1. List two examples of biodiversity threats in your hometown.
  2. Use a system diagram to demonstrate the Amazon rainforest case study
  3. Why do you think biodiversity matters? For anthropocentric reasons or ecocentric reasons?


My hometown Guangzhou is a populated urban city in China, and like many other urban cities in the world, it has relatively low biodiversity. Two leading threats to the biodiversity in Guangzhou would be pollution and human population. In Guangzhou, you rarely see fishes swimming in the water or birds flying in the sky, and I think it’s due to pollution. The rivers in Guangzhou were polluted and not well-treated until few years back, which was really unsuitable for aquatic life. As the water quality in improving now, it’s still hard to see any aquatic life in the water, but I think we would see some improvements in the near future. Increasing human population is another reason that’s threatening the biodiversity in Guangzhou. Guangzhou is an overpopulated city with a population of 14 million, so people are using up most of the available resources in the city. As a result, there won’t be enough resources like food and space for other species and it’s bad for local biodiversity.




Biodiversity is a measure of variation and richness of living organisms at a particular scale, and it is very important for every species on earth. Greater species diversity ensures natural sustainability for all life forms, and we won’t survive without it. For me, I value biodiversity mainly for anthropocentric reasons. Biodiversity can provide us scientific information, recreational benefits, medicine, food, or other materials that can be useful for our life, and we all depend on them. For example, a rich biodiversity not only provide us the food that keep us alive, but also varieties of other food. However, as the society developed, more people start to value biodiversity for its ecocentric reasons. Since we have enough knowledge to make good use of biodiversity, the unused value it provides also matters to us. Just like coral reef system, more people would like to learn about it and maintain it, even though they may not be benefited from it.

Climate Diplomacy


The article WikiLeaks cables reveal how US manipulated climate accord tells us how America used spying, threats and promises of aid to get support for Copenhagen accord. It reveals the hidden dark side behind the global climate change negotiations and the U.S. is the centre of this event. This diagram shows how the U.S. use diplomatic tactics to overwhelm opposition to the Copenhagen Accord. The beginning of this event is the increasing greenhouse gas emission, which results in global climate change. In order to better determine every country’s responsibility, an international climate treaty is needed. After long-term negotiation, Copenhagen Accord is the one that best fit the U.S. interest. In order to support this accord, the U.S. would need help from other countries to back this treaty. The U.S. use money and threats to buy political support and use spying and cyberwarfare to seek out leverage. WikiLeaks reveal diplomatic cables that the U.S. used to persuade other countries into signing the Copenhagen Accord. For example, although Saudi Arabia was not a fan of the accord, but the U.S. committed to help with its economic diversification on the condition of Saudi Arabia back the U.S.. By February 2010, 116 countries had associated themselves with the Copenhagen Accord, and 26 countries were intending to associate. The total of 140 nations represent almost 75% of the countries that are parties to the UN climate change convention and are responsible for over 80% of current global greenhouse gas emissions. With the majority of countries supporting the Copenhagen Accord, it would be beneficial to climate change.

Although the end result is to lower greenhouse gas emission and help the climate change problem, I think what the U.S. has done to gain more supports is not the best option. Climate change mitigation is a collective action problem, which means the individual interest conflicts with the group’s interest. Reaching an agreement on an international climate treaty is difficult, since every country has its own interest and different opinions. Poor countries thinks that it’s unfair for rich countries to ask them to reduce emissions since the the poor are just trying to develop a good living standard which the rich cause most of the emissions. Furthermore, reducing emissions is also very difficult since most greenhouse gases are emitted by the burning of fossil fuels, and limiting emission would also limit the use of fossil fuels. The U.S. used political and financial aids as leverage to persuade other less powerful countries to back the Copenhagen Accord, while not every one of these countries favor the treaty. But in order to receive help from America, these countries had to support the treaty and somehow “ignore” its own interest in this treaty. So I think it’s unfair to the other countries. Some ways to improve the current situation can be used to make this process fairer for every country. For example, countries can be devided into different development level, more developed countries can set a higher goal in reducing emission. Or they can be grouped by emission level, high-emission countries should take more responsibilities in reducing emission.

Vulnerability Reduction

According to the Nathan World Map of Natural Hazards, my hometown Guangzhou has low probability in earthquake and extratropical storms, medium probability in hailstorms and wildfires, and high probability in tropical cyclones and tornado. In my own experience, I didn’t experience many natural disasters except typhoon, but since I live in the middle of the city and wasn’t close to shore, there weren’t many great damages. It would be warmer during El Niño and cooler during La Niña. As for trends in temperature and precipitation between the year of 1978 and 2007, Guangzhou had increase in temperature but decrease in precipitation. Overall I think the map gives us an good overview of natural disasters, but if we want to have more detailed information, we would need a smaller scale map.

My chosen event is an earthquake in Nemuro,Japan. The earthquake was magnitude 4.2 at the depth of 32.33km. However, it’s unusual to experience earthquake in Guangzhou, there may be some small earthquakes happened nearby, but the last known was over 50 years ago. Since we don’t experience a lot of earthquake, it makes us more vulnerable to this type of disaster, as the city lacks the experience to cope with it. Furthermore, Guangzhou is a very populated city and it’s a developed urban area, it also means there would be more economic loss. The scale of this earthquake in Japan is relatively small comparing to my hometown, because it happened 153km away in sea, and the magnitude is low. If this happened in Guangzhou, I don’t think it would cause a big problem due to the low magnitude and deep source, but I think it would cause more damage than the current location. The reason why I think it would cause a worse result is that Guangzhou is an over-populated city, and it’s inland, if an earthquake happened in the center of the city, it would affect more people. Another reason is that the earthquake happened in sea and Japan has more experiences coping with earthquakes, but Guangzhou does not, which I think would be problematic. Different people in my hometown would have different levels of vulnerability towards the event, children and seniors are more vulnerable than others. Also, where people locate at the time of event also matter. The city has many skyscrapers, especially in the city center, and there are not many open grounds in the city, so if the earthquake strike, it may cause the buildings to fall, and people may not have enough open spaces to hide. In order to decrease the city’s vulnerability to such disaster, I think we can improve the buildings’ structure and makes it more resistant to earthquakes, and governments should develop a more detailed plan to cope with such emergencies.

Typhoon is the most popular natural hazard in Guangzhou. In my experience, cyclones are very active in our areas especially during summers, and the rain and wind can cause some troubles in our daily life. Strong wind sometimes break down tree, or cause items to fall off from tall buildings, these can be dangerous to people passing by. Heavy rain is also problematic, although it’s not very life-threatening, but water-logging in the city can cause traffic jams and it’s very inconvenient. Some ways to decrease our vulnerability includes keeping items off the windows, improving drainage system and improving our forecast system and management plan.

In our lesson, we learn about some methods to reduce vulnerability to natural hazards, and I think both pre-event preparedness and post-event recovery and reconstruction are very important to Guangzhou. The government should develop stronger emergency plans to cope with natural hazards, and citizens should remain pre-cautious before the event occur if possible. Building resilience in non-disaster time is also a good response, for example, we can improve our drainage system to prevent water-logging problems during non-event times. In order to efficiently deal with these problems, not only the government but also citizens should take their responsibilities, when government can enhance infrastructures and develop plans for the city, citizens can start with some smaller places, or work in teams to help the local community. As for myself, I would work on some small things like enhancing our shelf on the balcony so it would be more resistant in bad weather, and I would consider joining local organizations to provide helps from some other aspects.

Urban Planning

Guangzhou, China

My hometown is Guangzhou, which is located in South China and is the third biggest city in China. With its convenient location, Guangzhou serves as an important national transportation hub and trading port. It has a total population of 14 million people and it’s an urban downtown city. Transportation in Guangzhou is really convenient, you can choose from subway, BRT, train, ship and so on. Like many other big cities in the world, life is convenient and busy there, it’s also a city with long history and great food. However, environmental pollution is also problematic there, water quality and air quality are the two major concerns and the government is working on improving them. To me, Guangzhou is a great place to live in with its conveniences and stunning culture. Although there’s a lot of differences in urban planning between Guangzhou and State College, I always miss the life back in Guangzhou.

Curitiba, Brazil

In the lesson, we learned about the BRT system in Curitiba, Brazil, which reminds me of Guangzhou. Since it was more expensive to build the subway system, Curitiba chose to design a bus-friendly city and provided subway-quality performance for a fraction of the cost. Guangzhou has both BRT system and subway system, so it’s easy to get around. But subway is still the more popular choice for people to get around the city. I think one of the reasons is that BRT in Guangzhou doesn’t run as frequent as in Curitiba. In Curitiba, BRT comes one minute apart. But in Guangzhou, sometimes it takes longer to commute in BRT because of the bad traffic, and during peak hours, it’s even harder to get on the bus. So I think one thing Guangzhou can learn from Curitiba is to add more BRT buses, especially during peak hours and populated areas.

Detroit, U.S.

In the lesson, we also learned about urban farming in Detroit, U.S.. Detroit has a lot of abandoned lands after the city’s economic fortune declines, so people used these lands to farming. Urban farming is organic and locally produced, which is good for the environment. It also helps with the local economy and provides vegetables and fruits to local people. There aren’t many urban farming in Guangzhou, but I think this is an important thing we can learn from Detroit. Although Guangzhou may not have as many open lands, we can still make use of rooftops and balconies to farm. Back at home, my parents plant some vegetables in pots on our little balcony, although they couldn’t provide our everyday needs, I think it’s a good way to relax and keep up a sustainable lifestyle. If we can have a larger scale of urban farming in the city, I believe it would be a big success since more people are concerned about food safety now.

social norms on food choice

When I was a kid, my mom didn’t allow me to ear instant noodles and other fast foods like McDonalds, because she thinks that’s unhealthy. As a result, most of the food I had when I was a kid were homemade and considered healthy. But when I started college here in U.S., I encountered many unhealthy food I rarely had before. As a student, I don’t have many other choices in food so those fast food places are my main go-to places for food between class. I think it’s a popular choice among students because it’s fast and cheap, but it’s certainly not as healthy as homemade food because it’s mainly meat, and based on the healthy eating pyramid we should consume least of these animal-based food. So during the weekend, I usually cook some nutritious meals that contains both meat and vegetables, and most of my food were provided locally, so it’s sustainable too.

As we all know, fast food is one of the causes of obesity. In my experience, people in U.S. consume a lot more fast food than people from other country, and obesity is one of the leading health issues here. There are many reasons why people like fast food so much, they are cheap, delicious and easy to get. Many people are busy with work and study, so they would like food that can be prepared quickly and also feed them, and fast food stores seems like the right ones to go. The unbalanced nutrition triangle contributes to obesity problems, and obtaining food sources from other places is less sustainable. In order to deal with obesity problem from the aspect of food source, I think we should advocate about eating green food, especially on commercials. As we can see commercials everyday, I think if there’s more commercials about healthy diets, more people would turn to healthy food.

Food choice diagram-swc5701

Comparing Carbon Emission Policies

The first case study I select is the results of implementation of the CAFE standard in the United States. This case study focuses on how successful has the CAFE standard been at cutting down carbon dioxide emitted from automobiles and I found this source on Colby-Sustainable development ( Carbon dioxide is the primary resource of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity, and the U.S. was the largest emitter in 1997. So in 1975, EPCA established the CAFE standards in order to control oil consumption. According to the article, the CAFE standard has substantially increased fuel efficiency of cars and light trucks since 1978, although its momentum was partially inhibited for some time. The standard has unintentionally created perverse market incentives to purchase and create vehicles that are relatively less efficient, and low prices of gasoline permitted individuals to drive fuel inefficient cars without paying the environmental costs. These actions are unsustainable for the society, and it’s also a matter of environmental justice as people are still suffered from global warming.


The second case study I select is about the European Union emissions trading scheme and I found this article on fern, a NGO in Europe (–-eu-emissions-trading-scheme). This article mainly focuses on the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty aims to reduce greenhouse gases emissions. 15 countries in EU are committed to the protocol and they aim at a reduction target of 20% below 1990 levels by 2020. In order to meet the target, they initiate different policies, and the main one is the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EUETS). The EUETS consists of three phases, the first phase was from 2005 to 2007 and the second phase was coincides exactly with the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (2008~2012). Both of these phases only controlled carbon dioxide (with exceptions) and permits were allocated by Member States in NAPs. The last phase ran from 2013 and will carry on till 2020 and the final target is to reduce emission by 14% below 2005 levels. As both U.S. and members in EU are considered as more developed countries, they have higher standards on air pollution and more detailed plan to regulate carbon emission.


Comparing the two cases with Guangzhou, I would say there are some similarities but the U.S. and EU have better plans and higher standards. Although China is a developing country, Guangzhou is one of the cities in China that has highest GDP. China just announced its international climate pledge (Intended National Determined Contribution, or INDC) in June 2015 with the national goal to peak carbon dioxide emission in 2030 or sooner. Guangzhou would follow the goals set by the country, but there aren’t many policies specifically regulate carbon dioxide emissions. From the case studies, I think one thing we can take away from them is to establish a more specific policy on regulating carbon dioxide emission rather than focusing on the broad term. I believe that the Chinese government is working its way to a more advanced stage in reducing carbon emission.

Tracking Water Usage-Siying Chen

Part 1-a:

The water supply chain usually starts at the water source. For my hometown Guangzhou, China, water usually comes from the West River and the East River. The city’s water supply companies then filter and sanitize the water. After water being treated in the water supply companies, it is transported to households and to our taps, but unlike U.S., tap water in China is not drinkable. Before we consume water, we boil it first or use water filter. According to the official report in 2013, Guangzhou’s water usage is over 350 liters per person per day, which is the top in the country. Wastewater produced from households then goes to the closest wastewater treatment plant, where wastewater get treated. A portion of treated wastewater is recycled and used in agricultural and industrial use, and the rest goes back to the downstream and eventually to the south China sea.

Part 1-b:

my water usage for 2/9

Chen's daily water use

Part 1-c:

Since I only have 2 gallons of water, I would restrict water use in cooking, drinking and basic cleaning, assuming there’s no other water resource. My priority water use would be drinking water, because I need to drink water to survive, and the second would be cooking water and the last would be cleaning. I would try to consume as little water as I can, and for basic cleaning, I would try to limit the time and amount I use, and if possible, I would recycle the water. To make an assumption, I would use approximately 1.2 gallons of water for consumption, and 0.5 gallon of water for cleaning, and I can still recycle the water after cleaning, in this scenario, the experiment would work. comparing to part 1-b of my usual daily water use, using only 2 gallons a day seems like impossible, and it also makes me realize that how much water I use, or waste in my daily life. Geography has a great impact on water supply, as we can see from the experiment, 2 gallons of water per day maybe is what people in Africa have, and there’s even no guarantee of clean water source. But here in U.S. we don’t need to worry about clean water and water supply, and we always think we have a lot for us to consume.

Ethics-Siying Chen

  • Is it more important to be a good person or to perform good acts (virtue ethics vs. action ethics)?

In my opinion, I think it’s more important to perform good acts and I believe that ends justify means. Although virtue ethics and action ethics are usually bound with each other, action is the ethic that would make a difference in the end. For example, some people would do philanthropical works to make themselves famous, regardless from what their original purpose is, the action itself actually help people in need. On the other hand, some people can just talking about being an environmental-friendly person all the time without actually doing anything, and this would not benefit the environment.

However, there’s always exceptions. In most cases, people with good virtue ethics usually have good action ethics too. Environmentalists are always the people who are concerned about the environment, and those who have no concern about the environment usually just live their own ways. But in the rare cases, I think action ethics are more important than virtue ethics.

  • Does the process by which decisions are made matter more than the outcomes of these decisions (procedural justice vs. distributive justice)?

Being a realistic person, I always value the outcome more than the mean. In the case of dealing with environmental problems, we can only see the result, not the process. For example, when government is dealing with water contamination, all we know as citizens is that whether the water source is treated or not, or whether it is usable. Even if we know the process itself, it wouldn’t be much help since it’s already in the past, and only the outcomes matter to us as consumers. In the recent Flint water crisis, people are more concerned about if the problem is treated properly, not many are concerned about how the decision was made.

However, we still cannot neglect the process of how decisions are made. For example, when dealing with water pollution problem, we have to make sure that everyone who is affected has a say, not just those people with power. Just because someone is less powerful doesn’t mean they don’t have a right to stand for themselves.

  • Do ecosystems matter for their own sake, or do they only matter to the extent that they impact humans (ecocentric ethics vs. anthropocentric ethics)?

Since there are so many unseen connections within the ecosystem, I think we should see the ecosystem as a whole, not just the parts where human race is in. To me, I think ecocentric ethics “contains” the ideas of anthropocentric ethics, being ecocentric means you want to benefit the whole ecosystem, and since we are living in this system, so we’re potentially benefited. But being anthropocentric doesn’t usually mean is good for the environment. For example, if we’re anthropocentric, we would consider our own benefit versus the cost to the ecosystem, it’s like the supply and demand relationship in economics, we need to find the equilibrium to make both sides happy, but so far the human race is still favoring its own benefit over the ecosystem.

Even though we are trying to protect the environment for its own sake, it’s hard to achieve ecocentric ethics in a short time. But I believe that we are all working on it, and one day we can sustain the ecosystem without compromising our needs.

Biogas in India


This image above is a system diagram for biogas in India, with system diagram, we can better understand the relationship between system’s components. In the diagram, we can see that how biogas affects ecosystem and social system, biogas generator uses locally accessible cow dung to produce clean methane gas, and the “leftover” slurry can be used as organic compost, which should be seen as a sustainable development since it doesn’t compromise the resources of the future generations. When comparing my diagram to the one in “What is Human Ecology?”, the same part would be that we both use arrows to show the effects, the different part would be that I use the procedure of producing biogas as a “tree trunk” and present the effects in two categories, but in the reading the author list the major topics under the two categories and find the relationships between the topics. I think the reason why we have differences and similarities is that we both know arrow can help us clear our thoughts and trace the chain of effects, but we have different ways to arrange the information. By comparing the diagrams, I think I would focus more on the correlation between different effects rather than just listing them under different categories, and I would also consider sing line arrows since it makes the diagram cleaner.

Getting to know you-Siying Chen

Hi, my name is Siying Chen and I’m a junior student studying environmental resource management at penn state university park. I’m from Guangzhou, China but I came to study abroad in U.S. since 2013, and since I only go home once a year, I basically live here in state college now. Although I haven’t have a clear picture about my future, I would like to do something related to water or waste treatment in the future, but before that I may want to go to study in graduate school. I’m taking this course to fulfill the requirement of my geography minor, and I’m also really interested in sustainability, to me, sustainability is one of the reasons why I choose this major. Outside of school, I like to play guitar and travel, so far I’ve set foot on 10 different countries and I’m hoping to visit South America someday!

In module one, I learnt about human-environment interaction and I think it’s very important. One of the main reasons why people study geography is to fulfill human being’s needs for natural resources. Since natural resources may be exhausted someday, we need to find a sustainable way to fulfill our need and recover the environment at the same time. Thus more and more people become interested in sustainability. As for living in a sustainable way, developed countries such as U.S. do a much better job than developing countries like China, so I hope I can learn some of the sustainable methods that developed countries used and the effects of that, and hopefully one day I can contribute some help in protecting the environment in my own country.