Scales and Ethics in Biodiversity

  1. Analyze how biodiversity loss is affected by spatial and temporal scales. Discuss anthropocentric and ecocentric reasons to value biodiversity at both types of scale. (200-300 word limit)

Spatial scale refers to any sort of physical space that biodiversity, or the variation and richness of organisms, can take up.  Spatial approaches can include how the species fit in the specified area, how diverse they are, and how they depend upon each other.

Anthropocentric reasons for valuing the system of biodiversity refers to the reasons why the biodiversity is of value to humanity.  Understanding the biodiversity by means of genetic, species, and ecosystem diversities in an area that coincides with human populations is important to us as far as access to resources and ecosystem services goes.  Medicine, food and water purification are some examples to anthropocentric reasons.

Ecocentric values, or nature-centered reasons for valuing biodiversity relate to spatial scales in that it is important to preserve ecosystems in certain parts of the world in order to preserve how ecosystems work together.

Temporal scales relate to chronological factors in biodiversity.  This scale factor is especially important in understanding the progression of biodiversity and the future of living organisms.

Antropocentric reasons for valuing biodiversity is especially important when it comes to preserving future species, including humans.  Approximately 99.9% of species that have ever existed on earth are extinct.  Understanding how humans now play a significant role in both destroying and preserving our resources is crucial in our short timeline.

Ecocentric reasons for appreciating biodiversity tie into understanding the value of preserving every facet of earth, whether or not humans are directly affected or not.  It is important to allow species and ecosystems to thrive for future generations to enjoy, and most importantly, for a healthy planet.

  1. Create a system diagram showing the relationship between spatial and temporal scales, with both anthropocentric and ecocentric approaches as they relate to question #1.

mod 10

  1. Describe a personal event in which you noticed an issue of biodiversity loss or an activity that could lead to such. How did you react?  State some threats to the biodiversity.  How can you protect further damage? (200-300 word limit)

When we built my house in 2001, the whole neighborhood was a swamp.  I would catch tadpoles and frogs with my friends by my house.  As more people started building houses, the swampy areas got drained to allow for construction.  As funny as it is to recall, at 6-years-old, I made picket signs out of construction paper and popsicle sticks and marched around my yard in protest whenever the construction workers worked on the land.  It was a kid’s nightmare- the best play area being ruined, and innocent frogs being killed.

The neighborhood is now almost all built-up, and it is bone dry with not a single swamp.  I forgot how something on such a small scale- only a few acres, had actually caused so much damage.  I haven’t seen a frog or a tadpole in my neighborhood since 2004.  It’s sad to say I was right at 6 years old.

The concerning part is that some predatory species followed suit.  Since the frogs’ habitats have been destroyed, several types of snakes and birds that preyed on the frogs have disappeared as well.

The species biodiversity had a rapid habitat loss in a neighborhood that builds 5-10 houses per year.  Human population and pollution are additional factors that affected the wildlife.  Trash and chemical pollutants destroyed the remaining areas rich in biodiversity in my neighborhood.

I can limit further biodiversity loss by protecting the woods in my backyard from being cut down or polluted.

Module 9 – What is the cost of the greater good?


When determining what was the most prevalent theme when it came to issues surrounding the climate change and Copenhagen Accord issue, I found that money drove so many issues.  Once I put the idea of money at the peak of the diagram, I demonstrated how the problem of burning fossil fuels is stemmed from money, as fossil fuels is typically the least expensive option than exploring renewable sources.  Money is additionally a large factor in why the United States is, and strives to remain, a global superpower.  This is not necessarily a bad thing-  it is hard to deny that the United States strives to have a strong, healthy economy for its citizens.  On the other hand, however, it may take away from developing countries’ resources and opportunities.  Still, the U.S. asserts itself as a leader in issues that affect everyone globally, such as climate change.  The Copenhagen Accord was developed, and it posed a challenge to generate support for the ideas in order to make strides in mitigating humans’ negative impact on the environment for a healthier world.  Understanding the degree of influence the United States has over the global community, it offered astronomical amounts of financial aid to countries such as Maldives, put pressure on countries like Ethiopia, and made many attempts to spy on and send secret cables to other countries.  When these efforts were revealed in a WikiLeaks forum, it turned some heads.  Still, the Copenhagen Accord was able to generate support from three quarters of those countries that were parties to the UN climate change convention.

I brought my diagram to full circle with the connection back to the recurring theme of money.  The concept of money is a very interesting and dynamic topic.  On one hand, it creates a dependency on the donor nation like the United States, for example.  When you have a dependency on a nation, you can become subject to issues on their agenda.  When a dependency cycle comes into play, global politics and power can often become the forefront subject that drives decisions by superpowers.  On the other hand, financing developing countries is positive in that it allows for opportunities for those nations to develop themselves.  This also ties into underdeveloped countries receiving compensation for being affected by climate change when they did not have the capabilities to heavily affect the change.  For instance, a poorer country with limited access to fossil fuels will likely not create even a fraction of a carbon footprint that an industrialized nation does.  I believe the U.S. State Department cables should not have been released because it did not result in any productive results other than select distrust in the government.  While I do not think the method was a completely good one or a noble one, the ends truly do justify the ends.  I believe in the global community, a strong and unwavering approach to getting others on board will help the collective problem of making Earth more sustainable.  Sometimes harsh steps, like appealing to developing countries through finances, or spying on other countries are necessary, though they may not be appealing from a larger crowd.  The most important thing to me is getting results.  In a world divided by so many individual action issues, we must continue to explore steps that will augment collective actions.

Earthquakes, Thunderstorms and Flooding Vulnerabilities

The Nathan maps showed that my hometown, Sugarloaf, PA, is situated in an area of low risk in terms of likeliness of being directly affected by natural hazards.  My area had an increase in mean temperature and precipitation between 1978-2007, and based on the maps, hailstorms and tornadoes are some of our largest threats.  This document is not a good tool, because it does not update itself, and it could be outdated by now (since it was published in 2011).  The maps are too small to accurately identify which categories my town fit into.  Additionally, the climate impacts features on the large map does not show what areas the impacts are reaching.  Instead, the map simply places a small symbol at various places.

Shingu, Japan experienced a strong, 6.0-magnitude earthquake this morning.  People very likely felt the quake, with objects falling off of shelves.  While my hometown could certainly experience earthquakes, it is unlikely we will ever see one this strong.  Japan is more likely to have frequent seismic activity because it is located on the border of tectonic plates.  The earthquake originated from a point 35 miles off of the coast, so it traveled quite some distance.  At that same scale, my entire town of 22 square miles, plus neighboring towns would be heavily affected.  My town would have heavy damage primarily because of the poor structural integrity of many buildings in the area.  We don’t have a lot of extreme disasters occur in the area, so the buildings are not as equipped to deal with earthquakes than Shingu is.  Taking steps such as reinforcing buildings and requiring more sturdy foundations could be steps we could take to reduce our vulnerability.

In Sugarloaf, thunderstorms and flash floods are quite common, especially in the summertime.  In most houses in my neighborhood, a French drain and a sump pump is utilized in the basements.  This does a fairly good job of avoiding water damage, however it does not fully protect us.  My own basement flooded twice even with these protective measures.  According to Pennsylvania Ready natural hazard services, flash floods kill more than 140 people annually.  Thunderstorms also cause issues when lightening is close.  I personally have had a couple trees fall down after being struck by lightning.  The trees have resulted in damage to our house, our neighbor’s house, and our fence.  Source:

My town could reduce vulnerability to natural hazards, such as thunderstorms and flooding, in several ways.  An important step to take is to install sump pumps with back-up generators in homes that do not already have them.  I believe my town also needs more areas for runoff to flow to.  In my neighborhood, we get a lot of flooding in the streets where there is too much concrete.  By allowing more space for soil to absorb the runoff, there will be safer driving conditions.  The local construction workers and plumbers can take care of most of these steps, but it is equally homeowners’ responsibility to take action.  One way I will take action is to remind my parents to get frequent inspections on our drainage system to ensure it still works properly.  These easy steps can save people money in the long run, and may even save someone’s life.

Give your Cars a Break

I live in a small township called Sugarloaf.  It is a suburb of Hazleton, PA, which is in the northeastern region of the state.  Sugarloaf is an automobile suburb, because the town is spaced out over a decently large area, and you have to drive to Hazleton to get there.  Within the town, there are multiple neighborhoods and farms.  Roughly 4,200 people reside in the 22.5 square mile township.  Sugarloaf is one of several small municipalities outside of Hazleton.  Sugarloaf is unique because it encircles a borough called Conyngham.  Conyngham has less than half the population of Sugarloaf, but it provides most utility services to my township.  I love living in Sugarloaf.  My family has lived in a neighborhood there for 15 years.  It is a great place to raise children, and many of the activities common in Sugarloaf utilize the plentiful wooded areas.  One way Sugarloaf could become more sustainable is by transforming the transportation systems, especially by means of bicycling and public transportation.

Another city I would like to focus on is Rochester.  As with Sugarloaf, Rochester has neighborhoods that are automobile suburbs.  The city has roughly 210,600 people living in 37.1 square miles, but the whole metro area consists of over 1 million people.  Even being an automobile suburb, Rochester is taking steps to cut down on vehicular transportation.  According to the city’s website, over 45 miles of bicycle lanes have been installed on the streets since 2011, with this project ever-growing.  Bicycle parking is becoming more abundant, and the off-street trails network has been expanded.  Sugarloaf can learn from Rochester’s example.  I believe expanding my township’s on-road bicycle lanes and parking is key in encouraging more people to bike to Hazleton.  Even though Rochester has many more people than Sugarloaf does, every town’s efforts make a difference.

Curitiba, Brazil is also a good role model for Sugarloaf.  With about 1.8 million people living in 166.4 square miles, and over 3 million people in the entire metro area, a good transportation system is necessary.  Choosing buses as the primary transportation method, the city has seen remarkable results, and is contributing significantly to sustainability.  The only time when public transportation is used in Sugarloaf is when children take the school bus.  These buses are not utilized during the other hours of the day, however.  If buses were used more often for transportation to Hazleton, parking would be more available and less gas would be emitted.  While there is public transportation within the city of Hazleton, so many people travel to the city, and therefore a bus system should be better utilized.

What’s the Beef with Beef?

At 5:30 a.m., I wake up, I work out, and I drink a whey protein shake with milk.  I cook an egg and a turkey burger around 8:00.  At 1:00, I grab a roast beef or tuna sandwich from a cafe.  At 6:00 p.m., I throw a chicken breast in the oven, and grab a yogurt while I wait.  My daily routine, and my roommate’s often looks very similar to this.  I have lived under the impression that as much protein I can intake as possible is healthy.  It wasn’t until I actually tracked what I ate that I realized the ridiculous amount of meat and dairy products I consume in a day.  The social norm I fall into is quite common on campus, especially with those who exercise often.  The impression that many students have is that the more protein in the form of meat and dairy, the better.  When it comes down to food choices, your body cannot properly use the protein unless you have a balance and consume a variety of vegetables.  When it is not used towards muscle growth and repair, it is stored as fat.

One societal issue that struck me was how much beef Americans eat, and the hidden effects of continuing this agricultural and consumer cycle of never-ending beef production.  With 8 times more land used towards feeding animals than humans, it is no wonder the greenhouse gas emissions of cows in America are higher than those of 22 million cars!  Yet, when most people think of emissions of gas like methane and nitrous oxide, they typically think of situations of burning fossil fuels through vehicles and factories- not livestock.  While health effects like heart disease and high blood pressure are more visible consequences of eating too much beef, the environmental consequences are massive.  Too many individuals concern themselves with the immediate benefits like a cheap meal, rather than understanding the larger, more important picture.


Solar Power is now more Accessible than Ever

A photovoltaic-powered pumping system is a fancy term for a solar energy-powered water pump.  According to Colby College, this device was studied in seven rural areas located far away from established electricity grids in Wyoming.  The subject locations required a lot of water to sustain their livestock, and the pumps were tested for efficiency and cost-effectiveness as an alternative energy source.  The users had some issues with their systems as the result of environmental factors such as high velocity winds, pump clogs, and freezing temperatures.  However, at each instance of a system problem, it was an easy fix.  All of the subjects reported being satisfied with the system overall.  Both the system owners and the local electric utility saved a lot of money, and the sites significantly reduced their demand for nonrenewable energy.  The goal of the development is to use solar energy as a cost-effective alternative energy source for pumping water in rural areas.  This relates to the module because it aims to create environmental justice for those who live in rural areas.

The nonprofit organization called Aurore has received the Ashden Award, an international recognition for championing sustainable energy.  Aurore successfully supplied affordable electrical services to over 20,000 families in India by 2004 through photovoltaic water pumps, solar home systems, and solar lanterns.  Partnering with the Indian government, Aurore funded the bulk of startup and maintenance costs.  With the new home systems in place, users only pay 1,000 Rupees ($22 U.S.) as an initial charge, and then a monthly rental fee of 100 Rupees ($2 U.S.).  With 80% of Indians living on less than $2 U.S. a day, and 44% of Indians lacking grid electricity, the new pumps and solar energy have made huge impacts.  Many of the development goals are being reached with the new pumps, allowing those with low income and low access to electricity grids to live and work much more productively.  I feel this case ties in to environmental justice as well.  In parts of the world that need a boost to kickstart development, organizations like Aurore are helping to bridge the gap.

I am from a rural suburb called Sugarloaf, PA.  Energy is provided to us in several different ways.  In recent years, I have actually noticed a significant increase in solar panels in my area.  I know of four separate households who have, or are in the process of implementing large-scale solar panels, in a small community.  These case studies were very insightful to me, because I always pictured solar energy as being much too expensive to be cost-effective, and I did not understand the full spectrum of uses solar energy can provide.  I have learned that the electricity to pump water can be easily powered through alternative sources.  In my hometown, there are parts that are definitely far from an electric grid, and so using solar power would likely benefit them in the long run.  In the case in India, it just goes to show that solar power is sustainable financially for even those in poverty if the community takes collective action.  As far as development goes in my community, I think our geography plays a huge role.  I live in a valley, but the surrounding mountains can be good locations for windmills.  In utilizing solar energy, I believe there needs to be more information put out to the community to get rid of the stigma that it is not sustainable.  There are many new neighborhoods being built around me, and I think those are key locations to hone in on.  With new homes, it is easier to start out with solar pumps and other systems, rather than having to replace older systems down the road.  All in all, I think my community has the ability to come together.

Hannah Levine – Module 4

1-a:  I am from a small suburban township in north eastern PA called Sugarloaf.  Just outside of Hazleton, it is one of many small townships and boroughs in the area.  Our water utilities come from the Conyngham Borough Water Authority, a neighboring municipality.  In Conyngham, there are just five wells, a reservoir, and a holding tank.  These provide the sources of water for about 1,000 connections, including commercial and residential.  While the majority of the connections are residential, some of the largest include an elementary/middle school and a gas station.  From the wells and reservoir, water is pumped into the tank.  A gravitational system, as well as pumps, feed the water into direct lines to buildings where it is used and drained into a 4 inch pipe that feeds into a main line.  An interceptor brings the waste water to a treatment facility in Conyngham where it is recycled and moved back into the reservoir and tank.


mod 4

1-c:  I failed this experiment within 5 minutes of being awake… yikes.  As it is a requirement to look clean and professional when conducting ROTC activities, I had to shower before going to my class.  I attempted to take a short shower, but with my high-flow shower head, I probably used 25 gallons in only 5 minutes.  Nevertheless, I still attempted to use as little as possible!  I decided to primarily focus on cutting down on drinking and cooking water, toilet water and sink water.  My typical daily gallon of drinking water was curbed by eating lots of raw food with natural water, like vegetables, which also eliminated cooking water.  I drank about a half gallon.  I convinced my roommates to not flush the toilet all day, but I could not stop the automatic-flush public toilet I used once. Hand sanitizer replaced sink water, and I used only a sprinkle of water for teeth brushing.  With the exception of my shower, I’m pleased to say I stayed under the two gallon limit.  If I had conducted this experiment on a weekend, I would definitely skip the shower.  The thing I’m not pleased about is that something so small like flushing our toilet the next day (literally) flushes down the possibility of continuing the 2 gallon challenge long term.  This was a huge wake-up call, seeing the amount I effortlessly use on a daily basis, compared to how limited some people are.  Geography is a key player in water use, because it is directly affected by water availability and other resources.  I believe my hometown can do so much more collective and individual action to ensure we maintain our small water supply.

Hannah Levine – 1, 2, 6

1. One substantially difficult question of ethics is that of if virtue or action ethics are more important.  Virtue ethics, focuses more on qualities, intentions and attitudes toward a matter.  It can impact your actions tremendously.  Likewise, action ethics can shape your virtues.  Action ethics refers to viewing what we should do to take action as the most important approach.

In my opinion, I believe action ethics are slightly more important that virtue ethics in most scenarios, though they typically go hand-in-hand.  I have found in my life that serving others’ needs before my own has shaped me into more of a person of character, than believing in something first and then taking actions.  Performing good acts almost always leads to being a better person, and it is a more productive way to work together with people.  However, one downside of being more action-based ethically, is that sometimes your own beliefs or misconceptions can hinder good work.  If you are more virtue-based ethically, you typically act because you want to help and you believe in a cause.  This can produce more dedication and hard work.

All in all, however, I feel preforming good acts is more important than being a good person.  Only you can change your virtues, but by performing good acts, you are helping others in the process.  One great example is recycling, whether or not you feel it is effective enough.  You open up the opportunity to help the environment, regardless of if you have a strong opinion on it.


2. The difficulty of the ends justifying the means argument is that it is totally situationally-based, as with most ethical situations.  To what degree can one honestly say that it is universally acceptable or unacceptable?  Based solely on my own personally experiences thus far, I would agree that in most cases the ends do justify the means.

When it comes down to the process of deciding how to execute this type of situation, one must consider the consequences of the actions taken, and decide if the payoff is worth the sacrifice.  I feel that most of the time when people sacrifice a little for the sake of a greater ends, their intentions are good.  When a situation occurs where the payoff is not great enough for the ends to justify the means, it is rarely out of ill-will or malice.  Rather, it is usually negligence to fully understand the situation, or a miscommunication.  One example is if a community reconstructed a sewage line to make it more environmentally friendly and cost-effective.  In the process, several species could be driven out of the area, but over all the new line could do more good.  In my experience, the good intentions quite often pay off, and so I do believe the ends typically justify the means.


6. I believe this question is a very powerful one in this day in age.  There are so many different perspectives about this issue, and I think everyone should reflect on their answer to this question.  For me personally, I honestly feel deep down that my life is worth no more or no less than any other human’s.  As someone who intends on serving in the military after college, this is something I have had to think about a lot.  I value everyone else’s lives and rights to freedoms and opportunities, and so I am willing to defend individuals who I will never even meet.  I also value my own life, and know the impact my decisions have on my family.  I believe valuing my life is knowing what I have to offer, in a way.  While I would risk my life for another’s if necessary, I am confident that I can influence others by passing along some of my knowledge and being a good leader.  I think the difficult part is understanding people on an individual level.  Do others value their lives more than mine?  Do they value my life more than their own?  This effects how I interact with others, and in the military, it is a crucial part to establishing an effective team.

As I have found I am inadvertently quite anthropocentric, this question leaves me wondering how much other nonhuman species affect my life.  How much should I value them?

Hannah Levine

Hannah Levine

Hannah Levine

The basis behind my diagram is the idea of “systems perspective” and “system diagrams,” because no matter what you are dealing with, everything in the human or social system affects everything in the ecosystem, and everything in the ecosystem affects everything in the social system.  If you look at these systems as having both direct and trickle-down effects, you will find that small changes lead to big ripple effects.  As I have found in the module, biogas is one factor that can have a positive effect on both the environmental or ecosystem spheres, as well as the social system.  Using biogas led to cleaner air and byproducts, leading to healthier populations of humans, and an increase in the job opportunities for women especially.

Gerry Marten’s diagram differs because it displays much more broad concepts about the ecosystem and social system such as “knowledge,” “population,” and “animals.”  While this is somewhat similar to my diagram in that there are core facets that may be affected no matter what, it is different because it does not identify specific relationships that were presented in the biogas case.  One thing that Marten’s diagram does do, however, is represent the two systems as a cyclical process.  In retrospect I should have done this as well.

Hannah Levine

Good afternoon, my name is Hannah Levine.  I am a junior studying Public Relations in the College of Communications, and I have minors in Information Sciences & Technology (IST) and Military Studies.  I am currently in Penn State’s Army ROTC program.  Upon graduation, I am hoping to commission as an officer in Military Intelligence.  I have lived in New Jersey and Virginia, but I moved to Pennsylvania in 2001, where I have lived ever since.  I live in a town outside of Hazleton called Sugarloaf, which is in northeastern PA.  Geography interests me for a couple of reasons.  My family and I have had the opportunity to travel to several foreign countries, and it is always fun to learn about other cultures.  Another reason is the fact that geography is a crucial aspect of every occupation.  As a future intelligence officer, it will be my job to gather all types of data, analyze the physical and human geography, and synthesize a clear idea of a situation.

One issue that especially stands out to me is the problem of visualization.  From charts to diagrams to map projections, any visual presentation can be distorted.  The creators of such may distort their map’s presentation for more user-friendliness purposes, based on bias, or from a misuse of projection.  Projection is a representation of a surface such as Earth’s round sphere to a two-dimensional map.  Considering all map projections are flawed in some fashion, it shapes people’s attitudes and beliefs in different ways.  I believe projection is one of the greatest challenges in geography, because it all depends upon the purpose of the map and creating the appropriate visualization.  This issue speaks to me personally because as someone who will be analyzing maps of cities and terrain, it is essential to understand the projection scheme and the intended visualization.