Module 10: Biodiversity Learning Activity

  1. First, pick a species on the endangered species list. (found here: You can choose from the vulnerable and threatened categories as well. Then, research WHY this animal is in danger, and in 200-350 words, describe what actions lead to this animal’s endangerment. Could this have been prevented, or is the animal on this list because of natural occurrences?

The animal I chose from the endangered species list was the African Elephant. This animal is actually considered to be vulnerable and not endangered. The African Elephant is the biggest land animal on Earth. A big reason why I chose this animal is not only because it is my personal favorite, but also because of the illegal activity associated with this animal. The African Elephant’s tusks are extremely desirable, making them a target for poaching within the illegal ivory trade. The Illegal ivory trade started in Africa and kills over 70,000 African and Asian Elephants a year. Mainly used for manufacturing, ivory is extremely valuable and considered to be an indication of wealth. Although there have been many acts and treaties to ban the illegal trade, they have been unsuccessful for the most part, hence the endangered list. Considering the African Elephant is on the vulnerable list due to it’s illegal poaching, I think that this endangerment is definitely man-made, and is a direct result of human behavior. If we were to stop illegal poaching, it is inevitable that the African Elephant’s population would increase, thus eventually taking them off of the list. I understand that ivory is desirable, but I think that completely wiping an animal off of the planet to meet your selfish needs is completely disgraceful.

African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) mother and calf, Sambru National Reserve, Kenya

African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) mother and calf, Sambru National Reserve, Kenya

  1. In another 200-350 words, pick your favorite module/topic from the semester. What was most eye-opening to you?

My favorite topic to learn about this semester was the climate change lecture. I’ve taken several other classes involving the environment, but I liked how climate change was explained. I think the most crucial part of understanding climate change and the human influence was to stress about climate vs. weather. Overall from the lecture I got to understand about individual action and just how impactful what I do from day to day can positively or negatively influence a society. I think that climate change and biodiversity go hand-in-hand. The world has suffered from huge biodiversity loss as a result of human activity. Furthermore, the same applies to the results of climate change which have severely adverse affects on the environment. Climate Change also helped me understand more about my final project, which is about oil. The emission of fossil fuels into the atmosphere and overall understanding of polar ice caps melting really can impact biodiversity by certain animals being unable to thrive in new, compromising positions. Animals on the endangered list are there mostly by illegal poaching or due to the vast change of their environments. I find it to be pretty terrible that we are losing animals due to human behavior, but as of now, our economy is running on fossil fuel consumption, so we must adhere.

Module 9: Climate Change

  1. ShandaSnydermodule9


2.  My diagram follows how systematic the entire outcome of climate change is. It starts at the beginning, which follows the module, introducing the industrial revolution, which then increased human consumption. The rise of human consumption paired with the increased emission of greenhouse gases shows the direct correlation between human activity and global climate change. Furthermore, my diagram then shows how following the idea of climate change, the United States still put greed above all and constructs a treaty which will manipulate and essentially discredit other countries who do not follow the Copenhagen Accord. My diagram also displays how some countries were not on board with the Copenhagen Accord, and how they were subjected to manipulation as well, thus creating overwhelming support of this act. Countries like Saudi Arabia are huge in the oil industry, and they are a huge competitor for us, which made it extremely important to get them on our side. We used various angles to give us leverage. After the United States became successful in convincing the necessary countries, we see now that most other countries that aren’t involved almost have no choice but to jump on board as well at this point. Now, we have over 116 countries who support, and a lot more who are planning to actively support the accord as well. This ultimately ends with the US being in control, just as they wanted. The United States’ main goal was to anchor global trade, and we now can continue to off shore oil drill and explore more drilling sights in other countries, thus increasing greenhouse gas emissions, worsening climate change.


3. When thinking critically about climate change, I would say that ethics heavily influence why we do the things that we do. From Module 3, we learned about distributive justice, showing that we think about the consequences after they happen, and we focus on what benefits one half, and disadvantages the other. I feel the same way about global climate change. Making this a global scale, the United States is in control, and we continue to warm the troposphere. I will not place all blame on the United States, but I will put the majority of the causes on our country since we are in total control now. We as Americans are collectively individualistic, and we tend to do things for gain. I personally am happy that information like Wikileaks is available to me. When thinking about the total population, I can’t say that I disagree with others having the information readily available to them as well. I think in order to close the information gap, we need to spread information like this. I think we have a right to know what is happening in the world, despite the corrupt nature of most actions put in place. I do not think that the United States should be going about the Copenhagen Accord this way, but at the end of the day, we want money and control over everything. At this point, I feel like way too many hands are in the cookie jar, and just like our module states, we would essentially be redirecting tons of money into other things, which will disrupt the majority of the economic circulation and change lifestyles totally and indefinitely.

MODULE 8: Vulnerability Reduction

  1. From identifying on the Nathan National Disaster Map, I see that my region, Western Pennsylvania, faces low risks for wild fires and extratropical storms. From the map, we see that my region falls in zone 2 for hailstorms and tornados. When trying to find Pittsburgh on the map, I couldn’t really hone in on the specific area which I lived. I can kind of get the idea by just guessing, but I wish I had a better view of the map so that I could see just how susceptible I was to disaster. The map did an okay job giving me an idea of the likelihood of me experiencing which type of disaster, but I can’t really see PRECISELY I fall into each zone.
  1. By using the RSOE EDIS map, I chose to look at the disaster happening within Beijing, China. In Beijing, they are experiencing what is characterized as a biological hazard, which in this case is Yellow Fever Virus. The yellow fever virus was categorized as a medium biological hazard. After researching yellow virus, I don’t see it being a huge threat to the United States. Yellow Fever is predominantly in Africa and South America, with very few cases of Americans getting the virus unless they travel to an area which carries the infection. There is even a preventative vaccine to take so that if you get bit by a mosquito, you won’t get infected. Because of this, I would say it poses very low risk. Comparing Pittsburgh to Beijing is hard, because Beijing is such a small city. Though we can see that the threat for Yellow Fever was not that large since only 3 people were infected. In my town, it would be like 20-30 people getting sick, which would be a pretty serious threat. Because Yellow Fever is caused by an infection from a mosquito, I would imagine that people in Pittsburgh who live near the rivers and other small areas of water in the suburbs would be at a higher risk than the inner city.
  1. In my hometown, we get a lot of floods. Although they are natural disasters and occur frequently, they really do impede on the lives of the citizens that live in my city. The reason why Pittsburgh is so vulnerable to floods is because of our hill landscape. Although the lesson states Pennsylvania has low vulnerability, I would say that flooding is about the biggest problem that we face. Flooding is challenging to fix in general, but it is especially hard since a lot of the flooding plains are near/within neighborhoods.

  1. An effort to reduce vulnerability to natural hazards has already occurred in my city in the form of Post-event Recovery and Reconstruction. Pittsburgh has enacted a flood disaster tax which is supposed to cover the cost of if not most, all of the extensive damages caused by floods. I think a way to reduce vulnerability even more would be to extend the disaster recovery tax to all citizens, just in case something were to happen. For example, Pittsburgh gets very few tornadoes, but they do happen. Money would be helpful to fix siding on houses or car windows in the event of an unexpected tornado. I think that the local government would be the best to contact regarding this matter. They would be able to form a budget and vote to enact once it is approved. I can personally make people aware of our risks when it comes to natural disasters, helping spread awareness so that people are able to prepare properly.



Module 7: Sustainable Cities

My hometown is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh is the 2nd largest city in Pennsylvania, with a population of about 305,000. I live in the South Side of the city, which can be reached through a number of bridges that are used to gain access all around despite the three rivers that run through the entire city. I didn’t realize this before, but I would categorize Pittsburgh as an extremely metropolitan area, with both a mix of pedestrian-oriented and automobile suburbs. My particular neighborhood has a streetcar which runs through it. I’ve lived in Pittsburgh my entire life, and I am able to identify the various types of neighborhoods which exist within my city. Although we tend to have a lot of construction and traffic, I would still consider most parts of the city and the outskirts of the city to be relatively accessible.

The first city that I am going to talk about is Copenhagen, Denmark. Transportation was a collective action problem, just as it is with my city as well. In order to increase safety between bike riders and cars, this city created car-free streets and zones. My city has been building something similar, however not many streets are car-free. Instead, some bridges and trails have been created which are specifically for bikes and sometimes walking. Additionally, my city has started to provide more space for bikes by building bike lanes. I personally find the bike lanes to be quite safe, but I think Pittsburgh should find a way to have more “bike only zones” to help with traffic especially. I think Copenhagen has done a great job solving a problem within the community, and improvements can be made in Pittsburgh to increase sustainability in certain neighborhoods by utilizing the same outline as Copenhagen.

The second city from the module which is relevant to Pittsburgh is Chicago. When it comes to urban farming, I did not expect Chicago to be as advanced as it was. I recall Pittsburgh having a few urban farms, but it has really sky rocketed over the years. Our biggest non-profit organization is called, “Grow: Pittsburgh”. Grow Pittsburgh has a few farms throughout the city, and then we have about three or four other farms which are located in predominantly automobile suburbs. I think a way to sustain our current farms would be to offer more jobs within that field to expand it. Grow Pittsburgh is not talked about a lot, and I think if we had more of an opportunity to get people involved, we would have a lot more farm to maintain.


1. In college, I have made a lot of adjustments when it comes to my food consumption. Prior to coming to Penn State, I was on a pretty strict diet because of dance, and I also had family that cooked for me every day. The food pyramid was followed religiously, and I rarely ate fast food, unless I really had no other option. When I got to school, the opposite happened. I found myself being so busy and unable to find time to cook full meals for myself. I then turned to the lifestyle that I saw the majority of my peers following. This lifestyle is way more fast paced, and grease seemed to be a new food group on my food pyramid. Now, I eat McDonalds and at other fast food restaurants more frequently, just to nourish my body. The social norm when you are a young, college student is to eat unhealthily and make it through school. I have so far done a good job fitting that stereotype.

2. The social norm which is connected to the food choice would be the overconsumption of food, leading to obesity. As previously mentioned, it’s socially acceptable for me to eat unhealthy because I am in college and have a lot of loans. However, my poor eating habits are the gateway into becoming part of the public health issue which is obesity. An additional societal issue that influences what eat is the lack of access to fresh food. In Pittsburgh, some farmers markets were discontinued, and others brought a scarce amount of produce. This is a direct result of poor crops, which now allot more opportunity for people to buy fast food instead of fresh produce from the farmers markets. Given this connection, I think that the new social norm for college students should be discounts on produce, maybe even incentives for eating natural food. Most college students like free and discounted items, so this may improve long term-effects in society. As for the farmers markets in Pittsburgh, I see a huge collective action problem which can only be fixed by increasing biodiversity to potentially grow more food to sell.

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Development: 2 perspectives

Part 1: Air pollution in Mexico City

The first development case study that I found dealt with the current air pollution issue in Mexico City. The goal of this study was to find out just how much a program to decrease pollution by controlling driving in the city This case study focused on a driving program which banned drivers from driving one day out of the week, depending on their license plates. This particular city is heavily populated, with poor air quality due to their positioning in the mountains. Although the idea was good in theory, this particular program had a number of issues, with convenience being one of the largest. This case reveals how current constituents of Mexico City are unwilling to make sacrifices for later generations. The idea that the people now are unwilling to compromise for the people later frames the idea that Mexico City is making decisions based on Sustainable Development. Air pollution is a global-scale problem, and I think that this large case study done in the 1990’s shows the general attitude of the global population, which is essentially an indirect lack of empathy for the destruction of Earth.

Part 2: Fertility in Sub-Saharan Africa

This case study was conducted by David Shapiro, Professor of Economic Demography  at Penn state . Professor Shapiro conducted this study in Kinshasa, Africa: the largest city and capital of the Democratic republic of the Congo. The study examines the inverse relationship found between fertility rates and women’s educational attainment in sub-Saharan Africa. Professor Shapiro’s study greatly relates to our development module as it examines the way a particular sub-Saharan African city develops through the relationship between fertility rates and  women’s education. In Module 5, we learned just how a number of factors can indirectly create positive influences with in a country, increasing the overall development of the country.

Part 3: Pittsburgh, PA

I did not initially think so, but fertility in Sub-Saharan Africa and Air Pollution in Mexico City are similar to the development of my hometown. I live in Pittsburgh, PA, which is famous for the Steel Mills. In the mid 1900’s when industrialization was increasing popularity even more so, Pittsburgh started seeing similar air pollution issues just like Mexico City. One of the indirect affects of air pollution in Pittsburgh has been an increase of asthma, increase of low-birthweight, as well as an increased risk for heart and lung disease. Although the business changed and the steel mills stopped, Pittsburgh can learn a lot about the efforts of Mexico City to decrease air pollution. Groups Against Smog and Pollution, GASP, is heavily in charge of clean initiatives in Pittsburgh. Ideas about less driving could be implemented in my town with minor adjustments from the original case study. The study in Sub-Saharan Africa also mirrors Pittsburgh because of the increase of educational opportunities. The prestigious universities in Pittsburgh, as well as the current push for jobs are showing that the more schooling a woman has, the older she is when she has children, and she is less likely to have a lot of children.

Module 4 Water Usage: Shanda Snyder

Part 1-A

Hello. My name is Shanda Snyder, and I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In terms of water, my home gets water from the services of the Pennsylvania Water & Sewage Authority.  Currently, 70 million gallons of water are treated each day at our drinking water treatment plant. The PWSA gets its water from Allegheny River, with no ground or well water being used. The water goes through a series of treatments which take a full 3 days to complete. The first stage is called the “Clarification” Stage. During this stage, land particles like clay and slit are removed. Then, an addition of treatments are added to make the rest of the “bad stuff” sink. During this phase, they also carbon is also added to the water to improve the taste. Secondly, the next stage is the “Filtration” Process. This process involves the water moving rather slowly through a combination of filters like coal, sand, and gravel to remove the rest of the particles and unwanted microorganisms. The last step in the treatment process is the “Disinfection” stage. This last stage is crucial, involving the use of chlorine to remove any harmful bacteria and microorganisms. Then, more chemicals are added in order to finish the treatment. The pH of the water and fluoride are adjusted.  From there, the water is then clean enough to go through the pipes in the comfort of my own home.

Part 1-B

From both of the water consumption websites, it looks like I use around 209.3 gallons per day, on average.

ShandaSnyder water usage ShandaSnyder water usage2

Part 1-C

Based on the data, it looks like the majority of my water use is due to my lengthy showers. Because I am also a dancer, I usually shower after practice. Not only do I get clean, but it helps my muscles out. From 209 gallons to only 2 gallons in one day?! I was nervous. But, I chose Monday, February 8, 2016 to cut down on my water. I knew I was going to have to make major adjustments, so I prioritized hygiene/personal maintenance and cooking. I took a really quick 4 minute shower in the morning, turned the water off before I brushed my teeth, didn’t brush my teeth at night, made dinner and let the dishes pile up, and I also tried to not flush the toilet as much. I hate doing that, it really freaks me out, but I knew that that was a significant way to cut down on my water usage. I also washed my hands really fast, and used hand sanitizer as well. Despite cutting down on everything, I still went over the 2 gallon limit by a significant amount. It was a complete fail, and I admire anyone who was able to complete the task! This type of experience just shows that I do not think about my overconsumption of water as much as I should. I really do take advantage of just showering because I’m bored or running the dishwasher when it isn’t all the way full. I think geography ties to water usage because generally on the East Coast, we aren’t told much about water usage. On the West Coast, you are told about water usage a lot and encouraged to monitor it due to the weather and severe drought that can occur. Geographically, in places that are near a lot of water, I would imagine more would be used only because it is easier to get to.


Module 3: Ethics

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

Personally, I struggled with this question at first, only because with my personal experience, I see these two go hand in hand. I truly believe in order to for you to be considered a good person, you have to possess a level of selflessness by performing good acts. I see the good acts as validation for yourself that you are doing the “right” thing, contributing positively to the greater good, which in turn makes you a good person. Performing good acts makes you feel positively, and seeing that you are actually serving as a type of aid for a particular community shows that you are in turn, a good person. Selfless acts help you put an action to a description of characteristics which make up “good” people. In our society, I think that the general norm would be to give back when you can, as it is associated with positive moral values.

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

I believe that the pleasure and pain on non-human animals matter as much as the pleasure and pain of humans, but that does not mean that this statement holds true for society as a whole. For example, there are animal rights activists and anti-mammal hunting organizations which sole mission is to stop hunting/malpractice. Though I am not a member of organizations like P.E.T.A, I am strongly against the maltreatment and slaughter of animals and wildlife. I don’t personally own any fur jackets, but I do wear Ugg boots, which contain sheepskin. If I were to investigate organizations more, and took a closer look at labels, I’m sure I would notice that finding materials that have not been tested on or made out of some sort of animal parts would be quite difficult. I admire those who go to great lengths and become vegan, but I do not have the will power. I love bacon too much.

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

Again, this question is really hard to answer. I think that my life is just as important as anyone else’s, no more, no less. However, in a particular circumstance, I know that those feelings can change. The most obvious example for me would be my life against a family member’s. I can’t say that I would see my life as more important. In fact, I would see my life as being less important, because I would be willing to sacrifice my life for someone else’s in my family. Additionally, if my life were being threatened, I would definitely defend myself to the best of my ability. For me, it is all circumstantial. I will treat any other person with respect in general, and I see them as my equal.

Shanda Snyder:BioGas System

My diagram focuses on the overall relationship between the environment and the society within it. The environment can influence society in several ways, both positively and negatively, and the same applies to society. The positives trickle down in a series of ways which ultimately end up job creation, particularly amongst women as a result of the biogas generator. The diagram also shows how the use of alternative natural resources (Cow Dung versus Wood Burning) has a positive affect on overall health of society. Additional benefits include crop growth and more time to be focused on something else other than wood burning and other rigorous labor. Furthermore, I show how wood burning and other practices harm the environment, making it a huge negative effect. Other human actions such as using the bio slurry to gain household income is in fact both positive for both society and the environment.

When comparing my diagram to the one in the “What is Ecology” reading, I see a lot of similarities. The most obvious similarity would be how we both compare the ecosystem and the social system. There is also an emphasis on the act of wood burning in both of the diagrams as well. As far as differences go, I think that my diagram is more small scale than Marten’s. The other diagram emphasizes more issues and ultimately connects a larger picture than the one that I have designed. While both of our diagrams show just how everything we do truly influences the environment, my display is used to represent the societal and environmental practices within India.


Getting to Know: Shanda Snyder

Heyyyy everybody 🙂

My name is Shanda Snyder. I’m a senior, graduating in May. I’m a Criminology Major, Sociology Minor. Currently, I’m living in State College, at an off-campus apartment. I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania!! (GO STEELERS!) For those of you who aren’t that familiar with the landscape, it’s full of hills and lots of bridges, too!! I really love where I grew up, and depending on the opportunities for employment, I would like to stay there  after I graduate. In terms of what I want to do, I’m not 100% sure yet. Because Criminology is such a broad topic, it’s hard because you can see yourself being in so many different careers. So, in other words, I have no clue. I got interested in this class because I barely remember geography from middle/high school but I’m terrible at directions and describing areas and certain environments so I figured this class would be good for me. 🙂

In terms of what I’ve learned so far, I’ve already made a crucial connection between what I do as a Criminologist and what Geographers do. Under the umbrella of social sciences, we all share a common belief that the people alter the environment based on a myriad of factors. In Criminology, part of what we learn is how certain environmental or nature-based circumstances can make all of the difference in opportunity for the population socially. And with the use of geography, I will be able to extend my research to find more connections between the environment and its effects on neighborhoods. An example would be a neighborhood after Hurricane Katrina, and Manhattan. Our every day lives are influenced by the geographical landscape which we have constructed our communities on. It will be interesting to learn more about how both people and nature connect, and how we as people have influenced the environment as well!