Module 10 – Gilberto Aponte

  1. How does biodiversity come in the equation with other sections of this course? (150-250 words)
  2. What is the biodiversity where I live? (150 – 250 words)


  1. Biodiversity is an incredibly important piece in the puzzle that is our planet. The increasing number of species in this planet allowed it to be the planet we know today, starting with microbial life that first dominated the oceans and allowed it to have enough oxygen to allow for multicellular life to thrive and conquer land. In essence, we highly depend on it to even exist, and to have a continued existence. Our food for example is a part of this life which allowed us to move forward. For millennia we used horses to travel between cities and help the process of human development get to where it is now. It is such a crucial part that we have an ethical obligation to defend it as much as possible and to raise awareness of the damage that we can potentially do to it. We must develop methods to achieve a sustainable development, as right now we are in the path of potential destruction of much of this diverse planet we depend on. Coral reefs are dying. Deforestation is rampant in the Amazon. These actions have and will cause potential natural hazards that affect vast amount of people. It also contributes to climate change as the exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen in our atmosphere starts becoming disproportionate. The sheer number of factors linked with biodiversity are still being counted.
  2. In Puerto Rico one would experience a very tropical fauna and flora. Among the most unique animals we have is called the coqui. The coqui is a frog which goes “coquí” during the night and before rainfall. It is actually native just to the island and they’re everywhere. So much so that we use it as a symbol to represent ourselves. Oftentimes outsiders find them annoying during the night because they’re so present. Us natives just find them to be background noise. Being such a small place we have a pretty diverse set of life though. We have a dry area where you would find cacti and other dry plants with its own set of animals. We also have the only rainforest in the US where it is rich and full of life. We have our coastal animals with pretty safe waters (no sharks). There’s also a system of caverns around the northern part where we find a completely different variations of animals such as bats and unique insects. Puerto Rico is so diverse it would take one a solid week of traveling through it in order to fully experience what we are as a whole. It’s an incredibly beautiful place which I feel really lucky to have been raised in and now about to leave it to live in the states permanently with a heavy heart. I will never forget the sheer beauty I experienced and its diverse culture and environment.

View from a mountain

El Yunque rainforestrainforest

Sunset at Arecibo beach

Coqui frog which I took from here.


Module 9 climate change


In my diagram I aim to show the entire process which led to the events we read about for this exercise. We first start with continued use of fossil fuels which has caused an increase in the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. As we know, an excess of these gases inevitably leads to an altered atmosphere in the Earth resulting in a more erratic climate thusly named climate change. Since climate change inherently affects all of the people on Earth, it has caused political action to be taken. This leads to the UN climate convention which aims to raise concerns and ideas which all of the countries that belong to it to start taking action to reduce the carbon footprint in the atmosphere. This leads directly to the Copenhagen accord which was aimed to create an agreement to lower the greenhouse gas use in many countries. Unfortunately, this agreement highly benefited one country, the US, unsurprisingly. But they could not simply just take all action on their own and get the agreement to pass, they needed other countries’ support. Many did not agree with it, so the US resorted to using unethical tactics such as bribery, espionage, cyberattacks and the like to force many of these countries to sign the agreement against their will. They managed to get 146 to sign it, so in a way the goal for the Copenhagen accord was successful, but with the consequence that it fostered a political climate of hostility and mistrust among those involved.

Regarding this topic, I am inclined to give a pass to any action necessary to have any means necessary be taken in order to successfully carry out an agreement which would eventually end in lessened greenhouse gases. This is an incredibly essential topic that others need to comply for the benefit of all, although I don’t really like that the US took more benefits than the rest of them regarding who receives the most benefits. This should be taken for the good of the planet. I do agree that these documents should have been released, us as citizens of this world have a right to know what goes on in it and websites such as WikiLeaks and people like Snowden should be welcomed for the actions they take/took. It is incredibly useful for others to know that the US has been involved in very shady forms of actions because I think most in our country live in this bubble where they pretend that we are somehow superior morally to others when we are responsible for many other problems we face in the world today. We should be conducting climate change diplomacy in a way that there are no obvious beneficiaries to it, but at the same time it must be strict enough that others have to comply with it and go against their best monetary interests. Which is hard to do when fossil fuels are among the most important item in your economy. Countries should propose to all invest in scientific research and technological development for sustainable energies. I think we have not taken as strong of an approach as we could possibly take, both internally and internationally.

Vulnerability Reduction – Gilberto Aponte-Prats

Puerto Rico finds itself in a very active area for natural hazards. According to the Nathan map, there are four main systems that affect the area. First, we find ourselves in a Zone 4 for Tropical Cyclone and in directly on the typical paths they take. Given we are a small island, we also face threat from rising sea levels which would put many important residential and historical areas of the island at risk. We find ourselves in a Zone 2 area for earthquakes, which I can say we’ve had increasing activity here the last few years. And finally we are negatively affected by anomalies in La Niña which cause an increase in tropical cyclones in the area. This map is incredibly effective in pinning down trends of natural hazards that occur in the regions. It is accurate as to the type of problems we get.

I chose a Magnitude 6.1 earthquake that happened in Papua New Guinea that occurred April 1, 2016 at 07:24:56 PM. My hometown can definitely get a disaster similar to this one due to us having a tectonic plate very near the island. In recent years we’ve had an increased activity regarding tremors. The scale of the disaster may differ because of the development we have. Papua New Guinea is not as developed as Puerto Rico, so a magnitude 6.1 earthquake can spell a lot of trouble for residents in that area due to poorly built buildings, meanwhile we would probably not face too many issues. In San Juan specifically, there are areas where the housing isn’t well-built and near the beach there is a risk of tsunamis which can be caused by an earthquake. People face different levels of vulnerability simply by being too far from the coast or being in an area where the infrastructure will not get affected by such an event. Since the rise of tremors have worried many residents, it is easier to potentially lend a hand in bettering the homes of many, and preparing plans to get away from a tsunami. I could have meetings educating people about this if that were ever the case.

Probably the biggest and most present natural hazard we face is hurricanes that occur frequently during late summer and fall season of the year. We have had incredibly destructive hurricanes in the past, one of them being Hurricane Georges in 1998 (Bennett, 2008). It was a category 3 hurricane which crossed the island from side-to-side which flooded many rivers, destroyed homes and other infrastructure. Although I was little, I remember seeing how the strong winds ripped up antenna from houses and left us without electricity for a week or two. Thankfully, since we are in a hurricane-prone area, a lot of the effect was severely minimized and many citizens were very prepared for it. It only killed 8 people, but left around 2 billion dollars in damages. Though apparently a good amount that died was because of other factors, not directly because of the hurricane (Center for Disease Control, 1998). So we have a pretty good record regarding hurricanes and our preparedness for them.

A hazard which was pointed out by the Nathan map is the rising sea levels. This can potentially cause massive relocation and spread destruction to coastal areas. There could be governmental action taken in order to try to plan out possibilities to move the people to a safer area when it becomes a problem. They can also build infrastructure that might help save some of these areas from being swept away, similar to how New Orleans is. With the help of the local and federal government it is possible to accomplish these. The most I feel I can do is raise awareness of carbon emissions and take steps to contribute as little as I can to climate change, though it might still not be enough.


Bennett, Shawn P., and Rafael Mojica. “HURRICANE GEORGES PRELIMINARY STORM REPORT.” October 14, 2008.

Center for Disease Control. “Deaths Associated with Hurricane Georges — Puerto Rico, September 1998.” November 10, 1998.

Sustainable Cities – Gilberto Aponte-Prats

I originate from San Juan, Puerto Rico. San Juan is the capital of Puerto Rico, so it is a very highly active city town. Where I live mostly it is an automobile suburb, actually most of the island’s living areas are automobile suburbs. The municipality itself has a few areas of urban downtown, though no specific downtown area. The population as of 2010 is around 395,000 people all distributed through a various types of urban landscapes. I was raised in San Juan for most of my life, I personally love the place due to it having such a blend of both historical areas and urban life. There are a lot of problems with it, crime, abandoned buildings, decreasing population is affecting the local economy, but overall it is a very great place to be around. An issue is that public transportation is fairly poor and limited, so not having a car means you won’t be able to get around much

Boston actually holds a lot of similarities to San Juan regarding how many varied urban landscapes are found in such a small area. Having personally been to Boston and it being mentioned in the readings gave me a good insight as to what comparisons are there. There are clear automobile suburbs in certain areas as well as an urban downtown. Though in Boston the downtown is more clearly defined as a single area than San Juan which has several. Something that Boston does have an advantage is that their public transportation system is much more efficient which in turn allows pedestrians to be able to commute around the city with relative ease and without the dependence of a car. This reduces traffic and lowers the carbon footprint in the environment around it.

A city which probably has the most difference to where I am from is definitely Copenhagen. It having such a heavy cycling culture around it makes it a very interesting contrast to what I was raised in. The conditions there are much cleaner for transportation options and also inspires people to be generally healthier and has good air quality. This form of urban transit would be generally better for urban downtowns of San Juan as well as the old Spanish area. All this would translate for faster movement throughout the city, it would be safer for those living in the area, and could greatly reduce transportation costs. Something that differs though is the fact that Copenhagen is around half the size of San Juan, so that is a factor regarding the feasibility of doing this in my home town.

Module 6

When I first went to Italy, I had to adjust to how Italians ate their food. They have much less meat consumption as there is in the US. They concentrate a lot on pasta, cheese and vegetables. It was definitely great, but I oftentimes felt I hadn’t fulfilled my usual quota of meat quota. Their food revolves more around the culture of food in which they live in and their own history. I feel this affected me because Italy did not have the same drive the explode the Great Plains we have here in the US, which allowed us to perfect mass livestock production. The food we eat is very much connected as to what resources we have available and how we use that food as well as trends within the population.

While being in Italy, I saw how much they lacked overweight people compared to the US. Their diet is less focused around meat and generally had a healthier diet, they lack an obesity problem. Italy is #44 in obese population compared to the US is #6. Cultural differences driven by history have caused our country to have a higher consumption rate of high calorie foods compared to Italy. I do feel that we do eat too much livestock compared to other more sustainable foods. Though knowing this I probably won’t change my eating habits due to being so accustomed to this diet. I could recognize the cultural differences that immediately came up when I was faced by being in that situation.

Module 6 Gilberto Aponte-Prats

Module 5 – Gilberto Aponte-Prats

1-a) Being from San Juan, Puerto Rico, the source of water there comes from rainwater which we have developed streams over specific areas to collect it in what’s known as the Carraizo Lake. There the water for the areas of San Juan, Trujillo Alto, Carolina, Bayamón, Loíza, Canóvanas, Cataño, Toa Baja and Guaynabo is collected. It later goes through different processing units located in strategic locations which purify the water and then is sent to our homes and businesses. The used water isn’t directly deposited into our rivers, it instead goes through a six step process to purify it of contaminants before it is sent to natural resources such as rivers or the ocean. It starts by going through a set of local pumps which direct it towards main cleaning plants. Followed by the removal of stones and other hard materials. It is then sent through a secondary process to separate solid materials (sand and such). After it is disinfected and the pH balance is set to the natural one. And finally it is reoxygenated so it is compatible with plant life and sent back into the environment. Online sources: /

1-b) Results are shown in gallons.Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 12.24.31 AM

1-c) My main uses of prepare food, sanitary reasons, dish washing and laundry. So if I were in a situation where I had to use just two gallons a day, I would prioritize making food and sanitation. To prepare food, I would need just around four cups of water to make food that would last me around 3-4 days of leftovers, saving me water to use elsewhere or saving it for another day. I could do one of my daily needs without the need of a toilet, so that saves some gallons. Sanitation would definitely take the most amount of water. Usually the body doesn’t require much water to rinse, but my hair does (I have fairly long hair), so I guess the best thing would be to shave my head in order to conserve even more water. Also being experienced in living in limited conditions (I’m also an Eagle Scout) I can in fact be fairly successful at systematically stretching the water usage as much as possible. Compared to 1-b, well I would have to sacrifice doing dishes as often, or saving up water for a few days in order to do things such as maintain my hair and peeing in a toilet. Being from an island which recently suffered a lack of rain, we saw a very rapid decrease in our water supply causing a massive drought that lasted months. Water usage there became a very real issue very quickly, while a continent typically has more reliable sources of water with rivers crossing over the entire country.

Module 3 – Gilberto Aponte-Prats

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

As a person that frequently gets involved with discussions regarding a wide variety of topics in philosophy, this is something that I have often thought about. In my conclusions I have come to understand that the means of getting a goal ultimately determine how successful the ends are. Take for example the Soviet Union. The stalinist ideology works on the basis of the state being the most important thing in their society. When it came to scientific investigation, they often took shortcuts which caused a whole heap of troubles and deaths, but they did not matter because the state learned something. Their methodologies caused them to have a cruder space exploration mentality, it caused the Chernobyl disaster, and a lack of freedom for the individual. Though I have heard some good argumentation in favor of this sort of ideology, every time people put the ends over the means it creates unforeseen that could have been avoided by better planning.

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)?

As a technology major who cares about the environment, I often find myself stuck between the world of exploiting nature to benefit humans, but not wanting to abuse the world of its resources. It is quite the challenge to want technological progress to keep accelerating at the pace it is in without having a toll on our ecosystems. I honestly wouldn’t separate ecocentric ethics from anthropocentric ethics due to their inevitable intermingling. Excessive anthropocentricity will create a need to switch to ecocentric. In this case I would focus more on balancing these in a way we can sustain technological progress at a desirable pace, but considering the ecosystem as well. Until we can mine resources from asteroids, we are going to have to depend on the ecosystem to further human progress. Even cutting down trees in the middle of the Amazon affects humans be it in the slightest of ways, as deforestation is a contributor to the ever rising climate change, which impacts everyone worldwide.

5. Do the pleasure and pain of non-human animals matter as much as the pleasure and pain of humans (speciesism)?

I personally think we have no form of justification as to why humans should be considered superior life to any other without falling back to pro-slavery logic. But it is not as easy to dismiss such a complicated topic. Take for example what would one rather take action for, massive mistreatment of animal in slaughterhouses or have a group of people butchering other humans? I admit I would do more for humans than the animals. I eat meat, I am okay with animals being killed so I can cook up a hamburger. Should they torture those animals instead of simply killing them? No. Would knowing its been done and is happening motivate me to do anything about it? Not really. But at the same time I think of say if an advanced alien species that focused on enslaving “lower” lifeforms for their own benefit. Would these beings have the right to abuse of us simply because they are biologically “superior”? Of course not. The fact that we can make informed decisions is enough for me to decide against it. But then, what if they deem our wills not worthy? We fall into the same pattern. I say this even applies to say future autonomous androids we create. If something has the will to survive and decide its own fate, it deserves our respect no matter the origins. This is an incredibly complex philosophical question with no simple answer.

Module 2 – Gilberto Aponte-Prats

The diagram here shows some of the interconnectedness that the biogas generator created within the societal system and the ecosystem. It can influence it in quite a lot of different varied ways. It really has become an essential aspect to many rural Indian communities, as it has helped their economy, health, and ecosystem thrive in conjunction. The use of a fast producing natural resource using cows which are very readily available. This has provided them a means to avoid cooking with wood, giving citizens better health and the ecosystem a cleaner air and less deforestation. Through compost it has created jobs and also helped the crops flourish much more than before.

Comparing this to the Figure 1.5 it is the same in that it generally divides into two categories of things affected and how one can have an influence over the other. I find it to be different in that mine has several “bridges” in how the technology has developed certain things that are both helpful for the society and the ecosystem. I feel that it is hard to really separate it having similarities, considering they both cover roughly the same topics, now I think the differences are present to show how several parts of it string from common sources, while the figure in the reading was fairly direct.

Getting to Know You

Hello all! I am Gilberto Aponte Prats. I currently live in State College, but I originate from San Juan, Puerto Rico. I am an IST Design & Development major, and I want to pursue the career of being a front-end developer (AKA make user interfaces in software). This course really interests me because geology is among the fields of science I know the least of, but I hold a very strong liking to all natural sciences. I want to know more how humans affect the Earth, given that the amount of evidence we can find of us affecting our planet is without a doubt. I love fiddling around with computers, play a lot of video games, listen to electronic music as my main genre. Essentially my life revolves around computers.

Something of great deal I have been seeing lately is the effect we have on our climate this year, and how many have resorted to basically ignore the fact that we have always had an effect in our environment since the beginning of the homo sapiens. Human-Environment interactions has a really long history, yet today many decide to think we don’t. We are reaching a point where sustainability is a real issue and the way we have used our resources in an incredibly greedy way. In today’s situation we’re reaching the point where governance with ethics will be necessary, not only to be fair, but to guarantee the survival of our society. Ethics also goes not only at the expense of non-humans anymore, what we do has a direct effect in the health of other people, as we can see in China with Beijing having an incredibly dangerous smog problem.