Module 10 – Biodiversity Conservation Challenge – Bernstein

Imagine a new piece of land containing a rainforest has been discovered. You, being the scholar that you are, are in charge of its fate. Upon further inspection of this new land you discover a group of natives who are living off its resources. Other countries have taken interest in this new land as well and wish to become trading partners, but you worry about the loss of nature (and the newly found newt species on that land) in all the industrialization. Knowing what you know now about conservation and biodiversity, what is your next step in preserving and growing the land, the people, the newts, and why?

Be sure to include thoughts about the levels of protection, how it will be enforced, ethical issues that may arise, etc. Think of the consequences! – Feel free to include a flow chart or describe the chain of effects (derived from your choices).  


Knowing what I know now, I would most likely try to find a compromise between the people and the land so that both may thrive. The category of protection I would most likely choose for this new land would be Category 2. I find that Category 2, National Parks, is a good compromise between protecting the environment with allowing the people to live their lives accordingly. Other categories such as Category 1 are too limiting of a status for the whole land on human interaction and would not be suitable for a new land trying to grow their economy. The best solution in my opinion would be to have the land be a mix of different levels of protection. The problem with Category 2 protection is that it is hard to enforce. In terms of enforcement, one must look at the ethics as well; anthropocentrism versus ecocentrism. Since I am taking a neutral stance so that both may live together, I will put some of the natives to serve as “Park Rangers” as they would know the land and its inhabitants best. This way, we will be sure to not intrude on the newts but also be able to encourage a growth of economy. By having the natives serve as “mediators” in a sense, a sense of balance could be achieved without having outside forces skew the perceptions. Having foreigners become too involved with regulating the land and its processes has the possibility to lead to a more anthropocentric stance as there would be much more chance to make money off of it with the interested trading countries; having someone who understands the animals as well as they way of the people would be the best way to go, in this sense. Certain sections shall be restricted to an almost similar Category 1 status where no outside contact will be allowed in order to not disturb the natural cycle. Sections left outside Categories 1 and 2 will be open for economy growth and trading purposes. The sections and how they are divided shall be divided according to the natives (as where the newts are located must be taken into account, as well as “sacred” sites to avoid digging up, etc.) so that everyone is content with the new agreement.


Module 9 – Oh No! I Leaked! – Bernstein

WikiLeaks - Bernstein


The core idea behind my diagram is outlining what lead to a lot of the cable leaks and of the article (in a general sense). As one can see from the diagram, the United States was a major player in these leaks on several occasions and used various tactics (intimidation, bribery, etc.) in order to achieve their end-mean. In this sense, one could also use this diagram fairly reasonably to see the United State’s motives in the outplay of the leaks. Each path listed demonstrates a new leak and how it came to be; for example: by following the arrows, one can see that the failed talks in Beijing helped to lead to a new leak. With the talks having failed, one sees that the Copenhagen Accord was their ace in keeping the attention off themselves (as they were a major contributor towards pollution). This Accord was met with mixed results (as logically expected), and so one sees the US “encouraging” the smaller countries to go along with the Accord through monetary means. While not listed explicitly, there were leaks released here as well with the US “threatening” the countries to “sign, or the talks stop”. At the same time, one sees that the US was trying to gain support for the Accord from other bigger countries as it would more likely pass the more support it received. The smaller, poorer countries were willing to sign and support, but remained skeptical about their payment. This is just one of several paths presented however.

I have mixed feelings on the State Department cables and they way the whole situation was handled. I do believe that everyone had the right to know about the dealings, but the cables should not have been made public (if one were to view it from the United States’s perspective). I feel that by making the cables public, it greatly damaged the reputation of the United States and maybe even those involved (to a lesser extent), although we as the citizens have a right to know what our country is doing abroad. This undoubtedly would make future negotiations with the United States much more difficult in the future and lessen the trust others have for them. The way it was handled is actually disgraceful. They should have used their position as a powerful country to help come up with a plan of collective action instead of not taking responsibility for their own part. The United States should not continue to conduct climate change diplomacy in the way it has been. I am not saying that the United States shouldn’t speak out, but rather speak out as a motivator and leader to get things accomplished, instead of the “bully” who gets everyone to go along. While the motivation for change would lead to the same end result, I can’t help but feel that if the other countries had the motivation to change for them and the betterment of the world (instead of being bribed), the results would be stronger and quicker with less strife.

Module 8 – Happening Hazards – Bernstein

Hometown: Bernville, Pennsylvania

Disaster Reporting On: Wildfire in Cherokee National Park (northeast Tennessee)

  • EDIS NUMBER: WF-20160401-52740-USA
  • DATE OF OCCURRENCE: April 1, 2016 (~3:17 AM UTC)
  • Believed to have been human-caused

1). In my hometown (Bernville, PA), we are prone to wind and rain. Given the choice, I would use another map for Natural Hazard information. The results shown by Nathan’s World Map were too blurry to make distinct (especially as one zoomed in further and further), and so I am afraid that I had to almost guesstimate on many of the hazards. I am thankful that I do not live in such disaster-prone areas as some others do, but also remember that it is still in the realm of possibility; we have had the local man-made lake flood over on several occasions (we have since gotten better at preventing that) and there has been heavy winds and damages before.

2). My hometown itself cannot experience such a disaster, but the area around it could. My hometown doesn’t actually have a lot of wooded areas to catch fire –  mainly apartment buildings and homes – but it is surrounded by wooded areas out towards the farm areas. This is not to say that fires do not happen here though – they do, they’re just not “forest fires”. The scale of the event is not larger than the size of my hometown, but would take a sizable portion of it away. The fire I chose to study spread (as of this writing) to 150 acres; Bernville is only 272 acres – that’s over half of Bernville destroyed if the disaster were to happen there as opposed to where it did (the Cherokee National Forest). Since the forest is obviously much bigger (650,000 acres)  than my modest hometown, the proportion of damage done is significantly smaller, thereby making a bigger impact on my town. Wealth would be the biggest factor of vulnerability in my town; coming from a small more “rural” town, most of the residents are in the lower economic classes. As a result, these people would not be able to afford rebuilding their homes after the fire. Age could be considered tied for first with “Wealth” as a vulnerability factor as there are a lot of aged and children. My hometown is very unfortunate in this as we have a lot of elderly residents (looking for quiet areas to live) and the local elementary school not 15 minutes walk from my home. Reducing the vulnerability (and/or getting rid of it completely) is not something that could be easily done; asking the elderly to move or moving the children to the other school district some distance away could prove futile and anger many, but we have a good response team – there are at least 3 fire companies within a 10 mile distance from my hometown making for a good response in disaster.

3). Beside my personal experience (raised here from infancy) and the experience of others – namely older residents, I managed to dig up a Hazard Vulnerability Assessment and Mitigation Plan of my home county. The assessment and plan are rather old but still manage to hold up well when comparing to today’s (and recent past) events. Reviewing the assessment, I realize that wind has not been as big of a hazard as I previously had thought; it definitely causes damage (as there is a documented case), but apparently the main sources of strife have been heavy snow (for convenience I will loop that in with flooding/rain, or “precipitation”) and drought. Keeping along with what Nathan’s Hazard Map said, there are cases of fires (2001, 2007, 2008, and 2009) listed that were large enough to cause economic damage as well as physical.

Berks County Emergency Services.  (2013, February). Hazard Vulnerability Assessment and Mitigation Plan Update. Retrieved April 1, 2016, from

4). As mentioned previously, Bernville has had flooding before, but we have gotten much better at prevention measures. Blue Marsh, a manmade levee – was made in order to help catch the flood waters to prevent it from flooding the neighboring city of Reading. We also have dams in place in order to control the flow of the water (at least to some degree) allowing more relief in times of flood AND drought. The Army Corps of Engineering is actually the organization/people that would best be suited to deal with matters relating to Blue Marsh, as they were the ones who designed and built it in the first place. Becoming aware, buying flood insurance, and obeying orders when flooded are all different ways I can help (in this example at least); becoming aware of the natural hazards one is likely to be subjected to can better prepare one to face them.


It’s Good, But It Can Be Better – Module 7 – Bernstein

Since I do not live in an urban area, I will discuss Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Williamsport lies near the western branch of the Susquehanna River in Lycoming County in the upper-half of Pennsylvania. It is much larger than my home town, estimating at about 29,000 people (very pedestrian-oriented/urban, but mainly Use Mixture); with the rough area of 9.5 square miles, it could be considered fairly dense population-wise (~3,450 people/square mile). While the river is not used much besides fishing now, it was used to transport lumber many years back helping to bring economic prosperity. I feel a connection to Williamsport as it was where my brother and I attended college (Penn Tech and Lycoming, respectively). The residents are ok, although “sketchy” at times. As long as one stays in the “college town” and “tourist” areas (Williamsport is well-known for Little League Baseball) – normally well-lit, populated, and overall “friendly” – one could have a grand time. Like all populated cities though there is crime – with a shocking amount occurring near the colleges.

The first city I would like to discuss is Curitiba, Brazil. For the sake of comparison, I shall be referring to the transportation aspect (more specifically, their bus system). While Williamsport does have a public bus system, I believe it could be improved. Unlike Curitiba, I believe the transport in Williamsport was “thrown in” rather than planned around. There is not much one can do a though, due to the already existing physical infrastructure.  I did like Curitiba’s idea of people paying at stations before boarding; Williamsport only has one station where people can pay, so not everyone would be able to make it to that single station. Their bus system also travels to several different locations instead of the main city center, confusing first-time bus users and taking more resources to run more buses. The timing is something could also be improved; while Curitiba’s systems will run within a minute of each other, Williamsport’s will run within a half-hour (at least). There could be much time and money saved if Williamsport were to follow Curitiba’s lead.

The second city I would like to discuss is Bogota, Columbia. In this instance, I will also be discussing the matters of transportation along with the topic of pollution in relation to Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Ciclovia, taking cars off the streets/limiting them drastically every Sunday from 7:00am-2:00pm, is something that I think would benefit Williamsport as well. Williamsport’s size and infrastructure lead to a lot of pollution (especially air pollution) not only in regards to the businesses that operate there, but for the transportation as well. Since buses do not run in Williamsport on Sundays as is, I do not think this would be too difficult to implement. As a side-effect, this could actually boost business for local spots as well; since everyone would be “out and about” due to not worrying about the traffic running them over and anything else bad happening, they would become potential customers to local businesses who could benefit from the extra commerce.


Module 6 – Food for Thought (Taking a Bite Out of Social Food Norms) – Bernstein

My food choices are not typically influenced by social norms, but the social norms do not make it easy either. Being a vegetarian, I am often the “odd one out” when I am out with my friends and even at home sometimes. Typically this is not a big deal as my mother and younger sister are vegetarians too, but we (and other vegetarians/vegans in general) find trouble when it comes time for cookouts in summer. Social norm dictates that everyone eats meat – beit burgers, hotdogs, ribs, steak, etc. – as a way of celebration and “fitting in” (social eating). I suppose in California and other “high-health” states where there is more people living the veggie-lifestyle would not be as odd (there are even pure-veggie restaurants!), but here in Pennsylvania (where pork and sauerkraut is a tradition on New Year’s for almost EVERYONE), and down south in my native state of North Carolina (lots of meat and TONS of gravy), I just have to accept I’m the odd one out.

Two issues that I can connect are obesity/general health and environmental issues. Please note that I am not calling meat-eaters bad or “sway them”- there is nothing wrong with eating meat. Many people who fail to understand vegetable-based lifestyles work tend to look down on them and sometimes will eat even MORE in the process of “showing them up”. Needless to say that there tends to be overeating at cookouts and overeating leads to weight-gain. Too much of one food group is bad as well for one’s health. In order for the meat demand to be met, the livestock are often fed massively unhealthy diets in order to bulk them up; the amount of land used for the livestock’s food alone is astonishing. The pollution to the air and water is alarming as well – the planet is not getting bigger, but the population is so we need efficiency. The “new norm” should be one of eating more balanced diets and spending time focusing on the people with rather than the food itself.


Sustainable Development (or Cheaper Energy for Everyone!) – Module 5 – Bernstein

The Cases

CASE 1: “Are solar cookers a viable, cost-effective alternative to traditional methods of cooking in Kenya?” (Kenya, Africa) from:

This case study is discussing solar power being a more viable and cheaper source of energy for cooking as opposed to the native peoples’ normal means (fuelwood). According to the study, “The average Kenyan spends about 40% of earned income on fuel, 74% of which is used for cooking. It is estimated that the average family will save 60% of its fuelwood by using solar cookers.” The cookers are easy to upkeep as they are made from cardboard and aluminum and also reduce the amount of respiratory infections due to smoke and flames from the fuelwood. The women appear to be very interested in the cookers which is a good sign; however, the new cookers may not work in the rainy season/cloudy weather and take significantly longer to cook – this may not be a bad thing though. Opening up the women’s schedules, they are free to use their time to care for children, improve agricultural practices, etc. Some say this is a stepping stone to bettering the lives of women across countries.

CASE 2: Smucker’s Energy LLC (Kinzers, PA) from:

This case takes place in Pennsylvania, only about an hour from where I live. In this case, John Smucker is testing a new type of inverter in order to have a more efficient way to heat his family’s water and meet his household’s electric needs. These inverters work with solar panels to raise the amount of energy produced up to 10%; the advantage these inverters have over the old ones comes on cloudy days/panel failures: if one panel were to be shaded, it would no longer drag down the whole system’s production. Likewise, if a panel appears damaged, one can find the damage quicker and replace it in order to keep the whole system at maximum performance.  With this system, there is an inverter at every panel. This allows one to view down the the panel level. Beside saving money off the electric bill (the system is supposed to offset 100%+ of the electric use, the owner also receives a nice check of $4500 (producing 15,000 KWH/year at $0.30/KWH).


The two cases connect to my local area (Bernville, PA) by saving money and using solar power. Energy companies in my area are sending free “energy-saving packs” (shower heads, lightbulbs, light-activated nightlights, etc.) in order to save energy and money. The local roofers are using solar panels for similar reasons. All three cases are good examples of Sustainable Development. Today’s huge need for energy has caused the carbon emissions to rise significantly; the new forms of energy lower emissions and are cheaper/healthier, thereby improving lives. While solar cookers may not catch on in Bernville, using solar panels to eliminate a home’s electric bill might. Examining the time and place is important as we are all in different development stages. Much like the lesson had said, there is no clear-cut line of development. Examining these different areas and cases and help us understand where we are heading next: Kenya, for example, may still be developing with their cookers, but perhaps they too will be focusing on solar panels for their homes in the future.


“Water Water Everywhere…” – So Where Does It All Come From? – Module 4 – Bernstein

In my town (borough, technically), our water comes from 2 wells stationed on either end of the borough. Each of these wells are stationed at different elevations from one another in order to compromise for the water table level. Using jet-pumps, the water is moved through the pipes (using suction; almost like a straw), and deposited into storage tanks. The water in these storage tanks can then be pushed through the pipelines to the homes (it is important to note here that some people in my town actually have their own personal well – a good example of private ownership). Obviously from there, the individual households can use the water in whatever ways they wish: cooking, bathing, laundry, etc. After the water goes down the drain it goes to our local sewage treatment plant. After the plant, it gets released into Blue Marsh Lake. Blue Marsh is a man-made lake whose purpose is to keep the Schuylkill River from flooding Reading, Pennsylvania (approximately 12 miles away from my home).



 ~ 210.3125 gallons/day

Hand/Face Washing: 7 times – 1 gal/wash -> 7 gallons

Toilet Flushing: 5 times – 4 gal/flush -> 20 gallons

Shower: 1 (10 min) – 5 gal/min -> 50 gallons

Teeth Brushing: 2 times (water not running while brushing) – < 1 gallon

Water Drank (8oz): 5 servings -> 40 oz

Dish Washing (by Hand): 3 times – ~9 gal/load -> 27 gallons

Clothes Washed: 3 times – ~35 gal/wash -> 105 gallons



The Experiment

The areas of water use during my experiment was teeth brushing, face/hand washing, and drinking – although I did wash my arms some (with a wet rag) from getting dirt on them at work. Out of these areas, my main priority was drinking as it is vital to function properly, then face/hand washing, followed by teeth brushing and the wet rag “arm cleanse”. In order to have the best chance for success, I tried to cut corners wherever I could: eating “watery foods” such as cucumber, watermelon, bell pepper, etc. (I understand this would not be in my options of food if I were in Mozambique or Haiti) in order to stay hydrated, used hand sanitizer when I could instead of using water (even though water is a base ingredient), chewed an incredible amount of minty gum and mints, and overall was very frugal with it. I am proud to say it was a success and even more proud – and relieved – to say that it’s over now. I suppose it is just me being used to the “first world”, but I found this to be really tough. It really made me put my priorities in order. Geography and one’s environment affects water use by dictating how much water is available to an individual. Obviously if one is in a drier climate or a more drought-stricken area, water shortage occurs and becomes a collective problem. If one were to live where water was common and clean water was readily available, it would not be as big of a collective problem, although that doesn’t mean one should use without thinking.


Ethics Versus Reality – Module 3 – Bernstein

Question 4: Do ecosystems matter for their own sake, or do they only matter to the extent that they impact humans (ecocentric ethics vs. anthropocentric ethics)?

(4) Ecosystems matter for their own sake AND for the fact that we are a part of them. Ecosystems, besides housing humans, house an impressive array of flora and fauna: algae, toucans, penguins, pine trees, cherry trees, lily pads, etc. An unpolluted river, for example, has a mass effect. The river is the start to a vast web of interconnectivity: bugs lay their eggs near the water, fish eat the bug larvae, birds and mammals eat the fish, etc. While it seems that the answer does lead to how the ecosystem affects the human being, I do care about the other species and things that are effected; from the algae to the aardvark and beyond. Humans in should care more about the ecosystem in general if not for themselves, then for supporting their fellow living creature. If one was to hold perspective of Evolution, we had all evolved from creatures that inhabited ecosystems: so why would we destroy the homes of evolutionary cousins?


Question 5: Do the pleasure and pain of non-human animals matter as much as the pleasure and pain of humans (speciesism)?

(5) The pleasure and pain of non-human animals matter just as much as those of humans. There are many reasons as to why the pleasure and pain of non-human animals matter just as much as those of humans: it can teach children to value life, humans look to animals as companions for emotional and psychological support amongst other reasons, etc. On the other hand, for a lot of our companion pets (cats, dogs, ferrets, etc.)  to lead pleasurable lives, they must be well fed and this entails pain from other animals as they (our companions) are obligate carnivores. If we were to try and spare the other animals’ lives, our companion pets would get sick and therefore be in pain. How much the pleasure and pain of non-human animals matter, unfortunately in most cases is a matter of which animal; humans will spend hundreds of dollars on veterinary bills, grooming costs, toys, food, and other various expenses and then sit down to a chicken dinner. Meanwhile there are a plethora of people who own chickens as pets and spend the same money for veterinary bills, toys, food, etc.  for them. The whole situation is somewhat hypocritical in my opinion. While I believe the pleasure and pain of non-human animals matter just as much as those of humans, animals suffer in order to protect the other animals we care about.


Question 6: Is my own life worth more than the lives of others, the same, or less (selfishness vs. altruism)?

(6) In general, I believe that my life is worth the same as other lives. To be honest, my answer to this question changes between “the same” and “more than” depending on the scenario. My answer is never going to be “less than” because I tend to have a strong sense of self-worth. Another reason it would never be “less than” is because my life is not over yet. As I am still young, I have much of my life yet to experience; I cannot base my life’s worth on a mere ~25% of its time. The reason my answer could change is because it depends on whose life I’m comparing mine to; if I am comparing mine to some other everyday person, our lives would be the same. We know nothing of each other’s experiences and our definition of “valuable” could differ greatly; what I value the most could turn out to be inconsequential to that person. Humans aside,  I believe that animal lives are of as much value as mine as well – one of the many reasons I am vegetarian (but I do not wish to get in a debate about that right now).  In the instances that I compare my life to a child-molester, convicts found guilty of rape and battery charges, animal abusers, etc. I value my life higher than theirs; I do not believe their lives to have any value at all. People such as those who purposely harm others for their own enjoyment, are the lowest of the low in my opinion.


Biogas System Diagram (Module 2) – Bernstein

Biogas_tmb5906_jpg.The core ideas behind my diagram are to take a better look at the landscape in the sense of how the social and eco aspects of the Biogas (Tanks) are intertwined and to serve as an examination of their fluidity. To help simplify, I colored the Biogas (Tanks) box in yellow for a starting point; the ecosystem related boxes are green and the social ones are blue. All in all, I believe my system diagram done a decent job in demonstrating the human-environment interactions. My diagram in comparison to Gerald Marten’s is very different but with a few similarities. They are similar in that they both include (in one manner or another) fertilizer, crops, and the cutting of wood. They are different in that Marten’s diagram took the number of children in consideration and that they listed that the fuel was to be used for cooking – my diagram just has it listed as “New Fuel”. I believe one of the main reasons that our diagrams differ so much is the perspective we took. My perspective is more of a “big picture” and focuses on a little of everything, while Marten’s seems to favor the social/human side of the equation (albeit it in more detail). Having a second diagram to compare to allows me to view different interactions I overlooked when making mine: the gathering things to be buried, for example. Personally I believe that the more complete picture can be found using both the diagrams.

Getting to Know You (Module 1) – Bernstein

Hello everyone!

My name is Teresa Bernstein. I am a Junior majoring in International Relations (a branch off of the International Politics major) and currently attend the World Campus “location”. Even though I was born in North Carolina, I was raised here in Bernville, Pennsylvania. Bernville is a rather small town about 12 miles away from the more well-known city of Reading (if you need a point of reference). In the future I hope to get into politics – hence my major – and maybe even represent the United States abroad (as I have my Bachelor’s in German from Lycoming College already). The part of this course that I am most anticipating is talking about human-environment interactions and the implications thereof. I do not have too much to say about myself fact wise; I am very big into music and can play 6 different instruments (some of which I taught myself how to play), and like to participate in karate in my free time (a hobby of mine since I was about 9 years old).

One issue that geography would be well suited to address is human-environment interactions. Environment and Society Geography can help analyze why certain areas of the world are left with a larger human footprint than others. Globalization and integration as a result also play a large role in this particular issue. If Country A has a natural resource that Country B wishes desperately to acquire, the Cultural integration between these two countries could lead to Economic integration in order to meet the desire for this resource. Too large of a demand then has the possibility to stress Country A and could deplete resources at drastic rates unless sanctions are put in place. As a result, this can fuel the fires of an economic and/or political battle – which all started with Geography. I believe it is important to understand how much of an effect we have on our surroundings because it ties into more than one would think at first glance.