Module 10 – Biodiversity

Pat 1: Write about a place you have visited with a unique ecosystem, and describe the types and levels of biodiversity that exist there from what you have experienced. What factors contribute to this biodiversity? Was is the same 50 years ago or longer? How have humans impacted the biodiversity in this area?

Part 2: What can the government or people in that local area do to increase the level of biodiversity in this region? Who should be responsible for improving the biodiversity in this area?

Two summers ago I had the opportunity to visit the Pacific Northwest including Seattle, Vancouver, and the rest of British Columbia. This was one of my favorite vacations I have ever been on, and probably the most beautiful place I have seen. Since most of the area is considered a temperate rainforest, there is a very large amount of biodiversity there. There are many factors that contribute to this. The summers have mild temperatures and pleasant weather, and winters are slightly colder with lots of rainfall. It is very mountainous with a variety of features such as shorelines and sunnier high altitude regions, creating many microclimates. It is also a very old and large area, being directly connected to the rest of North America. This has allowed many types of species from elsewhere in the continent to migrate and thrive in the Pacific Northwest. While this area is relatively natural and untouched by humans compared to most of North America, it still shows scars and issues due to human activity. Being a massive forest, it is very desirable to log throughout the area, especially the valuable redwood trees. Throughout my visit it was incredible to see these massive trees, however very upsetting to see that such a large portion of them are now reduced to stumps. Many species are supported by the existence of these trees and others. The logging in the region has certainly hurt them, although there has not been a significant decline in overall biodiversity so far, outside of the highly populated areas of Vancouver and Seattle. There is still a massive amount of wilderness where many species can thrive.

Although there are many things that the local governments and people do to protect the nature in their area, and it has worked well, there are still several things they can do to improve the biodiversity. The most obvious being to solve the amount of logging that occurs. This area is one of the highest producers of lumber in the continent, so it is definitely not easy to reduce the logging when the industry is so large. Because of this, there is little that the people can do. It is mostly up to the government to take more responsibility and stand up to these companies who have lobbied very hard to gain access to these forests and log the amount that they do. Another thing that can definitely be improved is the level of pollution from Seattle, Vancouver, and surrounding populated areas. They are the main sources of pollution in the Pacific Northwest, despite them being quite eco-friendly as far as cities go. The people who live there can certainly still work improve like reducing waste and using more efficient modes of transport. Any improvement in this will help, as the pollution is certainly harming the biodiversity in the surrounding areas.

Module 9 – Climate Diplomacy

Avi Moore Diagram

The diagram I created links together the impacts on the environment (shown in green) and the societal factors contributing to it (boxes in blue). This article and topic doesn’t go deep into detail about the climate itself; instead it focuses on the diplomatic relations behind trying to solve the problem. It starts with the problem of overusing fossil fuels (mostly by developed countries), which results in too much greenhouse gas being emitted. This is the core cause of the climate change we are experiencing. For this specific situation, the link to climate change is mostly through the UN Summit and the Copenhagen Accord that was developed by it. After the Copenhagen Accord, the flow chart shows how the more developed countries were more supportive of the plan than the less developed countries. This was mainly due to the wealthier countries being able to shape the plan around their own agendas more than strictly working to improve climate change. Meanwhile, the less wealthy and developed ones suffer from the fallout of climate change that they didn’t cause. In order to push the plan forward and into action, the U.S. and others resorted to unethical tactics such as financial aid bribery, spying, and other threats in order to almost force the unsupportive countries into changing their minds. Eventually, 140 countries pledged to support the Copenhagen Accord. This is within the intended target number of countries, who account for about 80% of the greenhouse emissions. Whether the tactics used to gather this support is viewed as unethical or not, the plan will still hopefully bring a reduction in greenhouse gasses and an improvement in climate change.

I think this article did a great job of displaying how hard it can be to gather widespread support to improve climate change. As mentioned in the article, this is a collective action issue. Not only that, but the collective action needs to happen on many levels and scales. Different countries all need to do their part in reducing emissions, as well as the individual people within these countries on a daily basis. This article focused on an example at the worldwide and diplomatic scale. The U.S. and other wealthy countries put their personal interests ahead of making large steps to solve the problem, through their support of the less binding and weaker Copenhagen Accord. I think the approach taken by the U.S. and some other countries was ethically wrong and futile for long term improvement. Offering aid to countries who are in a position of need is something these poorer countries cannot refuse, even if it means supporting a plan that they wish to not support. This defeats the purpose of having a plan that’s is agreeable by all nations involved, since only the more powerful ones truly wish for it to be implemented. This outcome was a way for the United States and others to act as if they are doing their part, when in reality they are pushing back the real change necessary. I think the information that was leaked should have been publicly available in the first place. If that were the case, public pressure likely would have forced the U.S. to come to a more agreeable and more effective plan, rather than forcing those who disagree to change stances. I think the UN Summit needs to reevaluate this plan and revise it so that all countries involved truly can agree on a solution. That is the only way we can work to reduce climate change effectively in the long run.

Module 8 – Vulnerability Reduction

My hometown of Doylestown, PA is considered to be not very vulnerable at all when it comes to natural hazards and disasters. Although it can be affected by many types of hazards, it is often not hit hard, and it is a safe place to be. When looking at the maps, it appears to show that eastern Pennsylvania is affected mostly by hailstorms, extratropical (winter) storms, and a low risk of tornadoes. Although it is possible for these hazards to occur in my hometown, I have only seen occasional severe winter storms, and very light hail a couple times. The maps provided would be much easier to read if it had specific areas zoomed in to show more detail. Since where I live appears to be on the edge of many severity levels, a more detailed map would help to differentiate between them better.

On the Emergency and Disaster Information Service map, I found a magnitude 6.1 earthquake that occurred just off the coast of Papua New Guinea. Although it is possible for Doylestown to be hit by an earthquake, it would be very unlikely to be hit by a magnitude 6.1 earthquake. The fault lines known to cause earthquakes on the east coast are relatively far from my town and not very active. If an earthquake of this scale were to happen directly at my hometown, it could potentially cause significant damage. The description says that the earthquake caused up to moderate damage in well-built buildings, and most of the buildings in Doylestown are well built and low to the ground. However, there are some older and historical buildings in the area that might get more severely damaged. In terms of scale, a disaster of this size would be huge compared to my small town, and would affect the surrounding areas which could potentially include Philadelphia. The impact would be different in Papua New Guinea compared to my hometown. Although it is less populated, the area of the earthquake will likely suffer from more human injuries and not as much financial damage as my hometown, since this area is less wealthy and developed than Doylestown. Although most people in my hometown would likely be fine in a disaster like this, there is still potential for injuries, as well as lots of property damage. The vulnerable people in my hometown would include the people who are living in the older and not as structurally sound buildings. An earthquake of this size would cause far more damage to those buildings than the more solid ones. A way that this vulnerability could be reduced is by reinforcing weaker or aging buildings, and making sure others are strong enough.

From my personal experience, the largest natural hazards that my hometown faces are snow storms, and floods in the areas closest to the Delaware River due to excessive rainfall. These are the only threats that I think can cause real damage or injuries. Since I have lived there for my entire life, I have a good idea of the types of issues the town can face. Snow storms happen every winter, and usually can cause minor property damage, or injuries to people working to clear snow. Every once in a while, the Doylestown area can be hit by a powerful winter storm that can cause power outages, collapsed roofs, and other serious property damage. Flooding of the Delaware River is also an occasional issue. In the past, this has caused extensive damage to the buildings and homes that are low and close to the river.

Based on what I have learned in this module and my personal experience of natural hazards in my hometown, there are several things that can be done to reduce vulnerability. The Doylestown Township can increase infrastructure to help clear roads and sidewalks of in the case of serious snowstorms to reduce the risk of traffic accidents and snow related injuries. They can also offer more assistance to those in need of help during these storms, as well as make better judgments for when it is necessary to close local schools. For reducing vulnerability in case of flooding, homes and buildings should be built up higher when next to the river, and can implement stronger building techniques to increase their durability.

Module 7 – Sustainable Cities

I come from a fairly small but active town called Doylestown, which is located about an hour drive north of Philadelphia. I have lived in the suburbs just outside the town, which is considered within Doylestown Township, my entire life. Because of this, I have grown up to become very used to this town, as well as learning many things about it and the people who live there. It is full of restaurants, bars, museums, and a variety of other things that attract many types of people. The town consists of a fairly pedestrian-friendly downtown area that is surrounded by many automobile-suburb type of areas and neighborhoods. The population of the downtown area is a little over 8,000 people, however when including the surrounding suburbs of the whole township, the population rises to about 18,000. Because of this, the town is easily accessible, with cars, to many more people who live just outside the downtown areas.

The video in this module did a great job of showcasing Denmark’s efforts to make the city a very pedestrian friendly and help the economy thrive. These methods can be applied to Doylestown. The downtown area is already a pedestrian friendly place, with dense placement of businesses and being nice to walk around. However, I think this can be expanded greatly if the town is made more accessible without using cars to the very high population of people outside of the town. Where I live, there is no easy way to walk or ride a bicycle into the town due to narrow fast roads and a lack of paths, despite the town not being far away. It is the same story for most of the surrounding area. Since most people drive cars into the town, there’s often a shortage of parking spaces and traffic becomes congested. If more walkways and pedestrian friendly methods of transportation into the town are implemented, it will help keep the town more sustainable, increase business, and make it a nicer place to be.

Lessons can be taken from the urban farming in Detroit and implemented in my hometown of Doylestown, despite the two being drastically different places. Doylestown is surrounded by a decent amount of farmland, but much of it is being turned into suburbs and neighborhoods. In order to preserve the local food availability and sustainability, we can adopt some of these urban farming techniques. More local grown food markets like the one shown in the video can be created within the town. Being a fairly wealthy and thriving area, many of Doylestown’s residents would be happy to support something like this and purchase more locally gown food if it was easier to buy. A movement like this in my hometown would bring in more business, create healthier diets, and make the town overall more sustainable.

Module 6: Food Choice and Social Norms

Social norms play a very important role in the types and quantities of food that people consume in different places and different cultures. In America, it is easy to observe the social norm of eating a high amount of beef, which is also mentioned often in the article. This differs from social norms in other parts of the world, such as India. I have a friend that was born in India and is vegetarian. She has never ate meat because that is just the way she and her entire family has been raised. She has explained to me that this is the social norm in India, largely due to their cultures and religions. Indian people tend to eat a very small amount of all types of meat, with beef being a very uncommon food and even highly frowned upon in their society. Because my friend has been raised in this way and is used to these food choices, she has no desire to eat meat and will likely always be a vegetarian.

Since the production and consumption of meat and especially beef has been shown to have such negative impacts on the environment and sometimes human health such as obesity, my friend’s food choices and the Indian social norm of consuming little meat seems to be a far superior type of consumption than the social norms we have in America to prevent obesity and certain environmental issues. Since the population of India is so high, having a social norm of high meat consumption like we have in America would likely be detrimental to their country, the environment, and their population’s health. Although this norm seems to be a better norm than here in America, India still has many societal issues that need improvement such as hunger. India has a large population of very poor people who are often malnourished. I believe India should continue their trend of consuming small amounts of meat, but they need to find a way to make this food more affordable and allow their poorer population to be properly fed.

My system diagram looks fairly complex, but it shows both the positive impacts of India’s food social norms, and the negative impacts of India’s high population. To simplify the diagram and make it easier understood, positive relationships are shown with the blue arrows, and negative relationships are shown with red arrows. It illustrates how their social norms improve their environmental impacts and are healthier for the people, yet their high population still hurts the environment and causes hungry people due to a lack of accessible food.food_diagram_acm5653

Module 3: Your Ethics Views

Question 1: Is it more important to be a good person or to perform good acts (virtue ethics vs. action ethics)?

I believe that it is far more important to be actually performing good acts than to simply be a good person and have good virtue ethics. However, virtue ethics are almost always necessary in order to perform good acts, otherwise there would be no reason to perform them. Virtue ethics and action ethics are too closely related and necessary to be mutually exclusive, in nearly every situation. I think the only way a person can perform good acts without having virtue ethics is if they are only doing it for their own self-interests and action ethics are a side product. An example of this could be actions to promote someone’s own image to the public; Someone who is very wealthy could donate a large sum of money to charity, but only do it because they want to be viewed in a positive manner or to deduct the donation from taxes, and not because they genuinely care about the people they are helping. This situation does not occur very often; almost always there is real virtue ethics behind action ethics. When it comes to actually making a difference in the world, action ethics are far more important. Many people can talk all the time about how much they care about an issue or problem in society, but that makes no difference compared to when someone takes real action to solve issues. As the saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words”.

Question 2: Do the ends justify the means (ends ethics vs. means ethics)?

For this question, I think it can vary a lot depending on what the means and ends are in a given situation. The majority of the time I think that the ends do justify means. An example mentioned in the reading asked the question: Is fundamentally wrong to chop down a tree, even if it is for a good end cause like forest fire prevention? I think in a case like this, the ends absolutely justify the means. It would be ignorant to say that chopping down a tree is always bad, when the action of chopping down that tree will save many more trees. If society always thinks in a way that only looks at means and ignores their reasoning and ends, we would never make any progress and many irrational decisions would be made. Another example I can think of is hunting regulations. Many people like to believe that hunting is inherently bad. While ethically, people may think it is wrong to kill animals, it may be necessary to encourage hunters to hunt certain types of animals to keep populations and ecosystems stable. Hunting laws are already set up this way, such as deer hunting. It is one of the least restricted animals to hunt, because their population grows so rapidly out of control. Other species that have stable populations are more restricted to keep their populations in check.

Question 3: Does the process by which decisions are made matter more than the outcomes of these decisions (procedural justice vs. distributive justice)?

For this question, I think it can also relate back to the ends vs. means ethics debate. It is the balance between what is inherently good vs. what will ultimately bring benefits. Democracy seems to be a very large part of this justice debate. Our country was founded on the basis of democracy. Ideally, democracy brings freedom to people in many ways and allows people to excel above others financially and socially if they are willing to put in the effort to do so. Therefore people who believe a strictly democratic society is always best are on the procedural side of the debate. However, I believe making decisions based only off of procedural justice – what should lead to better society, will fail every time if we do not also focus on the consequences by using distributive justice. The history of our country has shown that having a solely democratic society will not work – less fortunate people tend to get left behind, monopolies occur when groups gain too much power, the rich become richer and the poor become poorer, etc…  These are all major problems that can and have occurred in our country. The only way to help solve these issues is to focus more heavily on distributive justice – basing our actions off of their consequences rather than what theoretically works.

Module 5 – Environmental Case Studies – Sweden Eco Taxes and China’s Environmental Challenges

For the first case study I chose to look in to, I found an interesting article about an eco-tax that was implemented in Sweden. It can be found on the Colby College Sustainable Development page at

This case study observed the implementation and outcome of an eco-tax implemented by the Swedish government that heavily taxed the sale of fossil fuels in order to reduce greenhouse emissions. As described in this module, a downside of highly developed countries like Sweden is that they have heavy environmental impacts like greenhouse gas emissions. This article effectively showed how the reduction of pollution is a very complicated and difficult task due to many political and logistical roadblocks. The main problem that arose was the fact that a tax like this increases production costs of firms, which causes a loss of competition and can even damage the economy. Their solution was to reduce the tax for industry while keeping it high for consumers, who were more accepting of the tax. Although this tax plan was not entirely successful, it was a great step towards Sweden becoming more developed environmentally, showing that they are one of the leaders in working to become a highly developed country that is also sustainable.

The second case study I read was from McGraw-Hill at It addressed the many issues China faces in becoming more environmentally friendly.

This case study showed the many reasons why China is having such a difficult time becoming more environmentally friendly. The author describes three main reasons: Chinese priorities are focused on economy more than environment, Chinese people are not very environmentally conscious, and there are not enough laws for environmental protection. These topics tie in very closely with this module because China is considered by many as a developed country based on its GDP, yet it has many components that are very behind in development, such as social structure and technology. Because of this, it makes it a very complex issue for a nation with this high of a population to reduce its impact on the environment.

Both of the case studies I read are from very different places than where I live. The first one, in Sweden, is fairly similar to where I live in Pennsylvania, yet I think the main difference is the attitudes of the people here compared to there. In Sweden, high taxation for a cause like environmental protection is much more acceptable by the people than it would be in America. I don’t believe a fuel tax anything like what they implemented would have a chance of being approved of here, where people highly oppose higher taxes. Here, I think people must learn from Sweden that sacrifices must be made if we want to become more sustainable. In the second case study in China, they have a very different lifestyle than people in America. In many aspects besides the economy, America is far more develop, and has a much smaller population. This should make it much easier for the American government to help further protect the environment, since we do not have as many challenges as China to overcome.

Module 4 Activity – Water Tracking and Usage

Part 1-a:

My hometown is Doylestown PA, a busy little town about 45 miles northeast of Philadelphia. The water is supplied and managed by the Doylestown Borough Water Department. For most people in my area, this is how they get their water unless they use private well water. For me, since I live in a neighborhood, this is my family’s source of water. The Water Department service provides over 1 million gallons every day which is sold to households and businesses, and it is used for their daily necessities, such as tap water, toilets, showers, garden hoses, etc… Then, the water goes down drains into public sewers to be recirculated back into one of the Water Department’s water treatment plants, or is held in septic tanks to be collected. This system consists of over 46 miles of distribution mains, and the water is mostly obtained from 13 large well systems throughout the area that pump water from about 200 feet down. During peak times, the department has storage capacity for up to 1.75 million gallons of water in 5 storage tanks throughout the area. Reports of the water quality seem to normally determine it to be very safe and healthy water, although it is often very calcium rich. This goes along with what I normally see at home – my family had to get a water softener installed to reduce the calcium, which really helped with cleaning dishes and washing cars.

Part 1-b:

Back at home, this is what a normal day would look like for my water consumption, using water flow rates found on the websites provided:

Type of Use: Uses Per Day Water Rate Daily Usage (gallons)
Showers 1 (20 minutes) 3.8 gal/min 76
Toilet Flushes 3 5 gallons per use 15
Sink Usage 6 (.5 mins each) 2 gal/min 6
Dish Wash .5 10 gallons per use 5
Laundry Wash .2 40 gallons per use 8
Total:     110


Part 1-c:

Living on two gallons a day is obviously a huge challenge for someone used to living with the resources we have here. I made an attempt to reduce as much as I could, but it seems to be simply impossible without very much impacting my daily schedule and others around me. It seemed to be fairly easy to reduce the water use all around in every type. While this is great, this reduction in water use still comes nowhere near using just two gallons a day. The priority I set for water is for my personal health and to not impact others too much. I drank less than a gallon, which seemed to be enough for me. Other than that, I avoided using sinks unless absolutely necessary, and didn’t wash my clothes that day (which I only do once a week anyway). However I felt obliged to flush the toilet due to living in a dorm with other people who use the same bathroom. In the end, I think I failed at this experiment. Despite my efforts, I likely used far more than two gallons. While the goal to reduce my water to two gallons failed, the experiment succeeded at showing me that it is really easy to cut back a good amount without negatively impacting anything, such as taking shorter showers and not using the sinks too much. Geography certainly plays a huge part in how much water we have available and how it gets used. In most parts of America, there is little shortage of water supply due to how our systems are set up and the terrain we have. In places like Africa, however, where they have a much drier climate, less freshwater sources, and poor infrastructure, it becomes much more difficult and the water must be used very conservatively.