Yeeren Low – Biodiversity

  1. Explain why biodiversity is important.
  2. Explain the threats to biodiversity.
  3. Create a system diagram for the causes of deforestation in the Amazon.


  1. Biodiversity means that there are more forms of life we can use. But also, protecting biodiversity is important for ecosystem functioning. An ecosystem with biodiversity is more resilient, so we can take greater advantage of it. If we want to use ecosystems for our benefit, they need to function properly. Ecosystems contain complex relationships between organisms. Losing a species might destroy this order, as illustrated by the example of the honeybees.
  2. Humans may decrease biodiversity by destroying habitats, e.g. clearing of rainforest for agriculture. The rainforest soil is typically not fertile and so not conducive to habitation. Another threat to biodiversity is introduction of invasive species. When a new species enters an ecosystem, it might disrupt the prior order. For example, it may introduce unfamiliar diseases that wipe out some species. Another possibility is that the new species may prey on certain species and drive them to extirpation. This is related to overharvesting. Even if the prey is not extirpated, there may be a permanent decrease in biodiversity by the ecosystem changing to a new stable state. Pollution makes it difficult or impossible for life to flourish. Pollution doesn’t necessarily consist of synthetic chemicals such a plastics; it can also be naturally occurring chemicals present in too high concentrations. Even chemicals released into the environment at initially low concentrations can end up in high concentrations in some organisms via bioaccumulation. Finally, a growing human population can threaten biodiversity by e.g. habitat loss or pollution.
  3. biodiversity_yil5488

Yeeren Low – Climate Diplomacy

  1. cilmateDiplomacy_yil5488
  2. Support for the Copenhagen accord affects climate change through actions of governments around the world. Threats against parties (e.g. U.S. to Ethiopia) increase support for Copenhagen. Distrust between parties (e.g. U.S. vs. China, India) affects agreement. Aid to poor nations that support Copenhagen (e.g. Maldives) provides incentive to support Copenhagen. Cutting aid to nations that oppose Copenhagen (e.g. Bolivia) serves as a deterrent against opposing Copenhagen.
  3. Perhaps it is a good thing that the State Department cables are made public. Now we can see what our representatives are doing. such as the cyberattacks which seem totally unethical.

Yeeren Low – Vulnerability Reduction

  1. My hometown (East Stroudsburg, PA) doesn’t really have a risk of earthquakes or tropical cyclones. It has a risk of hailstorms, extratropical storms, and tornadoes. This seemed to be an okay summary of natural hazards in my area. There might be local considerations that are important. For example, as noted in the document, fire-prevention measures were not considered in estimating the wildfire risk. The risks were shown on a very large spatial scale but as these hazards are climate-related, they vary slowly in space compared to a single town. Still, I think the maps were too coarse. No state borders were drawn and the low resolution made it difficult to read.
  2. I chose a wildfire burning near Ruidoso in southeastern New Mexico, USA. It has burned ~ 175 acres. It is possible that my hometown could suffer a wildfire. Natural causes include lightning while human causes (intentional or accidental burning) are also possible. One factor influencing the risk of such a disaster is landscape, including climate. Another possible factor is intentional burning practices. As both places are in a developed country, I don’t expect major contributions from ability to mobilize resources or competency in intentional burning. The area of East Stroudsburg is 2.5 square miles, or 1600 acres. That is only about 10 times 175 acres. The financial impact would depend on the density of development. As East Stroudsburg is far more densely populated that Ruidoso, I would guess that the financial impact would be much greater in East Stroudsburg. A fire might disproportionately impact carless people, as they might not be able to evacuate as quickly. Our city could make itself less vulnerable to such a disaster by cars stopping for ambulances.

Sustainable Cities

  1. I live in East Stroudsburg, PA, located in northeastern PA. The East Stroudsburg metropolitan area has 54316 people according to the 2010 US Census. Many locals work in New York City. East Stroudsburg is an automobile suburb. Even to go to the local grocery store we use car. Going to a neighbor’s house is just about the only thing we use walking for. On my street, urban density is low. In a 1000-foot portion of street there are only 7 houses. However we do have buses. There are bus lines that go to New York City. It is a popular recreational destination. Air quality is good.
  2. Jamaica Plain, Boston, MA: East Stroudsburg might consider adding sidewalks for walking and biking. It might also consider building houses close to bus lines to New York City.
  3. Detroit, MI: Crops could be grown on local farms and sold at a farmer’s market. This farmer’s market could be combined with other buildings to reduce environmental impact of buildings.

Food choices, social norms, societal isues

  1. My food choice has largely been influenced by that of my family. This might be considered the “social norm” I have been affected by. The connection between this “social norm” and my food choices is very simple. It is that I eat foods similar to what my family eats. Probably due to my circumstances I have not really felt pressured towards eating other foods. I would say my family eats rather healthy. One reason for this is that we don’t really care much about the taste of foods. So, we are fine eating many foods rather plain and aren’t inclined to add much stuff to make it “tastier” like spices or salt. To us that is a waste of time. We do eat animal products, mainly chicken and their eggs, but sometimes other meat such as beef, fish, turkey, or shrimp.
  2. These food choices connect to the issue of obesity. Adding stuff like sugar to make foods “tastier” contributes to higher calorie content. Less of this may be a good social norm. People would be more used to the taste of food with less stuff added to it.
  3. The arrows mean “contributes to.food_yil5488

Reducing solid waste in Germany


In Germany, there was an effort to reduce solid waste by recycling packaging. This was done by requiring manufacturers to reuse or recycle their packaging, as well as facilitating them to comply with the ordinance. This led to the creation of the “Dual System.” This effort contributes to sustainability by combating resource depletion. However, it is not complete because the oversupply of recyclable waste. To make further progress, the recyclable waste needs to be used more frequently for production of goods.

Tracking Water – Yeeren Low

a. My home uses a private water system. Groundwater from an aquifer is collected in a well and pumped into a storage tank, where the water is maintained at a constant level. The water is filtered before it reaches the tap. Water from the toilet, sink, shower, etc. runs down a single drainage pipe into the septic tank. This tank is water-tight and allows the various components of the waste fluid to separate vertically. Liquid water goes to the drain field, in which the water is absorbed by the soil.



Cooking/washing food/dishes: ~ 7.5 gal/day

Washing clothes: ~ 8 gal/day

Flushing toilet: ~ 35 gal/day

Washing hands: ~ 1 gal/day

Showering: ~ 25 gal/day

Total: ~ 76 gal/day


c. Cooking water can be reduced by using the microwave, but this amount of water is already negligible compared to other contributions. Water for washing dishes can also be saved by not using the dishwasher. Using the toilet can’t really be avoided in our society, though. Instead of using a shower, you could try pouring water from a bucket. Still, the total is way more than 2 gallons. I did not actually bother doing all this, though. The local economy and available technology are important to our water supply as it influences the options we have for obtaining our water – can we have faucets and showers, or will all the water we get have to be transported by buckets carried in our hands? The local environment is obviously also important – can we get our water from the ground right next to our houses like I can? Or will we have to transport it from further away?

Yeeren Low – Ethics

1. I think that being a good person is more important than performing good actions. To me, being a good person is synonymous with desiring good actions. Performing a single good action isn’t contingent upon being a good person, but being inclined to perform good actions is, I think. To clarify what I mean by a “good person”, consider someone who asks, “Am I being selfish for trying to land a job better than one I am already offered?” I would say a person asking such a question is already a good person, and the person strives not to improve what may be called their “moral character” (how good they are as a person) but rather their ability to choose good actions. Performing good actions requires more than just being a good person. It encompasses more – it requires knowledge, experience, perspective, ability to remain unbiased, etc. I feel we would certainly hold a higher opinion of someone who is good person than one who has no sense of justice, even if the good person does not take good actions.

5. First off, I think many of us (myself included) would be far more willing to sacrifice our lives for another human being than for an animal, however unwilling we may be to do the former. Even considering something not so heavy, if there is a spider in my house, I will just kill it. I don’t spend time trying to figure out how to return it to the wild safely.

(Sorry, I know this is incomplete.)

Biogas in India

Biogas technology changed human-environment interactions in India. Before its introduction, the rate of collection of firewood for cooking fuel was not sustainable. Biogas technology reduced the demand for firewood, thus creating a more sustainable situation. But biogas technology had other effects besides cutting down on smoke, reducing firewood depletion, and increasing children’s time for school. The by-product, slurry, also improved the lives of the people via the trade and use of compost produced from the slurry. To start comparing my diagram to Marten’s, both include reasons for introduction of biogas generators, and effects beyond better cooking fuel. One difference, however, is that the diagram in Marten includes the positive-feedback effect that demand for cooking fuel had prior to introduction of biogas generators. My diagram doesn’t include that because that aspect wasn’t mentioned in the video. Also, I included the compost business as that aspect was not discussed in the Marten text. Obviously, there are similarities between the two diagrams because they are about the same subject. There are differences because they address slightly different aspects of it. One thing we can say from comparing the two diagrams is that things can have greater consequences than we might initially anticipate. When we draw a diagram, we can choose to emphasize different aspects of a topic.


Module 1 Getting to Know You – Yeeren Low

Hi everyone, I’m Yeeren Low. I’m a senior majoring in physics and mathematics at Penn State University Park. I’m currently residing at State College while I have my permanent residence in eastern PA and I grew up near Raleigh, NC. My parents immigrated to the U.S. from Malaysia before I was born. I am the second of three brothers. I am thinking of pursuing a career in STEM research/development. I am using this course to fulfill a general requirement, and it appeared interesting but prior to this course I really knew nothing about geography.

One topic that has been around is human-caused climate change. This is an example of human-environment interactions. These interactions run both ways — the environmental changes we humans bring on can come back to affect us in ways we might not even know. However the ones most severely affected may not be the ones causing such changes. This issue has an economic dimension as depletion of natural resources will change trade. This means sustainability is key as our lives can change drastically if resources are depleted.