Module 10: Biodiversity

  1. From this site select a single biodiversity hotspot from around the world. In 150- 200 words briefly describe your hotspot and its location. What are some of the threats facing this hotspot? (Use H.I.P.P.O acronym)

For my biodiversity hotspot I chose the Horn of Africa. The Horn of Africa hotspot is located in the north- eastern part of Africa, covering the Rift Valley. Originally the hotspot was 1,659,363 km2 big, but today it is only 82,968 km2 big. Unfortunately, only 5% of the original habit remains today. There are two main threats causing this hotspot in Africa to deteriorate at such a quick rate. The first issue pertains to the H in H.I.P.P.O, which is habitat loss. The people of that area have been harvesting charcoal without government control causing detrimental effects to the hotspot. The second threat deals with the O in the acronym, which is overharvesting. There has been an increasing amount of hunting in the past years which puts many species at potential of extinction. Species such as the beira, dibatag and Speke’s gazelle, who are only found in this area, are facing the biggest threat. Being one of the most degraded hotspots in the world, the Horn of Africa is facing the potential of being completely wiped out.

  1. In 150- 200 words describe whether or not you value biodiversity and why. Are your views anthropocentric or ecocentric? Why? Do you think future generations will have the same levels of biodiversity?

I think that biodiversity is very important to our everyday way of life. Without biodiversity we would not be able to have some of the life saving medicines that we have today. We also would not have luxuries such as beautiful landscapes and large varieties of species. Though my views of biodiversity may seem anthropocentric, they are in fact ecocentric. While I do value the potential uses we can receive from protecting all these endemic species, it is not my immediate reaction. In simple terms, I receive fulfillment is simple knowing that species are alive, undisturbed and overall healthy. Allowing my future generations to enjoy the diversity just as I have is important to me. Unfortunately, at the current rate of destruction of biodiversity there will be almost nothing for future generations. As I mentioned in my earlier question, a single hotspot is only 5% of its original size. At this rate we risk losing a huge portion of the world’s biodiversity.

Module 9: Climate Change

  1. Wikileaks-diagram-kxk5347 copy
  2. In my diagram I drew out the main events of the article describing how WikiLeaks demonstrated to the world who is responsible for greenhouse gases. The beginning of my diagram started with the need for energy production because that is how the greenhouse gas was produced. As we learned in this module the excess greenhouse gases in the atmosphere can cause serious issues. Due to this creation of greenhouse gases, there was an increase in climate change. This increase made other powers look at the US for a solution. With such a large increase in climate change the US decided to create the Copenhagen Accord. The Copenhagen Accord was created to mitigate climate change or simply reduce it and its negative affects. Countries outside the US were not big fans of this plan, but they needed the backup of other countries. The US would be unable to get the agreement to pass without other countries’ backing. Unfortunately, the US used extreme measures such as bribery, spying and threats in order to receive outside support. WikiLeaks then leaked all the strategies the US has been using and the public was very dissatisfied. In the end 116 signed the Copenhagen Accord, so in turn it was actually successful. Though the methods were looked down upon, the accord did show the 75% of the countries who signed were responsible for 80% of all greenhouse gases. Even with this success targeted to mitigate climate change, a large amount of political mistrust has been created.


  1. I feel the actions taken towards to get the Copenhagen Accord to pass were extremely inappropriate, but not out of the ordinary. There have been many cases on bribery, threats and scandal to pass things in the US. The fact that this plan was aimed towards climate change does not make me as upset by the actions taken. I do believe that it was important for the state department cables to be made public because people should always be aware of the happenings in their country. Though it is important for people to have this knowledge, their ability to act is very limited. The US will use their power to do what they can, even if it is behind the backs of their population. I feel that the US should use different methods when conducting climate change diplomacy because their current methods are created distrust among not only their own people, but other countries as well. Though the intentions of the US are for good, forcing and bribing others to agree is extremely unethical. I also do not like the fact that the US took more benefits than any of the other countries involved. In a way this is the US saying that they are above other countries, so in turn they deserve more of the benefits. Once again I believe that the strategies used by the US were unnecessary. In no way do I think that the end result justifies the US’s actions taken in order to reach it.


Module 8: Vulnerability Reduction

  1. In my home town of Kennett Square, PA there doesn’t seem to be many natural hazards according to the Nathan World Map of Natural Hazards. From zooming into the map I learned of two natural hazards potentially facing my town. The first is a Zone 4 tropical cyclone located just off the coast. The second possible hazard is an increase in heavy rain. When reading the map, it was very difficult to differentiate all the states from each other and even harder to decipher whether or not the hazards directly affect Kennett Square. In my opinion the Nathan Map is a somewhat poor tool to use for this task due to the lack of detail and difficulty of reading.
  2. For my disaster, I chose a tornado located in the state of Alabama. This type of disaster could potentially occur in Kennett Square. According to the Nathan Map, my town is located in Zone 2 for tornado frequency. This implies that though there is a low risk of receiving a tornado, Kennett Square is still vulnerable to one. The scale of the disaster is small for my hometown, which is similar to the area for which it is occurred in Alabama. The storm is said to have only left a medium amount of damage, so the impact of the disaster would most likely be unchanged if it occurred in Kennett Square. Since my hometown consists of densely populated communities and less dense populated farm areas, depending on where the tornado would determine people’s vulnerability. The people living in the more open farm areas are much less vulnerable than those located in the dense towns, which would lead to a disproportionate impact if a disaster were to occur. In order to reduce the town’s vulnerability to the disaster it would be projection. With advanced notice, people can be more prepared for the disaster and possibly leave areas for which the disaster could directly affect.
  3. After living in Kennett Square for seven years, I have learned that the town experiences a large amount of rainfall and frequent high winds. From 1950 to 2010, Kennett Square has experienced over 949 floods and 2,577 thunderstorm winds (Kennett). This information correctly depicts the large amount of rainfall we receive each year. The town’s tornado index is #128, which based off algorithms describing the tornado levels in the region (Kennett). This high index indicated that Kennett Square has a higher chance experiencing a tornado. I personally have never experienced a tornado while living in this town, so it surprises me that the index number is so high.
  4. As mentioned earlier I believe that early projections of possible natural hazards would benefit Kennett Square. If a heavy rainstorm in coming and there is a possibility of flooding, then it’s important to stock up on food and water. Since the flooding affects all the major roads, having advanced notice would allow people to stock up before it’s too late. The best people to perform these actions would be the natural scientists who study these disasters first hand. They have the potential of predicting possible future disasters and alerting the community. A task I can do to reduce vulnerability to disaster is spreading the word to make sure others know about potential disaster. Another task I could preform is sharing my resources with those who may not have enough.

Resource List:

“Kennett Square, PA Natural Disasters and Weather Extremes.” –™.

Accessed April 01, 2016.



Module 7: Urban Planning

I am from the town Kennett Square, which is located in south-eastern Pennsylvania. Kennett Square is split into two different types of neighborhoods. My house is located in an automobile suburb because due to its placement one will typically need a car to go anywhere. Located five minutes from my house is downtown Kennett Square which can be considered a pedestrian-oriented neighborhood. All shops and houses are located walking distance from each other for those who choose to live there. According to statistics taken in 2013, the population of Kennett Square is about 6,000 people. I have lived in Kennett Square for about six years now and I believe the community has a huge impact on the environment. Though we have a centrally located pedestrian neighborhood, it is only a fraction of the size of the automobile suburbs surrounding it. The only buses in Kennett Square are those for school children otherwise everyone is driving, which hurts the environment.

On occasion Kennett will close some of their streets for festivals or parades, but only for these certain events. On those days where the streets are closed the community will fill the streets and truly enjoy what the town has to offer. In Bogota, Colombia there is a program that closes 120km of road on Sundays so that people may enjoy the outdoors. It’s interesting how much the community enjoys and takes advantage of this road closing. As we saw in Columbia people were not only happier with being outdoors, but it also reduced the amount of pollution cars were having on the environment. In order to become more sustainable, I think that Kennett Square should close down the streets more often just as is done in Columbia. It will not only encourage the community to grow and thrive, but also reduce the amount of car pollution by reducing the amount of cars on the road.

Located in Curitiba, Brazil there is a bus system that mimics the efficiency of an underground subway. This bus program has greatly reduced the number of cars on the roads, which greatly increases the city’s sustainability. In my opinion Kennett Square would benefit from a bus program such as the one in Brazil. Currently our biggest environmental issue is that there are too many cars on the road and the environment is suffering. If implemented, the bus system is Kennett Square would be significantly smaller than the one in Brazil, but it would still have the same benefits just on a smaller scale. The buses in Kennett Square would mimic those of State College. There would be different loops running different directions, but all together reducing the number of people who drive. The car pollution in Kennett Square is a collective action problem. It takes the community to cause this problem, but it also takes the community to reverse it.

Module 6: Food & Agriculture

  1. As a college student food choices become very limited. One of the biggest issues is a lack of money, so food choices become based on how cheaply we can attain food. Buying cheap unhealthy food is a social norm that I live by on a day to day basis. It is much easier for me to buy McDonalds or Taco Bell instead of buying vegetables and other healthy alternatives. Unfortunately, these food choices can potentially cause obesity. As mentioned in Module 6, obesity is an ever growing issue that affects many of us and it is caused by poor social norms. The social norm of not spending a large sum of money is directly related to the food choices we make. As students, we already try to spend as little as possible so spending on food isn’t much different. I am not saying this issue applies to all students, but I know for a fact that I would spend $5 on a burger and some fries over spending $5 on a few tomatoes.
  1. As mentioned in the first paragraph, my choice of purchasing and consuming cheap, unhealthy foods is a direct link to societal issues such as obesity and other health related issues. Obesity is said to have a variety of causes such as lack of exercise and gene related issues, but by far over consumption of food has the biggest impact. As I described earlier, cheap food is typically unhealthy food. Since it is easier to purchase these foods, we tend to over consume them thus causing obesity. Obesity isn’t the only negative health issue related to cheap unhealthy food. In fact, it can cause a variety of issues such as diabetes, heart problems and even potentially an early death. Personally I believe that choosing to consume this type of food is an individual action. Though it’s social norm, people are still responsible for what they eat and their choice does not directly affect anyone but themselves. I think that the new social norm should be that we focus more on our health than saving money.


Module 5: Can a melting glacier potentially poison millions? And is sustainability truly that simple?

  1. I chose my case study from IRIN News found at This study examines the potential environmental and human health issues brought on by a melting glacier in combination with mine tailing ponds. Located in Kyrgyzstan is the biggest open pit mine in Central Asia. The majority of the mine belongs to Canada’s Centerra Gold which has unfortunately ignored the warning signs of the melting glaciers nearby. While this glacier continues to melt, the water levels rise, which could potentially wipe out a majority of the mine’s tailings pond. If this occurs there will be chemicals such as cyanide mixed into the Kumtor River. This water is frequently used by millions of people for everyday tasks and contamination could be detrimental. This aspect of development demonstrates the negative affects that development can have on surrounding communities, which was discussed in Module 5. This shows how “developed” countries are taking advantage of the people and environment in “undeveloped” countries.
  1. For my second case study I chose a piece from GOV.UK found at This study follows a mother named Conny showing how she is bettering the future for her children through environmental work and receiving money to do so. Located in South Africa many men and women are creating a sustainable and self-sufficient community one day at a time. The UKaid has funded a Community Works Program to help the people of South Africa out of poverty while also creating a more sustainable environment for the future. Conny is currently working on a community project to create a leisure space for children which has given her an increased income to buy food and clothes for her own children. In Module 5 we also learned about sustainable development which is perfectly represented in this case study. We can clearly see an effort to create a sustainable future while also aiding “undeveloped” countries with issues such as poverty.
  1. When I lived in Shanghai, China I saw many similarities between the affects of development on Kyrgyzstan. Due to increased pollution brought on by increased population, Shanghai suffered from high water contamination. This contamination rendered the water unusable for human consumption, which is a high possibility for Kyrgyzstan. The community of Shanghai also differed greatly from those in South Africa in their effort for sustainable development. The population of Shanghai seems to show no desire for sustainability and continues to use resources without thought of the future. We learned that it is important to be aware of your environmental surroundings because development can hurt the environment thus hurting human survival. We also learned that sustainable development is both simple and very achievable just as in the case of Conny. Both lessons could potentially help advance development in Shanghai.

Module 4: Individual and Collective Action

1-a.) I am from a town called Kennett Square, PA where I live in a housing community called Willowdale. Since we are located above a large aquifer our community uses shared wells in order to supply water to our homes. We chose a community with shared wells, so that in the case of power loss we will not lose water. Community generators kick in to power pumps and allow water to continue to flow to houses. The way a well works is that a hole is dug into the ground, in my case that hole goes down about 25ft for a shallow well. In this hole an electric powered pump is placed in the ground. This pump vacuums the water from the aquifer and sends it to a tank for a final filtration before being pumped into our home. Once the water is used and drained, it is sent through our septic system into a septic tank. In this tank water and debris separate. The water is then treated with good bacteria and filtered into a drain field in the ground.


Type of Water Consumption Frequency of Water Use Number of Gallons Used
Teeth Brushing 2 2 gallons
Toilet Flushing 4 12 gallons
Hand/ Face Washing 5 5 gallons
Showering 1 for 15 minutes 30 gallons
Water Consumption 8 glasses 0.5 gallons
Dish Washing 1 for 5 minutes 10 gallons
Total Number of Gallons Used: 59.5 gallons

1-c.) For my day of limited water use I altered many of my daily activities. For starters I reduced the amount of water that I consumed by a large amount. I also found alternate methods to both showering and washing my hands. Instead I used wet wipes and hand sanitizer for sanitation. My priorities had definitely shifted, instead of focusing on sanitation I worried more about how I had to use the water for consumption. One strategy that I used to reduce my water footprint was only flushing the toilet when absolutely necessary since flushing uses such a large amount of water. My experiment succeeded for a single day, but I don’t believe it is sustainable for long-term use. When comparing this experience to my everyday use it becomes obvious that I am completely unware of the amount of water I am using. It also shows that I waste water on more trivial activities instead of using it for actual survival. Geography matters in water use because depending on where you are located in the world can determine the amount of water you have access to or if you have any access to water at all.

Module 3: Ethics

1.) I believe it is more important to perform good acts. When I approached this question, I had an initial question of my own. What defines being a good person? One could talk constantly about how strongly they believe something, but until action is taken there is no benefit to their cause. From personal experience, I believe it is more important to perform good acts vs simply being a good person. Without action there is no basis on which to tell whether or not a person is good. Being labeled as a good person is not necessarily a negative, in fact it is a very positive characteristic to have. An issue that comes with this label is whether or not a person has the ability to justify it. Simply calling yourself a good person without physically demonstrating it, in my opinion, is selfish.  In modern day society people are starting to believe in only what they can see. A person can advocate their cause non-stop, but only empty promises will remain until they act upon their words. For example, one could state that they want to lose weight, until that person changes their eating habits or exercises more then the is no proof that they want to lose weight. Words are tangible, but actions are concrete.

4.) I believe that ecosystems only matter to the extent that they impact humans. Ecosystems have been here before humans existed and they will exist after humans are gone. Ecosystems exist to sustain the life within them. Untouched ecosystems can develop into complex systems allowing for multiple life forms to live, grow and thrive to their greatest ability. Most humans are anthropocentric when it comes to the ecosystem that surrounds them. Humans will use the environment for their own benefit without considering the long term negative effects. Unfortunately, I believe that in our current day ecosystems only matter for the impact they have on human life. When looking at issues based on sustainability and a world for future generations, all views are anthropocentric. We want to save rainforests and maintain those ecosystems not for the benefit of nature, but for the benefit of our children. Ecosystems have always mattered for their own survival. However, humans are not leaving this planet anytime soon, so regrettably ecosystems have to live for their benefit to humans.

6.)  believe that my own life is worth the same as the lives of others. I have never, nor will I ever believe that my my life is more important than that of any other. On the other hand, I also don’t believe that my life is worth less than any other. It is a very altruistic thought to believe that all human lives are equal, but unfortunately it is not a very realistic thought. When it comes to life and death, a person’s virtues and actions become very different. Given the situation of risking one’s life for a loved one over that of a stranger, it is never surprising that people choose their loved ones. This act may seem very selfish because in a way it is, but it is also human nature. It is a terrible thought to have putting more value on one person’s life vs another’s life. From my view, this is the basis that most humans operate on. Though we believe that one life is no more important than another, we will put more value into certain lives. This in turn will dictate our daily actions.

Module 2: Coupled Human-Environment Systems


The system diagram that I have created demonstrates how the introduction of the Biogas Generator positively impacts the interactions between social systems and ecosystems in India. As my diagram shows, both systems are initially creating problems for the other. When the people of India use wood burning stoves the resilience of the ecosystem is lowered due the need for firewood as fuel. This need is forcing humans out further for already scarce wood, which in turn is damaging the environment and preventing the ecosystem from returning to its initial state. Once the Biogas Generator is introduced into the humans’ social system this issue is eliminated. The people of India now use readily available cow dung as their source of fuel instead of scarce firewood, thus diminishing the destruction of their fragile ecosystem. The diagram also represents other positives of the Biogas Generator, such as an increased source of income as well as increasing agricultural production.

In the reading by Marten Figure 1.5 and my diagram are very similar. In both diagrams not only are the interactions between the two systems represented, but the the interactions within each system are also represented. A difference among the two diagrams is shown in the author’s portrayal of cause and effect. In Figure 1.5 a positive feedback loop shows how the demand for cooking fuel increases the number of children, thus increasing the population and increasing the need for cooking fuel. My diagram is simpler by showing how a change in one system can either benefit or hurt the other system. There are similarities and differences in the diagrams due to given information and author interpretation. Both diagrams have similar structures because they were given the same information, but differ due to each author having a different direction of focus. By comparing the two diagrams we learn that there are multiple ways to analyze given information and focusing on different aspects of a system can alter the product produced.


Module 1: Getting to Know You

Hi everyone! My name is Karissa Kelly and I am a junior currently attending Penn State at University Park. I live with my parents in Kennett Square, PA when I am not attending school. Growing up I moved around frequently, I lived in Littleton, CO until I was ten. From that point my father’s job relocated my family to Shanghai, China which I found to be an amazing experience. After three years in China we moved back to Colorado for a year, until we found a home in Kennett Square, PA where we have lived ever since. As an Agricultural Sciences major I hope to use my degree in either conservation work overseas or in plant related research. My interest in this course stems from my desire to understand the connections between humans and their environment as well as how we can better those interactions to positively benefit the environment. A fact about me is that I love to travel the world and have already been to places such as Canada, Japan and South Africa.

One of the biggest issues that I believe Geography can address in our world today is climate change. Climate change is a direct result of human impact on the environment. As stated in the Scale section of this module, climate change is an issue on a global scale. Though I cannot argue with this point I also believe that there are smaller scales to take into consideration such as a city scale. One of the main arguments is that climate change in caused by car emissions. Higher populated cities will have more cars which will give off higher amounts of emissions. So while it is true that climate change is apparent on a global scale it is also true on a combination of smaller contributing scales. This idea of car emissions causing climate change also plays into the ideas in the Human- Environment Interactions section. Our two systems are currently not existing in a sustainable manner. Globally we need to find a way to reduce our carbon dioxide output before damaging the world any further.