Module 9- Climate Change

Climate Change_diagram_skh5224 (1)

Through this diagram I decided to show how the recognition of climate change as a serious issue lead to the drafting of the Copenhagen Accord and eventually lead to realization that new climate mitigation is essential to create a more sustainable environment.  Once the Copenhagen Accord was created, all countries did not immediately adopt to the ideas of the Accord and therefore lead to the United States and the BASIC’s to look for allies to support them for their own personal benefit.  In order to gain other countries support these countries had to use a variety of tactics and methods.  The problem in this, and as I showed in my diagram is that some of the methods used by these countries lead to countries questioning how much trust they can put in other countries.  Some questionable tactics used by the U.S and the BASIC’s include cables, spying and threatening.  An example shown in this diagram of how cables came in handy is how US was informed that Saudi Arabia needed to move their economy away from petroleum which lead the US to commit to help Saudi Arabia with its “economic diversification efforts would ‘take the pressure off climate change negotiations’.”  Other ways of gaining allies was to spy, which was used by China through spear phishing as well as countries providing money to others in order to gain support.  The US also at one point used the method of threatening especially in the case of Ethiopia and basically made an ultimatum for Ethiopia forcing them to sign the accord.  In the end, 116 countries ended up joining the Copenhagen Accord however overall the accord resulted in failure mostly because of the lack of trust between countries.  I ended off my diagram by showing that if greenhouse gases continue to reduce i will be because of climate mitigation, or in other words, new methods of reducing greenhouse gases.

One of the biggest and most important things to take away from this module is what causes climate change.  It is common for people to believe that climate change is caused by temperature increases and the increase in radiation from the sun.  Unfortunately, these people are misinformed, and need to be aware that the reason for climate change is mostly due to greenhouse gases from human activity and not from sun radiation.  Another important idea to take away from this module is understanding that we are trying to “foster collective action among all of humanity” or in other words, have collective action on mitigation.  The reason this is so hard to come by is because different areas of the world have different languages causing a language barrier, people are aware to different extents of climate change and people have different values which cause debate in every major issue.  To show how values could come in the way of negotiating mitigation, I recall reading a section of this module that outlined the difficulty in reaching agreements between poorer and richer countries.  The small and poorer countries would become bothered by the larger and wealthier countries asking them to watch their use of fossil fuels when they don’t use nearly as much fossil fuels as the bigger country.  Looking back on so many failed attempts of reducing greenhouse gases, in this particular case it could be beneficial to instead of, for lack of a better word, “calling out” smaller countries in order to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases, to make it a national requirement to be informed of the damage the excessive use of fossil fuels can be detrimental to the earth especially since we are burning up fossil fuels at a much faster rate than they are regenerating.

Module 8- Vulnerability Reduction

Using the Nathan World Map of Natural Hazards I identified some of the natural hazards my town faces based on the zone it is located in.  I noticed that a lot of the zones that were higher than others my town fell onto was mainly because I live in a state that is on the coast of the United States.  I noticed that the lowest zones my town fell under was zone 0 for earthquakes, zone 1 for extratropical storms and zone 1 for wildfires.  The higher zones that South Brunswick fell under include zone 3 for tropical cyclones, which makes a lot of sense considering New Jersey is on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.  Other zones that are a bit higher for South Brunswick include zone 2 for hailstorms and zone 3 for tornados.  Overall, the Nathan map was not best suited for this type of task considering that the quality of the map was blurry and it was difficult to tell where certain zones ended and started.  However I believe it is a great way to tell which places fall in which zones.  Especially considering that most natural hazards occur on a global scale.

The natural hazard I chose to discuss is an earthquake with a magnitude of 3.5 in Tocopilla, Chile.  The east coast in the United States is not known for having a large number of earthquakes especially significantly powerful ones.  So in retrospect, my hometown located in central New Jersey, in a zone 0, most likely could not experience the same type of disaster therefore, the risk is significantly lower than Chile’s risk which is in a zone 3 or 4 for earthquakes. The scale of this particular disaster would be very large for my hometown however in this particular place it is not very large compared to the location it took place in.  The severity of the earthquake would actually be very similar to the severity in Chile considering the description of the earthquake explained that the earthquake was not even felt by any of the population and they were only ably to track the earthquake.  Since tall buildings are more affected by smaller earthquakes the section of South Brunswick that would be affected the most would be the apartment buildings and hotels, they would be the most affected by this earthquake.

There are not many serious natural hazards in my town often but I would say the most likely to occur would be either a hurricane or some type of minor flooding.  The event that I do clearly remember being a very large natural hazard is Hurricane Sandy.  Although we do get a decent amount of rain none of them would account for a natural hazard, but Sandy was something else.  According to the Tropical Cyclone Report, Hurricane Sandy by Eric S. Blake and others, Hurricane Sandy had a secondary peak in New Jersey which although was in Atlantic City, gives you an idea about the type of damage it did to places closer to central New Jersey.  Although it did not cause any extreme and major damage to my town the towns power was out for over a week and there was flooding on lots of major roads.

In order to reduce vulnerability in the town of South Brunswick it would make sense to have more professionals that understand how to sustain development and be able to withstand natural hazards.  According to Alberto Uribe in order to reduce vulnerability there has to be a concerned public which includes “institutionally organized group that is adequately staffed and trained to understand natural hazards.  I know that South Brunswick does not have adequate number of people studying natural hazards and definitely not enough people that know what to do when they hit South Brunswick.  It would be very helpful to have a larger group of properly trained individuals leading South Brunswick when it is faced with natural hazards.

Blake, Eric S. “Tropical Cyclone Report Hurricane Sandy.” N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.

Uribe, Alberto. “Reducing Vulnerability to Natural Hazards: Lessons Learned from Hurricane Mitch A Strategy Paper on Environmental Management.” Inter-American Development Bank, n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.

Module 7-Urban Planning

I live in a central New Jersey suburban town called South Brunswick.  South Brunswick is a decent sized town and would most likely be considered an automobile suburb.  Although some neighborhoods have sidewalks, mine specifically does not and I know of others that only have the automobile road as well. I’m not sure that there is one specific place to be considered the metropolitan area however the town has around 37,734 people living in it.  That being said my transportation mode for most of my childhood was by car, being driven to friends houses across town or to the mall which would usually be somewhere about fifteen minutes away.  There was always an occasion where I would ride my bike to a friend that lived close by to me, however that was rare, as my parents did not find the roads safe enough to ride my bike on especially with the lack of sidewalks.  The same goes fro many other kids in my town however you do see a decent amount of bikers during the warmer seasons which I would guess keeps our resident health up.

The first city I chose is Rochester, New York.  Rochester is an automobile suburb with a variety of neighborhoods just like Boston and like my hometown South Brunswick, New Jersey.  Specifically in Rochester the urban density does not seem to be very high along with my hometown South Brunswick and especially in my own neighborhood.  My neighborhoods urban density recently slightly went up however, as they turned one of my neighbors houses into a place for two families. Overall much like Rochester, there are few sidewalks and to get anywhere you use a car, very rarely does anyone walk to get anywhere unless they are down the street.  Reading about Rochester makes me realize that perhaps if they had more sidewalks the traffic would be much calmer and the same goes for South Brunswick.  As it says in the module transitioning into sustainability takes a lot of work and a lot of rebuilding, who knows, in Rochester sidewalks could be the first step.

The second city I chose is Detroit, Michigan.  Detroit, as said in the module “makes a good case study for “urban agriculture”.  Downtown Detroit did not previously have grocery stores offering fresh produce prior to them having urban agriculture and it has reshaped diets in Detroit and across the country.  This has allowed Detroit more affordable and healthier produce for the people in its environment.  It allows more people to make a living off of selling their produce.  On top of that it reduces their ecological footprint.  To connect that to my hometown there are a couple of houses that have their own garden near me but enough that there would be a time for them to sell at a market.  If more people went out of their way to be involved in urban farming it would improve resident health, because of the physical aspect of being outside and physically farming as well as reducing our ecological footprint.

Food Choice & Social Norms

Growing up I have always been extremely open to trying new foods.  At I young age people would always comment on how peculiar my taste in food was, as I was enjoying lemon salads, brussel sprouts and fish at a very young age.  However, at school I would dramatically change my eating habits because I was in a lunch room surrounded by my peers who were all still in the phase of wanting chicken fingers and french fries for every meal.  I spent most of middle school eating hot lunch or fries and a chicken patty a lot of the times with a side of corn which I now know to receive the largest subsidy at about 4 billion dollars.  This social norm became apparent to me through the socialization that occurred while sharing meals with them.  Feeling out of place when I did not eat the same foods as them made me change my eating habits at school.

Looking back at the situation I was in during middle school I realize how dangerous that outlook on my eating could have been on my life if it stuck through high school.  If I continued to eat the typical burger and fries hot meal lunch every day my body would have definitely started taking a toll.  The sad part is, this happens to a lot of teenagers, and obesity becomes an issue, especially in public schools.  Not only could obesity become an issue but a lack of eating, also known as anorexia, as a result of the lack of healthy options could also become an issue.  It is widely known that the food options in public schools are not usually the healthiest, and it can become detrimental to the health of teenagers in the United States.  First of all, the food offered in public schools is not healthy to begin with, but of the food offered the healthiest option should be the social norm of what students are eating.  According to the module a basic nutritional need is to eat animal based food less frequently than plant based foods, and in a school cafeteria that is not an option.food_diagram_skh5224

Pesticides, Good or Bad?

This case study describes the development of Indonesia through Colby- Sustainable Development under the topic of agriculture and using the specific study found at  The goals of this development were based off of their concern of their food self sufficiency in rice.  This goal was once reached before however it “came at the expense of the sustainable agricultural development”.  In the past in order to increase the rice output a lot of money was spent on products such as fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation.  The use of all three of those things increased dramatically and by 1986 the cost of the input subsidies reached 725 billion dollars.  As said early on in the module, often a place having a lot of money (or spending a lot of money) means better health.  Later on, years after the constant and inappropriate use of pesticides lead to development downsides.  The downsides from the pesticide included pesticide resistant pests and the “elimination of natural predators that help control pests”.

This case study describes the fertilizer that helps Peruvian Coffee growers improve livelihoods through a global coalition for sustainable agricultural development called Farming First found at  The goals of this development was to benefit the families of coffee growers with the higher income but the development of this program that “provides credit for purchasing fertilizer” lead to even greater developments.  Of course the increase of money often means better health as stated in the first case study however the amount of income was not the only thing that benefitted from this program.  Some of the environmental benefits includes the better habitat for the surrounding trees from the recycling of the pulp residue of the fruit and promote biodiversity.

I have grown up and lived in a central New Jersey town for most of my life and throughout those years I have lived in the same house in South Brunswick next to a corn farm.  Most of my observations of this farm were because the mass amount of corn stalks that would blow over to my yard around the fall season I do remember a significant development that occurred over my time living in the house next door.  There are a lot of deer in New Jersey that cause many problems among farmers and planters.  Although deer do not exactly have an appetite for corn they trample over the beginning stages of it growing. The farmers decided it was a good idea to put a pesticide down on the field.  In their favor, although it costed more to buy the pesticide, in the end it made them more money by being able to sell more corn in the end.  Unlike the pesticide in the first case and very much alike to the second case the pesticide worked in the farmers favor.

Module 4- Personal Water Supply and Usage

I live in a town called South Brunswick in central New Jersey I happen to live very close to our water supply.  We get our supply of water from underground aquifers usually in Elizabethtown.  I have never realized, but as I drive on Miller Road and through the places bordering my town I have passed by places that we get our water supply from.  Most places in my town get there water from aquifers and our water is all underground.  However, I do know that there is an older part of South Brunswick that only get their water from personal wells.  There are around four places in South Brunswick that has wells, one on Jamesburg Road, Georges Road, Broadway Road and Miller Road.  The South Brunswick Water Division owns all of the wells in the township.  They have a range of depth from 118 to 170 feet and they were all completed in between 1963 and 1998.


TOTAL: 67.3 gallons

The top three areas of water use that I prioritize for this experiments are cooking drinking and washing. The biggest struggle to cut down water use is definitely coming from my morning shower.  I like to take a shower in the morning to wake myself up, however with restricted water it can not nearly be as long as usual, in fact I could not even take a shower I have to change my shower to more of a sponge bath since showers use 2 gallons of water per minute at least.  Not only do I have to cut down my morning shower to a sponge bath but I have to make sure that there is enough water to cook and clean the dishes after.  Instead of boiling my broccoli as I sometimes like to do I would have to bake it or pan fry instead since most of my water will be used up by bathing.  At first I thought that I could scratch having cooking water so that I could add water to my sponge bath however once I thought about it I realized that if I didn’t clean my dishes then I could potentially get bugs or have mold form and I also had to use the bathroom.  Overall my whole day is dependent on water and depending on my geography I may feel the need to use more water especially in a much hotter climate.

Module 3

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

I believe that it is much more important to perform good acts than to be a good person.  Everyone has their own limits and abilities however our job is to try and perform good acts within our capabilities.  For example, if you know that there are people in your city going hungry you can support there being a soup kitchen nearby for the people to go to, which is an example of being a good person since you want those people to have help.  Turning it into a good act would be volunteering at the soup kitchen, so that you are being a part of the action of giving food to those in need of it.  If, for example, you were under critical care and were not able to walk, then perhaps your ability to help the soup kitchen falls under the umbrella of perhaps donating money instead of physically helping out.  It all falls under what your capability is.

2.  Do the ends justify the means? (if a goal is morally important enough any method of achieving it is acceptable)

As talked about in the beginning of this module we all have intuition, which leads and helps us to decide what is ethically wrong or right, good or bad.  If we always believe that a specific goal is important enough that any achievement of it is acceptable then we put blinding parts of our intuition at risk.  A lot of the times it only takes one person to convince countless amounts of people to believe something is so morally right that any method of reaching the goal is acceptable. One of the biggest examples in history of the ends not justifying the means is World War 2.  One man came into power and convinced people that humans that were not of the aryan race were not meant to be alive and were known as vermin.  Just because these people thought that only people of the aryan race should be alive does not mean that killing the people that weren’t of that race was justified.  Just because something happens to be a shared moral does not give cause to stop at nothing to pursue that moral in the case of World War 2.

5.  Do the pleasure and pain of non-human animals matter as much as the pleasure and pain of humans?

Although I would like to say that the pleasure and pain of non-human animals matter as much as the pleasure and pain of humans, it is simply not true in the present day.  I realize that some people believe that becoming a vegetarian is working towards the equality between humans and non humans but it has barely even made a dent.  Anthropocentrism radiates through our every day life at such a high intensity.  We have non human animals as pets and locked up in zoos and many even still tested on.  We live in an extreme anthropocentric environment.  If you were to turn on the television and watch the news or even log onto a news website, the content is constantly about the effect everything, including the ecosystem has on people.  In a different time period, perhaps the prehistoric era it was much easier to have a very non speciesism view on environmental ethics however a lot of progress in human evolution has occurred.  We became discriminatory towards other species the more we developed as a species which caused us to be a speciesism based society.

One of the core ideas in my diagram is that with the advancement of biogas the health of this specific indian community was vastly helped.  I also tried to show how the wealth of the community is almost solely based off of the compost or in other words, part of the ecosystem.  This community started their journey for a stove fuel by using firewood which then started to cause problems with being exposed to dirty air.  This could be an example of a positive feedback loop because every time they burned firewood the dirtier the air that they lived in became.  This community then showed its resilience in that it searched for a new way to better their air and livelihood as a community by using biogas to power their stoves.  The organization of my diagram is actually very similar to figure 1.5.  I also decided to split up my diagram into two separate sides instead of making one large map.  they are different in that I happen to have an equal amount of boxes on both sides of my diagram where as in figure 1.5 there were much more topics on the social systems side.  I think that in the future I could perhaps focus more on the connections between the ecosystem and social system rather than focusing on matching one ecosystem topic per social system topic.

Getting to Know You: Sabrina Hecht

Hi everyone, my name is Sabrina and I am a sophomore student here at Penn State University Park.  I haven’t done much moving in my life and grew up in a town in central New Jersey called South Brunswick.  Since attending my last two years of high school in South Brunswick I have known that I wanted to pursue something within the arts.  After discovering graphic design as a career path, I knew that is what I wanted to do with my life.  I am now studying graphic design at Penn State and could not be happier.  Since I started studying graphic design, I realized how broad the field is.  Maps happen to be a big part of graphic design history and it is very interesting to me to learn about all of the different things I could possibly be running into throughout my life, geography being one of them.  Other than an interest and passion for graphic design I sometimes like to switch in between TED Talks and music in the background of my homework!

After reading through this first module the first issue I thought of that I believe geography can address is how the environment can affect the rate and amount of homeless people in a given territory.  The environment has created some drastic changes of how we live throughout history. It would be very interesting to understand the spatial scale of environmental catastrophes such as a hurricane so that I could understand just how much of an impact these kinds of disasters have on an issue such as the homeless.  Although I would assume that a disaster such as a hurricane has a concentrated area of which the people are affected I realize that those types of events can cause change in the surrounding areas as well.  It is important to understand how although some things may seem like it is only affecting a small number of people it could be the exact opposite.  I know that geography can study lots of issues that lead to chain reactions and I look forward to learning how to break down, understand and visualize the many relationships between human and environment.