Module 10- Biodiversity

  1. In 200-250 words, choose a specific hotspot around the world and describe the biodiversity in the area. Then outline dangers humans have imposed on this hotspot.

The hotspot I have chosen to focus on is the Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system, comprised of over 400 different types of coral, 1,500 species of fish, and over 4,000 species of mollusk. The Great Barrier Reef spans over 1,400 miles along the cost of Queensland, Australia; it is a structure so large, it can be viewed from outer space. The reef contains extremely unique biodiversity, where completely different ecosystems exist along the depth of the reef, laterally out into the ocean, and along the length of the coastline. Similarly, to a tree in the Amazon, a single coral reef system may house hundreds of different animal species.  The biodiversity is in great danger, due to many different human influences. Climate change is the GBR’s greatest threat, where sea temperature rise causes coral reef bleaching. This phenomenon occurs when temperature limits are exceeded, and corals expel the algae that live inside them. The symbiotic relationship between algae is destroyed when bleaching occurs, and the plants and animals that rely on the algae for nutrition do not survive.

  1. Create a systems diagram relating the general impacts humans have on biodiversity around the world.

Module 10

The systems diagram outlines the impacts that human beings have on the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef. Economic activities such as fishing, infrastructure development, technological development and production all produce different types of wastes and pollutants. Humans may bury these wastes in the ground, keep them in landfills, or may directly dump them in the ocean. These wastes inevitably make it into our waters, where currents transport them all over the planet. Subsequently, wastes are deposited on the Great Barrier Reef which directly damages both flora and fauna occupying the reef. Social activities such as tourism bring significant attraction to places like the GBR. Although tourism might spread awareness about the damages being done to the GBR, it is also directly damaging the reef itself. Large numbers of people visiting the reefs may disrupt local ecosystems, and trash produced by the tourism ends up collecting in the reef, and destroys it. Lastly, climate change is a result of both social and economic activities, where human activities all over the world is causing temperature rises, which in turn, causes sea temperatures to rise. This disrupts the coral reef systems, for example coral bleaching, which directly damages the reefs.

  1. Include something from current events, or your own life, or something else that deeply matters to you.

I absolutely love to travel. If it were possible, I would definitely be traveling for the rest of my life. I love visiting new places, completely different from New York where I am from, and experiencing all of the different aspects of the environments that I am in. I absolutely love hiking, and exploring, and seeing all the different animals that inhabit these different areas. The world has absolutely amazing biodiversity, most of which many people are not able to experience at all throughout their lives. For me personally, I would love to be able to travel and experience as much of the biodiversity in these different areas as I possibly can. For all we know, Earth may contain all of the biodiversity in the entire universe, and most people stay in one place and do not even attempt to experience it, and unfortunately, actively destroy it. That being said, I believe preserving our biome, the Earth, is one of the most important things humanity can achieve. Like I said, the Earth may be one of a kind in the entire universe, and we need to preserve it so we can enjoy it hopefully forever. At least in our own anthropocentric ideology, without the Earth and the conscience beings inhabiting it, the Earth and the universe would be utterly pointless.

Module 9 Neil Karmaker

Module 9 Image

The diagram I have made depicts how the United States manipulated various countries into signing the Copenhagen Accord. Although it was not necessarily in their best interest for these various countries to sign the Accord, political pressure from the United States made opposition to the Accord incredibly difficult to maintain. The diagram begins in the upper left hand corner with climate change as the first step. Current fosil fuel usage and unsustainable economic, political, and societal practices have increased the temperature of the planet, which shows signs of incredibly deleterious effects on the planet. Climate change is recognized by the entire world, which is highlighted in the next box. A Copenhagen Accord is then drafted in order to promote more sustainable practices, reduce the use of unsustainable practices, and promise aid to countries who would be severely damaged by climate change. In the next box, the United States promise to provide aid to countries severely damaged, in accordance with the Copenhagen Accord. This box then links to two other boxes, one of them being the total number of countries who signed the Accord. Some countries signed the document just by the promise given by the United States. However, the former box is also connected with another box which highlights the United States manipulation of different countries to gain votes. In one box, the United States uses threats the to force different countries to sign the Accord. In another box, the United States bribes other countries with aid, and funding for various “projects” that the countries require. Both these boxes points to the final box which highlights the 140 out of a total of 193 countries that signed the Copenhagen Accord.

In order to combat climate change, there needs to be serious collective action on mitigation from every single country from around the world. Because every single country is contributing to climate change, every single country needs to reform their unsustainable practices to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and find alternative energy sources that would not significantly affect the climate. Of course, different countries contribute to the issue in different ways, like the United States being the largest contributor to climate change whereas a small island country would not, but regardless every country needs to contribute. Collective action needs treaties like the Copenhagen Accord to very strictly change the way countries behave, but they need to be written to maximize the reduction of climate change. I believe what the United States did is highly unethical, where the Accord was definitely not agreed upon by other countries, whether or not for strictly political reasons or that the Accord did not combat climate change whether enough. But regardless, political manipulation by the United States was not done to reduce climate change, but to harm other powerful countries and make the United States more powerful. This practice is therefore highly unethical, as manipulation was conducted under a guise instead of actually promoting some positive change. I believe that the cables should definitely be made public, beforehand and afterwards. Ideally there should not be any secret discourse about climate change issues where countries can actually harm negotiations, deals, and political and economic progress.

Module 8

I come from West Nyack, New York, which is located approximately 30 miles north of New York City. According to the Nathan World Map of Natural Hazards, my town is most at risk of sea level rise, and hurricane. It is located near the ocean on the east coast, where the entire east coast is at risk for a sea level rise. Additionally, West Nyack is the category 3 for tropical cyclones. New York is often hit with hurricanes, so I definitely understand why we are in this category. New York is in a seismologically calm part of the world, so it does not really experience earthquakes.

Boca De Yuma is a village located in the Dominican Republic. According to the RSOE EDIS, Boca de Yuma experienced a magnitude 3.3 earthquake on April 2nd, 2016, at 7:15 A.M. Typically places located on tectonic plate boundaries experience Earthquakes, for example Japan and California which are located on the edges of the Pacific Plate. Boca de Yuma is located in between the South American plate and the Caribbean Plate which explains why it experienced seismic activity. West Nyack is located on the North American Plate, but not near the plate edge, which explains why we do not experience earthquakes in this area of New York. The scale of the event was very small, and on the order of the village of Boca de Yuma which affected a population of 2,342 people. My hometown has approximately 3,439 people, so the scale is relatively the same (no listed population density on Wikipedia for Boca de Yuma, but 1200/square mile for West Nyack). The impact of the disaster would therefore be the same if it were to occur in my hometown, however it is very highly unlikely that an earthquake would occur. My town is generally comprised of many wealthy areas, but there are some areas of lower socioeconomic status. I actually believe that the people living in the poorer areas would fare better in a disaster like an earthquake due to the structural integrity of the apartments and homes they occupy. Wealthier people tend to live in big houses, but those houses are made of wood, which I believe would not be as structurally secure as apartment buildings in the case of an earthquake.

According to the Cornell University Cooperative Extension, New York and my hometown can be subjected to Environmental hazards such as winter storms, drought, floods, mud/landslide, hurricanes, tornadoes, severe summer storms, and space weather/astro-hazards (Cornell University Cooperative Extension). Living in New York for 22 years confirms many of these hazards such as winter storms, drought, floods, hurricanes, and severe summer storms. In my limited experience, however, I would not predict that mud/landslides, space weather, and tornadoes really pose any significant threat to West Nyack. I imagine that the hazards I experienced will continue happening very frequently in New York, but the ones I did not experience will not pose any significant threat for many years.

To increase decrease the vulnerability of all the hazards that could potentially occur in West Nyack, I believe that significant funding needs to be put in place toward construction of high wind force resistant infrastructure, and more efficient recycling of the water treatment and facilities for water recycling. In my experience droughts and hurricanes are the biggest danger to West Nyack, so building buildings that resist hurricane winds, and being able to recycle water better during a drought should significantly decrease the extent of the damage that could occur from these events. The politicians and contractors living in West Nyack, working in conjunction with industrial and mechanical engineers, would best suit addressing the problem. I can use social media to inspire some advocacy in the people in my town, to educate them and the garner support to push for these changes.

Module 7 Neil Karmaker

I live in a city West Nyack in New York. It is located approximately 18 miles north of New York City, on the western side of the Hudson River. West Nyack is absolutely an automobile suburb. My house is located on its own plot of land, and my neighbors on all sides are approximately an acre away. The main shopping stores are concentrated in their own area and take 5-10 minutes to drive to. According to Wikipedia, the population of West Nyack is 3,439 people living in a 2.9 square mile area. To me, West Nyack will always be my home. I was born and raised in West Nyack and have been living in the same house for all of my life. I could not imagine my parents moving and selling the house. I hope to live in New York City one day so I can remain close by to home.

The city presented in the module which most closely represents West Nyack is Rochester, New York. Rochester is also an automobile suburb, where cars are the primary transportation method, and are necessary for living in the area. The areas that comprise Rochester are all single use, like West Nyack. The urban density is also going to be on the same order as West Nyack, where there is minimal development per unit area of land. I believe that for these automobile suburbs, sustainable development is certainly achievable, but is probably very limited. Without complete reconstruction of the towns and cities, sustainable development can be achieved by improving the existing homes. Things like solar panels, better insulation, and more economic appliances can reduce the energy consumption of each household. From there, it can be effective to introduce more bus routes in a neighborhood which can reduce the number of cars being used.

The city presented in the module which represents the complete opposite of West Nyack would be Beacon Hill in Boston. Beacon Hill is a pedestrian oriented neighborhood, which prioritizes walking as the primary transportation method. The urban density is so large in Beacon Hill, compared to West Nyack, because of the huge amount of development per unit area, which equates to large apartment buildings and shopping centers which are all connected with narrow streets. I feel that if West Nyack was converted to a urban center such as Beacon Hill, it could become incredibly sustainable, but to do so would require humongous amounts of effort and complete cognitive transformations by the residents in West Nyack. By moving people closer together, and making the city a walking city, automobile transportation could be completely removed. Also with the knowledge of sustainable development today, compared to the knowledge when New York City was being built, a new city could be one of the most sustainable in the world.

Neil Karmaker Module 6

After my brother had moved out after college, away from my parents, he became a very strict vegan. In fact, he kind of rubbed off on me and I tried vegetarianism before I came to college and became a twig from it, but now I consume meat and dairy products. When I was a vegetarian, I was faced with many different situations where my dietary restrictions conflicted with American social norms. Whenever I had eaten at restaurants, I always struggled to find something to eat. Usually restaurants did carry vegetarian options, those options were very limited and usually I did not find them appealing. In America, the norm is to have a very meat-centric diet. Wherever you go, the main focus of the meal is the meat. This norm directly conflicts with vegetarianism and makes it difficult to sustain the lifestyle. However, although I am a not a vegetarian now, I feel that the social norms are changing to include vegetarians in the American lifestyle. In restaurants, for example, it is much easier to find a menu that includes many different tasty vegetarian options.

Vegetarianism as a growing social norm, is directly related to many different aspects of the meat industry, and the current social norms that are incredibly meat-centric. One of the reasons I chose vegetarianism is because of the livestock animal treatment. As it is depicted in the Meatrix video, animals are commonly treated very poorly, and with the current meat-centric social norms, the maltreatment of these animals is continuously conducted in factory farms and overlooked by the public. I believe to combat this, Americans need to severely change the way livestock production is allowed to occur in America. There needs to be strict laws that facilitate the maximum happiness for the animals, and the amount of livestock produced should not be of concern. Basically to sustain this, we would need switch from a meat-centric diet to a plant based diet. Additionally, to create a stable sustainable source of protein, I suggest the cultivation of insects as they are one of if the the greatest protein dense sources available for consumption. Untitled document

Module 5 Neil Karmaker

I chose the case study: Union Carbide Gas Release in Bhopal, India ( . A company called Union Carbide set up a manufacturing plant in Bhopal, India where they produced the chemical methyl isocyanate. Large amounts of water reacted with the chemical, which was subsequently released as a gas into the atmosphere and killed/injured many people in the city. The citizens were not able to receive adequate compensation from the settlement between the company and the government and the company’s stocks were not impacted. In this case, the goals of the development were probably to increase the revenue of the company, which in turn had major negative implications on the people that lived in the city of Bhopal. This case study demonstrates the negative impacts that improperly applied development might have on the developing nations of the world. I believe that in a developed country, this issue would have never happened due to the regulations that would have been imposed on the company, and the manipulation of the company in court would not have occurred.

The second case study I chose was the article “Chernobyl: Could It Happen Here?” (  This case study outlines the 1986 nuclear meltdown that occurred in the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine. The meltdown was the result of unchecked hazardous experimentation that destabilized the reactor and resulted in a huge explosion that spread massive amounts of radioactive material over large areas of the former USSR and Europe. Many people died due to acute toxicity due to radiation, and many people experienced long term suffering and death due to the radioactive particulate. Still to this day Chernobyl is unable to be occupied due to the large amounts of radiation, and will not be able to be occupied for many years. This is due to the improper implementation of technologies that were used in the development of the USSR. The initial goals of the nuclear reactor were to bring sustainable power to the areas and the country, but the unregulated use of the power plant resulted in catastrophic failure for the plant and had widespread deleterious effects for the inhabitants of the city, and for millions of people in Europe.

I live in Rockland County, New York, which is located approximately 30 miles from New York City. These case studies which I have presented remind me of the waste treatment plant that is located in West Harlem which begins at the top of Manhattan and can be smelled when traveling down the West Side Highway. For many miles around the plant, you can smell the noxious fumes that come from the plant. I believe that these case studies relate to this issue because, likewise in the 2 case studies, this waste treatment facility was built to develop the area and provide a clean environment for the entire city. However, the improper implementation of this technology has created the problem for the residents surrounding the facility and needs to be taken care of to prevent harmful effects on the residents. What we can learn from these case studies is that implementation of these technologies for development needs to be scrutinized severely and constantly to prevent major damage that could happen to the surrounding communities.

Water Tracking and Usage

1-A. In my hometown of West Nyack, New York, our water is supplied by United Water New York from a reservoir that is 1000 feet from my house. According to product flyer produced by United Water New York information, the reservoir has a capacity of 5.6 billion gallons of water, and supplies 30% of the counties needs to over 270,000 people with an average daily demand of 31.5 million gallons. The water being collected is called surface water, and comes from lakes, rivers, and the reservoir. These sources are used to collect water into the reservoir from which point a water treatment facility pumps the water out the all the residents and businesses in our town. From the water treatment facility, the water is then supplied to many different faucets and appliances in our house. After utilization in our house, the water is drained back through the sewer system before it is treated and finally deposited back into the reservoir.

1-B.  I kept track of all the water I used today, which I think was relatively lighter usage than most days. In total I used approximately 187.36 gallons of water according to USGS. According to my chart, I consumed approximately 144 gallons of water throughout the day. Water consumption for the activities in the chart were taken from USGS.


Activity Teeth Brushing Hand/Face Washing Shower Toilet Flushes 8 oz glasses drank Dishwasher Loads Dishwashing by hand
Frequency 2 5 15 minutes 5 6 1 5
Water Usage 4 gallons 5 gallons 75 gallons 20 gallons <1 gallon 15 gallons 25 gallons


To survive on 2 gallons of water I would have to ration out every fluid ounce of water to every task that I do, but with a limit of 2 gallons, those tasks would only be ensuring my survival. According to Mayo Clinic, adult males should consume on average 3 liters (0.8 gallons) of water. I may use a handful of water to wash my mouth and brush my teeth (0.1-0.4 gallons). In terms of waste production, I would be probably using an outhouse that consists of a deep hole in the ground, and would not be reliant on any water there. The rest of the water will probably be saved, or used to bath if I want to feel clean that week. It is necessary to keep the water in case of situation where there would be no available water, which is probable if I was limited to 2 gallons per day. The experiment succeeded as I was able to utilize only 1.2 gallons. The activities that I could do are significantly limited to what I routinely do every day. Geography relates to this water issue as the location of sources of water significantly determines the quality of life people have in the areas that they inhabit.

Module 3- My Ethics Views

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

I believe that in order for a person to be good, a person must definitely perform good acts. We are constantly performing some action that affects our lives, the lives of other’s around us, and the environment that we live in. We have a constant interaction with these things, and could not be functioning human beings without this interaction. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that our actions speak to our goodness rather than how believe we should be. It is very easy to understand that we should take hold and to minimize the trash that is thrown away to the environment. This concept is understood to be ethically good, and we can think that this is good, and furthermore think that we are good for having these thoughts, but if I were to constantly throw litter out into the environment whilst having these thoughts, the unethical nature of this action severely outweighs how good having the thoughts are.

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

I believe the pain and pleasure of non-human animals is just as important as the pain and pleasure of humans, but not every species is as important as another. Human society occupies almost every single environment on this planet, and it is inevitable that the decisions human beings make will benefit or harm some other animal species. And in determining which species we consider as important as human beings, we need to consider the pain an animal endures. Like Jeremy Bentham said, “The question is not, Can they reason? nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?” We need to critically analyze how our actions impact the suffering of a single individual of the species and the species as a whole. But we need to determine to what extent the animal experiences suffering.  For example, humans need to understand how an animal experiences physical pain upon death. On a systematic large scale practice, we raise cattle for the purpose of killing them and feeding us. I look at a cow and see an individual being, perfectly capable of experiencing fear and pain, and in that moment before death, possibly experiencing the same reactions and feelings as a human would before their death. Although we can realize that cows experience these reactions and feelings, we care more about the taste of the food that we are getting more than feelings and reactions of the cows. On the other hand, I see a bug, and I do not believe that it is capable of experiencing the pain and suffering before death that a human or a cow can endure. And yet, as a society we cannot even bear to think about cultivating insects as a food source to replace. Maybe it is necessary to reevaluate how we can possible accept the pain and suffering of a cow during slaughter, and embrace the idea of using insects as a primary source of food.

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

This is such a difficult question to answer. I believe in every situation we need to evaluate whether or not our lives are more important than others. We are all individuals living our own lives, and are almost always completely focused on our own lives. But we do have family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers that are all sharing a similarly unique experience until we die. It is easy to believe that we are entitled to live our unique lives exactly like we want it, but at the same time there is absolutely no difference in the uniqueness of one’s life versus another, and therefore I believe we also have a responsibility to others just like to ourselves. Our lives are just as valuable as everybody else’s, and I believe you need to consider both aspects in every situation that you experience. I may be particularly selfish in one situation, but I know that the person is not going to be severely harmed by my action, and I can proceed with my action. I need to consider the harm that a person might endure at the expense of my benefit and determine whether or not I feel comfortable with my action. Likewise, to the benefit of another person, I need to consider how much my action will harm myself. But, I believe this question is particularly difficult to answer when considering the life and death of yourself versus another person. I do not think I can give my own life at the expense of another’s. It makes me feel bad to say so, but I believe at the core of my ethical values, I put my own life before the lives of others. Fortunately, this is not a case that I have to deliberate with every day.

Biogas Generation System- Neil Karmaker


The core ideas behind the diagram include the explicit social system and ecosystem impacts that are achieved with the introduction of the biogas system in different landscapes.  There are so many benefits that the biogas system brings to the landscape they are introduced in, such as the cleaner fuel, reduced health effects, improved crop production, increased education rates, and the increase in jobs in communities that adopt this system. The previous system that was done using firewood, had many negative drawbacks, but the system diagram presented the direct improvements on those drawbacks, and also included different benefits that the biogas system introduced. With the systems diagram, it is easy to identify some beneficial positive feedback loops. For example, with improved crop yield, communities are able to raise more cows and livestock, which then produce the waste that creates slurry, that fuels the entire biogas process and makes the loop grow larger. This biogas system also affects the impact to the environment in the local area (IPAT). On the local community scale, the population and the affluence are not going the necessarily change with the introduction of this biogas system, but the technological aspect will definitely be reduced due to all of the benefits this system brings in terms of upkeep of the environment and the people living there, and the economic systems that drive the landscape to stability. In comparison to Figure 1.5, my diagram may be a little bit more convoluted and is most likely more difficult to read. In Figure 1.5, the diagram is clearly split into two distinct categories, social system and ecosystem, whereas in mine, there is a split, but I think it is more difficult to see. I think they are similar in the trend in organization, where I chose to attempt to categorize all of the information related to social system and ecosystems, and have the arrows connecting between the two systems. I think the similarities and differences arise solely from the categorization, and the subject matter, respectively.

Module 1- Getting to know you

Hello! My name is Neil Karmaker and I am a senior studying Materials Science and Engineering with a specialization in metal and ceramic materials. Currently, I live in an apartment in downtown State College. I was born and raised in West Nyack, New York, located about 30 miles north of New York City. I am studying Materials Science and Engineering to pursue a career in chemical synthesis for thin films in microelectronic and optical applications. I am studying this course to understand the human-human and human-environment interaction and the economic implications that these interactions have. In relation to materials science, materials need to be extracted from the environment. Trade of these materials is heavily reliant on the culture, market, and economies of different countries and people around the world. It is necessary to understand how the people that have access to these materials interact with their environment, and how they subsequently interact with other human beings to trade the materials. Hopefully my understanding of material science and human nature will allow me to give perspective to my peers about geography in the context of materials science.

I believe that in the next 20 years, Earth will attempt to send human beings to Mars to begin colonizing it. Besides the issue of how we will get to Mars, the colonists will need to solve many problems in order to survive on the planet. Geography, specifically cartography, will be used to assess suitable areas for the colonists to land their equipment, and begin building their colony. Scale is important to assess the land that will be inhabited. Assuming that satellite imaging can only produce images of large areas, field research will be necessary to survey the finer details of the land surrounding the colonists, and satellites will be able to provide broad images of the surface, thus providing a complete analysis of the lands the colonists will occupy.  However, imaging technology might become so sophisticated in the next 20 years, such that field research may not be necessary. This sophistication will provide valuable GPS information, so accidents can be prevented.