Module Ten: Biodiversity

1. You’re a blacksmith living in a rural region of Alberta, Canada. The economy of your small town has recently gone south after timber prices reached an all time low. Energy companies are inquiring with the town’s government about the possibility of extracting a clean burning, highly flammable metamorphic rock which is found on mountainsides west of town. Allowing mineral extraction would greatly improve the town’s economy while at the same time, around twenty species would be forced to relocate, two of which are unique to your region. Would a better economy be worth endangerment of the species? State your case.

In modern society, the battle between preservation and profit is all too common. Prized items like fossil fuels are found by scientists. Large corporations inquire about these resources in hopes of eventual profit. While local economies, many of which are rural and may be struggling, would significantly benefit, habitat loss and possible species extinction may occur. Pollution is also a major threat. In an anthropogenic context, the loss of a few well known species will probably not impact human life. Intrinsically, a living, breathing species now has no population in an area or is gone forever. This argument falls back onto ethics concepts with the bottom line being, species are non-renewable. Once an animal is completely gone, it’s completely gone, at least naturally. Alternative energy is a growing sector and includes many renewable, pollution and habitat loss free ways to make energy. Governments and citizens will continue to fight for extraction rights to increase taxes and power economies. The instrinic value of a species is far greater than any monetary value.

Discuss a situation in which biodiversity has taken a backseat to monetary gain. Try to use examples from your town, state or region.

In 2011, natural gas fracking began in Pennsylvania. Primarily occurring in Southwestern and Northeastern Pennsylvania, fracking consists of small metal pipes going through the soil and into layers of Marcellus Shale. Pointed horizontally, the pipes emit an undisclosed solution to retrieve natural gas. This is a threat to biodiversity because pollutants often enter groundwater aquifiers. These pollutants may end up anywhere farther down the watershed and be ingested by both animals and humans. Additionally, seismic activity has been linked to fracking in the southern United States. Most notably, a video surfaced a few years ago of a man lighting his tap “water” on fire in Dimock, Pennsylvania. This was likely due to high methane content, a component of the solution energy companies use to extract natural gas. While humans have water quality resources and filters, plants and animals do not. A harsh element like methane could invoke limitless damage on an otherwise healthy ecosystem. New York also has a considerable amount of Marcellus Shale but has not allowed fracking.





Module Nine: Climate Change


My diagram discusses the problem of climate change, the solution of the Copenhagen Accord and the justification of WikiLeaks. Climate change is a global issue while a few nations are far more responsible than the rest of the world. These nations are typically post-industrialized; however, underdeveloped nations deal with the same backlash of climate change because it is global in scale. The Copenhagen Accord was a proposal aimed at remediating climate change. Some countries were in favor, but climate change is just as much an economic problem as it is an environmental one. The agreement would impose different effects on certain nations, as each nation has a differing economy. This particular agreement would work well for the United States, while being opposed by nations like Brazil and Bolivia. Through wiretaps, bribery and computer hacking, the United States was able to get enough developing nations on board with the Copenhagen Accord. As a result, the Accord was adopted by the United Nations. To sum things up, the United States used its economic and political power to corruptly influence a global decision. Had this been about oil or weapons, Fox News would still be airing the story to this day. My diagram aims to communicate the message that the United States wrongfully influenced nations. For example, Haiti will feel the repercussions of climate change, despite releasing far fewer emissions than post-industrialized nations. Once again, money and political power have come before the environment.

The cables deserved to be leaked, plain and simple. As previously stated, climate change is a global issue created by a handful of nations. Poorer nations are less equipped to deal with the end results of the climate change. For example, precipitation changes may lead to desertification, resulting in poor agricultural conditions. The United States is attempting to stay in the driver’s seat and run the world. I would be completely fine with that position if this was an issue of terrorism but it is not. Nations in Europe sustain a high quality of life without such a disastrous environmental impact. Economies are very complex, but in my modest opinion, the United States could survive with a change in economic structure focusing on more sustainable practices. While the Copenhagen Accord was not a terribly binding agreement, the economies of smaller, less powerful countries have far less room for change. I hope the United States is considering the global effects of its decisions. As a whole, the Copenhagen Accord seems like one big failure. Countries do not agree on its success and it does not guarantee much. A document that clearly states what needs to be accomplished by when and who would be a much better solution. Developing nations should ideally have just as much of a say as post-industrialized and industrialized nations, as climate change is global in scale. As an environmental geography student. I hope my own country can get its act together on climate change. I’ll end with the question, “If Al Gore were elected, where would we be?”


Module Eight: Vulnerability Reduction

  1. For this assignment I used my hometown of Hunlock Creek, Pennsylvania. Hunlock Creek is located in Luzerne County in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Increases in heavy rainfall and the possibility of an occasional tropical storm or hurricane exist. While in Zone Two in regard to tornadoes, scattered mountains will likely prevent any such occurance. The Susquehanna River often floods neighboring towns which are not as elevated as Hunlock Creek. While the Nathan Map is well suited to identify broad events like climate change, things like flooding and landslides typically depend on an area’s specific physical geography.
  2. My chosen natural disaster is an M 6.0 earthquake off the coast of Shingu, Japan. It is unlikely for my hometown to experience such a strong earthquake. The tectonic plates below Pennsylvania are considered to be stable. Certain plate boundaries around the world are indicative of seismic activity. The Appalachian Mountain region is not one of these locations. This earthquake occurred at sea, but would cause a reasonable amount of damage in my hometown. Old structures would likely be destroyed, in addition to a few injuries. Wealth, technology and education are all low points for my hometown, so residents would definitely become more statistically vulnerable in these areas. Additionally, the elderly and young children of my town would be more vulnerable. Wealthy people and those with newer homes would be most well equipped to handle a strong earthquake. Home and land inspections would greatly reduce the risk of human injury in the case of an earthquake.
  3. From personal experience and concepts I’ve learned in physical geography, Hunlock Creek is a very safe place to live. Occasionally, snowfall will reach a hazardous level. Staying off the road and wearing warm clothes are simple solutions. Ultisol soils are not prone to erosion and small mountains shield the town from tornadoes. Lightning in the warmer months will often affect powerlines and knock over trees. Placing structures in safe locations relative to trees and powerlines is an easy preventative measure. Flash floods sometimes occur, but can be avoided with drainage techniques. Other than strong winds from a hurricane making its way up the coast, Hunlock Creek is fairly safe, Although not technically a natural disaster, a nuclear powerplant is around 15 miles away from my hometown. The recommended distance to avoid a nuclear disaster is 50 miles (NRDC).
  4. Inspection of infrastructure and homes for quality issues would reduce vulnerability to natural hazards in Hunlock Creek. This could be done by professionals working in private industry and paid for by homeowners or taxes. I can’t morally do much for people who don’t believe in climate change and are willing to vote for Donald Trump. In the next few years, I would like to test water quality and flow patterns from all of streams in Hunlock Creek. This could potentially highlight flood areas and alert homeowners of contaminants in drinking water.
“Minimize Harm and Security Risks of Nuclear Energy.” NRDC. 2016. Web. 01 Apr. 2016.

Module Seven: Urban Planning

As someone who is from a rural area, I will use nearby Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, for this discussion. Located in Luzerne County in Northeast PA,Wilkes Barre has a few square miles of urban downtown neighborhood, with a majority of town being an automobile suburb. In 2014, 40,814 people resided in Wilkes-Barre. The city is about seven square miles in area. Although public transit exists (bus lines), nothing about the city screams sustainability. Anthracite coal, the city’s greatest economic venture, has become obsolete. River travel on the Susquehanna has also become obsolete. Those who can afford to, live in neighboring towns and commute to Wilkes-Barre via automobile.

I found Copenhagen to be a very intriguing city. The sense of community within the pedestrian zone seems unprecedented for a big city. Wilkes-Barre has a public square which hosts events like farmers markets, but the family atmosphere created in Copenhagen seems far superior. Residents of Wilkes-Barre must travel to churches, clubs and bars to find the same level of community. Utilization of bicycles may work to an extent in Wilkes-Barre, but many major businesses are located in the highway-esque business district, Wilkes-Barre Township. Another solid aspect of Copenhagen was the sense of safety created by limiting how fast drivers may travel in certain areas. In Wilkes-Barre and most neighborhoods throughout the United States, reckless drivers are a fairly common occurrence

Haiti is also a very interesting place. One would expect poverty and natural disasters to keep morale down, however, small vegetable gardens seemed to make a Haitian mother content. Organized by United Nations groups, urban agriculture gardens give old tires a second life and provide nutritious foods to the people of Haiti. Wilkes-Barre’s economy has seen better days, but working and purchasing vegetables still makes more sense economically than operating a subsistence farm. Rooftop gardens may be something to look into for those residing in apartment complexes, especially college students. The comparison of Wilkes-Barre and Haiti shows that the quality of life in post-industrialized struggling cities is still well ahead of the quality of life in developing nations.

Module Six: Food Choice and Social Norms

My daily diet is strongly influenced by social norms. I feel more athletic and somewhat healthier with a muscular figure, despite poor endurance and a higher body fat percentage when compared to a slim figure. In order to maintain body mass, I have to eat 120-180 grams of protein broken up throughout the day and refrain from eating an excessive amount of carbohydrates. This requirement leads me to eat a high amount of meat and dairy, while preventing me from eating steady amounts of simple starches. My eating patterns have definitely changed since high school and I have gained around fifty pounds. If sporting a thin body type was the cool thing to do, I would probably go back to eating three or four starch based meals per day and make far fewer trips to the dining commons. The amount of meat and dairy I consume is in no way auspicious to my long-term health.

A major societal issue, which may be unique to the well developed nations, is the connection between overall health and body image. Rather than eat a well balanced diet with emphasis on fruits and vegetables, people like myself eat too much of or do not eat certain foods in an effort to keep or achieve a desired body type. Whether it be not eating enough to compensate for a slow metabolism and maintain a slim figure, or eating too much in hopes of a fuller figure, this is a very real problem. Studies have linked too much meat consumption to cancer. Additionally, chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes are extremely prevalent in the US. It must become socially accepted that an extremely slim waist or muscular build are not necessarily indicators of good health. Vital signs, blood pressure and blood sugar should always be taken into consideration.


Module Five: Case Studies – Tyler Pegarella

  1. My first case study, titled “A small solution to a big problem,” was found on the IRIN website and addresses the need for food in Dakar, specifically vegetables and tomatoes. Dakar, the capital of Senegal, a nation in northwestern Africa, is a place where nearly a third of the population lives on less than a dollar a day. Residents do not have much land access and are constructing makeshift vertical gardens to grow vegetables and tomatoes. These gardens are also ideal in that elderly residents are able to keep up with the maintenance, unlike some traditional gardens. Unfortunately, the distributor of the seeds and required fertilizers has made these materials very expensive. This relates to sustainability because humans living in a city are making the most of their limited land to grow food and sometimes generate a small income. Forests are not being destroyed for agricultural purposes either.
  2. My next case study comes from The Guardian and discusses water shortages caused by the agricultural practices of retailer, M&S. The company adopted new water management techniques in its supply chains and has since reduced agricultural water use by 45% in the United Kingdom. One mentioned farming technique is using probes to water soft fruits. Probes release water only when needed by the plant. No other specific techniques were mentioned but according to the article, all of the M&S farms in the mentioned areas are now using significantly less water. These efforts were made in collaboration with the WWF and the Alliance for Water Stewardship. This concept also relates to sustainability because water is a necessary component of life and shortages may cause serious health risks. Multiple tactics proved to be successful and M&S received an award for their efforts. With that said, small farmers in poorer nations would probably not be able to use the same water-saving methods as M&S.
3. I’m originally from Hunlock Creek, in northeastern Pennsylvania. The first case study which brought up an alternative agricultural practice, has never been applicable to my hometown and will most likely never be. Big yards are very common and numerous farm fields are scattered throughout town. I think small rural towns must realize the true value of open land and not make poor decisions for monetary gain, so that a land situation like that in Dakar never arises. Hunlock Creek runs mainly on residential wells and water shortage is never typically an issue. The cold temperate climate provides a reasonable amount of yearly precipitation and the nearby Susquehanna River is within reach. In the future, over development could possibly lead to water shortage or some sort of pollution. It would be wise for landowners to observe these situations and make sustainable land choices in the future.


Module Four: Water Tracking & Usage – Tyler Pegarella

1-a: My hometown of Hunlock Creek, Pennsylvania, is a very rural area and relies on private residential wells. Precipitation reaches the surface and is infiltrated through the soil. Next, the water must percolate through any rock layers, as it makes its way into aquifers to become groundwater. Water that does not infiltrate into the ground becomes surface runoff, travelling into tributaries which eventually flow into the nearby Susquehanna River. My personal well is about 200 feet deep while wells in the Hunlock Creek area range from 100-1000 feet deep. Most wells use pumps to propel water into homes, while Sulphur and sediment are common issues. Additionally, well water does not contain fluoride. Wastewater exits the home and either enters a septic tank (toilets etc.), or a drainage field (laundry etc.). Septic tanks must be occasionally cleaned. Drainage fields run water through several layers of rock, clay and soil, aiming to clean the water of any harmful contaminants and project it away from the home’s well.

1-b: It should be noted that living in the dorms and not preparing my own meals saves a considerable amount of water compared to living completely independently.

One Shower (Five Minutes): 25 gallons

Brushing Teeth Twice: .5 gallons

Flushing Toilet Six Times: 18 gallons

Washing Hands or Face Seven Times: 3.5 gallons

Drinking Water: 1 gallon

Total Daily Water Consumption: 48 gallons


1-c: I planned on limiting my water use to two gallons for one day by taking a military shower (only using water to get sudsy and rinse), using mouthwash instead of toothpaste and only using water-saving toilets. To make the experiment as realistic as possible, I only drank water for the day, as people in third world countries may not have access to other drinks. Between five meals, a workout and protein shake, I consumed about 64 ounces of water. At one gallon per flush, I was well over the two gallon limit by the evening (6.5 gallons total). I attempted a military shower, and probably used about five gallons overall (11.5 gallons total). Between six quick hand washings and one face washing, I would estimate I used around 1.5 gallons (13 gallons total). Although I was able to cut down my water usage considerably (35 gallons less), it seems almost impossible to abide by the social norms of a modern society while only using two gallons of water. Geography matters because it dictates how much water a person can afford to use. The recent drought in the Western United States was a result of a dry climate. Countries like Saudi Arabia can afford to use practices like desalinization, while poorer nations often depend on surface water and makeshift wells. Without a sufficient amount of usable water, a population can simply not sustain itself.


Module Three: Ethics – Tyler Pegarella

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

Performing good acts is far more important than being a good person. Society cannot benefit from a positive idea alone, but may benefit when the necessary resources are made available. For example, a rich man who has acquired his wealth through questionable tactics may donate money to various charities simply to improve his public reputation. He may not even be aware of who his money is truly benefiting. A far less wealthy social worker may wish to revolutionize education in Africa, but simply does not have the resources. The social worker’s motives are driven by compassion and empathy, although she can actually accomplish very little on her own. Therefore, today’s world is far move dependent on action ethics. With that said, virtue ethics are important and can do a great job of motivating people through ideas.

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

In some cases, non-human animals should receive similar treatment to humans, but not always. Many non-human animals have shown very advanced behavior, such as strong emotional bonds, task learning and even language recognition. Based on this information, the pleasure and pain of many non-human animals, including most mammals, should be considered when making relevant decisions. However, “non-human animals” is a very broad category. Numerous species of animals rely solely on instincts and have very short lifespans. Fruit flies are a non-human animal and fail to exhibit the qualities that make elephants, dolphins and chimpanzees so intriguing. Because of this intelligence gap, a discussion must be had about which qualities non-human animals must possess in order for their pleasure and pain to be considered. Rats and mice, often considered highly intelligent mammals, are currently subject to an array of gruesome experiments. These two animal types are definitely worthy of exemptions from harsh lab experiments.

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

To put it simply, all lives are of equal importance with a few exceptions. Geniuses and those with the potential to drastically improve society should be protected in the highest regard. These people are valuable because they may end up saving large amounts of people, species and the environment. As for everyone else, an individual’s altruism should depend on socioeconomic status and physical ability. For example, a healthy middle-class American has a fairly easy life when compared to those living in a third world country. The American should sacrifice some of their time or resources in order to improve the lives of those less fortunate. On the other side of the spectrum, those in third world countries need not worry about improving the lives of others and should focus on making the most of their own lives. This concept is based on the idea that everyone is entitled to basic needs, employment opportunities and an education. The country and household in which someone is born is a major factor, although unfair, in the type of life someone will live.

Module Two: Biogas Diagram – Tyler Pegarella


In this diagram, I am attempting to show the relationship between environmental and personal health. Looking at the overall situation from a systems perspective, one is able to conclude that positive environmental changes will either directly or indirectly lead to healthier people. Through numerous connections, a specific environment may even be able to positively affect global health patterns. Marten’s diagram and mine both show relationships between ecosystems and social systems. Both display the way humans treat ecosystems comes back in the long run. The diagram I created is much more specific, as it focuses on the Biogas revolution in India. Marten’s diagram seems very general and would accurately represent situations in a number of locations.

My diagram also focuses on only positive outcomes, while Marten’s is somewhat seamless in that it doesn’t note negative or positive relationships. This makes it a very strong, typically relatable diagram. Similarly, both diagrams highlight air, water and plants. I find it interesting how Marten was able to incorporate topics like social organization and values, while still maintaining the relationship between social systems and ecosystems. Overall, we want to spread the same message, that the way communities handle the environment does matter. This is especially true in less industrialized nations where day-to-day survival depends on the environment. And while Marten’s diagram is exceptionally well done, mine is more useful in highlighting small, direct relationships in ecosystems and social systems.

Module One: Getting to Know You

Hello class, my name is Tyler Pegarella and I’m currently a junior, residing in University Park. I’m originally from Hunlock Creek, Pennsylvania, a few minutes southwest of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area. As a Physical/Environmental Geography major, I’d eventually like to work for the federal government, doing something along the lines of hydrology or environmental assessment. While this course is required for the Geography program, I’d enjoy learning about the United States’ influence on environmental regulations in countries like China, as well as the relationship between endangered species and the poaching industry. I transferred from a small school not too long ago and would be happy to talk with anyone about environment-related research and internship positions they’ve held.

An issue worth discussing is the ongoing debate regarding the clean energy industry and petroleum & natural gas companies. Much of the machinery humans depend on runs on fossil fuels, despite their undeniably negative impact on the global environment. Alternative energy sources exist, but questions arise as to how much energy clean sources can produce, the economy’s dependence on fossil fuels and how much the government should regulate the energy industry, among others. Petroleum companies also usually have the upper hand in political discussions, as petroleum has made a great deal of money already, while clean energy is an emerging industry. Balancing a stable environment with a prosperous economy and still having the energy to power the world should lead to very engaging discussions in the coming years.