Habitat destruction

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The learning activity I decided to give myself was to create a system diagram of something that lead to a loss of biodiversity. Also within my learning activity I had to talk about my diagram. Finally, the last part of my learning activity was to relate biodiversity to something I’ve experienced in my life.


For the first part of my learning activity I drew a system diagram about how the expansion of china has led to the loss of pandas. Obviously, the over population in China has effected much more than just the pandas, but for my diagram I focused mainly on pandas. Pandas populations have dramatically decreased due to China’s farming practices and overgrowth. As we learned in this module biodiversity is threatened by growing human populations and consumption levels, making this a perfect example.  The diagram is simple, but shows how the loss continues. As China grows they require more land. This in turn requires them to use more forests, taking the pandas habitats. Also, they’re cutting down the food supply causing it hard for pandas to survive. This has to do with acronym H.I.P.P.O. In this case habitat loss, and human population is what is affecting the pandas. In module 10 we learned that this is normally due to agriculture activities, like the ones in China. We also learned that the impacts of biodiversity fall largely on population size. This also depends on the types and amounts of resources they’re using (I=PAT). However, the overall population in China is what’s causing the species loss.

A personal experience that I’ve had with biodiversity loss was when I was interning at a state park. We had a problem with invasive species which eventually lead to a decrease in some species because they didn’t have any food. The invasive species of honey suckle took over an entire field. To get rid of it we physically had to cut it down. As we learned in this module, new species in an area competes with the other species for food. In this case the honeysuckle was winning, killing everything else. The honeysuckle didn’t just affect other plants, but also the animals. Birds were feeding on berry bushes growing in that field which were killed by the honey suckle. After the honey suckle took over we saw less birds in the area.

WikiLeaks Module 9


2. My system diagram focuses on the information from the article WikiLeaks diplomatic cables. It mainly focuses on the Copenhagen accord.  A convention in Copenhagen was formed in response to the issue of climate change around the world. Countries got together trying to come up with ways to reduce human’s impacts on the environment. This is where the U.S came up with the Copenhagen accord. This accord would allow countries to set the own goals for cutting greenhouse gases, but it didn’t guarantee the greenhouse gas cuts needed to avoid dangerous warming. These obligations led many countries to disagree with the accord, especially the poorest. Getting as many countries to agree strongly served U.S interest. The U.S. then uses bribery and espionage to gain support of other countries. Some countries needed little persuading, such as the poorest nations who would receive aid.  Through these bribes, bulling, and promises of payments the United States eventually received 75% support for the accord. This was nearly 140 out of 193 of the negotiating countries. Even though the U.S. used bullying and bribery to get its way we can hope that it serves a purpose. Hopefully greenhouse gas levels will begin to decline as countries execute their plans.

3. Exposing the cables kind of crosses ethical boundaries. Action ethics makes us consider do the ends justify the means? The U.S. used dishonesty and bribery to obtain agreements on the accord, but did this need to happen. Maybe through more negotiating they could have come up with a plan that more countries would have agreed on without being pushed. Although, is it justifiable because it enables more sustainability in the world? It’s really hard to determine if the cables should have been exposed or not. However, this dishonesty could lead to other serious issues for the U.S. Now other countries will be skeptical when negotiating with the United States. This could then create collective action problems. If the WikiLeak didn’t happen maybe more countries would’ve agreed with the accord. Also, as we learned in module 9 collective action towards mitigation, there are many different countries, each unique in their own way. They see climate change in different ways than we do, so we shouldn’t pressure them to be on our side. However, the long term goal is to reduce carbon emission and climate change. In that sense I don’t think the cables were a big deal. The U.S. was just doing what they thought would help reach their end goal of reducing climate change.

Natural Disasters

I live in Pittsburgh, which is a decent sized city. However, using the Nathan map it’s hard to pinpoint where Pittsburgh is. It would be a lot more helpful if you could search for your city. Then the map could list possible natural hazards you could face in that city. Also, the maps don’t even have the states outlined, this makes it even harder to guess where my city is. Based on the information from the Nathan map my city is at very low risks for natural hazards. Wildfires, tornadoes, and tropical storms pose very little threat to my city. They’re all categorized in very low zones. From the map it looks like my city could face heavy rain or a slight hail storm. During the El Nino, the maps shows warmer weather and less storms. On the other hand, during the La Nina there is an increase in storms.

The disaster I chose was a wildfire in Cherokee National Forest in Northeast Tennessee. This event is very unlikely to happen in my city because we don’t experience a lot of hot temperature with no rain. The ground in my city is saturated and wouldn’t burn as fast as somewhere like Tennessee that’s dry. The fire was believed to be human caused and burned around 150 acres of lands. Although this is very large scale, something like this in my town would be devastating. I live in a city that’s very populated and has little forests. If 150 acres of forests burned this would be almost a whole State Park. This event in Tennessee was only considered medium damage. In my city it would considered high damage because of how close everything is and how little forests we have. This disaster could possible harm a lot of people in my home town. We’re all in close proximity and definitely not prepared for a forest fire. As we know from this module the severity of the disaster depends on both physical nature of the event and the social nature of the human population. The physical nature part wouldn’t have a big role for my city, because as I stated we aren’t prone to forest fires. The vulnerability to humans would be based on how close they live to a forests. The closer you are the more danger you face. You could reduce the towns’ vulnerability by posting signs during a dry season so people know forests fires are at a higher chance. Also, you can make sure the town has a good emergency response team. These people can help conceal the fire before it spreads further.

A natural hazard my city could face is something like a blizzard or severely cold temperatures. We also face slight tornado hazards. These could lead to power outages, or even car accidents. When I was in middle school we had a snow storm in Pittsburgh so bad school was canceled for a week. We also didn’t have power for two days. This was actually a very serious situation because the temperature was around 10 degrees. People could have face hypothermia if they weren’t prepared or outside for a long time.

To reduce vulnerability in my home town we could make sure we’re prepared. This includes having a good emergency response team or even and emergency kit at home with basic needs such as water and food in it. To reduce power outages we could make sure tree are away from the power lines. For us to prevent flooding we could make sure we have adequate drains. You could also have backup power in your home such as a generator. The best thing for a natural disaster is to be educated and prepare for the worse. The best people to help overcome these are local authorities, or the whole community working together.

Sustainable Cities Module 7

I’m from Robinson, which is about 10 miles from the city of Pittsburgh. This area is an automobile suburb. The area consists of mainly family homes and some small businesses. People use their cars the get to school, work, and stores. The only place within walking distance is your neighbor’s house. A census done in 2013, reported that 13,354 people were living in the area. The population density is around 890/ sq. mile. The community may be relatively small, but being close to a big city gives it assets associated with living in the city. We have a local bus system, but it’s very inefficient and people only use it if they have to. I enjoy living in Robinson it’s a quiet, safe neighborhood, where parents can enjoy raising a family. I wouldn’t consider my neighborhood sustainable, but it has other advantages.

The first city I will be talking about is Rochester, New York. I chose this city because it’s your stereotypical family neighborhood. Everything such as grocery stores, work, shopping malls, and schools require you to drive to and from. This neighborhood has a low population density like the one I live in. Also, like my neighborhood there aren’t many sidewalks because we rely on cars to transport us. This causes problems for public transportation because everyone is so spaced out. More routes and stops are needed to take people to their destination, which in term is almost impracticable. As we learned in the module population density has a significant effect on the pollution from that city. Insights from this city could help my town become more sustainable by building more apartments and taller buildings, increasing the population density. This will then reduce our environmental impact. Robinson contains a lot of abandoned buildings which could be remolded into green buildings. This change could improve environmental standards making up for the overuse of automobiles.

The next city I chose was Bogota, Columbia which is an automobile based town like mine. In Bogota they shut down 75 miles of streets for people to do activities such as biking, dance, and aerobics. Shutting down the streets is a great idea for my community. Car-free streets would allow people to exercise and have events like Ciclovia. This also would promote other modes of transportation such as walking, or biking. In the module we talked about how pedestrian neighborhoods are overall healthier because of the exercise they receive from going places. Shutting down the streets in my town would allow people to feel safe to walk, while maybe participating in neighborhood activities such as kickball. Stopping traffic would also lead to less pollution from cars decreasing our town’s environmental impact. This would be a great way for people to come together and get fresh air.

Module 6- Johnna Puhr

My freshman year of college I went to school as a vegetarian, and my food choices were hugely affect by social norms. During college being a vegetarian become a huge challenge. Social norms dictate that you eat meat during, holidays, cookouts, and in everyday life. My choices in the cafeterias were very slim. Also, being a college student I didn’t have enough money or time to cook healthy and be a vegetarian. Sadly I had to change my eating habits because I was becoming very unhealthy. Social norms definitely changed the way I eat today. The social norm in today’s society is to eat meat, and many vegetarian options aren’t offered. People choose food types on what they perceive is the social norm, and sadly I had to become one of these people. Also, being a vegetarian in college made me feel like it odd one out. I didn’t want people to look at me or treat me differently because I didn’t eat meat.

Obesity has become a huge societal issue in our country. A major cause of this is food chains and poor meal choices as I experienced in college. Fast food makes getting food cheap, easy, and fast, which is something Americans value. To get food this cheap and fast we’re sacrificing how healthy the food is. Another major issue is that healthy food is expensive. For a struggling family it’s a lot cheaper to eat off the dollar menu than to prepare a homemade meal. Obesity is a direct result of an unhealthy lifestyle and bad eating habits. However, this issue is very hard to take care of. It’s impossible to have the perfect diet or lifestyle. The social norm of eating meat also causes environmental issues from how much meet we need to produce. People in today’s society idolize people with the perfect figure. I think that there shouldn’t be an ideal body type. The new norm should be for everyone to be happy with who they are, as long as their healthy.

System diagram jxp5478

Unsustainable Development Johnna Puhr

The first case study I chose was done in Indonesia. The source of the information comes from “Cash Crops, Foods Crops, and Sustainability: The Case of Indonesia. This case study focuses on how Indonesia’s desire for food sufficiency in rice compromised its ability to address the issue of sustainable agriculture. Agriculture in Indonesia has been primarily concerned with self-sufficiency. Unfortunately, this goal came at a cost of unsustainable agriculture development. This program in achieving self-sufficiency had significant external environmental costs such as the depletion of natural resources. This case study relate to the module because it’s an example of how sustainable development can be hard to reach. For sustainable development you need to meet the needs of the present without compromising for the future, which Indonesia failed to do. This article also relates to the development downsides part of the module. Development can increase health and quality while it can also decrease health in quality, which can be seen in this case study. Indonesia achieve self-sufficiency, but failed to consider the environmental impacts.

The second case study I read took place in India. The case study was trying to implement a plan to lessen India’s environmental impact. Current environmental issues they were dealing with were deforestation, soil erosion, and overgrazing. These problems were due to over development of certain parts of India. They called this plan “Empowering People for Sustainable Development”. The main goals of this plan were to set environmental standards, and conserve natural resources. This relates to the module because once again it’s a plan for sustainable development. It’s taking into consideration the needs of the future. It also relates to the module because it’s an example of how there is continuum of development around the world, with no gap in the middle. Another key point in the article that relates to the module is environmental determination. The article talks about how the development in India is focused in certain spots due to the environmental factors. This article talked about how India failed in sustainable development at one time, and what they did to change it.

I live in Pittsburgh where development can be seen every day. An example of unsustainable development happen in my back yard. They were putting in office buildings, but didn’t take into effect the environmental damage they were causing. After these offices were built soil erosion increased drastically. It actually became such a problem that they had to go back and fix. This relates to my case studies because the development was aimed to be a good thing such as Indonesia’s rice development. However, just as in the first case study it appear to have some sustainability kinks. Although, once they realized this would be a problem the developers went back and created a plan to fix the erosion. This relates to the second case study where India knew they had a problem and implemented a plan to fix it. From these case studies we can learn that sustainable development can be hard to achieve, but there’s always improvements. It’s important to examine geography because you don’t want to create an unsustainable development and harm future needs.

Case study 1 http://personal.colby.edu/personal/t/thtieten/ag-ind.html

Case study 2 http://www.iisd.org/pdf/2004/measure_sdsip_india.pdf

Water Consumption: Module 4 Johnna Puhr

Part 1-a: I live in Pittsburgh, Pa which is a big city. The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority currently serves 113,000 sewage connections and 83,000 drinking water connections. The water treatment plant produces 70 million gallons of water per day. The PWSA also has four booster pumping stations which helps the water get to the houses. Pittsburgh draws its water from the Allegheny River, no ground water or well water is used. The treatment process for this water take three days. The first stage of the water treatment process is clarification. In this process silts and clays are removed from the water. This stage also involves the treatment of chemicals, which create clumps. These clumps are then removed from gravity sedimentation. The next stage the water is filtered. It slowly passes through coal, sand, and gravel filters in order to remove microorganisms. The last stage is disinfection where the water is treated with chlorine to remove any other microorganisms. Then the water is pumped from the treatment facility to homes. After the water is used in our homes it flows through pipes to Robinson treatment facility. It is then treated and dumped back into the river. From here the process repeats itself.


Part 1-b:

Activities Number of times Water Used Total
Brushing Teeth 3 1 gallon 3 gallons
Showering 2 75 gallons 150 gallons
Washing dishes 15 Minutes 2 gallons per minute 30 gallons
Work refilled water 2 times 1 gallon 2 gallons
Drinking / Cooking 16 glasses 1 cup 16 cups
Bathroom 10 1.6 gallons 16 gallons
Washing Hands 14 1 gallon 14 gallons
Total 216 Gallons


Part 1-c:

I realized that I used a lot of water a day. The top priorities for me would be eating and drinking. I don’t use a lot of water for cooking, so most of it would go to drinking and the rest hygiene. The average body needs about half a gallon of water a day. I would use a sink full of water and washcloth to bath. I failed at this experiment. I reduced my use down to around 100 gallons. The only way I could make 2 gallons work is if I was forced to. Although, I do have a lot of bad habits that if I fix could cut back on my water consumption. For example, cutting back on my shower time could save a substantial amount of water. Geography matters in water use because it dictates the amount of water the population has access to. For example, developing countries have little access and technology, so they don’t use as much water as developed countries. Also, geography has a big impact on the way the water is transported, if it can flow by gravity or if it needs to be pumped.



Module 3: Johnna Puhr

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

I think that it’s more important to be a good person rather than performing good acts. Being a good person is having the ability to let everyone be who they are without judgement. A good person gives themselves even when there is nothing left to give, but someone needs them. However, people may argue that being a good person comes with performing good acts. Being a good person isn’t necessarily about setting time aside to do good deeds. It’s about making decisions where no one is harmed by your actions or choices. A good person understands that we’re all connected and that our choices have impacts on others. Unlike performing good deeds it doesn’t take extra time and energy to be a good person, it takes the right attitude and approach to life. Being a good person means you’re doing things and living your life to make a change, even if that change is minuscule. You could have a horrible attitude and do good things in spite of what you are deep down. Doing a good deed doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a good person because it’s for a finite amount of time. A good act is just a simple activity like donating to the Salvation Army while walking into Walmart or shoveling your neighbor’s driveway after you’ve done your own. On the other hand, being a good person is something that’s infinite. It’s a lifestyle that includes countless good deeds that you don’t keep a tally on. A good person naturally does good acts without even noticing.

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

The question “Do the ends justify the means?” is a question that needs to be answered based on the situation. The question depends on what the end goals are and what means are being used to achieve them.  It’s important to use context and weigh judgments and keeping the big picture in mind. If the end results are noble and the means we use to reach them are good, the ends do justify the means. However, some take this expression as it doesn’t matter how you get what you want as long as you get it. It becomes an excuse to achieve goals through any means necessarily even if it’s illegal or immoral. Although, this expression can involve doing something wrong to achieve a positive ending. An example is lying on a resume. You may get a good job, but this doesn’t justify you lying.  It’s hard to draw a line on this expression because it can be interpreted in many ways. For example, if you could kill someone to save your family would you do it? Do these ends justify the means? Does your family’s life justify taking the life of another? Honestly, in a way it’s based on morality. In this situation killing someone is immoral, but saving the family is good and a moral outcome. With that being said, this question can’t apply on everything unless the mindset is right. Although, I also believe that the ends never justify the means and this is just an excuse for people to get what they want.

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

I do not believe that my own life is worth more than others. I believe that all lives are equally important. We are all born equal, we have the same emotions, and feel the same pain. So, why would one life be more important than another?  We all have the same needs and wants. There’s nothing that makes one person more important than another. My life is just as important as a 100 year old woman, or the president. However, I do believe we subconsciously value the lives of some more than others. For example, we tend to value the lives of family and friends over the lives of others. If given the chance to save a life of a family member or a stranger, I’m sure almost all of us would save our family member. Although, this doesn’t mean that their life was more important than the strangers. It’s merely a selfish thing because we love them and their death will affect us. It doesn’t in any way mean that the stranger’s life wasn’t important.  Also, we do value some lives of some strangers more than others, such as the president. If the president dies we’re all affected by it, but this doesn’t mean his life was more important. All people have the same rights and responsibilities as one another. Every human life has value. In a moral sense no one can be superior or worth more.

Module Two Learning Activity: Johnna Puhr

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The core ideas behind my diagram is to show the environmental and social effects of the Biogas generator. As we learned in module two, the system works as a human- environment system as most systems we see every day do. The diagram has both negative and positive feedback loops. An example of a positive feedback loop is the overgrowing population has a source of food from the farms. The effects overall benefit the social system and ecosystem. The population can now use Biogas as a source of fuel, in which helps the ecosystem by the reduction of cutting down trees. With this technology India can accumulate a greater resilience meaning that disturbances such as a population spike won’t cause huge problems. As you can see from my diagram firewood creates pollution from smoke which has a negative effect on the population. The introduction of the biogas generator decreases the environmental impact and lessens the health effects on the population.


My diagram is very similar to the one in the Marten reading. Most of the similarities lie under the ecosystem side. Both diagrams have the concept of the biogas generator, farming fields for food. The differences between Figure 1.5 in the Marten reading and my diagram is that I consider the pollution effects from smoke from the firewood. I also consider the fact that children will be missing school to collect wood to burn. This diagram was also difficult for me to make. Mine is harder to read than the one in the reading. The two diagrams are different because everyone interprets the information differently. Something I put on my diagram someone else might not think of. I may have focused my diagram on different aspects than the one in the reading causing them to be different. What we can learn by these different comparisons between the two diagrams is that everyone interprets information in their own way.

Getting to know you: Module 1

Hi everyone, my name is Johnna Puhr. I’m currently a junior studying Environmental Systems Engineering at Penn State University Park. I grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana on the bayou. I grew up fishing and playing in the swamp. For a living my family in Louisiana catches and distributes crawfish and some crabs. My freshman year of high school my family relocated to Pittsburgh, PA where I currently reside. Right now I’m not entirely sure what career I want to pursue with my degree. Ideally I would like to work for a big company as their environmental consultant. I love anything science related so, my interest in this course is to learn about our impact on the environment. I’m taking this course as part of my degree requirements but excited to see what I’m going to get out of it.

An issue that I’m concerned about that geography can address is our impact on the environment and natural resources. I don’t think we realize that everything we do impacts the environment in some way. While looking through Module 1 I was really surprised by the drought in Folsom, California. The entire lake dried up in just three years. For another class I’m taking I had to watch the documentary Tapped, which is about the water bottle industry. This documentary revealed that by 2030 we won’t have any clean drinking water. I think water is something that we all take for granted, but is a necessity for life. As we learned in Module 1 human- environments interactions is how human decision making shapes the natural environment. Obviously, as seen in Folsom California we need to start making different decisions before we have no water left. Sustainability is key to every decision that we make when it comes to our impact on the environment. We need to be able to go about everyday activities without causing significant environmental changes. Every day we are depleting a number of natural resources, but what happens when they’re gone?