Module 10 – Biodiversity

1.) Briefly, using a diagram, choose any of the course terms/events learnt in the past modules and link them to biodiversity.

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2.) Now, explain your diagram in detail (250-350 words).

My diagram refers to Module 9- Climate change and briefly hints how it impacts the biodiversity of our world. As we learnt, increased emissions which cause change in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere lead to mostly an overall increase in temperature, which is also termed as Global Warming. The diagram explains some of the changes due to Global Warming which affect the biodiversity of our world. Firstly, it causes the Arctic sea ice to melt, which means the reflecting ice surface is replaced by dark sea water. This leads to an increased rate of heating for the sea and the air which further affect the salinity and temperatures of seawater where an entire biome resides. The species composition of the entire biome is adversely affected due to changes in their habitat. Secondly, climate change increases the ocean heating rate all over the Earth and increased level of CO2 emissions in the air also increase CO2 in the ocean which lead to ocean acidification. The temperature change along with the chemical change (ocean acidification) of seawater affect the plants and animals living in the habitat. While temperature leads to changes in species composition as certain species adapt to certain temperatures, chemical change affects the abilities of the plants and animals in various processes. Thirdly, temperature changes affect other natural habitats such as mountains, forests, grasslands, deserts and tundra regions. Temperature shifts across the Earth alter the temperatures over these habitats. This leads to change in the habitat conditions, affecting the abilities of the plant and animal species in those areas to adapt. Fourthly, temperature shifts also lead to increase in extreme weather events such as flooding and draughts due to change in patterns of rainfall and melting of mountain glaciers. These then lead to significant impact on biodiversities of the areas affected by such events. Overall, we learn how food chains, species composition, adaptation and resources including water and medicinal from the flora and fauna are affected, leading us to believe that biodiversity of all the above mentioned areas is threatened by climate change in various ways.

3.) Lastly, identify threats to biodiversity in your hometown it has or had in the past. give suggestions on how to prevent them or explain how they were overcome? (150-250 words)

My hometown Jaipur is the capital of the desert state of Rajasthan in the western part of India. Being a desert state, about two-thirds of the state is desert and one third is plain land with approximately 9% forest cover. Hence, biodiversity plays an important role in the state’s existence. One of the most major threats to the biodiversity is increasing population. We observe from the map given in the module-10, that the state is overly populated. Increasing population leads to people clearing even more land for other purposes causing an irreversible damage to the biodiversity of the state, hence habitat loss is another threat the state faces. Apart from this, the temperature shifts are affecting the state’s habitat as well, affecting the abilities of the existing species to adapt. All these issues highlight the importance of addressing them right away as further delay would lead to further irreversible damage, harming the state’s biodiversity extensively and increase ecological pressure on the state. In my opinion, being residents of the state, it is equally our duty as much as it is the state’s government’s. Together we should adopt more sustainable ways such as using barren land and putting it into use rather than destroying usable habitats, raising awareness and educating people about the topic by campaigns and workshops, protecting all the species of plants and animals in the area, in order to protect the biodiversity of the state. The government should implement rules for such protection and the public should corporate with government and follow the rules. The state’s biodiversity board can also adopt ways to preserve and increase the biodiversity by planting more seeds of the same species and of different non-invasive species along with protection of the fauna in the state, in order to allow them to increase to beneficial number as well.

Copenhagen Accord – Boon or Bane?

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The first section in the diagram mention Wikileaks cables (leaked cables revealing communications between US and other countries regarding Copenhagen Accord). These cables reveled how US used unfair means of spying on other countries and then using threats and money to get them on board with the Copenhagen Accord on Climate Change as the treaty was not adopted by the UN but was very beneficial to US in solving a lot of problems specifically regarding cut down in emissions. We can see from the information revealed that US misused its power by bribing other countries especially with offers of financial support and aid to poor countries and if they would still not agree, used spying and blackmailing to get them to agree. Though whatever the means, it was successful in gaining support from both developed(rich) and developing (poor) countries for the accord to pass. At the end there were a total of 140 nations who intended on associating themselves with the accord. The 140 nations represent almost 75% countries that are parties to the UN climate change convention and are responsible for well over 80% of current global greenhouse gas emissions. Now, looking into how Copenhagen Accord had ways in decreasing climate change. The diagram shows two major ways. First explaining how US gained support and then specifies the Copenhagen accord let to decrease in greenhouse gases which then leads to decrease in climate change. Secondly, the Accord also led to forcing all the countries to work together and reduce dangerous threats to climate change for example decrease in pollution creating factories, burning of fossil fuels etc. (mitigation), which then over time would make individuals get used to new atmosphere (adaption), and this new less polluted atmosphere leads to increased sustainable development, hence resulting in decreased climate change. Therefore, all in all, linking the Wikileaks cables to climate change, I would say, even though it revealed the truth of US decreasing trust between countries and misusing its power, it did lead to some decrease in climate change although the change was not very significant.

As the diagram explained the situation and revealed misuse of power, according to me, this issue is a great example of politics and also, a situation where ethics comes into play. As we learnt earlier, I would say US practiced action ethics (took charge of the situation) and decided that the consequences of the actions was more important, making this an example of distributive justice. Also, environmental ethics come into play as anthropocentrism was practiced as every country acted selfishly, agreed to accord for reasons such as money, aid and did not see the problem as a whole and how it was damaging our ecosystem. In my opinion, it was right to leak those cables, as public has the right to know how each country’s government was acting. As we live in a democratic world and cutting down emissions would effect all citizens as well, everyone should at least have had a right to know about the issue if not have a say in it. We’ve learnt that “ With great power, comes great responsibility” and this was definitely demonstrated in this situation. The US misused its power and hence ended up losing its trust over economic gains. We also learn that in order to improve the situation and protect the world from further deterioration by climate change, we need to have a collective action on climate change mitigation. Rather than concentrating on what should’ve been done or as of now looking out for selfish concerns, we should use all the intellectual power we have across the world and come up with something better than Kyoto protocol and Copenhagen accord, and the countries responsible for the most emissions, should definitely work more on this and together we can look forward to a better future. US did wrong somewhere as being the largest in emissions, it should take responsibility for that rather than being selfish, although it did have a slight positive effect as there was a slight change, hence I would say the Copenhagen Accord was bit of a boon but more of a bane.


Natural Hazards and Vulnerability Reduction

My hometown is Jaipur, located in the western state of Rajasthan, India. According to the Nathan Map, this town has a low frequency and intensity for Hail Storms, Wildfire hazard and Extratropical/ Winter storms. Although, it has a frequency zone of 2 for Earthquakes and Tornadoes. It lies in the no anomalies region during the El Nino and La Nina. Living there for about 18 years, I have never experienced a tornado. However, I have experienced two earthquakes which were low on the Richter scale. Firstly, I feel the Nathan Map should not put Jaipur or nearby areas in the Zone 2 for Tornadoes. Secondly, I feel it is good for a broad overview for natural hazards in areas but not good for looking up specific cities or regions. It should have a zoom in feature as it is hard to determine in which category certain areas fall in.

I choose the region of Bandar-e Lengeh, Iran, Middle East that recently faced an Earthquake of 3.8 magnitude and Nathan’s maps made it clear that Jaipur can experience the same disaster as well. Earthquakes cause ground shaking which can risk ground displacement, flooding, fire, buildings breaking etc. As Rajasthan has two major rivers out of which one is perennial, Jaipur isn’t near any of those therefore there is almost no chance of flooding. Jaipur also doesn’t have very high buildings, hence both these factors make it less vulnerable. The most recent earthquake in Jaipur was also of a 3.8 which did not cause any damage. As both of the earthquakes were of same and not very high intensity, both did not cause any damage in the areas, however I’d say the situation in the Bandar-E-Lengeh region and in Jaipur are quite the same, as both are not very highly vulnerable to damage caused by earthquakes as the earthquake magnitudes are not very large. However, looking into Jaipur city, people in different areas do face different vulnerabilities, for example : there is a old city area where the houses are not built properly and the area has highly congested buildings. As it is a historical part of the city, the people refuse to move out or renovate the buildings, making their lives more vulnerable and exposing themselves to huge dangers when earthquakes hit as the buildings are not very strong and can fall, causing a lot of damage to the area and killing a lot of people. However other areas in the city do have relatively new, strong structures, planned out properly therefore making people living in those areas less vulnerable when compared to people living in the old part of the city. Therefore, I’d suggest people should not ignore the warnings and guidelines when constructing buildings as it is necessary to make quake-resistant buildings so that the city is less vulnerable.

According to the Disaster Management and Relief Department of Rajasthan, a part of Jaipur lies in the moderate damage zone from earthquakes ( Siesmic Zone – 3) while most of the city area lies in low damage zone from earthquakes ( Siesmic Zone – 2). As this department states Jaipur does not face risks from any other natural hazards and my own experience as well tells me the same, this makes me question again why Nathan’s Map puts Jaipur under Zone 2 for tornadoes. From my personal experience, Jaipur has faced about 5-6 earthquakes with the highest of 4.5 in magnitude, making me realize that with low magnitude earthquakes, the damage can be handled. Hence, I would suggest the government to make stricter rules and guidelines for people constructing new buildings that they are made quake-resistant to an extent. Also, I would suggest the old city area should be evaluated again, so that the old buildings can be renovated and be less vulnerable to damage. This would make the city less vulnerable and can help people prevent damage from earthquakes in the city. [1]

In order to make Jaipur even less vulnerable to natural hazards, apart from the improving building guidelines and renovating old city area strategy,  town needs to increase its sustainable development. So far, the emergency services concentrate on human accidents, as the town does not face other disasters much often. But it should be prepared before any disaster hits. To reduce harm, emergency response should increase which leads to increasing emergency resources like police stations, firefighter stations, hospitals etc. These resources should be available in each neighborhood in a town, instead of each town and specially in the old city area. Once if large magnitude earthquake hits, only one source in the town would be the reason for people to lose lives. Personally speaking, I can only email the Jaipur governance manager and suggest my idea to them, as well as tell my friends and relatives to do the same. Once they get a notification from more than one person, they might put these ideas into consideration and perform an action towards it.

[1] Disaster Management and Relief Department, Government of Rajasthan. (2016) Retrieved from

Urban Planning

My hometown is Jaipur. It is the capital and largest city of the Indian state of Rajasthan in Northern India. It has a population of 6.6 million people living within the area of 249.2 square miles. Its housing areas match Automobile suburb perfectly but has similarities with the streetcar suburb as well, as even though there are not a lot of sidewalks and the main way of commuting for people is through automobiles but most houses there are built with up to two car holder garages, but on average there are more than two drivers living in the house with their personal car, which allows rest of the cars to be parked on the streets outside the house. Also, not all of the houses have a garage, therefore those cars are also parked on the street. Personally, I feel it has elements of both automobile and street car suburbs as cars ae their on the street, but people use those cars to travel as well. The cars make the area look busier; also you see a lot of new faces and so many people make the city lively. I relate it to University Park campus as well, as even though not a lot of people use car to commute but campus is crowded and the area is always lively.

Jamaica Plain, Boston is the first city from the module that that also falls under the category of streetcar suburb. Both cities have sidewalks in residence areas, as well as have bus services provided to them by government, though Jaipur has a lot of people using cars as well. I think, Jamaica Plain has almost a similar population to Jaipur, like in the picture houses are congested, they are built right next to each other leaving no space for backyard or front garden; also the roads are broken, making it very similar to Jaipur. This way I personally do not think that Jamaica offers a lot of  ideas to make Jaipur more sustainable, but both need to take similar measures, such as better planning and better roads for safety of the residents living there and cleaner actions  for reducing the amount of pollution caused by the automobiles and households in the city, making the city more sustainable. But one thing is there, Jamaica plain is way cleaner than Jaipur, therefore Jaipur can adopt some cleanliness procedures from the city and take a step toards sustainability.

Another city from the module is Venice, Italy. As we know, boats are the main transportation source in Venice; but still I could relate to it. Because if I walk around in my neighborhood in Jaipur, I will see cars coming and going as well as parked outside of every house; and people walking around. And then if I walk around in neighborhood in Venice, everything will be the same except boats instead of cars and water instead of roads. Insights from Venice have a lot of ideas to offer to Jaipur, in order to make it more sustainable. First of all, Venice attract a lot of tourists because of its landscape, and still maintains the cleanliness in the neighborhood; so this way Jaipur being one of the topmost tourist cities in India attracts a lot of tourists but still there is way less cleanliness in the neighbourhood. Also, Venice has really good public health and urination system, and Jaipur can integrate that in its development plan, making the city more cleaner.

Food Choice and Social Norms – Module 6

Moving from one country to another does affect your lifestyle and therefore coming from India, my food choice changed drastically last year when I came here for college. Back home, we had lentils as a source of protein, much more organic food and many more vegetarian options to eat from. As described in the Healthy eating pyramid, it is better to consume animal-based foods less frequently than plant-based foods, that is what used to be my practice at home. I used to eat food prepared at home which consisted of fruits vegetables and protein through lentils, making my food choice full of proper nutrition and vegetarian on most of the days. Here at Penn State, I was influenced by the social norm of eating for low costs, at your convenience and having tasty meals. This made me give up the proper nutrition meal and instead I shifted to a diet which was more of animal-based products and unhealthy food which was easily available and was cheap. Therefore, the social norm of saving on money and seeing your convenience for food, made me gave up the healthy food choice and my main meals became mostly non-vegetarian including foods such as pizza, hamburgers, chicken tender paninis, and sometimes salads.

The societal issues connected with this convenient food choice is obesity, and sustainable food consumption. The video in the module shows how adversely a simple hamburger affects the environment. Beef based products which became a major component of my food choice, affects the sustainability of the environment not only through more water consumption for producing beef, but also in causing NO2 pollution (from cow dung and fertilizers) and affected my health as well. As this food choice contained high calorie foods due to the production of high calorie crops because of industrial agriculture, it contributed towards increasing the unhealthy level of the food choice. The food choice made me feel more lethargic, less active and because the food was so cheap and tasty, I craved more of it which resulted in me eating more than needed, making me gain weight. This is when I decided I need to check what I am eating and get back to a proper nutrition diet in order to avoid obesity. I believe, we should change the social norm of seeing short term benefits of saving money and convenience to looking at the long term benefits of eating healthy even though we might have to work a little extra for it.




Water : Can add to either Development or Disasters

My first case study is India’s Greatest Planned Environmental Disaster: The Narmada Valley Dam Projects, categorized by Environmental Justice, is a case study of Indian government creating big dams on Narmada River with hope of a better future of Indian citizens. This river passes through three different states: Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. Link to the webpage: . Purpose behind this project was to provide Indian citizens with more water and to ease their poverty troubles. This project is another example of development’s downsides, relating it to the module. Even though dams were built to improve Indians’ lifestyles, still there was a lot of carelessness involved. Indian government did not decide how the bills will be paid; also they were unaware of the side effects of big dams. Instead of providing water and better health these dams became a good source of flooding, water-logging, salinity, diseases etc. causing citizens’ health to weaken even more. Usually development’s downsides reason is environment but in this case it was Indian government being careless and trying to convert their ideas into actions without proper evaluation.

The second case study I chose was Kenya : Groundwater Governance. The link to the study is This relates to the module by being an example of sustainable development. The study explains the importance of groundwater specially in a water scarce state. It tells us how implementing policies and regulating the number of wells and boreholes helps in keeping the water source safe and renewable. It also highlights some of the weaknesses of the policies but mainly, we can learn that when a resource is so important and scarce, there is need to take actions to conserve it, which is why Kenya’s government implemented Water acts and policies to ensure sustainability of the groundwater as a water resource for the country. From the case study, we learn that keeping the governance of groundwater is also important because it is a source for agriculture and Kenya’s economy majorly depends on agriculture as well.Connecting it to the module, we can see that the module says the same: we need to change some ways of using scarce resources in order to keep them sustainable.

I am from Jaipur, India and its development level is similar to both case studies. Jaipur being in a desert state, is a water scarce place as Kenya, therefore, most people in Jaipur use groundwater as their major water source for all activities. Looking at recent statistics, the state is going to face a shortage of water with extremely low groundwater levels if nothing is done. Also, Kanota dam is the only one near Jaipur. It does help but the returns on the overall costs of the dam have not been much, therefore having a similar development’s downside as Narmada dam. I think we can learn from both the case studies, firstly if government is implementing a project it should evaluate all consequences and costs properly and secondly if a resource is scarce, it needs to take actions in order to conserve it for future generations. Geographically speaking, depending on location, some countries have more natural resources than others, and if they evaluate and implement plans properly they can use it to their advantage and add to the country’s development whereas other without the resources would take more time to develop in those areas. Overall, it made me realize evaluating places with regard to time and otherwise (especially government policies regarding environment) is essential for development.

Water Supply and Usage

My home town Jaipur, Rajasthan is in the western part of India. It is near the Thar Desert and therefore being a desert region, the water supply in the city is still scarce. Most of the households in the area use a water boring system. In this system, a borewell is drilled in the earth’s surface with a pipe that goes down to the groundwater level.The water is then taken from the groundwater as water supply to the household. Due to scarcity of water, the Jaipur Development Authority has made a rule for households bigger than 300 sqm. to install rainwater harvesting structure in their houses, so that groundwater is refilled from the rainwater to some extent. The sewage system in my area takes the used water to Sewage Treatment Plant, Delawas, Jaipur, which uses the Activated Sludge process to clean the water using chlorination and remove bacteria and the microbes, and is then released in nearby farms for agricultural purposes.

I chose Sunday to record my daily usage, as I do most of the water related activities like laundry on that day. According to the USGS, this was my average usage :

Total = 83.7 gallons

Facing the 2 gallon experiment would be a huge task, and I believe even if I cut down very important uses, I would still not be able to accomplish to live on 2 gallons of water in a day. A simple activity like taking a shower consumes 30 gallons of water, that is equivalent to 15 times the water average of a person in Mozambique and Haiti. I would though try to cut down my water use by using less water in brushing and hand/face wash. I would also reduce my shower time by 8 minutes and bring down the water usage in that activity to 14 gallons. I would try to use recyclable dishes so that I can bring down the water usage in dishwashing. Therefore, I would fail the experiment, however the experiment and this study does make me realize to ration my water usage in order to conserve this precious resource. Geography holds an important role in water use, as the geographical factors decide the availability of water in that area, for example in my area the groundwater level is a major geographical factor. Also, I believe we all should learn from this and take steps to conserve water as we can see how lucky we are to live in a place where we don’t see water shortage. This would be a collective action we all can take in order to help reduce water shortages in areas by directing some of the saved water towards those areas, therefore equalizing the water usage and as well as conserving it for future generations.

Ethics Module 3


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

I believe action ethics/ good acts, is definitely more important than virtue ethics because according to me, a good person has well defined personality traits and never does harm to others. However, anyone can fake personality, but their actions define what kind of person they are. I think, a good person is one who makes all the promises but good acts decide whether the person is capable of fulfilling the promises or not. It is said people judge you by your actions and not your intentions. For example : Coming from India, there was an unmarried woman who lived in my neighbourhood. She lived alone and never got along with anyone in the neighbourhood. She was a busy working woman, working hard to earn her living. People in the society, as she didn’t interact with them kept gossiping about her, saying she is very self-centred. But one day, a poor man got in trouble and as caste system prevails in India, he was from a lower caste and nobody was ready to help him except her. That day her actions made her respectful in everyone’s eyes, even higher than most of the respectable people in the neighbourhood. Also, in this case, I am too confident about my opinion that I highly doubt that any difference in circumstances; periods or places will change it.

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

Yes, the process by which decisions are made matter more than the outcomes of these decisions because, if the process is right the outcome will automatically become right. Normally, in real life, before making a decision we examine every situation that makes us take a decision, as well as we consider every little detail that the decision will affect in future. After understanding these points we jump to a conclusion of whether the decision is right or not, so that we don’t regret the decision in future. Therefore, in procedural justice we can expect a good outcome or we are satisfied with the decision rather than being random and regretting later. Also, no one in this world has seen the future, so no one can tell whether the decision outcome will be good or bad, but going through a process to make it happen can give us a peace of mind and can raise our expectations for a good outcome.

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

No my life is not worth more than the lives of others. But being honest and selfish, most of the time that “others” include the people I love. Personally speaking, I’m not an emotional person so it is hard for me to gather myself around emotions and give someone else more worth than myself. According to me, if I was ever put in a situation to decide, lives of my family and friends would come before mine, but lives of strangers would be worth same as mine. So I am not sure if I’ll be selfish with strangers or selfless with them, it can change depending on different circumstances, periods, or places. For example if that stranger is a child or someone younger than me or someone older than me, but has his/her whole family dependent on them, then without a doubt I’ll be selfless with them and will be willing to give up my life for them. However, if that individual is a criminal or someone who is good for nothing then I’ll be selfish and put myself before them.


Biogas System Diagram

In my diagram, the green sentences highlight the effects of biogas on the ecosystem and the blue sentences highlight the effect of biogas on the social system. The core idea behind this diagram is of coexistence. It describes the concept of landscape i.e how environmental and human phenomena co-exist. It also gives an idea of the IPAT equation. The diagram shows how different effects on different aspects of the ecosystem transition into different effects on different aspects of the social system. For example : the introduction of biogas plant (human impact) reduces the time of cooking and as well as reduces air pollution leading to more time for women to have a job at the vermicomposting unit and a safer environment to cook as well (environmental impact). So the positive human impact has a positive environmental impact making the IPAT equation hold.

While comparing Gerry Marten’s diagram (Fig 1.5) to my diagram I realized that most of it explains the same basic ideas. He talks about how introduction of  technology transitions into a positive impact on the ecosystem I have done the same saying how using  different resources increases productivity and saves the environment. However one of the major differences is he has given headings and I have given explanations of the transitions. I have talked about saving time and improving health, whereas his diagram talked about the knowledge it took to come up with this idea and values of public in society. The similarities and differences are there because his diagram is about ecosystem and social system as a whole i.e a  broader sense of balance between the systems while mine talks only about the effects of biogas on the systems and their relations. Through the comparison I have learnt that the society can grow and improve only as a whole as both the ecosystem and social system go together hand in hand.Biogas_azm5984

Getting to know You – Module 1

Hey everyone my name is Akiksha Mathur and I am a freshman at Penn State University Park. I’m currently undecided probably going to major in Marketing and Economics. I grew up in New Delhi, India. Penn state is literally a home away from home now though its very different in all aspects from where I come from. I only had one geography course throughout high school and completely loved it which is the main reason I want to learn more about this subject. Another reason I took this course is that I am very curious to learn about the activities going on the Earth’s surface. A fun fact about me is I have a bachelors degree in Indian Classical Dance Bharatanatyam. Apart from this I play guitar and read books in my free time.

One issue that I think Geography will be able to address is the concept of Sustainability. Noticing the changes in climate and environment over the past few years I think we all can conclude that human decision making and processes siginificantly affect the natural ecosystems, habitats, river systems, vegetation and climate. If we don’t act smart and realize the consequences of our decisions we will definitely do an irreversible damage to our environment. I believe if we address this issue now, we can still preserve our Mother Earth from further degrading.