Module 10


1.Question 1 (In 250 words): Are dense anthropocentric developments as resilient/adaptive to major change as their counterparts?
Simply put, for a variety of reasons with the most influential being economical, urban metropolises aren’t as adaptive to major “change” as ecosystems are. Especially in this modern age with a sprawling human population, the effects of this deficiency become all the more pronounced when disasters do happen. Many times when such events occur a state of emergency is declared (not trying to debate the merits of such a declaration) and external aide is quickly provided. City plans are designed on the premise that all if not a majority of the needs or services a city requires will be delivered to it rather than addressed “in house.” This type of perspective means that little if any thought goes into adequately designing space to maximize the various utilities a space may have to offer(whether vertical, on the ground, etc…). Vital services include waste management, energy generation, efficient heating/cooling biomimicry among others that can be tackled in many ways depending on the topography throughout the city. For example, a city’s skyline is usually dominated by the all too familiar block-like skyscrapers that during a heat wave can’t alleviate the increased heat efficiently without added strain on the power lines. The aggregate demand of such a scenario in addition to any unforeseen natural disasters could lead to serious issues. While most skyscrapers are constructed in a manner that minimizes costs, the city collectively would benefit from skyscrapers that mimic biology in design and function. (Such arrangements= increased weight savings, less materials needed, more sunlight exposure, better deflection of heat, etc…) Lastly, a cities’ reliance on external support means it’s prone to abrupt disruptions more so than an ecosystem because an ecosystem’s biodiversity allows for a greater carrying capacity and resiliency(=greater margin of error).

2.Question 2 (In 150 words): What can cities do to lessen the affects of major disasters/changes.
Cities can encourage developers to emphasize the services local ecosystems can provide to both the structure and it’s residents. An example could be vegetation on vertical surfaces to provide adequate water absorption, cooling, air filtration, aesthetic and physiological appeal as well. Depending on the topography, the city would best be served to have a biomass plant on high ground as a defense against flooding (if a biomass plant were to get flooded the “mass” could cause outbreaks in the surrounding area due to low hygiene treatment). Encourage local production to meet the cities’ food consumption demand (counties would have to work together to collectively create policies that benefit both) as well as having “farm space” vertically perhaps. Gradually reconfiguring street traffic for pedestrian, bicyclists and motorists use would greatly help in decongesting traffic and maximizing flow. Public parks could be multi storied to take advantage of “air space” over the conventional park on the ground surface. Also include more community-orientated places for leisure.

Module 9: Leverage is Key


2. My somewhat simple diagram visually attempts to explain the arduous and complex task of what occurred that caused multiple nations across the globe to have a common interest. The root of the problem begins with fossil resource depletion as it is in every country’s “best” interests to exploit their natural capacities. The end-uses of these resources ensure food surpluses and higher standards of living (cheapest, fastest way), which is a sign of a countries’ growing industrialism. However, fossil resource exploitation specifically derived from fossil fuel, releases large quantities of greenhouse gases that when taken into consideration with other industrialized nations or industrializing nations, becomes a global problem. The widespread emissions lead to climate change that has various affects upon different regions and nations alike in a negative manner usually. Now that most governments can no longer plead ignorant to the rapid pace of changes in the last 50-100yrs, there has been at least a semblance of acknowledgement as this has been reflected in international agreements that seek to alleviate the dangers caused by fossil resource depletion. An example of such collective action taking place can be seen at the Copenhagen Accord. As with any international agreement, climate ones especially are very tedious and time consuming as every individual nation is sacrificing “the easy road to development” in the interests of everybody taking the more challenging road to development through more sustainable means. The U.S. as revealed in the WikiLeaks, was very involved behind the scenes in making sure that a majority of nations that are part of the U.N. “pledged” (Copenhagen Accord has no Kyoto clause meaning rich nations aren’t bound to stick to their words of capping emissions) to the Accord. It will remain to be seen in the next 10 years whether any concrete agreements with definitive goals will be reached.

3.After reading through the WikiLeak cables several times over, I do not condone the U.S. for taking the steps it had taken in strong-arming countries to “put their name on the dotted line”. Personally, yes, it was a complete steamroll of distributive justice as less economically developed nations had no leverage at the table of the big boys (developed nations). Though the U.S. used an “ends justify means” mentality (procedural justice) leading up to the Copenhagen Accord that may seem altruistic to a degree, in contrast it was rather self-defeating, as the Copenhagen Accord doesn’t require developed nations to “pay their dues”. (The U.S. knew this and would rather have this then the UN’s Kyoto protocol) In effect, the international agreements have become weaker and have become more akin to “guidelines” that when crossed over, the offending country faces no or little repercussion. Another motive the U.S. has in the Copenhagen Accord and others like it, is that the countries that are the most influential in these collective treaties have the opportunity to reshape the modern world or in simpler terms =power play. For example the country that takes advantage of the present circumstances and is readily capable of adapting to the future can “afford” to give the less developed nations aide…(I mean bribery) as a cost of leaving the others in the dust so to speak. On a side note, the U.S. can “afford” these contributions of aide because it doesn’t literally cost the gov’t itself anything, as they only have to print money so in the end, the public foots the bill and the less developed nations receive currency that is worth less over time instead of tangible real assets. The State Department cables shouldn’t have been made public as this reduces the leverage the U.S. has when negotiating (imagine if every time I tried to negotiate, the other party knew everything…no point in negotiating as I won’t get a “fair” trade). Procuring an international treaty in the bests interest of everybody that every counterpart agrees on will never happen so the next best option is using leverage (define that how you will).

Module 8: Gershom Espinoza

1. My hometown region of Socal is in a moderately active earthquake zone that stretches across the western coastline. Expected quakes range from 5-7ish though this “extreme” activity is offset by the fact that Socal isn’t exposed much if at to tropical cyclones. High(ish) wind speeds and nonexistent hailstorms (out of 10+yrs of living there I remember it happening once!) aren’t the primary areas of concern for humans/wildlife as the region suffers frequent wildfires. The Nathan map seems quite capable of mapping different weather extremes locations are subject to in addition to variance in how each region is specifically affected.
2. The disaster I chose was a medium sized tornado that occurred today in northwestern Alabama. On a “regular” weather basis excluding cyclones, Socal doesn’t have tornadoes. However as pacific storms approach the coast there could be tornado watches although often these end of being gusts of wind rather than tornadoes. Due to this, Socal isn’t really in danger of tornadoes and the infrastructure could handle “small” tornadoes, as these very same buildings have to withstand intensive earthquake. The event is rather on the minute scale as it was constrained to a specific local region. Relative to the size of my hometown it appears to have occurred within an area the size of a suburb. If the same sized event were to happen in Oceanside, more property damage would be done as there is more development but that’s it. The city is very well developed with most individuals having capable means of withstanding such a disaster and even for those who aren’t economically ahead, there are many places to go to for shelter from the extreme elements.
3. Oceanside City faces several potential disasters that include wildfires, floods, severe heat waves and weakfish pacific storms. Several times growing up I remember the region going through such unusually long heat waves that people/animals were heavily discouraged from outside activity. The potential danger with longer than average heat waves is that due to the dryness, flammable things catch on fire more easily whether or not it was caused by humans. In fact, the most severe wildfire in my region occurred after a long heat wave during my middle school years. The wildfire destroyed residential houses, wildlife, vegetation next to highways and the ever-increasing ash in the air caused schools in several districts to close for a week (I was sorta happy about that). The Oceanside community is adaptive to any unforeseen dangers that may arise from extreme weathers as there is constant info regarding the manner. “rehearsal of safety procedures at least twice a year can drastically affect the impact of emergency” (
4. Overall, Oceanside is well equipped to handle a range of disasters it may face. The biggest danger would be a wildfire during the hot summer months where a treatable accident can turn into something untamable. In the suburbs replacing water intensive vegetation with low-water or no-water usage landscaping not only reduces the fire hazard risk but also saves the homeowner water (which is becoming more expensive). The best people to address potential risks would be individuals themselves as our society is very individualistically “focused” meaning I address issues that may cause harm to me rather than on a community level although both do occur in Oceanside. As a resident of Oceanside, I can make sure to not leave highly flammable material outside longer than it would have to be as well as consistent watering of the lawn to prevent dead grass.

Module 7: It Just Is?

1.Birmingham, Alabama is but one city I consider home (complicated family to say the least…). The region was formally a bustling steel industry with several major mills and plants spread throughout. Located almost somewhat in the center of Alabama, Birmingham infrastructure layout is like most other American cities. The most used transportation around the city and in the suburbs are cars as space isn’t as compacted as in heavily urbanized metropolis. Though there are sidewalks downtown, due to the large distances between different city building end uses it is more convenient to drive a car. The surrounding suburb likewise is an automobile centered with local city buses having a route on the major roads rather than through the suburbs themselves. With around a quarter of a million people, most people commute from the suburbs to work downtown than live and work in the same reasonable location. Due to several factors, one of them being socioeconomic, the downtown area has sections dominated by abandoned buildings, homeless people and crime. The city however, is slowly going through re-gentrification.

2.A city similar to Birmingham, Alabama in the module was Rochester, NY. Both populaces heavily rely on “commutes” for work, recreation and basic needs. Also both cities usually have supermarkets and etc. near or outside the suburbs rather than in them (high economic areas have suburbs and “needs” intertwined). Such layouts discourage pedestrian travel, as it would be neither practical nor convenient to travel on foot for several hours to and forth with groceries. With this social norm of driving everywhere, resident’s health may not be as well as it could be due to habitual stationary sitting, take-out foods and lack of movement among other things. Though Birmingham would surely benefit from having different housing designs to better meet contemporary needs, I think people would be better impacted if the social norm of eating unbalanced, breaded or fried food was revised.

3.More akin to Birmingham than any other city in this module, Detroit will be my other comparison. Though the urban landscape of Detroit and Birmingham aren’t different, as with other American cities, Detroit appears to be doing a better job of promoting urban farming than Birmingham. Though not on the scale of Michigan, Birmingham is more similar as a city due to current socioeconomic roles, predominant black community and a slow yet progressing rebuild. Both cities have numerous abandoned ravaged properties throughout counties inflicted with crime that discourages pedestrian transportation (due to safety) as well as a sense of community. Birmingham’s ineptitude of a local farmers community can be reflected in that Detroit “had to have” food deserts in order for people to begin growing food for themselves initially and then the community. Birmingham should follow Detroit’s example of designating a specific location at a specified time as a communal marketplace where local citizen can get produce from their growers rather than the only source being one-stop big brand supermarkets.

Module 6: Gershom Espinoza

There’s quite a disparity in public school food offerings regarding what the pyramid “plan” calls for and what is actually served. From personal experience in different states, the food being served was essentially mono/staple crop derived food in general. Corn, potatoes, wheat and chicken were quite often what was served the most frequently as these calories were affordable and filling. Likewise, a constant side item was fried salted potatoes whether in the form of French fires, tater tots, sweet potato fries (students would pick up a mixed plate and only eat the regular potato fries so this was a failure), baked potatoes or chips. Though numerous students may have different diets or preferences for eating, the limited variety of food often meant that in the end students would become accustomed to food that was either fried, salted, sweet or plain (in the context of lack of flavorful herbs or supplements to meals). One drawback of the public education system is that food offerings are often dictated by budget rather than what’s best for the child nutritionally speaking.

Being raised in the public school system can be negative for children’s dietary habit as one has an almost daily routine of consuming food groups that aren’t balanced. The way the current food system is structured favors low variety of food as it is cheaper to produce a few crops in great quantities. Not only is this food practice harmful as it eventually reduces the yield stability of the soil but also doesn’t take into account the external cost of shipping the food long distances. Chemical pollution from the transportation methods, increased fossil fuel use, energy spent keeping food frozen or refrigerated, potential of spreading bacteria farther (becomes harder to pinpoint origin and quarantine) are just several large-scale collective problems from such practices. Once kids leave the educational system this dietary habit becomes very hard to change. The social norm should be a locavor culture that emphasizes seasonal foods with typical “American foods” being offered less frequently.


Module 5: Limits of Urbanization?

1. The case study I chose was on the Indian state of Gujarat from the source, World Business Council for Sustainable Development. (Link This region is considered one of the most industrialized regions in India, as they will soon have more people living in cities than in villages for the first time ever in history (meaning that sustainable urban development plans must be quite flexible to accommodate the needs of cities). The Urban Infrastructure Initiative brought together seven companies from various sectors to collaborate with public officials on addressing key challenges faced by cities in Gujarat. The three goals were to come up with solutions regarding urban planning, energy efficiency and wastewater management. With the second highest per capital electrical consumption in India, Gujarat must design urban development plans that not only address present needs but also future expansions without compromising infrastructure capabilities. Also, the inadequate water/wastewater infrastructure can lead to many detrimental affects on the public and local landscape. Overall, the UII was beneficial in that it helped “officials understand how business could contribute to sustainability goals by identifying practical solutions.”

2.As there are no fully sustainable “eco cities” present, my second case study will focus on a much smaller scale. This site is an eco-village in India called Serene Eco-village that I found from a source entitled Global Ecovillage Network ( With more than a hundred eco-villages located internationally, I chose a site in India because it shows what sustainable development can look like, albeit on a smaller scale. Established in 2009, the village was developed with the purpose of integrating sustainable designs and technologies to support a vibrant communal atmosphere. Needs such as energy, food, waste management and shelter are all addressed through the multiple systems incorporated in building plans. Organic multi-tier farming, roof water harvesting with filtration tanks, bio-gas plants and other such features ensure that the community is making as little of an impact on the environment as possible to create an efficient “end user” way of living (meaning nothing is wasted if it can be reused for another purpose). Lastly, this way of living reminds humans to enjoy all the creative elements of nature.
3. I will use the city of Oceanside California as my third case. Though Oceanside is mostly developed, it wasn’t always so as the city previously used to be an unattractive rough area but now is quite a “touristy” area. The city had to enforce revised waste regulations, as trash was easy to find in the harbor and beach along with reducing crime rates in the city to promote safe and better living standards. Similar to the prior two cases, Oceanside faces the same three obstacles when expanding development. The order of priority however, shifts to urban development, water management (waste management isn’t a problem) with energy efficiency being last as the city/citizens do an excellent job of renovating energy consumption components.
There is a strong incentive to develop real estate in California so in Oceanside many neighborhoods and commercial spaces are being created on previously empty land. This overdevelopment has already been proven to be beyond the carrying capacity of nearby regions but with smarter management, designs and collective actions; this may at least negate our actions somewhat.

Module 4

1A: For most of my life I grew up in a suburb of San Diego called Oceanside. Despite being close to the beach and the “water” it could offer in terms of desalination (Recently a desalination plant was installed in Carlsbad) and such, our water instead comes from distant rivers. The prior lack of desalination plants and closing of an aging nuclear power plant are examples of collective action problem in or around the community of southern California that demonstrate the “not in my backyard” mentality, which most citizens have. The water utility department purchases water from San Diego county water authority. SDCWA gets a majority of their water from the metropolitan water district of southern California (MWD)water. The MWD gets their water from the Sacramento/San Joaquin rivers through the state water project and the Colorado river via the Colorado river aqueduct. Roughly about 80% of the water in southern California comes from these two sources with the remaining coming from ground water, local surface water, etc. Wastewater is then treated at two treatment plants before I being released into the ocean or recycled.


Toilet: (assuming clean toilet!) one flush 3 gallons
Shower: about 1.5 times a day for roughly 15 minutes 112.5 gallons
Sink: Shave once a week, brush twice, 12 oz.
Hydration: about six 8oz cups 48 oz.
Cleaning: wash clothes twice a week and dishes vary due to use but around once a week 7.15 gallons a day
Estimated water usage a day is 126.4 gallons of water a day. (On a side note, this also excludes how much water is used in the production of lotion, shampoo, etc., and the water usage in making the containers)

Part 1c:
1. The bathroom, faucet and water fountain were the three outlets of water I used.
2. The rule was only to use water when necessary. Brushing, hydrating (keeps me awake in class) aren’t absolutely necessary but borderline needed.
3. Rather than taking a shower, I used a wet cloth to wipe my face and body. Secondly, since getting my curly hair “presentable” takes a lot of water I just wore a beanie instead. Also, helped that I don’t have to shave my face often. In addition, I didn’t exercise the day of experimentation as I would’ve been really thirsty so about a liter of water was adequate.
4. Although I already minimize my water usage in everything but showering, the experiment to me was a failure for several reasons. First, taking a shower wakes me up (its like COFFEE for me), hygiene purposes and I have somewhat long curly hair (like curly fries no joke) that needs constant watering for moisturization and to avoid tanglements. Also if I wanted to become more physically active I would need to use more water to cleanse myself after sweating, hydration and wash dirty clothes.
5. I was more conscience of how much water I used in routine tasks as an individual. The biggest drawback of conserving water is in the form of the daily showers individuals take. Though I take long showers compared to the average individual, when one considers how many gallons of water is used, this seems to be the biggest water use.
6. Geography matters to water use because the individual actions of how people use their water may strain or deplete the natural rate of water replenishment (the drier the conditions, the more efficiency is needed). This may in the end alter the collective ability of everyone water usage.

Module 3: Gershom Espinoza

2. Do the ends justify the means (ends ethics vs. means ethics)?
I’ll take the road less traveled here and say both (read forwards and backwards). First, reading it forward, the end goal should justify the process of how one sets about to accomplish their “ends” because the end purpose itself shouldn’t be compromised. However, by the very same token, the means of how one sets about to accomplish their goal should adhere to the principle of the “goal” as close as possible. While very hard to stick to both in life, by using both sets of standards, I for one can see how far I have compromised in what I wanted to achieve and in how I went about doing it. An example can be found between the Soviet Union and the U.S. during the cold war specifically on the “peace talks” amongst the arms race. Regardless of when the peace talks (meaning mutual agreements not use weapons of mass destruction) began, what’s more important to consider is that while the talks were ongoing both nations were still stockpiling nuclear warheads and countless other weapons. The “ends” or in this case, peace talks, were compromised by how both nations set out to achieve that, which was to strategically have more weapons than the other nation thereby forcing defeat. Granted self-preservation was a key role, but looking back upon such similar agreements, it seems silly to have peace talks or treaties when the very same participating countries are boosting their military capabilities thereby ironically showing no faith or trust in the “binding” word of nations. (Yes, I understand we don’t live in a utopia but as I once read…fighting for peace is like “screwing” for virginity)
1.Is it more important to be a good person or to perform good acts (virtue ethics vs. action ethics)?
Performing good acts is better than being a good person or better yet a person with “good” intentions. Though words can be an excellent means of expression, actions dictate what actually occurs and as actions usually have motive behind them; I consider actions “intentions or ideas” acted upon. While words can influence our actions, when one is changing a habit it is the act of repetitively changing or altering what one wishes to change that quite frankly demonstrates more willpower. For example, growing up on the typical American/Hispanic diet I considered myself healthy because my diet addressed most if not all needs in addition to the fact that I was a very active teenager. Around early high school however, I had above average blood pressure which especially shocked me because I would spend around 4 hours minimum (no exaggeration) on training for sports plus actual sports practice. Tired of hearing about eating “healthy” (I am not condoning the typical American/ Hispanic diet; rather I changed my diet to address a health concern) I decided to significantly change my everyday diet for the rest of my life (but right now taking it a month at a time) starting this year and so far I have stuck to my goal. However, when the actions of a collective group of people aren’t working as effectively or efficiently then that is when it is more important to step back from the situation and look at the options, then DO IT (Shia Labeouf style!). Lastly, intentions can only do so much but actions; history is full of people who performed extraordinarily good deeds.
4. Do ecosystems matter for their own sake, or do they only matter to the extent that they impact humans (ecocentric ethics vs. anthropocentric ethics)?
Personally, I favor the anthropocentric view more so than an ecocentric outtake. As I see it, if humans didn’t exist it would make no difference as to how “nature ran its course per se.” Besides the obvious bias, I also look at ecosystems from the point of view that humans are the only animals who can significantly alter the landscape they live upon. (In terms of sheer number and size of objects humans have and could make in the history of mankind) Due to this “craftsmanship” ability I look at how the ecosystem could best serve the interests of humans (because of the unique capabilities we have) at the sacrifice of the animals who aren’t represented in the “decision making” process. Though again, I would take great care as to preserve or conserve part of the ecosystem so as to make sure resources weren’t being outstripped compared to their replenishing rates.

Module 2: Gershom Espinoza


This diagram illustrates the multiple “links” or feedback mechanisms a human society can have on the natural landscape. Every human activity done on the environment can have positive or negative affects for both systems. For instance, in rural India a longstanding fuel source was wood, which, when used creates ash. Not only are the benefits of wood as fuel few but as time progresses the resiliency and stability of the surrounding habitat of  the area with be critically strained under a bigger demand for resources with a shorter recovery time. The net effect of such ongoing activities means that humans as well as the environment will be progressively worse off. However, with the implementation of a biogas generator, the human populace’s impact on the landscape will be mitigated to a certain degree. By moving away from a linear system (Production-Consumption-Waste) into a closed loop system (Pro.-Cons.-Waste-Pro) the populace is able to maintain or increase their standard of living while at the same time doing the same for the environment because not as many resources are needed. A more important aspect of such a change means that the human populace and environment are better off in the short term as well as the long term (assuming no “drastic changes”).

My diagram was more “illustrative” in how the objects were depicted which may detract from the goal of keeping things as comprehensive and simple as possible amidst all the connections. Also, it was difficult to not include more text captions in the diagram as each effect could be further developed. I could do better at using every niche of space better.

Getting to Know You: Gershom Espinoza

Hi, my name is Gershom Espinoza and I am a 20yr sophomore student at University Park. Most of my “long” life was spent in Oceanside, California, a suburb of San Diego before my former stepdad joined the military. Once this change came about, our family was able to travel to most of Western Europe, which was an invaluable experience and blessing for me as it influenced what I wanted to do. The major I am pursuing is Energy, Business and Finance (yes, that is one major 😉 However, due to my life’s experiences in addition to my many passionate pursuits in life, I realize that being an entrepreneur is what I will be. As someone who has had the opportunity to travel about and experience ‘life’ outside of my ‘hometown bubble,’ it has instilled in me the desire to do so ever more immersively as an adult.

My interest in this course stems from my childhood experiences growing up, personal values and also how I can apply what I learn in this course in the businesses I will and am doing whether it is finance, housing-development, agriculture, etc. One thing from the module 1 that repeatedly stuck out to me was the concept of scale. Regardless of application, when one’s actions are seeing on a grander scale, one realizes how much an effect every individual has whether for good or bad. I especially, am interested in housing development (not sure on urban, residential, commercial) but in such a way as to showcase the natural surrounding while making the least impact upon it. Lastly, another interesting tidbit about me is that I am currently learning Spanish (was my 1st language but due to circumstances forgot it) and German.