Mod 10. Custom — Tyler Brackbill

  • Take your hometown and explain the biodiversity, or lack thereof, in that area. Or look at a place that you like to visit on vacation and do the same thing.  If your vacation spot is too similar to your hometown, look at a place you would like to visit instead. (150-250 words)

Where I am from in Pottstown, Pa, it is not very biodiverse.  At least nothing that is very interesting.  My town is fairly simple.  It features a mixture of different small ecosystems scattered throughout it.  There’s rolling hills that feature some forests and creeks.  The forests feature both coniferous and deciduous trees.  The creeks and rivers feature frogs, minnows, and trout.  Where there are not rolling hills, there are flat areas that are or used to be farmland.  Like many other towns in the country, farms are disappearing and are quickly being turned into developed neighborhoods.  The weather never gets too extreme, it is pretty balanced actually.  The coldest it usually ever gets is 0 degrees Fahrenheit and the hottest will be 100 degrees.  More homes are being developed in that area and that really affects the biodiversity and makes everything much less diverse.  A lot of times I do like to go into uninhabited parts of woods or creeks and see how much different those areas are because they aren’t seen that much.


  • Based on the case study of the Amazon Rainforest, make a diagram showing the changes in biodiversity with arrows.

Amazon web

Tyler Brackbill – WikiLeaks & Climate

WikiLeaks Web

My diagram basically outlines what went on behind the scenes of the events surrounding the Copenhagen Accord, or how the article says.  This all starts with, in my opinion, the United States is trying to do its part in cutting carbon emissions and other harmful gasses because they are the historical leader in the world’s pollution and want to make up for it in a way.  So the United States tries to supply financial aid to other countries in exchange for their support of the accord in a way similar to the shady dealings of Frank Underwood in House of Cards as Majority Whip.  If the United States wasn’t going to get the signature it wanted from one of the nations, it would simply revoke its aid as a ploy to get its way.  It’s a simple strategy.  Bribes for support…very mobster of them.  These back-channel communications of world leaders made for some interesting negotiations.  “Sign the accord of discussion ends now” the United States threatens to Ethiopia.  In which Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi responds with a request for assurance from President Obama.  This was all made available through WikiLeaks in 2010.  At the time of the article, 140 nations were in compliance with the accord, which was near the target signatures that were intended by the United States.  That is 75 percent of United Nations climate change convention members and those 140 nations are responsible for nearly 80 percent of the current greenhouse gas emissions in the world.

Using my own thoughts and from lessons we discussed in this class in prior weeks like ethics, this was not the most ethical way to gain support for climate change discussions.  And that is not the only other ethical issue at hand.  Was it ethical for these dealings to be made public by WikiLeaks?  That is up for debate.  In my opinion, the country and the world deserves the right to know how its own country does business with allies and other nations across the world.  WikiLeaks took the country by storm in 2010 with details about a bunch of government secrets similar to this issue of the Copenhagen Accord.  What about the ethical issue of the back-channel trades between the United States and others?  Aid for Signatures.  Am I supposed to believe that this doesn’t happen every day between counties in the United Nations?  After learning more about how government works in classes in high school and college, it becomes apparent that trades like these happen a lot in everyday government business whether it is gathering votes for a bill or what have you.  Although I understand its reasoning, I still do not like how the United States was conducting business here.  Sure, trade aid for a signature.  However, don’t threaten the countries for not being willing to be forced into signing something they do not want.  That is where I draw the line.

Mod 8 – Natural Disasters

  1. Where I am from in Pottstown, PA, the Nathan Map shows that my area is susceptible to tornados (zone 3), hailstorms (zone 3), extratropical storms (zone 1), and wildfires (zone 1). I would disagree on the part about hailstorms because, while they do happen, it is maybe once a year.  Like the hailstorms, tornados are even rarer.  We maybe get 1-3 tornado warnings every summer and there is usually one that touches down every year in a 100 mile radius.  However I understand that tornados are much more dangerous.  Extratropical storms and wildfires are probably correct on the map with their rating.  It’s actually ironic though because we currently have a wildfire situation going on a few towns over in French Creek State Park.  The second in like five years.  This Nathan Map was really had to read and had very little detail into why their ratings were the way they were.


  1. The disaster I chose is the 2.0 magnitude earthquake in Northern California, just north of San Francisco. Pottstown is not a hot bed for earthquakes because it is not near a major fault line.  In high school I experienced one that was very very minor.  The epicenter of the 5.8 quake was in Virginia but the tremors were felt up and down the east coast and even up into Canada.  The ground moved and the house shook a little, but I felt more like the vibrations from a train driving by rather than an earthquake.  If the earthquake was any stronger in my area, buildings and roads may have been damaged because of the building codes in Pottstown vs California.

According to the site, the 2.0 magnitude quake in California would be barely noticeable to the residents.  I would say that is pretty consistent with the small tremor we felt in 2011.


If there was a significant earthquake in Pottstown or the surrounding area I am sure the residents would be very vulnerable.  We are simply not prepared for that kind of emergency where we live.  It’s the same as when the south gets a snowstorm of 2 inches, people in the south don’t have the resources available to deal with something like that.  California is just better prepared with building codes and protocols to be ready for an earthquake.


  1. The natural disaster that is most likely to affect Pottstown would be a flood. I have seen what big floods can do to the area because we get a significant flood pretty much every year.  The Schuylkill River that runs through Pottstown and the outer neighborhoods can affect a number of different low-laying areas.  Pottstown would be especially vulnerable to emergencies right now with the high number of road closures and bridge closures in the area.  That would make evacuation even more difficult to deal with.


  1. The biggest need for Pottstown when it comes to natural disasters and weather emergencies is probably flooding. There needs to be some sort of flood control put into place whether it be levees or man-made channels to help flow the water away from rising to the roads.


Emergency management personnel would be the ones for the job.  Pottstown doesn’t have much money to shell out for improvements, but once the state is finished fixing the bridges and roads that should at least help a little bit with the traffic.


There isn’t anything I can do about weather emergencies other than not driving through flood waters like an idiot.

Tyler Brackbill – Mod 7

The town I am from is Pottstown, PA. It is located in Northern Montgomery County just north of where Chester County meets it. It is a suburb of Philly and is an automobile suburb at that. The town features a bunch of different housing developments of cookie cutter homes that are several miles from the different stores, businesses, and restaurants. Unless your development happens to be next to a strip mall, you have to drive to get to where you want to go. The actual borough and the surrounding neighborhoods have a population of about 22 thousand. What used to be the borough and a lot of farm land is quickly developing into more living spaces. I don’t mind the area, except that the borough is getting poorer every year and many of the attractions are shutting down leaving the town pretty boring.
One city from the module that I can compare Pottstown to would be Rochester, New York. Rochester is another automobile suburb. Pottstown doesn’t have any sidewalks outside of the borough. Like Rochester’s suburb areas, it is encouraged that people travel by car to get around. In Pottstown, it’s not only encouraged, but for the most part it is necessary to drive. Pottstown could use more sidewalks on the outsides of the borough to make it easier to walk. Rochester has sidewalks in all the right places to help their residents get around quickly. If more sidewalks were available in Pottstown, more people could get more exercise. The Riverwalk trails are a step (ha) in the right direction, but having more sidewalks going to the places where people go the most is a much better plan.
Going to another country Denmark, Copenhagen has a biking friendly neighborhoods that people can use to get around without having to walk or drive. While I am not a fan of having cyclists on the same roads as drivers, I think Pottstown’s neighboring townships could use more bike routes especially running parallel with highways to help people ride places. It’s faster than walking. It’s healthier than driving. It can help keep the town less crowded from motor vehicles. Less vehicles on the road mean less pollution for an already dirty city like Pottstown. Car exhaust helps lead to greenhouse gasses which are harmful as we know. Reducing the pollution keeps everyone healthier. Having a bike friendlier area could help attract more people to the town.

Tyler Brackbill – Society in Foods

I feel like most college students understand this dilemma. College students, who are not known for having a lot of money, eat very poorly on average when they are living away from home. This leads to a diet of Ramen noodles, pizza, and mac n cheese (trust me, I know). I went through this last year during my first semester away from home. Instead of gaining the “Freshman 15,” I kind of lost 15 pounds that semester. I’m not a big kid to begin with so I went from 145 to 130, and then down to 127 later that year. The social norm is that college students, because of being poor, either eat terribly or hardly eat at all. Thankfully I learned that something had to change.

A typical college student’s diet consists of quite a lot of carbs and not a lot of meat or protein. Carbs burn off quickly. With busy schedules it’s a lot easier to heat up pizza or other quick meals that do not have much protein. It is a lot cheaper too. Meat is expensive. I see it in the stores and cringe at the price of 4 dollars for a pound of ground beef. While eating too much and obesity are big problems in America, eating too little and undernourishment is just as big of an issue. Students should focus more on having a proper diet at college, whether they are living in the dorms and eating in dining halls, or living off-campus and having to buy their own food.Food Societal Norms TBB5100

Mod 5. Tyler Brackbill

1) This first case study I found is about the agriculture in Zambia (here is the link The agriculture production only accounts for about 14 percent of the country’s total gross domestic product (on average over the last 20 years). Compared to that number, the industrial and manufacturing production has accounted for about 83 percent on average over the last 20 years. Zambia is currently looking at ways to increase its agricultural production, noting that after the 1970’s they tried different tricks to increase farming output like pesticides and fertilizers. However, a flaw in the research was discovered after they realized the test fields were not the same conditions as the real farm fields. This led to a focus on granting the Zambian farmers simple their simple needs for a better farming condition. The agriculture of Zambia could not keep sustaining the way they were heading before.

2) My second case study is about a shrinking population in a former working town in Germany (here is the link The town of Sonneberg is a former thriving manufacturing town where kids toys were made. The study notes that many of the large homes built during the manufacturing boom are now empty and the mayor does not believe that many will ever be sold. Overgrown yards, boarded up windows and sewage problems are a few of the side effects of the falling fertility rates in Germany, and the rates are projected to be twice as bad by 2060. Demographers think that a way to make more citizens want to have more kids would be the erase the stigma in Germany of Mothers having careers and make more daycares so kids can be cared for and mothers can have a career of their choosing.

3) Like some other students in this course, I am also from Pottstown, PA. These studies relate to my area in two separate ways. In comparison to the farming in Zambia, the rural suburbs of Pottstown are focusing less on agriculture. Compared to 15 years ago when there were farms everywhere, today all that farm land is now housing developments and the number of farms is a lot less that it was. I do worry what that will cause in the future because farming was what we were known for back in the day. Now it is all homes.

In comparison to the German town losing residents, Pottstown had a similar fall from its former industrial history. We had a name brand pie factory, and several mills that have now closed and the city of Pottstown continues to descend into nothingness. Pottstown recently made the top 10 list of worst Philadelphia suburbs and that is worrisome. Because of Pottstown becoming more and more poor, families can’t afford to have many more kids and even if families did, the town couldn’t support it because of the lack of resources.

Mod 4. Money Usage – Tyler Brackbill

Since I am currently living in State College and not at home with my family, our household water usage has definitely decreased some.  Although I am not at home with them, I will give it my best shot to estimate their water usage.  My home receives its water from our well next to the house, which obviously draws from the rainwater that soaks into the ground as well as normal ground water.  I also live on a slight hill, so water will run down the hill when it rains and will increase the amount of water that is introduced to the well. The well pump pumps the water through the hub in our basement, going through filters, heaters, and water softeners.  Our waste water goes in to our septic tank.  The septic tank releases the cleaner(?) waste water back into into the ground and the process will repeat itself over and over again.

Estimated water usage in a given day

Bath x1 = 36 gallons

Shower x2  = 60 gallons

Teeth brushing x3 = 6 gallons

Hand wash x5 = 5 gallons

Dishwasher x1 = 6 gallons

Washing machine x1 = 25 gallons

Toilet flush x7 = 14 gallons

Drinking water we get free water cooler jugs.


It is actually really interesting to do cutbacks like this for a project.  I have done it once before but with technology where I couldn’t watch TV or use the internet except out of necessity and I’m sure you know how that went.

I tried to do my own personal cutbacks up here at school because I live a similar lifestyle up here as compared to at home.  I decided to try “military showers” which are about 2 minutes and don’t always include hot water.  Brushing my teeth: I didn’t leave the water running the whole time.  I would rinse once at the beginning and the end.  Instead of using the apartment dishwasher with my roommates, I would fill the sink a little bit and wash my own dishes using that water.  For drinking, I normally drink about a 1/3 of a gallon a day (i know it should be more).  And finally I have a baby face so I don’t have to worry about shaving.

I maintained my face and hand washing amounts just for hygiene’s sake.

The experiment using only 2 gallons a day didn’t work out unless I didn’t shower for that day.  When I was tracking how much water my family and I were using, it was unbelievable how fast the number of gallons started to add up.  In my own personal amount of water per day, I use on days where I do dishes and the wash add up to about 70 gallons.


Ethics Conversation – Tyler Brackbill

1. Is it more important to be a good person or to perform good acts (virtue ethics vs. action ethics)?
In a commercial I hear every once in a while when I’m listening to Pandora, the narrator states “Thinking is only as important as action it inspires.” You can be a good person and say that homelessness is a problem but what are you going to do to prevent homeless people from living in boxes under a bridge? My personal approach is to perform good acts that I care about. Dogs or cats need rescued from a shelter? Adopt a dog and a cat. Kids with pediatric cancer? Donate what I can to THON. The idea of virtue vs action is something that gets annoying honestly. Especially in presidential campaign season when candidates get preachy about problems but do not specify how to fix them. Because you don’t perform good acts does not make you a bad person, but problems aren’t solved by just pointing them out. Actions speak louder than words.
2. Does the process by which decisions are made matter more than the outcomes of these decisions (procedural justice vs. distributive justice)?
The outcomes of decisions (let’s just say positive outcomes) are always important. However, the internal procedures that deliver those outcomes need to be handled properly, so the procedural justice is more important. In the sports world, Barry Bonds hit 756 homeruns. It is a great feat if he did it naturally but he didn’t. Baseball fans despise him because the process by which he broke the record was not ethical. Ethics are important obviously and a flawed process or procedure can make bad precedents that end up causing negative outcomes. It’s cool to have a great outcome, say you can make $100 thousand, that’s all well and good, but its different earning that money illegally cooking meth or dealing drugs rather than doing something legal. It’s the basis for all of business, they want to make money and have their name in lights, but for all of the right reasons and while treating everyone fairly.
3. 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 my own opinion, ecosystems do matter on their own because they contain their own life, however it often seems that the media cares only about the human impact, but that’s no fault of theirs, they are serving us. When it comes to melting ice caps, the main focus is on the rising sea levels that will slowly take land away and affect coastal towns and cities, but you rarely hear about (at least in my experience) hear about how affects other species. Polar Bears are the only other animal you hear about. Being the creatures we are, everyone wants to know how actions and events affect themselves. It is human nature. So I do believe that the studying of ecosystems is a bit anthropocentric. At the same time it is speciesism. However speciesism is not always a bad thing, humans are smarter and stronger than other species. It goes both ways.

Module 2 – BioGas in India – Tyler Brackbill

The main ideas behind my diagram show that a technological revolution in India, like the one in the video, can expand into technological advancements throughout a region and even into the poorest slums in the countryside.  Relating this back to the lesson, i believe this shows an increased stability in the ecosystem that is India.  Using a more renewable resource of cow dung turned into gas compared to cutting down trees for fire is better for the environment and health.  Also technology obviously played a big part in this transformation.  Using new gas ranges to cook leads to less deforestation.  And finally this is a positive feedback loop.  More things came as a result of the human intervention.

My diagram is similar to the one in the article because they both show the human interaction that goes into improving the ecosystem.  In turn, the improved ecosystem can help benefit the humans.  They differ because mine does not have as much detail but is more specific to the scenario.  The environment in that part of India shows that the model is universal to any ecosystem that has human interaction.  The ecosystem has its own cycle and so does the social system.  They both work together to become stronger.biogas_diagram_tbb5100

Geog 30 Module 1: Getting to know you – Tyler Brackbill

Hello everyone. My name is Tyler Brackbill and I am a senior at University Park in State College. I am a telecomm major and I am also pursuing a certificate in sports journalism. I am originally from outside of Pottstown, Pennsylvania which is about an hour northwest of Philly. I am a diehard Philly sports fan and hope to work in the sports industry in some fashion. I am also a huge Breaking Bad nerd and Taylor Swift fan. (Fun fact: I went to high school with a former classmate of hers in 3rd grade). I have a dog named Riley (9) and a cat named Nittany (4) who we both rescued. Anyway, I live within the 10 mile “safe radius” of the Limerick Nuclear Generating Station which is run by Exelon (and is what the nuclear power plant in The Simpsons is based off of). Because of living in its shadows, I have always had a small interest in the power plant, but not enough to become a nuclear engineer haha. I did learn that it is one of the cleanest power sources there are, and that you can’t judge the entire field off of events like Chernobyl and Fukishima. I feel like this, with my previous class about environmental science, made me interested in this class.

With this class, I believe that visualization is the most important medium to show change in the earth from year to year. For example, the difference in the size of glaciers or ice caps from the year 1965 to 2015. Visuals like these can help drive home points because there is actual evidence if front of you. Pictures and comparisons are what help me learn and they can help everyone else too.