California Desert Conservation

  1. Pick a Biodiversity Hotspot and talk about a protected area located in that region. What level is it classified under? What species is it protecting? What policies are they enforcing? Describe how one of the species being protected is important to the ecosystem. Why are we protecting this specie? Is it for anthropocentric or ecocentric reasons?
  2. Create a system diagram that illustrates the interactions between the specie the environment and humans.

I picked the California Floristic Province Biodiversity Hotspot because I am from California. One protected area is the California Desert Conservation Area. It is home to the threatened desert tortoise, the endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep, the cushenberry buckwheat, and many other species that have adapted to live in harsh desert environments. Unfortunately, this conservation area consists of a few national parks which is considered a category 2 protected area, and since people are allowed to  participate in many different activities it causing these species to suffer. There were settlement agreements in 2000 and 2001 that prohibited mining of 3.4 million acres, reduced or prohibited livestock grazing on 2 million acres, prohibited off-road vehicles on more than 550,000 acres, and closed more than 4,500 miles of roads. There have been many lawsuits against the Bureau of Land Management for allowing human activities in wildlife habitats and for delaying policy implementations. The Peninsular Bighorn Sheep need high visibility to escape from predators. They are herbivores and eat desert plants like cacti. They also get their water sources from plants like cacti. This specie does not necessarily have a huge impact on human life so I believe that the protection of them is clearly ecocentric. However, in the past, humans most likely used their horns for tools and weapons, but we do not have that necessity anymore. There is also a theory that the Peninsular bighorn sheep is endangered due to climate change and the severe droughts that California has been facing.

Here is my System Diagram:

Module 10 Learning Activity

Climate Diplomacy

Learning Activity_ Module 9

Climate change has caused us to consider our influence on the environment. Most of the world has become dependent on fossil fuels to maintain our way of life. However, we have data to show that the way our world operates now is unsustainable and if we do not make some drastic changes then the human race may not be able to survive global warming. Therefore, the United States proposed the Copenhagen Accord which favors developed countries more so than the Kyoto Protocol. However, developing countries did not like this plan because they are trying to improve their industries and cutting emissions would halt this process. Therefore, the United States offered $30bn in exchange for the agreement to the plan. This caused many countries to follow through. However, certain negotiations were leaked and some classified it as “bullying” or forcing developing countries to enter an agreement that would not favor them. This resulted in a lack of trust with the United States.
I personally believe that it was right for the cables to be leaked. It shows how negotiations are dealt with between countries. However, to say that the way the United States handled it was wrong is difficult to say because it’s hard to determine the best way to handle a collective action problem. Not every country is going to be on board unless it is benefitting them in some way. Although mitigating climate change is beneficial for all involved it is still not enough for some countries. They need something more immediate in return. Therefore, maybe $30bn in exchange for less carbon emissions is not such a bad thing. In the end climate change is an issue that needs to be the priority of conversations and meetings because if it isn’t then all other conversations would not matter because we might not survive in the long run. Sometimes when people are not listening you have to force them to listen especially when it is something as important as this. I do believe there is a limit to “forcing” someone to listen, for example, physical harm or contracts that intentionally hurt the wellbeing of the people.

Vulnerability Reduction: Los Angeles

  1. According to the Nathan World Map of Natural Hazards, Los Angeles is located in an area at risk of earthquakes. It shows that it falls under Zone 3 and 4 indicating that the probable maximum intensity is very high. This map is not very helpful when you are trying to look at specific cities, but it definitely gives you information on a larger scale. According to UNEP’s Global Risk Data Platform, Los Angeles has had relatively high peak ground acceleration and Spectral acceleration. Los Angeles also has over $600 million Multi-hazard average annual loss.
  2. According to the RSOE and EDIS, there is an Earthquake happening in Shingu, Japan at a 6.0 magnitude. This does not necessarily mean people will die, there is just damage to poorly built buildings and furniture is visibly moving. Los Angeles can definitely experience this type of event because we are located along the San Andreas Fault. It seems that Shingu, Japan has built their buildings to withstand earthquakes of this magnitude and I know Los Angeles has made an effort to do this as well. So, if we were to experience a 6.0 Earthquake I am sure most of our buildings could withstand it. However, since we are due for a very big earthquake the likelihood that a 6.0 earthquake would cause an aftershock with an bigger magnitude is possible. Also since Earthquakes can cause Tsunamis, Los Angeles could potentially deal with a second disaster because it is along the coast. Other than alerting people ahead of time, the only other way we could decrease vulnerability from a Tsunami is by evacuating. When it comes to Earthquakes, we must keep our infrastructure up to date and educate people on what to do when it happens.
  3. I have been in many earthquakes due to growing up in Los Angeles, however, I have not experienced an earthquake as large as a 6.0. I know that in the next decade we are supposed to experience a large earthquake along the San Andreas Fault. In school we have earthquake drills and I have taken courses at the Red Cross for earthquake awareness. Since southern California also experiences droughts it supposedly increases the friction along the fault line which causes it to build up even more tension.
  4. In order to decrease vulnerability in Los Angeles I believe we should continue to educate in schools about what to do when in an earthquake and the importance of storing emergency supplies. Elementary and High School teachers are capable of educating kids and organizations like the Red Cross can continue to offer courses as well. My role is to make sure earthquake awareness is a conversation that is held with my family and friends.

Module 7 Sustainable Cities

I live in Los Angeles, CA which consists mainly of automobile suburbs with very few pedestrian-oriented and streetcar suburbs. The metropolitan area of Los Angeles is home to 18.2 million people and covers over five counties, including Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura etc. Even in the neighborhoods where buses are available or stores are at a walkable distance, people still use their car. Los Angeles is definitely known to have crazy traffic to the point where you think you are sitting in a parking lot, especially during rush hour. It is also known for having a lot of smog since we have cold air from the ocean. In order to decrease smog, pollution, and traffic we need to change our transportation system.


In Curitiba, Brazil they were able to build a bus system with rapid dedicated routes into the city center with each bus just a minute apart. This system decreases pollution and traffic which is exactly what Los Angeles needs. However, since the greater Los Angeles area covers many different counties, there would have to be many different bus systems and routes which would take a lot of time and money to create. There has been a metro system put into place in Los Angeles county, but not many people use it because there are infrequent stops and the buses nearby are very slow. If we put the time and money into making a bus rail system that covers more of Los Angeles and has less waiting time between buses I believe more people would be willing to use it. This way people do not have to worry about parking, the hours of delay waiting in traffic, drinking and driving, or car accidents. At the same time we will also create less pollution, the only problem is getting people to break out of habits.


In Bogotá, Colombia they have Ciclovia where they shut down 75 miles of streets to make them car-free. This way, people feel safe to walk, bicycle, and skate while being able to participate in dance, aerobics, and other activities. Events like Ciclovia promote using other modes of transportation while making it a fun experience. Although shutting down 75 miles of streets in Los Angeles would definitely cause an uproar, I believe that holding events on a smaller scale would still make a difference. Certain suburbs that are more pedestrian-oriented could hold events like Ciclovia and make it fun by hosting different outdoor activities. This would attract people from outside the neighborhood and possibly influence the way they think about transportation. I also know people that would gladly ride their bike or skateboard to get around town, but many of our sidewalks are not safe to ride on and there are not many bike lanes on the street. So another solution could be to improve sidewalks and add bike lanes.

Food Choice and Social norms

A social norm that I have experienced is saving money, especially when you are a student. This means buying cheap food. A lot of cheap food is usually not the best for you and is usually found at fast food restaurants. Everybody says they lived off Cup of Noodles when they were in college and it is considered normal to follow an non nutritional diet. Since fast food restaurants are readily available and usually open 24/7 then it makes it easier for people to choose that option. Also when you are a student you usually do not have the time or energy to make a healthy meal from scratch everyday so the cheap fast food becomes very appealing and usually tastes good.

Cheap food is linked to mass produced homogenous crops. It is cheaper to produce industrialized crops that all have the same gene code, therefore, people eat at the cheap price they want. However, when there is little biodiversity there is a higher chance that a disease can wipe out most or all of the yield. A severe decrease in yield can cause a famine. It is interesting because the reason for monoculture industrialized crops is to decrease starvation and make food more accessible while at the same time risking to cause a famine. Also industrialized crops tend to be higher in sugar and fructose which means that cheaper food tends to be less healthy for you. So as long as people keep demanding cheap food we are going to keep growing homogenous crops that are not providing the nutrition we need.

Learning activity module 6

Case studies: Sri Lanka and Greece

First Case Study:

My first case study takes place in Sri Lanka where the cycle of floods and droughts has been worsening. They are planning a $675 million project which would enable the use of heavy rainfall for irrigation during dry periods and generating electricity. This includes constructing two new reservoirs and 260 kilometers of canals across Sri Lanka’s “dry zone” with some of these canals funneling water into hydropower dams to generate electricity. The Asian Development Bank is financing this project with $453 million while the rest is being funded by the Sri Lankan government and other donors. Construction began this February and the goal is to complete the project by 2024. This project enables the area to retain more of the rainfall rather than it being washed out to sea and it will use this water to irrigate 350,000 acres of new agricultural land. The reason this is important is because in the past 50 years rainfall in this area has fallen by 7 percent while the average temperature has been increasing by 0.2 degrees Celsius every decade. The reservoirs overflow causing floods and do not hold enough water to make up for the droughts. Therefore, updating the reservoir system will help the people adapt to the changing weather. This relates to the concept of sustainable development and agriculture being a starting point for development. Sri Lanka is trying to improve agricultural conditions and is doing so in a sustainable way by using heavy rainfall through irrigation systems and conserving the water for future droughts.

Second Case Study:

My second case study takes place in Greece where Lafarge, a french industrial company that specializes in cement, construction aggregates, and concrete, runs a Volos cement plant. Lafarge has set up a partnership with a local drinks company in order to reduce the use of groundwater for their cooling operations. The plant uses the drink company’s wastewater through a pipe directly into their conditioning tower which has provided the plant around 30,000 m³ of water every year. This solution has also prevented the wastewater from being disposed into the sea creating an environmentally friendly alternative. This relates to sustainable development because the wastewater is being used to help run another business that helps with infrastructure while not polluting the sea which improves the quality of sea life.

I live in the Los Angeles area which definitely has issues surrounding water. Although we do not get much rain like Sri Lanka, the rain we get causes mudslides on the hills and mountains. I believe we can learn from Sri Lanka’s project to prevent mudslides and conserve the little rainfall we get to help during our drought. If we update and add new canals in the appropriate areas according to the structure of the mountains and hills I believe we could prevent homes from being ruined and conserve more water. Although this might be an expensive project for such little rainfall, it would be beneficial in the long run. Much like the case study in Greece, Los Angeles also has a water recycling program in the Sanitation Districts and it is one of the largest wastewater recycling programs in the world. Both Greece and California are bordered by the sea so both have an interest in recycling wastewater to keep as much as they can out of the sea.

Water Usage-Adriana

Part 1a) In Thousand Oaks, California our water supply chain is a result of the State Water Project approved in 1960. It begins at the Oroville Dam on the Feather river and ends at Lake Perris. Giant pumps in the Tehachapi Mountains lift the water from the California aqueduct into southern California. This is operated by the California Department of Water Resources. I believe Thousand Oaks does not use any type of ground water system, however other cities in Southern California do like Simi Valley. Some of the disposed water is recycled. 48 percent of the recycled water goes into agricultural irrigation, 20 percent into landscape irrigation, and 12 percent into groundwater recharge.

Part 1b) Water Usage Activities

Shower: 16 gallons

Flushing Toilet x5: 25 gallons

Brushing teeth x2: 1 gallon

Washing Hands x5: 2.5 gallons

Washing Dishes: 5 gallons

Drinking: 0.5 gallon

Total: 50 gallons

Part 1c) Using 2 Gallons in one day

I decided that it was important to drink water to stay healthy which is 0.5 gallons and to use the bathroom. However, since flushing the toilet uses around 5 gallons of water I realized it is almost impossible to only use 2 gallons of water in California. I know in some places you can just use a bucket of water and pour it down the toilet to flush it which saves a lot of water. Then I realized when you are only able to use 2 gallons of water, your hygiene becomes a problem because it takes a lot of water to take a shower, wash your hands and brush your teeth. So instead, staying hydrated becomes the priority. I definitely failed to only use 2 gallons of water since I used the toilet, but I am familiar with water restrictions since I am from southern California. One example is that we are only allowed to use our sprinklers on certain days at certain times in order to save water and you can be fined if you do not follow these restrictions.

Adriana’s Ethics Views

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

I believe being a good person includes your actions. For example, if you truly believe it is the right thing to help someone get up after they have fallen or hurt themselves, then you are most likely to help someone up after they have fallen. However, I believe in reducing plastic in our landfill or giving change to a homeless person, but sometimes I do not recycle and I do not give change to every homeless person I see. I consider myself an overall good person, but perhaps my convenience is at times more important. Some may perform “good actions” for selfish reasons or because it is an obligation. For example, some kids will help their parents wash the dishes or take out the trash because they will receive an allowance at the end of the week, or a person will give community service in order to be taken off probation. This would indicate that good actions does not always equal good person. When it comes to a person’s psychological well-being I believe virtue ethics is more important and when it comes to the well-being of others and the surrounding environment I believe action ethics is more important.

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

In my perspective distributive justice matters more than procedural justice. If there are decisions being made that improve sustainability of the environment and the well-being of humans and nonhumans, then the process in which the decision is made does not really matter to me. However, if decisions are being made that hurt the well-being of the people and the surrounding environment, then procedural justice becomes important. In this case it is important to make sure the people have a voice and the people who represent the environment and nonhuman species have a voice, or the right people are appointed to represent these voices. For example, if there is mass deforestation in order to print more money and other paper products, then procedural justice is more important in order to sustain the environment. But if trees are being cut down in order to prevent forest fires which would save more trees down the line, then distributive justice is more significant.

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

I think it is natural instinct to be somewhat selfish because we want to survive. Most care more about their own well-being over others. However, there is a balance and I believe many of us are trying to find that balance between selfishness and altruism. For example, if my brother needed a kidney I would give him mine, but I might not necessarily give it to a stranger. Most people will go above and beyond for their family or the people they love, but I could argue that the reason why we help them could be for selfish reasons. If I had to pick between giving my kidney to my brother and a stranger I would give it to my brother because I want him to be in my life. So as I am being altruistic by helping my brother, I am being selfish by putting my life and feelings as priority to another’s. Some argue that children’s lives are worth more than adults because they have not had the privilege of living as long or that the life of a mother of three is more important than a person with no family to care for. I believe all lives have worth and that we all need to keep in mind the consequences our decisions have on others.

Biogas System Diagram-Adriana Buonocore

My diagram illustrates how the BioGas generator affects the environment and the people within it. The generator uses cow feces for methane which decreases the demand for wood which means people do not need to search for wood, decreasing the rate of deforestation. Since kids do not have to help look for wood, they do not miss school. The use of methane in replacement of wood creates less smoke in the home leading to less illness. Jobs are created in order to build the generator as well. The slurry created by the generator is mixed with fibrous materials and processed by worms which creates quality compost. This is good for the environment and creates more jobs for the people who sell the compost to farmers. Farmers have reported an increase in yield which relates back to the environment. This illustrates a human-environment system where the people’s actions affect the environment and the environment gives back to the people. The BioGas Generator could also be considered a positive feedback loop because the existence of one generator has lead to more money and jobs in order to create more generators. In Marten’s diagram he shows the relationship between two systems which are the social system and ecosystem and he includes the process of using wood for fuel. I focus on the benefits the generator gives to the environment and the people. We both show how the environment and people are connected to the generator. His diagram shows the process while my diagram adds the benefits of the process.Module 2 Diagram-2

Getting to know- Adriana Buonocore

Hi! My name is Adriana and I am in my 3rd year of college. I was born in London, grew up in Los Angeles, and went to Italy for University. Now I am back in Los Angeles finishing my last year with Penn State. My major is International Affairs and I am considering getting further education in Psychology and eventually becoming a licensed psychotherapist. This course fits in with my major and I have an interest in learning how geographical aspects of the world interact with each other and how that effects the short and long term. I am excited to learn that this course also covers human interaction with the environment because I love learning about the psychological processes involved. I plan on really engaging in this course and am available if any other students want to work together!

In Module 1 sustainability and governance was brought up. The relationship between these two is extremely important because governance can sometimes hinder the full potential of sustainability. For example, climate change is a scientifically proven issue with data showing if we do not drastically change policy then major repercussions will follow. However, since society’s priorities are mainly short term or to increase financial income, barely any policies are being changed. It is expensive to be sustainable and nobody knows where this money will come from. However, Bernie Sanders, one of the U.S. Democratic Candidates, has voiced demands for policy changes. He wants the country to be self sustainable and turn away from fossil fuels and provide low-income families with solar energy. Hopefully we will see these changes soon and find out if it works well in practice.