Dubai’s Biodiversity, and Saving the Bees

  1. Using your insights, values, and knowledge from this course, research an urban planning project that has impacted its surrounding environment, focusing on biodiversity. Discuss the hazards that come along with it, as well as the ethics of the matter. (150-250 words)
    1. Dubai, a quickly growing city in the United Arab Emirates, is well known for its biggest, largest, and tallest attractions. In 2001, Nakheel properties began constructing the famous Palm Jumeirah Islands. These islands were constructed using land reclamation, which requires heavy earth moving. This construction heavily impacted the Persian Gulf’s marine environment, forcing such change on waters altered many things from coral area shifts, to biodiverse confusion. These land shifts altered wave sizes, which played a heavier role than many think, which also led to migrations of animals to different areas, which can induce invasive species. Ethics comes to play when we ask ourselves if tourist attractions like these are really worth the environmental impact that comes attached to them. As Dubai continues to innovate interesting ways to keep tourism as high as is it, environmental impacts are not nearly as much of a concern as they should be.
  2. Draw a system diagram representing such topic
    1. dubai diagram
  3. Using past experiences and personal insight, talk about a biodiversity that impacts you personally and deeply
    1. A decline in the world’s bee population has began to already show its effects as they are nature’s pollinator.There has already been a 40% loss in commercialized honeybee in the US since 2006. The main influence in this statistics is the growth of insecticide usage across the agricultural industry. Asides from pesticide usage, the bee population has also been influenced by parasites, pathogens, herbicide, industrial practices, and climate change. Some estimates range from 50-80% of the world’s food supply being directly or indirectly affected by honey bee pollination. Whether it’s pollination of apples, or pollination of the seeds used to produce grain for livestock, the food chain is linked to honey bees. The world’s production of food is dependent on pollination provided by honey bees. I believe the world doesn’t completely understand how heavy the bees’ influence is and I often think most of us won’t until the damage is irreversible.

Climate Change and The Wikileaks

My diagram simply portrays the relationship among all the factors in between the subjects of climate change, and the Wikileaks’ cables. Although it stops at Wikileaks on one side, a cyclic behavior can be seen on the other side. Ideally, the cyclic process can be slowed down if restrictions effectively help decrease overall emissions before it’s so late that all hope is lost. The diagram also portrays how hacking and bribes were what ultimately led to the Wikileaks, which in my opinion were bound to happen (even overdue). When global climate change became evident enough of an issue, the Copenhagen Accord was the United Nations’ ideal call for action. Nations like the United States displayed heavy interest in the global deal as it showed potential advantages and even complete problem solutions. In order to better persuade developing nations to get on board with the accord, the US used spying efforts, along with cyber attacks on countries’ databases in order to collect resourceful data that could be used in the United States’ favor. The United Nations call for action aimed to cut down on global greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2020. The Wikileaks became the bridge that linked the public’s level of knowledge to the United States’ role in getting to the Copenhagen Accord, which included cyber attacks, bribes, data breaches, and international threats. With the recent “Panama Papers” leak, I think A LOT more essential information like this will soon surface, taking into consideration the notable size difference in data.

As respectful as I am of others’ privacy, I do believe the United States Government deserved for this information to be leaked. First, it serves the US right to have their data breached in the same manner they were attempting to breach others’, which can serve as a solid lesson. Asides from that, I also believe the American public has a given right to be made aware of what’s really going on when it comes to international policy, and the practices that tie to it. Although the American public is deserving of information this sensible, it can be beneficial for the rest of the world as well, making other nations more aware of how we (The US) play a role with climate change, as opposed to how we portray it to be. I think spying, data breaching, and hacking are all dirty and corrupt ways to push for an agreement such as the Copenhagen Accord, which can all tie back to financial status, and the role money plays when it comes to global action. Asides from the ethical conflicts faced in this whole dilemma, it also shows how vulnerability is a serious factor, and how powerhouse governments like the United States use this vulnerability in their favor in order to get what they want. As mentioned earlier, the Panama Papers was notably denser than the Wikileaks, and I think once all that data has been sorted through by journalists and investigators, a lot more information similar to this will be made available to the public.


Heatwave Hazards in the Middle East

When I lived in Amman, Jordan, there wasn’t much concern over natural disasters impacting the area. As shown in the Nathan World Map, Jordan is in a Zone 2 for earthquakes. The earthquakes normally range from 4.0 to 5.0 and usually occur away from cities but can still be felt from within, yet never pose too serious of a threat. Just as the map displays, Jordan does face the risk of serious heatwaves, and droughts. Just last August, a strong heatwave accompanied by a sandstorm put the nation in serious conditions and temperatures peaked at 110+ degrees Fahrenheit. I feel like the map could be better broken down to a smaller scale of threats each area has potential to face.

The disaster I found was a Chlorine gas attack by ISIS in the Kirkuk Governorate of Iraq on March 12th 2016, that injured over 1500 people and killed more than 10, the damage was classified as “medium” on the website’s damage scale. In my opinion, ISIS poses a serious threat to Jordan considering its proximity to Syria and Iraq. However, Jordan’s military security is rather high and it has a more stable political system to counterbalance the vulnerability mentioned earlier. Amman has faced terror attacks on its soil before, but nothing on a serious scale for over 10 years. Amman houses over a million residents, however poorer areas are more vulnerable to hazards posed by ISIS due to low security.

As far as natural hazards go, I believe Jordan needs to better prepare for heatwave conditions, and even more for drought conditions. From living there, I can personally say that Jordan faces serious water shortage vulnerability, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it faced critical conditions within the next few years. The Jordanian government needs to better prepare to deal with a situation where water scarcity could be a long-term disaster. Water shortage threats in Jordan are obvious due to the serious lack of rain, inland water bodies, and even shores.

As mentioned above, the Jordanian government needs to better prepare for the hazards it is very likely to face. Engineers and officials are who I see best fit to tackle the task, however the government needs to push for this in order for it to be a possibility. As a Water Resources focus in Civil Engineering student, I believe I can use my education to design better water distribution among the city and its outskirts, as well as provide for villages that sometimes lack access to water. This is something I’d like to do with my degree in my life.

Transportation’s Influence on its Population

For the past six years, I’ve been living in an automobile suburb in Dallas in Pennsylvania. Dallas has a current population of roughly 8,000 people. A vast majority of residents travel to Wilkes-Barre, a city with a population of around 41,100 people for work, which is at least 10 or more miles away for most Dallas residents. The majority of residents get their licenses at 18 years old or younger, driving is the main method of transportation. Personally, I really enjoyed the privilege of driving around everywhere. Although I’d rather live in a pedestrian-oriented city, a lot of conveniences did come with driving a car. While living there, I made a lot of personal connections and built relationships to the community that greatly influenced my life.

At over 8 million people, New York City is the most populated city in the United States, making it easy to use for comparison to other cities and areas due to its diversity of its neighborhoods. In New York City, most people rely on public and pedestrian transportation to get around, however many still own a car due to its size. Personally, I think I would try to own a car if I lived there, but not use it as my main method of transportation, but rather for more less frequent occasions. I also feel that main transportation methods are deciding factors for residents in the United States due to both the finances tied to getting a car or transitioning to a pedestrian-oriented area in an environment such as New York. Dallas can learn from New York by increasing the population density of developing areas of the town and push for an increase in business opportunities within nearer distances.

The discussed town that compared to Dallas the most was Rochester, NY, where most houses have driveways and backyards, making the area an automobile suburb. Most streets don’t have sidewalks and most residents mainly commute to where they need to go. In my opinion, this lifestyle has its benefits, in regions like Dallas, streets and water bodies are cleaner. The residential development of these areas allows for open air areas, preserve the surrounding natural environment and avoid congestion, which makes up for it being a driving-oriented area. Open spaces also promote agricultural and more “green” practices.

A Bite Into Islam

Jordan’s population is over 95% Muslim., and if you lived or live in a Middle Eastern country, you know that finding pork in supermarkets is nearly impossible because it is against Islam to consume pork. This in a way can be considered a social norm; naturally, the christian demographic of the country, such as my mother, consume a lot less pork due to its rarity. For my 7 years of living in Jordan and the UAE, I can count the times I ate pork with my fingers on one hand since I was rarely exposed to it. My mother seemed to be okay with this, she said that asides from the occasional pork craving, the norm meant her eating less pork and residing to other meats such as chicken or lamb, which are considered to be healthier meats. In contrast, my roommates do most of the groceries and they love ham, sausage, and bacon, so by nature I’m bound to eat it a lot more when living with them, or living in the US in general since pork consumption can be considered a norm here.

When looking at Jordan’s entire dietary habits, I would say it’s tough to say that obesity rates are lower than the US’s because of the unavailability of pork since it’s a third world nation, and with poverty comes hunger and even famine. I do however, think that it is a contributor to the statistic as well as the vegetarian selection of food such as hummus, fava beans, and stuffed grape leaves.  Another social norm relating to food is Halal preparation. Halal is a religious method of slaughter for meat that requires a sharp knife in order to kill the animal swiftly, the person slaughtering is also required to say a prayer before killing the animal. Halal practices in my opinion push for a sustainable food system, proving meat to come from a well treated, as well as pure since machines aren’t doing the killing. Since man does the slaughter, most butchers and meat companies don’t keep an excess of livestock and animals are generally treated better. In my opinion, Halal practices can be beneficial to a society, since the meat is shown have a much higher quality, even fast food meat like Burger King’s and McDonald’s is way better! (little pricier but totally worth it)


Vulnerability and Environmental Racism

Domestic Environmental Justice Case Study:
The Dearborn, Michigan Arab American Community and Industrial Air Pollution
This study goes over the automobile and steel industries’ environmental damages in Dearborn, Michigan, which have been around that area since the 1920’s. Studies show that local industries release more than ten carcinogens into the environment due to lack of effort for pollution control. Low-income Arab-Americans are disproportionately affected by the pollution in comparison to other demographics in the region, showing a case of what the author and I both believe to be environmental racism, and a display of a community’s vulnerability when financial focuses lie away from clean environment. The author makes several recommendations, most of which focused on pollution control, but also on clean-up efforts, health studies, medical solutions, and shifting the burden of proof from the community to the polluters. The main suggestion to the general reader is community engagement, and playing an active role in contacting local factory representatives, clinics, and service directors.

Global Environmental Justice Case Study:
Human Rights Impacts of Oil Production: Ecuador
Since the 1960s, Chevron began drilling for shale oil near the Amazon river, one of the most sensitive and fragile ecosystems in the world, mostly within the Ecuadorian stretch of the river. From open-air pits, to damaged soils, to hazardous water conditions, local indigenous communities living near the Amazon are the main victims of the drilling malpractices. These practices shows what the author and I think is a company choosing profit over people. Asides from damaging such a powerful environment and important part our biodiversity on Earth, local tribes have suffered from serious birth defects, miscarriages, different forms of cancer and other difficulties for several decades. The author claims that Ecuador’s loose environmental policy practices make indigenous communities vulnerable and for that reason, Chevron has taken advantage of this for years. Chevron has claimed to have gone back to clean-up and push forwards efforts to help the crisis in the Ecuadorian Amazon, but constant evidence surfaces, showing that little or no progress comes from these efforts. The authors recommend contacting lawyer plaintiffs, Chevron spokespersons, and active environmental lawyers on this case.

Both of my studies tied the subjects of vulnerability and environmental racism together. I strongly believe these two topics are more alike than people acknowledge it to be. I used to live Amman, Jordan, the capital of a third-world nation in the Middle East, and community vulnerability was very evident in terms of wealth. From waste sites to industrialized areas, low-income communities were much more likely to be affected by pollution, which shows vulnerability’s heavy correlation to financial capabilities and stability. Sustainable development is making a late appearance in Amman, it seems like every time I go back to visit, areas look cleaner. Third world nations can sometimes fall back on education, and I believe that Jordan is steering in the right direction in terms of a healthier and more environmentally justified territory. Unlike both of these studies, Amman’s environmental racism issue isn’t as visible, however it’s there and it’s mainly affecting Egyptian and Filipino communities.

Water Tracking & Usage

A) My name is Amir Paris, my hometown is Dallas, located in Northeastern Pennsylvania in the mountains. We’re fortunate enough to get fresh, clean, potable water from a nearby well. We rent the property so I’m not exactly sure of where the well is located.
I think I became appreciative of this when I moved to State College, where the municipal water coming to the sink looks and smells odd. I learned in my wastewater treatment class about excessive estrogen in our municipal water here as well, which keeps me using a Brita at all times. Due to living in third world countries, where clean tap water was nothing but a fantasy, it was hard to convince my family to stop buying bottled water after moving to this well-supplied house. But as a Water Resources Engineering focus student, I was able to convince them to make the switch. We now drink the water from the sink, which not only saves us money, but definitely helps preserve the environment by not constantly cycling through plastic bottles. According to my landlord, the water does go to the municipality after usage.

B)Here is my tracked water usage for 2/08/2016


C)When I visited Panama last summer. Our water usage was roughly 2 gallons per day. When there, I washed my hands on the river, along with my clothes, and dishes. The community did not have access to clean water, however, we purified river water every night. Showers took no more than 2 minutes since the water was limited and cold. We prioritized the water for strictly washing and drinking. We used a latrine, which did not require water. Cooking water also came from the river which was then boiled to a cleansing point. Since there were 10 of us, the amount of water used to cook came down to less than 1/16th of a gallon per person per day. Geography matters, considering the fact that most houses in this community did not even have access to a hose for water. Although the river provides endless water, purification was difficult, and a trip down to it isn’t easy for everyone. This was one of many things I learned to appreciate from this Panama trip. I understand that water is not limited in Pennsylvania, and I’m afraid to say I take advantage of it sometimes. This is because I don’t see the consequences of doing so as clearly when water is as readily available as it is.

Ethics Post – Amir Paris-Hasan

  1. Is it more important to be a good person or to perform good acts (virtue ethics vs. action ethics)?
    1. I believe it’s more important to be a good person as opposed to someone who performs good acts. People with good intentions usually focus more on the long term effect of things, which can sometimes mislead opinions of that person, however disprove people wrong in the end. While people who are doing something good, may only be doing so for personal gains. For instance, one person with $10 in their pocket donates $3 to a homeless person, while another with $200 gives them $5, which do you consider the better person? A good person’s actions may not always be as visible as we wish they would be, but I feel that we eventually realize why did they did certain things. An example of good actions not being as prevalent would be a corporate company initializing a charity campaign in order to avoid governmental taxes, many large companies have been noted doing this for their own gain. Do we value these good actions more than a single person with more heartfelt intentions?
  2. Does the process by which decisions are made matter more than the outcomes of these decisions (procedural justice vs. distributive justice)?
    1. I believe that yes, the process by which decisions are made is way more important than the outcomes from the decisions. In October 2015, Alabama shuttered around half of its DMV offices and claimed it was due to budget constraints. This decision came about a year after a law requiring voters to have a new ID to vote was issued. These actions led to affect roughly 20 percent of the Alabama population, disproportionately impacting poor, rural communities consisting of mostly black people, disfranchising black voters. State officials denied these accusations and insist that the decisions were not race-based. However, I strongly believe that the government strategically played their cards with these actions, considering the powerful suppression of black votes they caused during an upcoming election. This example shows that the outcomes are not as important because if the process isn’t done properly, the outcomes could be altered, or unfairly decided upon.
  3.  Is my own life worth more than the lives of others, the same, or less (selfishness vs. altruism)?
    1. This question strikes me every time I hear it. I like to tell myself that I consider all lives to be equal, however, it is not always the case. Although I generally don’t value my life more than others’, I do value some lives more than other. A strong example we can all probably agree on is the life of a family member or loved one, in comparison to a stranger’s and how much more we’d do for the ones we know. I have very humanitarian views on life and I believe we all deserve equal opportunities and rights. Although equality is a strong value I like to uphold myself to. I think it’s hard for everyone to say they’ve never been selfish or committed selfish actions. This even includes doing something recognized as “good” for personal gains. An example of this is someone who only gives to the homeless when others are watching as opposed to when in solitude in order to get that recognition or give a “good person” image. As an Arab-Latino, discrimination and belittling is easy for me to affiliate with. It’s easy for me to understand what it’s like to be looked down on and thought of as less of a human. I like to think of everything that’s happened in my past as a “life lesson” as opposed to a good or bad thing, because in the end, our past is what we make of it and we could either cling onto it, or move on and learn what the next step is in order to move forward.

Biogas System Diagram


In my diagram, I used lines as opposed to arrows to simply show a correlation between the two subjects. The biogas system is a very relevant of a Coupled-Human Environment System that was discoursed in Module 2, where the interactions go beyond what would normally take into account. Much like the figure shown in the reading assignment, my diagram portrays 2 general categories; the Social System, and the Ecosystem. However our diagrams also portray differences, the author takes into account many more factors and correlations. I believe the biggest issue with these systems is the upfront money and resources; which seems to me that most of these communities struggle to come up with. From both of these diagrams, the reader can better apprehend what ties into a composition when both an ecosystem and social system are integrated in the way this biogas generator. I believe it can be well understood that the author and I hold different views, and I can also say that the author is definitely more well-educated on the subject that me. Asides from knowledge on the topic, it can be pretty clear that the theme of these systems also relates heavily to points of view. What I mean by this is that there is no right or wrong answer but rather different perspectives that one may or may not disagree with.

Amir Paris-Hasan: Getting to Know You

Hello, my name is Amir Paris-Hasan, I’m a senior studying civil engineering. I currently live in the Wilkes-Barre area in the Northeast of Pennsylvania, but I was raised all over the world. I lived in Spain, Dominican Republic, Jordan, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates. All of the places I lived in have shaped and influenced me in some way. I have a job lined up in Miami, FL with Hilti, inc. that I’m extremely excited about, it’s on the engineering side but it’s more affiliated with technical sales, which is a lot more to my liking considering my extroverted and outgoing personality. This company also does work all over the world, allowing my passion for traveling to stay relevant as well. As a part of multiple clubs relating to sustainability, that has become my biggest interest in the engineering realm, but as someone coming third-world countries, human development in impoverished areas is also really important to me. I enjoy paddle boarding, hiking, and other outdoor physical activities. I also enjoy the occasional beverage during my free time.

I believe the way people interact with their environment ties in heavily with how they’re educated on it. Although first-world nations like the U.S already follow certain “green” practices, I’d like to see these implementations make a stronger presence in third-world nations. I believe this has to do with educating communities on the subject matter, however, financial restrictions is most likely the general reason. I traveled to Panama last summer to help build a footbridge for a community in need. The community was fairly poor and conditions were rough. What frustrated me the most was that community members burned their trash as a way of disposing of it. It’s really the simplest way for the community to get rid of it since no one comes to get it for them. I also have to understand that most members are probably not well-educated on how these actions can negatively influence their environment. I’d like to see a global-scale push for a stronger education on sustainability, especially in impoverished areas.