Module 10- Biodiversity

  • The United States is home to more than 50 National Parks and hundreds of state parks around the country. They are travelers’ paradise, and they vary in natural features such as the mountains in Wyoming and Colorado, deserts in Utah, and swamp forests in Florida. If you have visited one or more, explain the biodiversity there compared to your hometown/the place you currently live in in 200-250 words. 

I have been to several national parks but my favorite was the Acadia National Park in Maine. The park is an island off the coast of Maine-making it rich in biodiversity simply for its geographical location. It has its own beaches, shorelines, forests, lakes, mountains and wetlands all within its 74 miles wonderland. Compared to State College, the park definitely outnumber us in types of animals and plants. They have 338 species of just birds, while also home to 37 small mammals, 33 fishes, and also various marine invertebrates and insects. I think it is quite obvious that the reason of higher biodiversity at the park is the relatively lack of human-nature interaction like we experience in State College, particularly in urban development. This allow the nature to continue its course to serve as the natural habitat for the flora and fauna there without unnatural interruption. The park’s location also contributes largely to the cause. With its multiple ecosystem there, many species of animals could inhabit the habitat.  The size of these habitats and their separation from other habitats or larger natural habitats limits the types of animals that are found there. Small animals adapted to smaller habitats are therefore more common, unlike the large mammals such as black bears and moose that require large areas and are rarely observed. The balanced ecosystem interaction with human ensures the sustainability of these natural landscapes.


  • Using a diagram system diagram, show how a biodiversity hazard can occur that can be caused by the HIPPO factors. Elaborate on the diagram in not more than 200 words.


My diagram aims to show how the HIPPO causes act as threats to diversity. I think that  human population plays an important role in leading the other 3 causes. The increasing number of human populating our planet requires us to have more shelters. To do this, we need to explore new lands, mostly done by deforesting new areas to make way for property developments. As these areas grow in their functionalities, they grow in size too-and the cycles continues. This will cost large area of habitat loss for many species of animals and plants. To support this growth, we need sufficient food too. So, human over harvest plants and animals to serve our need for nutrients. Another side effect of a growing population is pollution. As more people uses natural resources, more byproducts are produced. Even though technology have advanced, many of these byproducts are not easily biodegradable, thus they leave a bad footprints to the environment. As we look at these factors, take a minute to think; Are we the Invasive Species?

Climate Change & Wikileaks


The WikiLeaks brought up an important issue on the relation between global environmentalism and politics. The news started with the current environmental problem (climate change) due to over consumption of fossil fuel. This problem needed to be tackled by a major global action. This was when a consensus starts taking place, firstly with the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit being organized to involve countries of the UN members to meet and come to an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emission. The Copenhagen Accord was set, but it appeared that the means to achieve it was thought to be unethical. The article mentioned that the United States-one of the major polluter, used political and financial pressure to get nations on board to the accord. Most smaller nations weren’t on board with the accord because they thought they didn’t contribute to the pollution but still felt the negative effects of global warming. They wanted money that they thought were their right to make up for the fact that these other nations have harmed them. These nations were not cooperative to US wishes, so the United States is using the information they wrongfully obtained as ways to convince or blackmail these other nations. In the end, 140 countries pledged to support the Copenhagen Accord, which was what the US had aimed for and accounts for almost 75% of the parties to the UN climate change convention and, accord supporters like to point out, are responsible for well over 80% of current global greenhouse gas emissions.

I have different views on the collective actions that took place. Firstly, I personally, believe that the State Department cables should not have been released with the reason that the leaks may have substantially created a hostile environment between involving countries that could break down negotiations and other diplomatic relationships with the United States. I’m also now a bit more informed of how the ‘big guy’ politics work (by reading this and watching the House of Cards). Although it is viewed as unethical by many, including me, it is almost crucial that blackmail and lobbying effort be part of achieving a unitary decision. From the smaller, less wealthier countries’ point of view, the leaks is probably a godsend to them, showing that wealthy countries do not have the upper hand over them anymore. The actions of the leaker and news organizations to expose the information is like saying to the U.S. “If you can spy and attack these countries, we can spy and attack and expose you too”.


Hazards in Malaysia

My hometown of Seremban, Malaysia is not really prone to any major natural disaster. The Nathan World Map of Natural Hazards provided on the website only listed two natural disasters located in Malaysia; heat wave and biohazard. I looked at Kenya’s heat wave phenomenon that’s taking place right now and I immediately relate it to the one that is happening in my country right now. According to the description on both countries, the heat wave occurs due to El Nino. Malaysia has recorded a high 38.5 degree Celcius while in Kenya it was 40.5 degree Celcius, one of the highest recorded in the country in recent weeks. Based on this fact, we could say that the scale/magnitude of the disaster is almost on par, temperature-wise. Apart from that, the local government and meteorology bodies don’t expect much negative impact as the heat wave is very closely monitored and people are continuously updated on the issue, especially on ways to tackle the heat day to day.

One particular hazard that our country faces yearly is haze. In fact, every May/June, many  South East Asian countries had to endure months of excruciating, polluted breathing air. The haze was caused by fires started by by firms and farmers around Kalimantan, Indonesia engaging in illegal slash-and-burn practices as a relatively inexpensive means to clear their land of unwanted vegetation and peat. We had one of the worst one on 2015, especially during the El Nino season.  “32 of the country’s 52 air-quality monitoring stations tipped into the ”unhealthy” range”, forcing schools to close and flights were also delayed and cancelled.

Since the issue involves international parties, I believe that the best way to overcome this problem is to involve politics, more specifically with governance and policy-making. Many of the affected countries had already pressured the Indonesia government to impose a law to prevent intentional open-fire. Malaysia has also opened itself to collaborate with them. According to Malaysian Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, the MoU would let both countries “assisting and exchange ideas with each other in the case of jungle and peat soil fires while requiring Indonesia to comply with its side of the bargain”.

Urban Design of Seremban 2, Malaysia

I live in Seremban 2, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia. The region was developed by IJMLand during the early 2000’s as an expansion to the state’s capital, Seremban. I’ve lived there since 2006 and seen first hand the development of the new city; developed as a suburb accommodating automobile usage. In recent years, new roads were built that would become one of the main highways connecting Seremban to KL International Airport. It’s ~10km square in size, housing 50,000 people, and had numbers of shopping malls and business districts built within it. Many administration building has also transferred there like the District Administrative Complex, the Seremban Court Complex, the Seremban Police headquarters and the Fire & Rescue headquarters. It’s home to me, but I’m not a big fan of the rapid development it’s going through now. Although obviously it’s a good thing, I worry that I couldn’t enjoy the serenity of the place that I’m used to few years ago.

One city from the module that reminds me of mine was Bogota, specifically due to the city’s Bogota Ciclovia. I think that such activities can be held successfully in Seremban 2. One thing that I’m proud of my town is that it’s home to a large population of high & middle income families, living with close proximity to each other, and almost all of the kids goes to the same school. We are a pretty close community and I can definitely see many of us gather around the local recreation park on the weekend to cycle, jog or rollerskating together. Given the fact that Seremban 2 is built with many wide roads in a relatively small area, the government/developer (who’s highly involved in local activities) could organize such an event with no problem and would receive a positive reaction across the population.

Rochestor, NY also resembles many of the aspects of transportation design that can be seen in Seremban 2. One of the most obvious, as stated above is the abundant of wide, 3-lanes road that connects all of the different neighborhoods to the commercial districts, malls, federal highways and other towns. Projects are built sparsely, resulting in comfortable and spacious areas for people to interact freely. Almost every households own at least one car to get around with plenty of parking spaces. There’s also very limiting public transportation service there. I could only recall one bus system that goes through the area, and it is not a very popular mean of transportation for us. Being a newly developed city, Seremban 2 seems very laid back and feels safe. It is very much like living here in State College.

Food choice from Social Norm

Part of a social norm in my country is eating out. Compared to the States where there’s a lot of food chains and indoor restaurant, many of Malaysia’s food are sold on the streets (night markets and stalls) and open air restaurants. One of our favorite is to go to ‘Mamak’, usually run by immigrants from India or Bangladesh. They’re mostly popular for ‘roti canai’, a dough flipped on air with lots of oil involved (much like tossed pizza) and varieties of curries to enjoy it with. We prefer mamak because they are so cheap, they’re more accessible, and never boring. It has become part of our culture; teenagers go to mamak to hang out after soccer game, families go there to enjoy Indian foods, and blue collar workers go for their quick and cheap lunch. Another trademark of mamak is ‘teh tarik’, a super sweet milk tea.

The societal issue that comes with the introduction of mamak restaurants is the public health issue. These restaurants are usually open-air, close to open roads and in between busy buildings. The foods are also cooked in open kitchen, usually by someone without proper hygienic outfits. Food contamination is a big risk to our health, but still many people choose to eat at mamak rather than eating at home. Not just that, teh tarik and other sweet options at mamak has put Malaysia as the most obese country in Asia. We put sugar and fat on everything! Other than that, if mamak becomes more preferred, less and less households will choose to cook, thus decreasing the nutrinional and social value of a home-cooked meal. I belief we should make it a social norm in Malaysia to start planting vegetables or fruit plants again. That way people are encouraged to cook and eat healthier and at the same time teaching the younger generations to appreciate the work that goes into providing food and nutrition.


Module 5 – Fertility and Workforce

I reviewed “Fertility Control: China” that I found on Colby College website ( The population control policy was introduced as a tool for economic development of the country at the time. The study uses economic tools to see the relationship between government enforcement of population control policies and fertility outcomes. It allows the fertility rate to be affected by household preferences, and production technology (changes in agricultural output or income). From 1950’s to late 1980’s, there were three shocks; government, agricultural output, and preferences shocks. They concluded that significant unexpected changes in government leadership lead to both positive and negative impacts to fertility rate, but only short-term. The other two shocks (especially preference) lead to a long fertility cycles in China. Final results from the study suggest that population control isn’t sufficient to promote economic development or sustainability without permanent shifts in individual preferences.

The second case that I chose is about inclusion of women in workforce in South Asia. In my opinion, the IDRC is taking the necessary step to closen the gender gap in education and employment rate through the development of human resource. IDRC started the Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women (GrOW) program in Pakistan, to examine the factors that keep women from attending training programs. Similarly in Northern Bangladesh, the program involves skills training and a stipend, followed by an internship at a garment factory. To date, more than 90% of graduates have found work. Furthermore, the Delhi-based Institute for Human Development (IHD) are working to report how the varying growth of employment in the manufacturing sector reflects wider economic constraints on women’s employment (why only 4.9% of working Nepali women are in manufacturing versus 25% in Sri Lanka).(

I’m interested in the connection between these two cases with one of my hometown in Singapore where it’s also known to have employed population policies to encourage its economic and social development. The policy is almost similar to China’s but it was too effective and backfired when they end up with a smaller workforce to sustain their economy, due to increasing development of Singapore. This was indicated by the fact that more women followed careers rather than starting a family. The fascinating connection between the three cases is how women plays an important role as a tool and indicator of countries development. The added value to women due to human development is among many countries’ way to make way for economic boom- more education for women leads to higher employment rate, making raising child an expensive utility, so population is controlled and consume less of the country’s resources. Examining these three different places allows us to observe the similarities and differences between various geographical aspects. It might be different in other places where probably the women are more socially oppressed, or we can also look at whether any ‘developed’ countries has a large female working class to prove the hypothesis. Time component is important too, like in the China study case where the policies changes throughout the decades significantly alters the nation’s population composition.

Syed Amirul – Water Tracking & Usage

1a-My hometown of Seremban, Negeri Sembilan which is located south east of Peninsula Malaysia is managed by Negeri Sembilan Water Company (SAINS). Their main source of water comes from a large, unnamed water catchment area in Pantai District, just half-hour off the state’s capital. The watershed is feed from rain water and rivers from surrounding hills. These water are then channeled through aqueducts to Ngoi Ngoi and Terip River Water Treatment Facilities where there’s dams to control and contain the treatment process. From there, treated water are distributed to 350,000 households through storage tanks. Each districts have around 10-25 of these tanks and sum up to 100 tanks for the whole city. They also utilizes high-powered water pumps to to help with the distributions where gravitational system doesn’t work in certain areas. Finally, households such as my family are provided with clean, quality water via an underground main line that the city and municipal bodies had provided us with. The website of SAINS was pretty simple but I got some of the insights from Google Maps and connect the searches intuitively.


1b- For this activity I chose a Monday because that’s my busiest day and calculated an estimate for my water usage for the whole day. Here is my estimation table:

Activity Number of Times Water Used
Shower 15 minutes 30 gallons
Tooth brushing 2 2.5 gallons
Toilet Flush 3 15 gallons
Drinking 5 3 gallons
Cooking 2 3 gallons
Laundry 1 30 gallons
Dishwasher 1 6 gallons
Hand washing 5 5 gallons
  Total 94.5 gallons

1c- The next day I got myself 2 gallons of bottled water for the experiment. First thing in the morning, I took a glass of water for tooth brushing and I skipped shower so I still have plenty of water left. Halfway through the day I have emptied a gallon from going to the toilet and drinking alone. I tried cooking foods that doesn’t require much water but still that and washing the dishes took up a lot of my remaining water. By around 8 p.m., I’ve finished all of 2 gallons of my water. Most of my usage are for drinking and personal hygiene. During the experiment when I had to control every single usage of water, I start to think about the times when I didn’t have to think and realized how much water I’ve wasted before. From the experience, I know take extra attention to reducing my usage by turning off the faucet while brushing my teeth or in between rinsing my dishes. Even though I did not succeed to last a whole day with only two gallons of water, I know have a deeper appreciation towards water, which I have taken for granted my whole life.

Geography certainly plays a vital role on water usage. It takes a lot of human involvement to alter the environment to provide us with the necessary clean water. From reading other blog posts from different geographical backgrounds, it’s prominent that almost everyone with decent water usage comes from highly populated area with proactive governments.

Ethics – Syed Amirul

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

Ethic itself is a subjective term, just like the term ‘good’. Being good can be defined in so many ways, it does not hold a single definition and can vary according to different viewpoints such as religiously, culturally, or personally. We would all acknowledge that human should be a good person AND perform good acts-but that’s not how everyone is. I personally think that virtue ethics and action ethics are two elements that should go hand-to-hand; they complement each other. However, upon reflecting towards myself, I’m a little inclined to say that it would be more important to perform good acts rather than to be merely ‘good’ in the eyes of other people. With the definition of virtue (what we should be) versus action (what we should do), I strongly believe that taking ‘good’ actions are more impactful than being a good person alone. Taking myself as an example, I am not necessarily the most organized and neat person you might know, but I do not mess up my house because I know there are other people living with me and they would not feel comfortable with what I am comfortable with. Consequently, although you’re not ‘good’ person to begin with, performing good acts will make you appear good at least at the eyes of people who matter. A killer (by instinct) is not a criminal until he kills.


  1. Do the ends justify the means (ends ethics vs. means ethics)?

I was raised as a Muslim, and one ethical philosophy that I learned is Islam was “Intentions does not justify means”. This saying, although slightly different from the question, has the same core value. Even though most of what people want are ends that are ethically accepted, the mean at which it should be achieved should be ethical as well. My way of thinking are mostly molded by the system that I was raised in, and this system-Islam as a way of life-has provided guidelines to its followers to achieve a goal ethically; that is least harmful or best suited to a given situation. Although, I have to admit that life isn’t as simple as we might say it is. There are more complex situations in real life, one that might lead to an ethical dilemma. To this, I take the stand that most of the time, means ethics are more essential. I tend to accept that not all goals should be reached if it means the means to achieve it is not ethically sound.


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

I believe that human lives are all equal. I do not envy the people who have more than me, but I’m petrified for the ones who have far less. I don’t believe that rich people should have less, but I wish for the impoverished, refugees, and homeless people to live their lives with better quality. My altruism isn’t based on monetary value, but rather on having a utility value that is at least the same for everyone. Humans are all created equally from the womb- all are but a white cloth, stylized within the first few years of living. To say that one’s life is more worthy than other, I question where this worth comes from? A person isn’t born to be a certain color by choice, nor does a disabled person. Should a life’s worth be put upon how people are situationally born into? I think not.

Syed Amirul

Biogas Concept Map- India


The provided system diagram that I’ve made is relatively simple to what other students might have and also from Marten’s diagram. What I’d like to show in the diagram were mainly how the biogas technology impacts both the ecosystem and the social system of the part in India which applies the biogas system. This invention produced two major products; methane gas and slurry. Both of these outputs brought various effect to fore-mostly the ecosystem, then affecting the social system as well. The production of methane gas leads to less environmental pollution and also reducing deforestation due to the people having an alternative energy choice for cooking. This in return will benefit the people health-wise and allow the children to go to school instead of gathering fuel. The slurry, on the other hand will help local farmers to fertilize their soil and grow healthier crops. At the same time, the slurry provides a certain group of the population (mainly women) with job opportunity by processing them into fertilizers to sell to farmers. Both the farmers and the women will gain economic profit from this.

For the most part, this diagram is much simpler and straightforward than that of Marten’s. It is similar in a way that both charts are divided into two major divisions- social system and ecosystem. Also, this diagram shows the effect that all outcome from the ecosystem side eventually leads to a healthier ecosystem, which isn’t shown in Marten’s diagram. Comparing the two diagrams, I think we could all learn more from the more complex relationships appearing on Marten’s illustration because he listed along the products and processes that goes along in the exchange of points such as cooking fuel, cut wood or put in biogas generators.

Getting to Know you – Syed Amirul

Salam Sejahtera!

My name is Syed Amirul, I am currently a Senior majoring in Economics (BA). I have now lived in State College, Pennsylvania for four years, but I was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (which was why I greeted you in Bahasa Malaysia- it means hello!). I have a keen interest in photography so I might pursue a career in doing commercial photography while helping my family run our business. My interest in this course is to generally learn about the Earth. I’m always interested in learning about the nature ( I took meteorology and astronomy classes) and I think learning geography will help me connect the dots between human and environment interaction and its effects towards one another. One fun fact about me- I can solve a Rubik’s cube in 40 seconds. If anyone could solve it faster, please teach me!

Now that we’ve been introduced to some perspectives in the field of geography, one example that came in mind was an issue that’s becoming a national controversy in my country. In Pahang, the largest state in Peninsula Malaysia, the government are being condemned after active bauxite mining that has turned into a harmful economic activity to the locals of the area. Many reports have address the issue and its negative impact, one coming from Malaysian Society of Marine Sciences chairman Dr Harinder Rai Singh who said the contamination would be fatal to marine life. The coast of Pahang are mostly contaminated and is bound to be ‘dead sea’ within three years. This issue is important to be scrutinized on, mainly on how the human-environment interaction caused these harmful conditions, and how that in turn will affect the lives of humans living in the vicinity of the polluted area.