Module 10, African Human Extinction Event

Current Events:

United Nations Environment Program releases cautionary fact sheet on climate change

From news story released April 21, 2016

Climate: Africa’s Human Existence Is at Severe Risk

In current news today, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) released a statement describing the peril that climate change might cause on the continent of Africa. UNEP announced that the African continent is the most severely affected continent when it comes to the effects of climate change, due to its poor development, natural deficiencies, and rapid climate change. T

The article describes several aspects of the biosphere that would be in danger of creating loss of biodiversity, including human life. Water is a big part of the climate change affects. Climate change affects rainfall which could affect droughts as well as flooding in various parts of Africa. These phenomenon could put drinking water strains on a population that already has a population that is under-nourished. Sea-level changes have also been noted and if they continue could affect coastal areas with large populations and endanger their lives.

According to the fact sheet produced ecosystems are critical in Africa, “contributing significantly to biodiversity and human well-being. Between 25 and 40% of mammal species in national parks in sub-Saharan Africa will become endangered.” This loss of biodiversity could adversely affect the human population by reducing resources and putting a strains on population survival.

The World Bank reported that by 2030 nearly 90million people in African will be exposed to malaria. If this disease or other diseases is combined with the phenomenon above, the African people face imminent danger.


System Diagram

The System Diagram above describes the hypothesized African Human Extinction Event. The source of such an event, is described in detail by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP.) UNEP predicts that current levels of climate change are affecting the African continent the most of any continent and that the African population is the most endangered human population due to climate change.
The Diagram shows climate change as the main source topic at the top. The red boxes above show the main topics, or how we get from A to B. The green boxes are the adversely affected areas of the biosphere, that could lead to a human extinction event on the continent of Africa. The arrows are in yellow to describe caution, as all of the effects shown here, happen to have negative effects.

Module 5 Case Study – Global Deforestation – Sebastian Hollabaugh

The first case study takes a look at deforestation in Costa Rica. It is provided by undergraduates from Colby College in Maine. It claims that if Costa Rica were to continue its logging operations at the pace their going, they would lose all of the tropical rainforests. Logging in Costa Rica is a viable option because it is readily available and produces high profits. The deforestation creates erosion increases spring runoff and soil destabilization. The deforestation also significantly reduces plant and animal diversity within the rain forests.By cutting the trees, the ecosystem significantly reduces its resilience, which the species are unable to overcome. A third significant loss is the carbon capacity. With significantly less trees and a growing population, Costa Rica will increase greenhouse gas emissions globally, thus changing the climate.


The second case study also takes a look at deforestation. This study shows the effects of deforestation in India, and is provided by the rainforest conservation fund. It details that since the 1940’s, the overabundant rainforest land has been significantly reduced by the growing population. The once forest heavy lands have now become wasteland, leaving about 40% of the country this way. The deforestation has ruined water sheds and coastal agricultural lands. This has also increased poverty in rural areas, and continues to worsen as the population grows.


The two case studies show the impacts of deforestation, which is a foreign problem to rural Pennsylvania. State College is surrounded by an abundance of plant and forest life that is rarely chopped down without proper restorative measures. As the population grows however, so will the need for logging. The mountainous geography most likely prevents any significant deforestation, but the climate change developed from other deforesting nations will have an impact here. Government limitations will hopefully decrease the rate of deforestation however, making the impact minimal. The problems that arise can be seen and avoided if any serious logging were to occur in Pennsylvania however.

Ethics Versus Reality – Module 3 – Bernstein

Question 4: Do ecosystems matter for their own sake, or do they only matter to the extent that they impact humans (ecocentric ethics vs. anthropocentric ethics)?

(4) Ecosystems matter for their own sake AND for the fact that we are a part of them. Ecosystems, besides housing humans, house an impressive array of flora and fauna: algae, toucans, penguins, pine trees, cherry trees, lily pads, etc. An unpolluted river, for example, has a mass effect. The river is the start to a vast web of interconnectivity: bugs lay their eggs near the water, fish eat the bug larvae, birds and mammals eat the fish, etc. While it seems that the answer does lead to how the ecosystem affects the human being, I do care about the other species and things that are effected; from the algae to the aardvark and beyond. Humans in should care more about the ecosystem in general if not for themselves, then for supporting their fellow living creature. If one was to hold perspective of Evolution, we had all evolved from creatures that inhabited ecosystems: so why would we destroy the homes of evolutionary cousins?


Question 5: Do the pleasure and pain of non-human animals matter as much as the pleasure and pain of humans (speciesism)?

(5) The pleasure and pain of non-human animals matter just as much as those of humans. There are many reasons as to why the pleasure and pain of non-human animals matter just as much as those of humans: it can teach children to value life, humans look to animals as companions for emotional and psychological support amongst other reasons, etc. On the other hand, for a lot of our companion pets (cats, dogs, ferrets, etc.)  to lead pleasurable lives, they must be well fed and this entails pain from other animals as they (our companions) are obligate carnivores. If we were to try and spare the other animals’ lives, our companion pets would get sick and therefore be in pain. How much the pleasure and pain of non-human animals matter, unfortunately in most cases is a matter of which animal; humans will spend hundreds of dollars on veterinary bills, grooming costs, toys, food, and other various expenses and then sit down to a chicken dinner. Meanwhile there are a plethora of people who own chickens as pets and spend the same money for veterinary bills, toys, food, etc.  for them. The whole situation is somewhat hypocritical in my opinion. While I believe the pleasure and pain of non-human animals matter just as much as those of humans, animals suffer in order to protect the other animals we care about.


Question 6: Is my own life worth more than the lives of others, the same, or less (selfishness vs. altruism)?

(6) In general, I believe that my life is worth the same as other lives. To be honest, my answer to this question changes between “the same” and “more than” depending on the scenario. My answer is never going to be “less than” because I tend to have a strong sense of self-worth. Another reason it would never be “less than” is because my life is not over yet. As I am still young, I have much of my life yet to experience; I cannot base my life’s worth on a mere ~25% of its time. The reason my answer could change is because it depends on whose life I’m comparing mine to; if I am comparing mine to some other everyday person, our lives would be the same. We know nothing of each other’s experiences and our definition of “valuable” could differ greatly; what I value the most could turn out to be inconsequential to that person. Humans aside,  I believe that animal lives are of as much value as mine as well – one of the many reasons I am vegetarian (but I do not wish to get in a debate about that right now).  In the instances that I compare my life to a child-molester, convicts found guilty of rape and battery charges, animal abusers, etc. I value my life higher than theirs; I do not believe their lives to have any value at all. People such as those who purposely harm others for their own enjoyment, are the lowest of the low in my opinion.


My Ethics Views- Katy Bordt

Question 4: Do ecosystems matter for their own sake, or do they only matter to the extent that they impact humans (ecocentric ethics vs. anthropocentric ethics)?

In my opinion, I believe as a culture humans have an anthropocentrism view. Anthropocentrism puts humans at the top of the food chain, so to speak.  Humans are only worried about themselves and how they can use other things for their own gain. I believe ecosystems do matter for their own sake. Ecosystems were here long before we were, however since they do not have a voice we use and abuse them as we see fit.  We as humans are depended on ecosystems to survive, yet we abuse them. I believe if we started to change our views more towards ecocentrism, the ecosystems would be better off in the long run. Ecocentrism puts ecosystems as most important instead of humans. I believe for the world to have sustainability we as human will have to have more ecocentric ethics and less anthropocentric ethics. I believe we need to be cautious of what we do to the ecosystems for our own gain. If the ecosystems are taken away we will not survive.

Question 5: Do the pleasure and pain of non-human animals matter as much as the pleasure and pain of humans (speciesism)?

I believe speciesism is the human way of life, we value our lives and those alike us more than “animals”. Speciesism is when one species is deemed more valuable than another. I believe humans view themselves like a god, they are the only one that matters and will do anything if it helps them.  I do not believe humans are more important because we have reasoning, and other abilities. Research shows more and more animals have these same abilities as human do, such as dolphins and monkeys. Animal Cognition is the study of mental capacities of animals. Furthermore, there are the animals we use to help us in everyday life, such as guide dogs and police dogs. I believe their lives should be worth just as much as our own. I believe if someone was to harm or kill a police dog (K9), they should be charged will killing a police officer in the line of duty. On the other hand, we put down dogs or other animals after they harm us, such as a dog biting a child. I believe rapist, killers, etc should be given the same treatment and be put to death. I believe humans and animals, especially the ones we view as pets should receive the same treatment and we should value their welfare.

Question 6: Is my own life worth more than the lives of others, the same, or less (selfishness vs. altruism)?

I was think of this question when I started watching Z Nation. Z nation is a show about getting a specific person from upper New York to a lab in California to make a vaccine to save the world from a zombie apocalypse.  You can imagine there are many lives lost to save one person along the way. They all believed they were doing the “right” thing and sacrificing their lives to save humanity.  They were sacrificing their lives for more than just one live. This show made me think what I would do, would I pick to save myself, and be selfish or help for as long as I could, and be altruistic. I believe my life in this scenario would be worth less than the person who could potentially save humanity. I believe if there were emotions involved I would not choose myself, just as with a family member, significant other or friend.  On the other hand, I believe I would choose myself if there was nothing known about the other person and no emotions involved.

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.

Biogas System Hollabaugh


This diagram demonstrates the social and ecosystem effects that the introduction of biogas induces. The arrows indicate how one component interacts with another. For example, biogas produces compost, which can be sold for money, and used for farming. The diagram shows three positive feedback loops (green) and one negative feedback loop (red). One example of a positive feedback loop is that biogas produces compost, which is used on farms, which in turn make more biogas. The negative feedback loop is produced when biogas is introduced. normaly cooking requires wood burning, which requires wood collecting. When biogas is introduced this need for wood burning decreases, which means the need for wood collecting also decreases. Both the wood collecting and burning had adverse affects on schoolwork, time, and health, so the negative feedback loop has a positive effect on the system. When comparing this diagram to figure 1.5 in the Marten reading, it can be noted that there are many differences. This diagram breaks down the social aspects into health, money, time, cooking, and school work, while figure 1.5 uses a broader range of the human population. Figure 1.5 does not clearly show the social benefits such as improvement to health like this figure does, which is something that can be learned by examining both figures. They do use very similar concepts however, which is what makes them similar.

Ben Ceci – Biogas Concept Map



My diagram illustrates the factors involved in the social system and the ecosystem. After watching that video, I was intrigued on the process of creating the biogas and thought that it was very interesting. On the social end of it, I feel as though the main focus should be on health issues and that income should be the least important because if the process is not safe, it does not make sense to continue this process. As far as the ecosystem goes, the smoke was my biggest concern because it can directly affect the health of those involved, especially the women and children. What I found least important was that they were using up the firewood and natural resources.

When comparing my diagram to Marten’s diagram in “What is Human Ecology?”, one thing that immediately stands out is that we both use the same social system and ecosystem categories. While our categories are the same, our subcategories are not. Marten’s diagram focuses on broader ranges of categories while mine are more specific to the biogas process. One thing that I learned from comparing the two diagrams is that even though Marten’s diagram is focusing in on a broader topic, and mine is more specific to the biogas process, they follow the same format. This shows that when dealing with the same categories, you can expect to have similar results, no matter how specific you get.

Dorish Nguyen Systems Diagram

Save Bengaluru

My dad used to be a landscaper. He was paid to plant, lay stone, and add fountains wherever his customer wanted in order to make his or her yard pretty. But that isn’t all that landscaping encompassed, landscaping is the coexistence of the environment and humans. As a landscaper, my dad knew what kind of plants went with what kind of soil or was fit to certain seasons and temperatures. Though this is only one example of a landscape, it is an example of how landscape’s can be understood based on systems within them. A system diagram allows for the coexistence of the environment and humans and their impact and relationship to be visually seen. My systems diagram shows the negative effect of the use of firewood for cooking and how it called for a biogas generator, which impacts the ecosystem and social system positively. The biogas generator eliminates the negative effects of firewood, and turns them into a better ecosystem and social system, which both also impact each other. When the ecosystem is improved, so is society, seen through how each positive aspect of the ecosystem corresponding to a positive aspect in society. The core idea of my system diagram is to show the system within Bengaluru, India and the landscape of how humans and the environment can coexist, such as cow manure, a natural process, being recycled into compost, which aids humans and the environment through yielding produce and creating jobs. Since biogas generators created methane to be used as fuel, there is no need for firewood, which is shown to cause negative effects to the people of Bengaluru. Therefore, by using biogas instead of firewood, children no longer need to search for wood instead of attending school, there is less deforestation due to the decreased demand for wood, and the compost made from cow dung increases produce yield and thus improves the economy of Bengaluru. My diagram relates to the “What is Human Ecology?” because it also connects the social system and the ecosystem and talks about how human activities can influence both the ecosystem and social system. In the same way human activities influence, my diagram shows how use of firewood by humans has influenced the use of biogas, which impacts the ecosystem and social system. However, in Marten’s diagram, there is a clear cycle occurring, which nearly everything connects to everything, whereas my diagram shows a connection between aspects rather than a full reoccurring cycle. Marten’s diagram connects each subcategory within the ecosystem or social system to all other subcategories while mine only connects a subcategory of the ecosystem with another from the social system. This cycle versus direct connection causes these differences, but the importance of how the ecosystem and social system create similarities within our diagrams due to their relationship within every human action. If this similarity within the two diagrams were not present, it might not be prominent that the correlation between the ecosystem and society is crucial within systems.

Biogas Concept Map- India


The provided system diagram that I’ve made is relatively simple to what other students might have and also from Marten’s diagram. What I’d like to show in the diagram were mainly how the biogas technology impacts both the ecosystem and the social system of the part in India which applies the biogas system. This invention produced two major products; methane gas and slurry. Both of these outputs brought various effect to fore-mostly the ecosystem, then affecting the social system as well. The production of methane gas leads to less environmental pollution and also reducing deforestation due to the people having an alternative energy choice for cooking. This in return will benefit the people health-wise and allow the children to go to school instead of gathering fuel. The slurry, on the other hand will help local farmers to fertilize their soil and grow healthier crops. At the same time, the slurry provides a certain group of the population (mainly women) with job opportunity by processing them into fertilizers to sell to farmers. Both the farmers and the women will gain economic profit from this.

For the most part, this diagram is much simpler and straightforward than that of Marten’s. It is similar in a way that both charts are divided into two major divisions- social system and ecosystem. Also, this diagram shows the effect that all outcome from the ecosystem side eventually leads to a healthier ecosystem, which isn’t shown in Marten’s diagram. Comparing the two diagrams, I think we could all learn more from the more complex relationships appearing on Marten’s illustration because he listed along the products and processes that goes along in the exchange of points such as cooking fuel, cut wood or put in biogas generators.




The system diagram above conveys the Human-Environment System by displaying the vast interactions of the social system and ecosystem within the biogas revolution in India. The diagram shows both the positive and negative impacts of the technological development of biogas culture. The wood burning culture had created poor health effects due to wood burning, it forced child labor for collecting firewood, and caused deforestation. The new biogas culture allowed for a cleaner environment, less health effects, and less deforestation. It also created new jobs and wealth which allows the human population to flourish.

In comparison with the Marten system diagram there are similarities and differences. Both the Marten diagram and my own showcase the various interactions of the Human-Environment system. They display the affects that human decisions have on the environment and the way the environment affects human decision making. They differ in that Marten has more specific cross interactions between the two. Mine could have used more wording in the cross between to be more complete. I think these similarities and differences help to showcase where one puts emphasis on certain decisions and where others may be overlooked. I think it is important for things to be analyzed from more than one perspective so that we get a more complete picture of the interactions from a research perspective.

Module 2_Joseph Carlamere

The biogas video shows the coupling of the human-environmental system and the interactions between humans and the environment. To display the interaction in my system diagram, I listed the components of the social system and the eco-system that have a direct interface with one another than dug a little deeper to identify the non-direct collaboration. To start, by installing a biogas system removes cow dung from the community. This will improve the overall health of the people living in the town; plus removing the dung creates compost, which leads to improved soil conditions resulting in increase agriculture. Another aspect of utilizing the biogas system is better indoor air quality inside the house. This is achieved by removing wood burning stoves and installing gas-burning stoves. A byproduct of this improvement is increased health. The biogas system has increased the local economy too; the women of the town are able to bag soil that is produced by composting. Additionally, local bricklayers are able to earn a living by building the top of the biogas container. Lastly, the children of the town are able to get a better education. The mornings usually consisted of gathering branches and wood; now they are able to attend school. One more interaction between the social system and ecosystem is reforestation and increase wildlife survival rate, which is achieved by not removing excess forestry to burn for cooking.

“Coupled Human-Environment Systems.” Geographic Perspectives on Sustainability and Human-Environment Systems. Pennsylvania State University, 2016. Web. 26 Jan. 2016. <>.


Getting to Know you – Syed Amirul

Salam Sejahtera!

My name is Syed Amirul, I am currently a Senior majoring in Economics (BA). I have now lived in State College, Pennsylvania for four years, but I was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (which was why I greeted you in Bahasa Malaysia- it means hello!). I have a keen interest in photography so I might pursue a career in doing commercial photography while helping my family run our business. My interest in this course is to generally learn about the Earth. I’m always interested in learning about the nature ( I took meteorology and astronomy classes) and I think learning geography will help me connect the dots between human and environment interaction and its effects towards one another. One fun fact about me- I can solve a Rubik’s cube in 40 seconds. If anyone could solve it faster, please teach me!

Now that we’ve been introduced to some perspectives in the field of geography, one example that came in mind was an issue that’s becoming a national controversy in my country. In Pahang, the largest state in Peninsula Malaysia, the government are being condemned after active bauxite mining that has turned into a harmful economic activity to the locals of the area. Many reports have address the issue and its negative impact, one coming from Malaysian Society of Marine Sciences chairman Dr Harinder Rai Singh who said the contamination would be fatal to marine life. The coast of Pahang are mostly contaminated and is bound to be ‘dead sea’ within three years. This issue is important to be scrutinized on, mainly on how the human-environment interaction caused these harmful conditions, and how that in turn will affect the lives of humans living in the vicinity of the polluted area.

Module 2- Maura McGonigal

My diagram focuses on the story behind the creation and utilization of Biogas generators. The two main causes that triggered the implementation of Biogas generators are deforestation and negative population health effects from smoke based cooking techniques. The use of Biogas generators improved the social and ecosystem.   The social system was affected by improving children’s quality of education and women’s quality of life. Since the generators provide methane directly to households, women’s cooking times are decreased, which enabled them to then take slurry waste from the generators and create fertilizer. This then affected the ecosystem by improving the quality of soil and increasing crop production.


When comparing my diagram to Gerry Marten’s diagram, I noticed one main difference. Marten’s diagram focused on all aspects of the social and ecosystem, where my diagram focuses on specific details within the social and ecosystem. I think it is important to be able to look at the system as a whole and encompass all the contributing factors. However, I also feel at times it is important to zone in on the direct effects on the system. Marten’s and my diagram showed similarities in how the social and ecosystem are intertwined through feedback mechanisms. This is an important concept because it shows how changes in the social system affect the ecosystem and vice versa. The similarities and differences in the diagrams arise from individual perspective. It is always important to consider others opinions because everyone has different life experiences, which lead to unique perspectives.biogas-mkm5257