Rachel Denny: Biodiversity

  1. Choose whether you think biodiversity matters more for anthropocentric reasons or ecocentric reasons and use information from the module to support your answer. Then, create a system diagram that shows how humans impact rainforests, specifically the deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest..


As much as I would like for biodiversity to matter more for ecocentric reasons, I really believe it matters more for anthropocentric reasons. With the advancement in medicine, there are a lot of regions that contain lifeforms for medicinal purposes. Plants and animals are constantly being identified that provide humans with sources of food and other uses. Scientists are always learning about new species and our knowledge of biodiversity is constantly increasing. I think that biodiversity really impacts how we live our lives as humans. With technological advancements, countries that aren’t as biodiverse are able to get the benefits of countries that have more biodiversity. Other anthropocentric reasons for why biodiversity matters include plants and animals purifying water and air, pollinating crops, and cycling nutrients. If we didn’t have such a biodiverse climate and atmosphere, we would not be able to live the way we do. That makes me wonder if we will be able to maintain this biodiversity with the way people are living. We are already seeing negative effects through deforestation and overfishing and that may extend to other areas of biodiversity as well.

Below is the link to my diagram.
Geog Mod 10

Rachel Denny: Climate Change

Climate Diplomacy

My diagram is relatively simple. It starts off with countries emitting greenhouse gases, which we know has an effect on the climate. The majority of the emitted gases come from developed countries, like the U.S. because there are more people and more industrialization. People have seen the climate change in recent years and have begun worried as to what to do. People are beginning to realize that action needs to be taken in order for us to reduce our greenhouse emissions and take care of the planet. This is where the government steps in through the UN to see what they can do on their part. The Copenhagen Accord was a proposed plan for countries to take action to lessen their emission of greenhouse gases. Of course, countries who were not emitting many greenhouse gases (island countries) were not for the plan. This is where the U.S. began sending spies and creating bribes in order to get people to support the Accord. The U.S. began to get countries to back them, but not through very honest means. At one point, the U.S. threatened Zenawi to “sign the Accord or discussion ends now.” Through these means and other persuasions, the Copenhagen Accord is now associated with 116 countries. After all of this was said and done, WikiLeaks got a hold of some of the cables that went back and forth between nations and leaked them to the public so they could see what was happening, which brings us to the end of my diagram.

The government seems to have a lot of power when it comes to climate change and the reduction/elimination of greenhouse gas emissions. It is very important that the U.S. government and other world governments take part in discussion on preserving and keeping the earth healthy for our safety and the safety of the future. Whether or not global warming is a real phenomenon or not, we still need to be aware that it is a possibility that we are really hurting the Earth and endangering its inhabitants. Gas emissions are a problem for environmental and physical health and it is something that has to be addressed by the government.Thinking of this, I don’t the way the U.S. government handles climate change diplomacy is appropriate. The U.S. government should take initiative on their own to create policies or programs that aim to reduce emissions rather than bribing and threatening other countries in the way that they did for the Copenhagen Accord. As for the cables being made public, I am glad that they were. I feel like the United States of America is a leading country and we cannot be acting in a fashion that puts a negative light on us in the matter of global climate responsibility. We need to realize the mistakes we have made and move on from them. We should be pushing for creating our own initiatives and being environmental leaders. It’s great that governments are talking about climate change, but real action needs to be taken and we can’t wait around for that any longer. The U.S. needs to make moves – and soon.

Rachel Denny: Natural Hazards MOD 8

  1. Using the Nathan World Map of Natural Hazards, I was unable to find any natural disasters that really pose a threat to my community. There is a slightly higher level of hail storms and rain for western Pennsylvania, but we don’t get any severe natural hazards in the area. I think this map is well suited for the task, but I wish it was clearer to zoom in to a more exact location. It is very helpful to look at the big picture of natural hazards, but it is harder to pinpoint exact locations on the map since it has a World-wide focus.
  2. The disaster I chose was a tornado. A tornado took place at 3:25 am on April 1 in Alabama and there was a medium level of damage, and thankfully nobody was harmed. It is unlikely that my hometown will experience a damaging tornado, but there have been tornado warnings in my area and a few years before I was born there was a pretty severe tornado just 15 minutes away from my house. Typically, though, it is unlikely because Western Pa is fairly hilly and most tornadoes occur on flat land. I’m assuming that the area the tornado took place did not have many people because nobody was affected by it. If this were to take place in my hometown, there could be some injuries because the area is fairly populated. The people in my town are more vulnerable to this type of disaster because our homes are not built to withstand strong winds of a tornado. There isn’t really a way to change the structure of houses, but the best way to reduce vulnerability is to make sure people know what to do in case of a tornado. People should be prepared in case of such an emergency and know where to go if a tornado happens.
  3. The natural hazards that my town faces are heavy rain, flooding, and hail. We do not have powerful forces like hurricanes, tsunamis, and volcanoes, but rain can be a problem in the area if it gets to be too heavy. I live by rivers and creeks that become easily flooded when there is a lot of rain. Several instances of flooding and large hail storms have taken place during my time living in Beaver Falls, Pa. Usually people are not harmed, but there can be a lot of damage to basements (flooding) or cars, from the hail. There have also been some severe snow storms, but it is unlikley that they cause much damage.
  4. The way to reduce vulnerabiltiy in my town would be to educate people on the risks of heavy rain and tornadoes and make sure they know what to do in the case of these hazards. The best people to educate are parents to children, schools to children, and news sources, especially the weather channel. If the forecast is showing for heavy rain or tornado warnings, the news sources should to all they can to inform people of risks and how to stay out of harm. I cannot do much except to protect those around me. When there is heavy rain and tornado warnings, I will discourage friends and family to travel and drive in that weather and encourage them to stay indoors and be safe.


Urban Planning: Rachel Denny

I live in Beaver Falls, Pa, which is about 45 minutes north of Pittsburgh. I live specifically in Chippewa Township, which is an area that relies heavily on car transportation. It is very hard to get from one place to another by walking or biking because we don’t have sidewalks on the roads where I live. If you take a short drive to downtown Beaver Falls, it is very pedestrian-focused neighborhood. There are sidewalks and the stores are lined up together, making it easier to move from one to the other. I see a lot of people walking in downtown Beaver Falls, but I don’t see much of that in Chippewa. There are about 9,000 in the Beaver Falls region. I have lived in Chippewa my entire life. I’ve always thought that if it were easier to get around without a car, I would, but there is really no way to do that in the area I live. I don’t think Chippewa has done much to be a sustainable place to live, but I’d like to see them make progress to do that.

Chippewa reminds me a lot of the neighborhood from Rochester, New York. It is a like a little neighborhood that was built with the knowledge that people just would not be walking around. Chippewa has a very low urban density, but that may not necessarily be the worst thing. There is a lot of car usage, but Chippewa is a small town, so I think that the environmental impact is minimal. I think the best thing that could happen in Chippewa to make it more sustainable is to make it a more mixed-use area. A lot of people travel into Chippewa to go to Walmart or eat at a restaurant, so I think it would be good to add a few more stores that people could use while they are in Chippewa, rather than having to travel 15 minutes elsewhere to get what they need. For instance, we used have a shoe store, but they got rid of it a few years ago. Now we have to travel 15 minutes to the mall to buy shoes. Bring back the shoe store or adding different stores would make Chippewa more sustainable.

The next “city” I’d like to examine is Penn State. I think it is great that they are taking steps to making buildings more sustainable. The newer buildings at Penn State are really top-notch in efficiency and minimizing energy. I would like to see this happen more in buildings in Chippewa. My church recently built a Community Life Center. I would like to know if it would classify as a sustainable building. The town also just built a new office complex for the sanitary system across from my house. There are always new buildings being added in Chippewa, so it would be worth it to put effort into making these buildings more sustainable. Chippewa could also implement some type of “energy awareness” program to inform houses of how much energy they use and how they can lessen their impact on the environment.

Food Choice and Social Norms: Rachel Denny

One example that comes to mind when I think of social norms is stopping to get fast food while you are out and about or in the car. It is not the norm to prepare food ahead of time or take the time to cook a healthy meal. People stop at fast food places because it is convenient and they don’t have time/don’t want to cook a meal. Since people frequent fast food places so often, they are limited to very unhealthy meal choices and don’t have a choice as to how the food is processed or packaged. Fast food meals, say from McDonald’s, have a lot of paper and plastic waste from the cups, bags, napkins, containers, etc. The fact that the social norm for people is to stop and eat at fast food places is a problem for the health of people and the safety of our environment.


The societal issues that fast food choice connect to are obesity and environmental impact. Obesity is a growing concern, especially in America, and I believe it to be largely attributed to the fast food industry. Fast food is not a healthy food option, yet people continue to eat it without realizing the effects it has on their body. The other concern with the fast food industry is the amount of waste that is produced from packaging materials. Try and imagine the amount of McDonald’s bags that enter a trash bin every day. This waste has to go somewhere and that has a serious impact on the environment. Rather than eating fast food all the time for matters of convenience, I think the social norm should be to prepare healthy food ahead of time for your day. I understand that is not always a possibility, but packing a lunch or preparing meals in advance needs to be something people do on a daily basis.

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Module 5: Development Case Studies

  1. I found a case study from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development on titled “Supporting local economic growth in Ghana: Newmont”. This case study primarily focuses on the economic development of the Ahafo Mine region in mid-western Ghana. Newmont Mining Corporation is a leading gold producer on five continents and they chose to open this project in Ghana in 2006. At the end of 2007, they had over 17 million ounces of gold reserves, representing nearly 20% of Newton’s global gold reserves. Along with the gold, the community around the area improved a lot. The development of the Ahafo Mine provided many local hires for contractor jobs and the project helped improve local infrastructure, including mobile phone coverage, road upgrades, and improved access to electricity supply. In relation to course topics, this region of Ghana has seen an increase in their gross domestic product for their economy by increasing engaged businesses and the value of goods and services produced from this area. Link: http://wbcsdpublications.org/supporting-local-economic-growth-in-ghana-newmont/
  2. My second case study was from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, titled “Pennsylvania Wilds Case Study”. This case study also focused on the economic development of a region. Pennsylvania Wilds is a region in north central Pennsylvania that encompasses 12 counties and over 2 million acres of public lands. Those who have lived in this region have seen the “boom and bust” of industrial development, with timber, railroads, and mining, though they have struggled with economic development. During some time, the region had a net decrease of about 250 businesses and 1400 jobs, accompanied by high unemployment rates between 10-18%. The goals of the “Governor’s Task Force on the Pennsylvania Wilds” set to support and grow private business and locally made products, promote the renewal of the region’s communities, and invest in the visitor experience, since the area has an “outstanding natural resource base” and is within a day’s drive of 50 million people. Economic analyses of the region showed growth in the gross domestic product and tourism spending in the region. Link: http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/cs/groups/public/documents/document/d_001847.pdf
  3. These two case studies connect in many ways to the economic development of my hometown of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. Beaver Falls has suffered economically due to a decline in the steelmaking capacity in the region. Currently, though Beaver County may have a new industry on the rise – natural gas. The Royal Dutch Shell company has proposed building a new cracker plant right along the Beaver River in Potter Township near Monaca. This plant could exponentially increase business and economic growth in my region for several years to come. The relationship between Beaver Falls and the regions described above is very similar – an area with economical possibilities is revamped to support growth. I think a lot can be learned through the two case studies above about possible impacts on local communities and small business. If this plant develops, Beaver County will see a growth in development of homes and small business may see an increase in their production. Economic development is an important subset of development and is something that should be looked at thoroughly.

Rachel Denny: Water Tracking and Usage

Hometown water supply

My hometown is Beaver Falls, Pa. The Beaver Falls Municipal Authority is in charge of maintaining the water supply for 23 municipalities. All of our water comes from the Beaver River, which is formed by the meeting of the Mahoning and Shenango Rivers near New Castle. There are also several smaller tributaries, including the Connoquenessing Creek, Pymatuning Creek, and Brush Creek, that feed into the watershed that supplies our water treatment plant. We have two conventional rapid sand/mixed media water treatment plants that include chemical treatment, rapid mixing, flocculation/coagulation, primary/secondary settling, filtration, and disinfection. From the treatment plant, the water moves to the storage tanks. The storage tank in my township holds 1,500,000 gallons, which would be enough for roughly one U.S. citizen to survive for 26 years, according to the data from the module. The water moves through pipes from the storage tanks to my house. When the water is discharged from my house, it moves to the Brady’s Run Sanitary Authority plant, where a series of tanks is used to settle out the waste from the water and uses an all natural biological process utilizing a trickling filter to remove the fine solids from the water. The final result is an exceptional quality of water being discharged from the plant.

Water usage for one day

Flushed toilet 2 times: The average water usage is about 5 gallons per flush for older toilets, so I will use that amount, although I don’t think the toilets use that much water here. Since I flushed the toilet 2 times, that was 10 gallons of water used.

Took a 10 minute shower (included brushing teeth in shower): Penn State uses High Sierra showerheads, which approximately lets out 1.8 gallons per minute. My 10 minute shower was about 18 gallons.

The amount of water I personally used was about 28 gallons.

I indirectly used water through eating in the dining commons because they needed water to cook and clean. I am not sure how much water they use so I cannot include it.

Two gallons for one day

The areas of use for water include cooking, drinking, and cleaning. The priorities I set for water usage in this experiment are drinking and cleaning. Unfortunately, I cannot keep track of the amount of water used for cooking in the dining hall, so I will set aside a gallon for cooking and cleaning dishes. There are 128 ounces in the gallon I have left. In order to stay hydrated, I will use 24 ounces for drinking water, which is about 3 glasses of water. I will set aside another 24 ounces of water for cleaning (washing my face) and brushing my teeth. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to take a full shower with only two gallons of water. I have 80 ounces of water left and I will use that to save for the next day so that I can clean myself a little better. In a real situation, I would not be able to use a toilet to go to the bathroom, but since it is not appropriate to go to the bathroom elsewhere, I will continue to use the toilet. Other than going to the bathroom, I succeeded in using less than 2 gallons of water. I did not shower, but I used a minimal amount of water to wet a rag to wash my face. I also used a very small amount of water to brush my teeth. I wet my brush real quick and then washed it off real quick. I only drank 2 glasses of water, so I even saved some water in that area. For this experiment, I really didn’t do anything different than what I normally do, except for the showering. Typically, I shower once every other day anyways, so I wasn’t missing out on a shower. Geography is very important to water use. The location you are in determines how much water you have available and you need to be able to limit your water use based on that location. For example, the United States uses much more water than is available. Americans waste a lot of water because we take advantage of the fact it is provided to us very conveniently. We don’t think about it because it just comes out of a faucet. Other countries have to work for their clean water and therefore use a lesser amount because it requires a greater effort to acquire fresh water.


Rachel Denny Module 3: Ethics

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

As stated in the module, virtue and actions are not totally separate. I think the core of this is deciding how goodness is perceived. You can be a good person, but if you never perform good acts, nobody will know you are a good person. If nobody other than yourself knows you are a good person, then are you really good? I don’t know. I guess I like to think that performing good acts (action ethics) is more important because action speaks louder than words. As Ghandi says, “The future depends on what you do today”, not what you “think” about today. Sure, it’s great to hypothesize about what we should be, but without action, thought is irrelevant in terms of ethics. You can talk about and think about what the people on this planet should be doing to sustain our resources, but until action is taken to actually sustain the resources, there is nothing really being done. That’ why I think performing good acts is more important than being a good person.

Do ecosystems matter for their own sake, or do they only matter to the extent that they impact humans (ecocentric ethics vs. anthropocentric ethics)?

In order to answer this, I feel like I need a definition for ecosystem. Ecosystems are widely varied, and I think the answer changes depending on the ecosystem. I think that ecosystems do matter for their own sake, and other people have had these same thoughts, because national parks are a product of ecosystems mattering for their own sake. On the opposite end, I some ecosystems really only matter to the extent that they can impact humans. Many ecosystems are maintained by humans for the sole purpose of benefitting humans, whether it be for firewood or food. It’s hard to answer the question about why ecosystems matter, but if I had to choose an answer to this questions, I think that in this world they only matter to which the extent that they impact humans. But along with that, it’s not like humans are going out destroying a bunch of ecosystems because they think they don’t matter. Humans are doing their best to preserve ecosystems, while still sustaining the human population, which is a difficult task.

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

I think all of our lives are worth the same and we really should try to help people as much as we can, but at some point you have to put your efforts into helping yourself. In my HDFS class, we have been discussing Patty Hawley’s Resource Control Theory. In this theory, she argues that to be the BEST group member (or societal member), you must have a balance of getting along with group members and getting ahead (obtaining more resources). This is an idea that fits very well with the discussion of selfishness and altruism. On the altruistic side of things, it is our duty to help others (getting along with others). On the selfish side, it is our duty to obtain our own resources and pursue ourselves (get ahead). So to answer the question, the worth of my life is dependent on my own ability to obtain that balance of the Resource Control Theory.


Rachel Denny M02 Biogas Diagram

The core idea behind my diagram is to show how the installation of the Biogas system creates a more sustainable lifestyle for those who use it. You will notice that all of the products in my chart stem from the installation of Biogas. The actual structure of the machine and how it works helps to create a more sustainable lifestyle and the fact that there is a decrease in the need for firewood also helps create a sustainable lifestyle. Compared to the diagram in the Marten reading, mine is different in the fact that I don’t really separate it into social and ecosystem components. It is the same in the fact that the ideas are the same. Human activities impact the ecosystem in many ways and the ecosystem affects the social system. You can see this in the diagram as natural things, such as cow dung, have helped humans create and maintain businesses. There are similarities because the overall concept of the impact of the social system on the ecosystem, and vice versa, is the same between each diagram. There are differences because there is a lot of information in the video and many things you can focus on. Fig 1.5 focuses more the details of really connecting things to each other, whereas I focus more on the big picture, how Biogas creates a more sustainable lifestyle. In connection the the Module, the Biogas system is one step in the right direction of creating a more stable system in India. I’m hoping that this new technology will aid in restoring the wood that they have been using all this time.rxd5160

Getting to Know You: Rachel Denny

Hello Geography 030,

My name is Rachel Denny and I am a Junior at University Park studying Early Childhood Education (Prek-4). I plan to eventually be a 2nd or 3rd grade teacher. I live on campus in Pollock and I am from Beaver Falls, which is about 45 minutes north of Pittsburgh. Go Steelers! Go Penguins! Go Pirates! I am interested in this course because it fulfills a requirement I need and it is online, which I enjoy. After reading about the course, I’m excited to learn more throughout the semester! Other things about me: I’m an RA, I’m the director of an a capella group, Blue in the FACE, and I love to play volleyball. My favorite color is purple and I thoroughly enjoy eating pizza. One of my goals is to get on the reality tv show Survivor.

After reading through Module 1, I feel that I am interested in the relationship between humans and the environment. I have always been very aware of the types of waste I create and how I can limit that waste or be more “green”. I’m a big fan of recycling! In relation to the module, this idea correlates with the concept of sustainability. As humans, what things are we doing that disrupt nature? How do we move past our needs and work to sustain and preserve the Earth for future generations? What happens when we “run out” of resources, or will we run out of resources? These are all things to consider when we talk about human-environment interactions. It’s really interesting because I just watched this video about this woman who has almost no waste. This is the link if you want to watch!