Learning Assignment-Module 10 Biodiversity

  1. Construct a system diagram relating what you learned about biodiversity and the case study done in the Amazon rainforest.  
  2. In 150-200 words describe the diagram you made in question 1 and how biodiversity can be related to the Amazon rainforest.
  3. In 175-300 words describe biodiversity in your own hometown and some events that might or have affected it.

Amazon Diagram-krc5347


Biodiversity and the Amazon rainforest are very closely intertwined.  The Amazon rainforest is the largest rainforest in the world, producing many crops for export such as bananas, pineapples, and sugarcane.  Rainforests are often called the “lungs of the planet” because of their large intakes of carbon dioxide and larger releases of oxygen.  Rainforests are also called the “cradles of biodiversity” as there are home to 50% of the World’s biodiversity.  It is because of this that issues such as deforestation and clear cutting are such a problem, not only for sustainability and renewable resources, but also the life of biodiversity.  Deforestation occurs in the Amazon rainforest through processes such as mining or construction of new roads.  However, it can also be caused by poor farmers accepting to clear land in order to farm it.  Farming does not last very long in one area though. This is because the soil is not very fertile.  Cutting down the trees is also leaving many animals without homes and as a result, there is a lack then of biodiversity.  Farmers also hunt the remaining forested areas, furthering the lack of biodiversity in the vast area. 

3.There is quite a lot of biodiversity in my hometown.  My home in Snow Shoe, PA  is surrounded by the outdoors and is home to many species of animals.  Over last few years there has been a disturbance however, in the amount of untouched land.  Many gas wells have popped up in the area, which disrupts not only wildlife, but also the water systems.  In the past, there also used to be a shallow coal mine close to my home.  Mining very much disrupted the wildlife in the area for some time.  Now, many years later, the land has been reclaimed by the state.  Although this land is back to the way it was before the mining took place, it still is just a wide open field with much fewer trees than before as well as loss of habitat.  Another activity that many would argue contributes to a lack biodiversity in the area is hunting.  Where I come from everybody hunts as a way to fill their freezer and feed their family.   Although some would say this decreases the population of certain species, it is another means of controlling the population as well as a food source.  For instance, my county participates in a yearly coyote hunt.  This is an organized hunt, but while others may see it as a cruel way of hunting for sport, its larger, original purpose was to help control the overwhelming population in the area.    

Module 9 Learning Assignment

climate_diagram_krc5347 (1)


Just as my diagram shows, the need for a renewable energy source to overtake that of fossil fuels is in high demand.  Fossil fuels, one of the most used forms of energy since the industrial revolution are not only unsustainable but when burned, produce greenhouse gasses. Such an increase in greenhouse gasses greatly affects climate change.  Climate change can be a hard issue to combat.  Not only are greenhouse gasses hard to stop because fossil fuels are so heavily imbedded in our country’s industry, but climate change is such a huge collective action problem, making it one of the biggest problems our world faces.  Because of this, the climate accord was proposed by world leaders.  This accord set out to find ways that would decrease the emission of harmful greenhouse gasses helping to warm the troposphere and Earth’s surface.  It also brought up more assistance to less fortunate countries facing climate change.  This climate accord was backed by espionage on the U.S. front in the form of cables in the attempt to bribe developing countries into accepting and joining their views of how to combat this issue.  Conversation and interactions between the U.S and said developing countries were then publicized by Wikileaks.  This then exposed the U.S.’s manipulation of climate change.  Following the leak, 116 countries have since jumped on the accord bandwagon while another 26 say they intend to associate with the initiative.  Following this, UN climate change negotiations in Mexico proved to give the boost a huge boost.  

On the topic of the State Department making the cables public, I would say they should have instead of leaving them to be leaked.  I believe they should have made the climate accord a public matter.  Just as climate change is a collective issue, the public should be entitled to know about what is being done to combat it.  Withholding such information almost makes the accord seem like something illegal, which even though it had some bad instances, was mostly just trying to take positive steps towards solving the issue of climate change.  Despite what may, deep down had been good intentions, Wikileaks still caught the U.S. red handed in the sense that it was not acting in a diplomatic manner.  I think the U.S. should have set a better example as a country and should not have partaken in political bribes and threats to get their way.  I feel like instead of using bribes, the U.S. should have instead tried to convince places such as Zenawi why the accord would be useful in resolving climate issues, and why they need it.  They should have been more sympathetic to each country’s needs as well.  Not every country is the same, and many are on different ends of the wealth spectrum.  I believe personalization for each county and calm negotiation would have worked in the U.S’s favor.  The desire for each country to actually want to work together to combat climate change is what really matters.  No amount of bribery or threats can put the kind of passion and interest into something the way an actual desire can.  

Kayla Crestani- Module 8 Learning Assignment

1.) Living in a small town outside of State College, it is pretty hard to pinpoint the exact natural hazards in my town using the Nathan World Map.  I think it would be more helpful if the map was interactive and could allow you to search or zoom into your exact location.  Based on the region of the United States and central location of the state, I would say that my area is low to moderate on the frequency and intensity scale for natural hazards.  This makes sense, as we do get a wide range of weather conditions but they have never been intense compared to other areas on the map.  I would agree with the placement of my area on the scales because we haven’t had a tornado in years and winter weather conditions in my area can be hazardous, but again we have not had a blizzard since 1993.

2.) The event I chose to explore was the eruption of Alaska’s volcano, Pavlof on March 28th.  My hometown cannot experience the same natural disaster simply because there are no volcanoes in Pennsylvania.  The volcano was located relatively close to Anchorage but only affected and disrupted flights overhead due to the ash in the air.  It seems that the area was prepared for the unexpected volcano as it is not the only active volcano in the state, and this was not the first time a volcano erupted.  If this were to happen in my hometown of Snow Shoe, it would cause quite a disruption and panic.  Considering the volcanic was not that severe, I think there would be more shock and panic rather than disaster.  I just don’t know if anyone would know what to do.  On the topic of vulnerability, I feel like places such as schools, stores, and portions of larger groups of people would be more vulnerable.  These places have more people located within them, making it harder to move them to safety as compared to only a few people who live farther out and in more isolated locations. If volcanoes and the chance of them erupting were a concern in my area, then I’m sure residents and emergency responders would be educated and prepared if this type of disaster ever occurred.

3.) Snow Shoe has a very low chance of earthquakes, a nonexistent chance of volcanoes, and a moderately low chance of tornadoes.  Although there have been a few minor earthquakes during my lifetime, they never amounted to much, usually falling below a 3.5 on the scale.  One event that is still talked about in my area was the blizzard of 1993.  Although a lot of the United States got hit in this event, my area suffered from low arctic temperatures and lots and lots of snow.  The area in which my hometown is located accumulated close to 40 inches of snow.  The area that I live in sits at a higher elevation, affectionately called “The Mountaintop”.  Because of this, it’s always seems that we get more snow than surrounding areas such as State College, which sits at a lower elevation.  Because of this, residents in my town are always prepared whenever a winter storm is being forecasted.

“Snow Shoe, PA Natural Disasters and Weather Extremes.” – USA.com™. Accessed April 01, 2016.



4.) One thing that my town can do to reduce vulnerability to natural hazards is to be prepared for anything.  Keeping a first aid kit in your home or in the car can prove to be very helpful and is a simple thing to throw together.  Also, preparing every home with a generator for backup would be a good idea, seeing as how many times, our power goes out due to the weather.  A lot of pre-event preparedness can also be helpful.  Having information of any big storm spotted on the radar and getting that information out quickly to the public is something that meteorologists and news crews can do to help give people some time to run to the grocery store and be prepared to stay put in their homes until the storm passes.  Having emergency responders ready and prepared to handle vehicle accidents due to the weather can also be helpful as well as keeping up with plowing and salting roads for after travel if necessary.  For my part, I think it is important to be prepared myself and to educate others.  I think it is very important, and often forgotten that during the cold winter months and in the midst of large snow accumulations, to check on the elderly and disabled to make sure they are aware and prepared to handle the weather conditions.

Module 7: Urban Planning

I live in a town called Snow Shoe, located in the northwest portion of Centre County, Pennsylvania.  Snow Shoe is relatively small, sitting on a total area of 84 square miles and home to a population of around 2,000 people.  There is not many places to walk to in town, although it is possible.  Instead, the primary form of transportation is by vehicle. Most people work in nearby towns such as State College or Bellefonte, a 20-30 minute commute.  The urban density is relatively low as there are barely any tall building structures. Most of the buildings, churches, and community buildings are getting older and somewhat run down.  There are a few apartment buildings scattered throughout and many older homes.  There are a few restaurants and bars, a medical center, and a grocery store.  The town is pretty close-knit.  Everybody knows everybody and not a lot goes unnoticed.  However, the town is getting old and rundown.  Not much has changed as my hometown looks just as it did 10 and even 20 years ago.

When comparing the urban farming initiative in Detroit, Michigan to my own home town, there are many similarities.  While my town is not urban in the slightest compared to Detroit, farming is really big.  Many people grow their own produce in their own backyards.  My family always has an abundance of cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, and peppers during the summer. Farmers in the area grow corn which is then sold fresh in food stands alongside the road.  Snow Shoe isn’t that food desert, as we do have a local grocery store, but having fresh produce available from your backyard is definitely a plus.  Because people grow their own produce, it is making them more sustainable.  Local farmers receive somewhat of a profit for selling their produce during the warmer months, just like the business aspect in the Detroit food markets.  I think for those who are not already growing their own food, it would allow for saving money, decreasing food miles, improving health, and creating an abundance of sustainable food sources.

I found it really interesting how the bus system has made such a large impact on transportation in Curitiba.  A huge bus system is very nonexistent in my town.  Everyone is pretty much on their own as far as public transportation is concerned.  Besides school buses and a Centre County Transportation bus that transports elderly residents in the area, most people rely on their own vehicles to get around.  One thing that recently starting happening, however, was a carpool.  Many people work at Penn State and may opt to take turns driving in a carpool. There are quite a few people who participate, decreasing air pollution. I carpool with my mom. This really helps save money and running one vehicle is always better than running two in terms of pollution and helping the environment.  The transportation mode in Curitiba is relatable to carpooling in my town as they both are ways of getting bigger groups of people to their destination while decreasing the amount of vehicles on the road.


Food Choice and Social Norms

An example of how my food choice was influenced by social norms was the amount of junk food and unhealthy meals I have consumed since starting college.  I’m sure this is something that other college students can relate to as well.  My freshman year I commuted to school from my home about 30 minutes away.  I always felt like I was on the run from going to school, to work, and then back home.  Because of this, I turned to fast food restaurants as an easy way to grab lunch on the go.  College is notorious for being a place for making unhealthy decisions.  From going out at night with friends to countless trips to McDonalds and Chipotle, the “freshman 15” came on quickly.  Eating out is very much a social norm in college.  My on the go schedule during school also influenced me to choose food that was cheap and quickly prepared.


One societal issue that is greatly related to eating unhealthy foods is the obesity rate in this country. The reading mentioned that out of our whole population of 7 billion people, 1 billion are undernourished and 500 are considered obese. In my experience of following such unhealthy eating behaviors and habits, I can see how this number holds true.  Obesity is such a big problem because the amount of high calorie food available outweighs the amount of healthier meal choices available on the go.  Obesity is also linked to the end use of food, nutrition.  The fast food and meals that I was consuming were not very nutritional in the least.  Burgers and fries really can’t stack up against fresh and locally grown foods. There is also the idea of sustainable food consumption.  When we choose food that is healthier for us, we are not only helping ourselves, but the environment as well.  Beef production featured in the reading made me uneasy and really second think the meat that I was consuming in my McDouble.


Module 5 Case Studies

The first case study I found was from the Colby website and talked about how wind power has become such a successful source of alternative energy in Denmark.  The case study can be found at http://personal.colby.edu/personal/t/thtieten/Vogel.htm. The goal of this wind energy development was to steer the country away from relying on fossil fuels and other unsustainable resources for energy.  Instead, Denmark was interested in implementing more renewable and diverse sources of energy.   Beginning in the 90’s, Denmark now maintains a rate of 20% renewable energy usage and produces 60% of the world’s turbines, most of which are then exported.  This topic relates to sustainable development, which was mentioned within the module.  Instead of using fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal for energy which are hard to replace, wind turbines create energy from the never ending wind, so its production will never end.


My second case study talked about dental hygiene in school aged children living in Jamaica.  The study can be found by going to http://www.cgdev.org/page/case-18-preventing-dental-caries-jamaica.   The goal of this development in dental care came after the widespread tooth decay experienced by school aged children of Jamaica in the 80’s.  Fewer than 3 in every 100 children were free of tooth decay or loss.  In 1987, Jamaica started to produce and sell fluorinated salt.  It was because of this that by the mid 90’s, dental health had improved and savings from the program were significantly high.  For every dollar spent on fluoride, 250 dollars was saved on future dental expenses.  This study brought up another way of looking at development instead of by monetary value.  Development here was based on health statistics in children and how they were not being provided the education or diet needed to practice good dental hygiene.


Discussing wind turbines in Denmark and their renewable energy is an issue of development I am familiar with living just outside of State College.  While I have seen a few wind turbines in Centre County, I feel that the area has so much room for more.  In my hometown, there’s a lot of empty land at higher elevations perfect for these energy machines.  I feel that the area would benefit from sacrificing some land for a sustainable, renewable energy source.  The case about tooth decay in Jamaica was very different from heath development where I live.  Growing up, I remember taking fluoride tablets in school and visiting the dentist regularly.  I work in a preschool where brushing, flossing, and eating good foods is already something young children are learning.   I liked that this study was about something other than development in terms of GDP.  Often we tend to think of countries as being higher or lower income, but it’s very important to think of how they differ in terms of health, another facet of development.

My Water Footprint- Kayla Crestani


My home is located in Clarence, PA.  We receive our water through a well.  This well of water not only serves my household’s water needs, but also that of the small town I live in.  Water from that well is then pumped through a system of underground pipes into our house for use.  When the water enters my home it passes through a pressure reducing valve, keeping the water’s pressure constant, and a water meter, to measure the amount of water usage.  When the water leaves my house, it empties into a conventional septic system where it is again filtered through another system called a leach bed. The septic system separates solids and liquids.  The liquids are then taken through a series of pipes to the leach bed while the solids stay and are eventually pumped and taken to a sewage treatment plant.  The leach field consists of a series of perforated pipe, limestone and sand that filters the water and releases it back into the ground.


Activity Water Used (gallons)
Brush Teeth (2x) 2
Wash Face (1) 1
Shower (10 min.) 50
Flush Toilet (5x) 15
Wash Hands(6x) 6
Drinking Water (4 glasses) .24
Wash Dishes (by hand) 15
Total 89.24


I really wanted to accomplish living on 2 gallons of water in a day.  Starting my day, I thought that I might actually be able to accomplish such a feat, but i quickly began to see just how difficult it is.  In an attempt to cut down my water usage, I eliminated the activities that used the most water.  Since I had showered the night before, I avoided taking one saving 50 gallons of water, more than two times the amount allotted for the day.  I also reduced the amount of times I would flush the toilet and shut off the water while brushing my teeth or washing my face.  By one o’clock, I was already over the 2 gallon goal for the day.  Needless to say, surviving on 2 gallons is nearly impossible when you are not used to giving yourself a limit.  I really had to think before I used the water.  Was what I needed the water for necessary? How could I get along without it?  The most obvious uses for the water, to me were water used for drinking, and water used for sanitary purposes.  All of my meals were prepared without the use of water.  These meals mostly consisted of sandwiches or heated up leftovers.  Geography plays a huge role when talking about water usage.  I cannot imagine living in a water stressed country such as Haiti where the water that is available is not safe to use.  Clean water is a luxury to places such as Haiti.  Some countries do not have the allowance for more sophisticated water systems like we do in the U.S. Where you live also determines how much water you can use.  States such as California, where droughts are more common, are more accustomed to experiencing strict water restrictions.  I have never had to face the reality of not being able to use as much water as I wanted to or needed.  After doing this activity, however, I am definitely more aware of the crazy amount I do use as well as ways to reduce my water footprint.  My individual actions do matter, especially when trying to conserve water.  This activity also made me think of the connection between earth and our water usage.  The water cycle itself is one big positive feedback loop.  Individually, each persons own water system in their homes creates a continuous cycle for everyday water usage.   

Ethics Learning Assignment – Kayla Crestani

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

I believe it is more important to be a good person.  In my eyes being a good person means being the best self you can be.  This means putting others before yourself and keeping a positive attitude and kind heart.  Regardless of how kind a person can be, they are not entitled to be that way all the time.  It’s important to remember that everyone is human and everyone has a bad day from time to time.  We learn from our mistakes and bounce back after defeat.  Nobody is forcing you to be a good person and the way you act is dependent on you and only you.  Good people choose to act the way they do and do good things because they want to. Just the same, a not so great person can choose to do good things as well from time to time.  Being a less than good person is a choice, but those who choose to live this way only do good things with themselves in mind.  A bad person will do good things if it benefits them or gives them a false image as a hero or overall good person.  Truly good people will do kind things because they want to help and want to better others, not themselves. Take for example someone who donates tons of money to an organization.  This donating to a cause is perceived as a positive act of charity, but what if the good samaritan had stolen the money he or she donated?  My point is that people can perform good acts all the time, but in the end, they are still not truly good.  This is why i believe it is so much better to focus on being a better person than performing good acts for the wrong reasons.  When someone is doing good for all the right reasons, honestly, and selflessly, the image of them as a genuinely good person will follow.

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

In my personal opinion, I do not believe that my own life is worth more than the lives of others.  While I love the life I live and can be selfish at times, I do not believe that gives me the right of a more worthy living.  While it can be hard to grasp this sometimes, everyone’s life matters.  We as human beings are selfish by nature.  Everyone is trying to do the best for themselves and their families by working hard in their day to day lives. It is because of this that we sometimes lose sight of how our actions are affecting others.  Take for example fighting with a store clerk while buying groceries or clothes.  People often talk down on sales associates and clerks, blaming them when the item is not marked right, or not eligible for a discounted price.  You can observe this time and time again in any store.  People are selfish in thinking that their lives matter more than those of a store employee and talk down on them, and make them upset over something that is out of their control. In the end, everyone is just as important, entitled, and worthy as you are. 
3. Do the pleasure and pain of non-human animals matter as much as the pleasure and pain of humans (speciesism)?

I do not believe that the pleasure and pain of non-humans matter as much as the pleasure and pain of humans.  While I do not believe in animal abuse or cruelty, I do see a need in animals for the meat they supply.  As a hunter, I see nothing wrong with shooting a deer or other game for food.  I see most animals as food and lower than me.  While both animals and humans live on the earth, we must learn to coexist.  Just as animals do,  we hunt others who are lower on the food chain.  This is not to say that I support animal abuse or animal cruelty in any way, in fact I love my two dogs and treat them like part of the family.  I respect the animals around me and do not believe in torture or inhumane means of killing.  I simply see game animals as a way to survive.

Module 2 Learning Activity-Kayla Crestani


My diagram shows the ways that biogas generators work with both the ecosystem and its biological community.  The effects of the generator are a great example of human ecology and human-environment interaction.  The diagram shows how people and the environment can work together and also mirrors a positive feedback mechanism.  Starting with the need for fuel that doesn’t cause deforestation, the generator uses animal dung in place of fire wood.  This in turn reduces the need for child labor in collecting wood to use and allows these children to devote more of their time on their education.  The generator, once done producing methane gas for cooking purposes, can then be converted to compost and then flipped to become a money making product for the people. In using the biogas generator, the interaction between humans and their environment is producing a positive feedback mechanism because there will never be an endless amount of fuel to be used.  The fuel will be produced again and again without ever running out of materials because of its ability to be reused in the form of compost and go back into the ecosystem.

While reading what Gerry Marten had to say about the biogas generator, I realized we focused on some of the same points.  While we both included and agreed that deforestation could be eliminated if these generators took over, we touched on different positive effects as well.  Marten talked a lot about the effects of deforestation and its impact on irrigation.  He also brought up the idea of introducing the generators to not only wealthy farmers, but somehow making them accessible to everyone.  While I also touched on the loss of trees, I then brought up the fact that children were sacrificing their education to provide firewood.  I also added more about the business side of making the compost into fertilizer and selling it for profit.  Marten brought a very broad look to biogas generators while I focused more on the positive effects they would bring to the people using them.  I find it very useful and eye-opening in a sense to see what can happen when social systems and ecosystems work together to create something that is beneficial all around.


Learning Activity: Getting to Know You

Hello everyone! My name is Kayla Crestani and I am a sophomore here at University Park. I grew up and still live in a small town just outside State College called Snow Shoe, PA.  I am majoring in Early Childhood Education with a minor in Human Development and Family Studies.  After graduating, I will be certified to teach grades Pre-K through 4 which has always been a dream of mine!  I took this course not only because it is a requirement for my major, but also because I am interested in learning more about how humans interact and change the environments they’re in.  As for a little more about me, I love the outdoors and spending my free time hunting, fishing, and just exploring my neck of the woods!

When reading through module 1, I was particularly interested in the human-environment interactions section.  It is so important for everyone to be educated on the topic of sustainability.  Every move we make as inhabitants on Earth leaves a mark.  People need to be educated in ways to make their marks on the world more positive and useful for generations to come.  Given some of the issues we face in the world right now, such as the drought in California, it can be scary to think of what the world will look like hundreds or even 20 years from now.  What major issues will we face in the future as a result of our own doing? I want my kids to be able to experience the world I grew up in and all of the amazing things the great outdoors has to offer.  However, for this to happen, we must start being more thoughtful of our own impacts and the bigger picture for the years to come.