production especially of animals does harm to the environment, it’s unlikely that I will enjoy a restaurant meal without understanding where the food is from and how it’s been processed.

Restaurant and fast food dining is a common social norm for different groups and individuals, such as, family entertainment, work meetings, networking events, group celebrations etc. The convenience, taste, variety, effortless availability and media makes eating out, especially fast food very appealing. In addition to the aforementioned pros the fast food industry has a low-cost varieties that allures the masses. Most of restaurant menus are filled with animal based foods items, particularly meat. In addition, eating beef like hamburgers, is large part of the American diet and culture. Regrettably eating meat, particularly beef has serious detriments to the environment and human health. The consumption of beef particularly by the fast food industry has led to factory farming that adversely affects the environment through the greenhouse gases emitted by cattle, deforestation for land needed to produce more feed crop, fossil water depletion, water pollution, and various public health concerns like antibiotic resistance, air pollution, water pollution, infectious disease transmission. Consequently factory farming for beef production is not sustainable. As fast food is the driver for these factory farms, change in the food industry is society’s responsibility. Therefore decreasing the amount of animal products consumed and demand for quality as well as nutritious food is a collective action, which begins with education of what we are ultimately consuming and its impact to the social and ecosystems.


Food & Agriculture mja5560


I picked the case study Mobility As Driver for Economic Development featured Dar es Salaam because in quite interesting. Dar es Salaam is one of the fastest growing cities in Sub-Saharan African 3.7 million (in 2007) population at 4.3% growth rate. The economy and the industrial market is growing rapidly as well, hence placing pressure on the existing transportation system that cannot keep up with the demand for mobility. Hence it is resulting into longer journey times, serious congestion, increased vehicle related accidents, pollution and reduced mobility opportunities for the disadvantaged. This study is a thorough review on the mobility needs of Dar es Salaam and examined different solutions. Given the importance of mobility to Dar es Salaam and Tanzania’s neighboring countries it is necessary to implement road management through proper maintenance of the current roads and construction of new roads, improve city planning, strengthen law enforcement and an efficient mass transit system, decentralizing key services and activities into satellite areas. This case study of Dar es Salaam mobility as a proponent of economic development is an example of several cities in the developing world. From this case study sustainable mobility and development is a need plus its improvement will have a major impact on surrounding countries and their economies.


For the second section of the assignment I selected the case study ’Air pollution in Delhi: Its Magnitude and Effects on Health’ by SA Rizwan, Baridalyne Nongkynrih, and Sanjeev Kumar Gupta. This paper is focused on the human health issues and the air pollution in Delhi. Studies reported in 2011 that the air in Delhi exceeds maximum particulate matter PM10 by ten times. Results from monitoring the air in Delhi indicates that the two main contributing factors to the air contamination are vehicular emissions and industrial activities. Furthermore two thirds of the air pollution is caused by vehicles, which grows as the economy increases every year. Hence the deterioration of air quality in large cities are burdens of economic development. Also as the air pollution increases so does the respiratory health issues rise. These respiratory illness are asthma, dry cough, wheezing, chest discomfort plus other non-respiratory ailments like skin irritation, eye irritation and chronic headache were recorded. This depiction of this case study is a clear representation of what is happening in large cities today, particularly in the developing world. To increase the air quality in Delhi the government shutdown several toxic industries, established policies on vehicles and industries. Since implementation of these government policies there have a reduction of respiratory illness and a gain in disability-adjusted life-years.

I currently live in Joppa Maryland approximately thirty minutes outside of Baltimore City. From my observation regarding mobility, there is a need of improvement in the mass transit system. Since I lived in a big city before (Washington DC), Joppa’s mass transit system and alternative sustainable transportation is minimal to non-existent. There are some patterns of sustainable development that could be improved. The development downsides like air pollution as discussed above are prevalent in my neighborhood. There are several semis passing through one of the main roads not too far from our house, major air pollution culprits. In addition through observation, quite a large percentage of the community have pickup trucks and / or SUVs. As the population grows, so will vehicle ownership. The forecast for air quality in Joppa will deteriorate if the county government and the community don’t take action to implement sustainable solutions. The developed world and the developing are at different stages of growth, nonetheless there are some similarities in their current states like problems from economic development.


Module 4 : Water Tracking & Usage

I recently moved to Joppa MD about five months ago from the Washington DC metro area. Nevertheless, I still work in DC as well as spend most of my non-work time in there. Up until recently, I had been living in the Washington DC area for over 15 years hence it feels more like my hometown. As a result, for this post I focused on the DC public water system.  The main source of water for my hometown is provided by the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority and comes from the Potomac River. DC Water provides water for the DC metro area including Northern Virginia and Maryland suburbs. The water comes from the Great Falls and Little Falls on the Potomac river north of the District. After collecting the water, Washington Aqueduct a division of US Army Corps of Engineers treat the water, which DC Water purchases and pumps the water into the taps of millions of homes and businesses. When we consume the tap water thorough daily tasks like drinking water, showering, washing our hands, while using the facilities, as well as cleaning food and clothing, the waste goes down the drain into the DC public water sewer system. The sewer system transports the waste water to Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is one of the largest advance waste water treatment systems in the world. This sewage water is treated and filtered before it goes back into the Potomac River.


My water usage picture

Daily Activity Amount of Water Used
Shower 10 gallons
Brushing teeth  ½ gallon
Coffee 8 ounces
Drinking water 24 ounces
Food Prep and Cooking 3 gallons
Cleaning Dishes 5 gallons
Bathroom trips 20 gallons (8 trips)


In the experiment of living on 2 gallons of water consumption per day, I used the water primarily for drinking, cooking and minimal personal cleaning. The water consumption breakdown consisted of about half a gallon focused in cleaning in the morning. This entailed 2 ounces of water to brush my teeth and the remainder of the half gallon was strategically used to clean core areas. The remaining gallon and a half of water usage itemization was half a gallon for drinking and the remaining gallon was used in meal preparation. Furthermore, I tried to preserve as much water as possible from one daily task to another. I used cleansing wipes and hand sanitizer throughout the day. Unfortunately, the experiment failed mainly because of flushing water during the bathroom trips. When compared to my daily use of water this experiment and exercise really opened up my eyes on how much water is wasted in a given day. Since this awareness I have made conscious efforts in using the least amount of water where possible. In addition, I’m using hand sanitizers and wipes more frequently since the experiment. Also, I’m encouraging my roommates to minimize their water usage where there are opportunities. Geography does matter because you learn how to prioritize and the amenities cater for the minimal water available. Being predisposed at a young age to carefully consume water resources if your geography dictates proves that your surroundings do matter.

Ethics Module 3

  1. It is more important to perform good acts.  I hold this view solely based on my opinion of the significance of an action itself – the ends. For instance, in a scenario with two individuals, where person A is good and genuinely interested in the welfare of homeless veterans, and a person B takes on actions that promotes the welfare of homeless veterans. The results from the action by person B has an impact towards the wellbeing of homeless veterans. This action could lead to resounding effects and a solution for homelessness amongst veterans.  Being good lacks the results from an action /effort taken. As the saying goes ‘Action speaks louder than words’ which is applicable when we are looking at the end result. Nonetheless, virtue ethics is important since individuals who care about a cause and are good people, often take action towards the issue. Particularly, virtue ethics is important if the act will affect a large group in society. Inherently, because of the type of work I do, I’m constantly waiting for results and make decisions based on these actions. Nonetheless, I also evaluate and take into consideration the drive behind the action.
  2. Ecosystems matter for their own sake. I hold this view because ultimately it would be ideal if ecosystems can coexist with humans whereby there is no human impact to their continued existence. Regrettably, this not the case for the world we live in today. Humans are at a disturbing rate destroying ecosystems that predates us. Several these ecosystems under human degradation and exploitation have a key role in contributing to some of the major resources that we get from the earth plus maintain an environmental balance. Studies indicate that the human race is depleting the earth’s resources unsustainably. This is a concern for me because we humans, like other animals need the earth and should utilize the earth’s resources sustainably. Therefore since the ecosystem provides resources that contributes towards our human life today, we should treasure and nourish these systems. Sustainable consumption  of these ecosystems should be priority especially for the future generations to come.
  3.  Pleasure and pain for non-human animals do matter. I hold this view because non-human animals shouldn’t suffer for any human’s benefit. Domesticated animals provide food, shelter, shoes and clothing for us. Also non-human animals have reasoning and feelings which may be limited in comparison to the human animals, and mainly because they cannot express themselves. Therefore how we raise, treat and kill non-human animals is vital component of speciesism ethics. For that reason humane actions should be taken towards all non-human animals killings. And these killings should occur only when there is a necessity. In addition killings and torture of non-human animals for pleasure should be prohibited all together. For most of the non-human animals that we kill research shows that their DNA is evolving to identify humans as predators. The wild animals that we kill for pleasure are going extinct. These consequences have begun changing the world we live in today, unfortunately for the worse. We should all take action and protect the non-human animals

M2 Biogas Diagram

The core ideas behind my biogas diagram focused on the components affected by the introduction of biogas systems as alternative fuel for the rural community in Bangalore. The diagram shows the chain effects between the ecosystem and social system.The introduction of biogas system begins with Vidya’s story of his childhood, which was filled with memories of his mother using firewood for cooking and its effects. The hazards of smoke inhalation and the challenges of collecting of firewood were some of his mother’s hardship. For these reasons, Vidya began this endeavour of improving life for the rural areas by introducing biogas generators. The biogas technologies has a great impact to the population in the rural areas plus promotes several sustainable factors for the community. As indicated in my diagram the biogas provides clean sustainable fuel as well as; promoting education, health benefits, income from sale of the compost, trees are saved, coffee farmers have an increase and better quality yield from the compost also clean and safer kitchens. My diagram and the figure 1.5 in Marten’s reading are quite similar due to the fact that both diagram show the ecosystem and social system relationship as well as feedback between the components. My diagram differs because the biogas in my scenario is generated from the animal waste only also Marten’s diagram shows a direct impact of biogas system to the birth rate. There are similarities and differences due to the background narrative for the diagrams. Therefore basic underlying components will be similar and specific effects vary from community to community.biogas_mja5560

Getting to Know – Maureen Awitty


My name is Maureen Awitty and this is my second semester at World Campus PSU.

-I currently live in Joppa MD, suburbs of Baltimore. I have been living here with family for over four months while I look for a place in the Washington DC area – where I work.

-I was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. Growing up in a developing country exposed me to knowledge and encounters that I appreciate now more than ever. Like first-hand experience of East African’s natural resources, fluency in several languages, various cultural influences and exposures etc.

-I’m majoring in IST and aspiring to be a Computers and Information Systems Manager. Most organizations today, business entities small and large have some form of technology infrastructure and supportive resources. As a result I’m intrigued by the Information Technology discipline because it a continuously evolving part of an organization’s support.  In addition, IT Support is a growing industry as more businesses and organizations grow their online /data/ digital resources and offerings. Some of the challenges these modern organizations face is controlling big data and cyber security. Issues like cyber security are constantly changing into smarter and craftier catastrophes.

-My interest in Geography 030 is meeting the GS requirement for my major, getting a good grade and gaining knowledge of the Geography discipline particularly in sustainability.

-I love technology but don’t currently work in the field. I work very closely with the IT Dept. within my organization due to several cross-functional projects and collaborations. I am a Business Manager at a mid-size law firm in Washington DC, the commute is a killer.  I have extensive experience in operations management with a focus in the legal sector which I have been doing for the past twelve years.


Geographic perspective issue:

The human-environment interactions especially how human decisions are changing the natural environment is global concern today. The human-environment interaction involves keys points such as;

-How the natural environment shapes, controls and constrain human activities. For example, natural hazards like the blizzard Jonas that we are experiencing in the east coast this weekend. Millions of people will be constrained in their homes for at least of a couple of days as a result of the snow storm. This natural hazard will cause a lot of physical damage to structures, possible loss of human lives, and affect the economy as well.

-How human activities shape and change the natural environment like ecosystems, river systems, vegetation, and climate. This is known as Anthropocene.

-How human activities can exist without disrupting the functions of natural ecosystems, a concept which is also known as sustainability.

-Governance which covers how people make decisions and how they are constrained by external forces and structures to limit their range of options.

-Ethics which the prioritization of human needs at the expense of non-human needs.

The perspective of human-environment interactions is important because in its definition above it will impact survival of the human species, non-human species and the earth. Climate change plus lack of sustainability are direct causes of the human-environment interactions seen through deforestation in the Amazon and overfishing.  In addition, global warming resulting from climate change has been a hot topic and a global concern for our generation. Therefore governance, ethics and awareness of the negative impacts of human-environment interactions can encourage and preserve a sustainable environment.

Have a wonderful semester everyone!