Module 10

Assignment: Read the information about Costa Rica’s conservation efforts in Module 10.  In one paragraph, discuss what anthropocentric and ecocentric benefitis this could have.  In a second paragraph, talk about how actions like this could be taken to conserve biodiversity in your area or region.

Costa Rica has made a serious investment into their biodiversity by committing to be proactive in their conservation.  25% of its land has been set aside in national park in order to keep at least 80% of its remaining species intact.  Also, Costa Rica ended subsidies that encouraged deforestation.  Anthropocentric benefits include a blossoming tourism industry that has bolstered the economy.  Also, the diversity should keep the region more stable for agriculture. Ecocentric benefits include the protection of more species, cleaner rivers, less soil erosion, and fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

In the northwest region of PA, there is not much land set aside for natural habitat.  One example of an existing park would be Presque Isle on Lake Erie, which draws in thousands of tourists every year and generates a lot of business for the local economy.  It also protects many native species of plants and animals and preserves a natural piece of the Great Lakes’ shore.  Rampant destruction of natural habitat is not a common occurrence in the area, but there would still be recreational and ecological benefits to more land set aside for natural habitat.  There is an extensive amount of state game lands in the area that do provide some of this, but they are not very accessible even if they are open to the public.  I think it would be beneficial to create more state parks with facilities to make it more attractive for people to visit and enjoy PA wilderness.

Untitled document

Above is a diagram to illustrate the controversy and events surrounding the Copenhagen accord.  The main issue stems from the burning of fossil fuels; burning fossil fuels for transportation, energy, and industry releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.  Increased levels of greenhouse gases trap heat from the sun and are causing the global temperature to rise, which results in the many aspects of climate change.  The realization of this threat has caused alarm from increasingly more governments, which required a global agreement like the Kyoto Resolution to be handled.  The US is responsible for a huge portion of emissions, but has been reluctant to do anything drastic.  The Kyoto resolution resulted in the US State Department using bribes and coercion to persuade smaller nations to support a more lenient climate resolution.  These tactics encouraged many smaller nations to align with the US.  This support gave rise to the uninspired Copenhagen Accord which had less requirements to reduce emissions for the US.  The Copenhagen Accord will result in burning more fossil fuels which then restarts the whole cycle of greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, and diplomatic bureaucracy.

My opinion on this issue is kind of mixed.  I understand that restrictions on greenhouse gases generally would slow down the US economy, so I understand why politicians are not willing to do something that is not universally supported in their country.  However, the backroom nature of this diplomacy is concerning. What is even more concerning is that this story was not major new in the US and I do not recall hearing about it until now.  I understand there have been leaks of sensitive information that have potential repercussions, but I do not think this is one of these situations.  The only thing at risk in this situation is the public perception of our politicians; if they are being deceptive to the public then they should be held accountable.  The only way this systemic problem within the US government could be resolved is for the American public to come to a consensus on climate change and vote in politicians that share their views.  Unfortunately, given the current misdirection and confusion in the American public, I do not see this shift happening until climate change is irreversible and manifesting itself.



Natural Hazards

This map is very good for identifying whole regions that may have natural hazards, however it is not extremely precise because it is dealing with the whole globe.  This means that it is hard to tell exactly if natural hazards will affect my specific hometown.  There are very few hazards that seem like they have potential to affect Waterford, PA. Wildfires, earthquakes, flooding, and hurricanes are all very unlikely.  We do have potential for severe winter storms and occasional tornadoes.  Also potentially we may have more heavy rain events with climate change.

I located a magnitude 5.7 earthquake in ocean west of Alaska.  My town is not in a location that is vulnerable to earthquakes.  This is because it does not sit anywhere near a fault line like the one near Alaska.  Also, it is not near water so tsunamis are not an issue.  This earthquake is rather remote, so there will not be people affected.  The scale is quite large, so if it happened in my town a whole region would be affected. There would be a large difference in vulnerability in my town depending on income.  There are many trailers and old houses that are in disrepair that would fall apart with a mild quake.  We could limit the damage by having a emergency plan that would keep people safe, but apart from building stronger houses or improving the local economy, not much could be done.

There are some severe snowstorms  and tornadoes that I have heard about from adults that grew up in my area.  These events are serious very rarely, but they have happened. The last big weather event that I have heard of was the tornado in Albion, PA very near Waterford in 1985 killing over 70 people and destroying 1309 homes ( No catastrophic snowstorms were recorded for my area, but close to Erie county, Buffalo had a record storm last year.  7 feet of snow dropped and many motorists were trapped on the roads for days and there were extended power outages ( Both of these events are very close to home and are definitely possible in my area.


There are a few steps that could be taken to protect from natural hazards in my town.  Because the only serious threats are severe snow storms and tornadoes, those are the one that should be prepared for.  First of all, an emergency system could be put in place, this would be a responsibility of local government to identify and notify residents about weather events.  Also, education could take place that will encourage people to have emergency supplies in place that would allow them to survive for a few days without outside help.  This would ensure that people are both aware of developing storms and ready to weather the storm until help can arrive.

Urban Planning

Living in my area, homes are generally located in rural areas, but the nearest city is Erie, PA.  Erie has a population of 100,000 people and many surrounding areas with different predominating methods of transportation.  The city of Erie itself is almost exclusively traveled by cars.  There are not many concentrated areas, necessitating some form of faster transportation.  Very little infrastructure exists for biking or walking.  Also, many neighborhoods are deemed dangerous, limiting people’s desire to travel in a more exposed form of transportation.  Erie has many issues with storm water management and lack of greenspace.  There is very little public transportation which also enforces the use of private vehicles instead of alternative methods of transportation.  There are significant amounts of farmland around Erie so I do not believe that urban agriculture would be a good fit.

The first city that I saw in this lesson that could really lend some solutions for Erie was Copenhagen, Denmark.  Once you get past the general problem of economic decay in Erie, much of the city could be much more easily navigated by bikes than by cars.  Erie would need to implement bike paths similar to Copenhagen.  The bike paths could replace space currently used by car traffic, but also there is surplus of roads, so bike lanes would not congest car traffic.  Incentives like Copenhagen uses would be very beneficial.  Many people in Erie are used to the ease of car travel, and the additional effort of bike travel would be an issue for some people.   Erie is renowned for its miserable weather and snowfall; exceptional maintenance would be needed to keep bikes paths usable

The second city that has promising solutions for transportation in Erie is the Brazilian city of Curitiba.  The implementation of an effective bus system in Erie seems much more doable than a similarly scaled train or subway system.  The downtown area in Erie is small, so a bus system seems better suited to service both city and suburban districts.  The current bus system is rarely used and very hard to catch most of the time.  Also, a subway or train system would be hugely expensive to build.  The current bus system would just have to be expanded instead.  A lot of information would need to be collected in order to satisfy demand yet remain efficient.

The case study I chose from the provided sources involved hog farms and the environmental consequences and nuisances involved with these operations.  I found this case study from the list compiled from the University of Michigan at  The hog farms in question are located in North Carolina which according to this information is second in the country for hog production.  The goal of the development is to produce hogs conventionally in highly concentrated systems.  Also, the case study mentioned that there was a gap in the agricultural production because tobacco production has fallen off; hog production has filled this gap.  It relates to the development module because these farms are filling the demand for cheap meat sources that a developed country such as the US requires.  The farms seem to be located in rural areas that are less affluent, which also makes environmental justice relevant to the situation.

Also, I found a case study that looked into the treatment of agricultural workers and environmental effects from the farming systems that they work in.  This study was published in Environmental Research Letters, Volume 2, Number 4, and I accessed it online at  These farms are located in the Valley of San Quintin in Mexico, where a large amount of fruits and vegetables are grown for export using migrant workers for labor.  The living conditions are very poor for the agricultural workers, but also they are exposed to many negative environmental effects because of the area they work in.  They are exposed to pesticides, respiratory contaminants, and disease.  These operations are driven by the demand for produce by the US, but there is little regulation in Mexico to ensure safe conditions for the workers and people who live in these areas.

I chose these two agricultural topics because that is large part of the economy in my area in Erie County, PA.  In some ways they are similar because there is environmental consequence to any agriculture.  The hog situation is similar because there are nutrients that end up in the creeks and streams, however it is different because it seems like there is much more regulation here that dictates how concentrated animal operations can use manure. Also, there are not many instances where the burden of agricultural nuisances are placed disproportionately on lower income areas.  There are also seasonal workers for some farms in my area which relates to the migrant workers in San Quintin.  These workers also have potential to be exposed to pesticides and contaminants. The seasonal workers I am familiar with do have access to good housing and utilities unlike the Mexican workers however.  I think what can be learned is that there needs to be some regulation in all of these areas.  When development is only driven by economics, there tend to be injured parties.  With some oversight, community involvement, and good stewardship of resources, it is possible to create more sustainable development.  Geography also plays a role; the situations in case study illustrate very concentrated development, while the agriculture in northwest PA is more spread out and regulated.

Water Usage

The water supply for my home is not connected to any municipal sources because of its location in a rural area.  My family has several wells on the property for both residential and farm use.  The ground water is around 70 feet below the surface and is completely potable.  The well for our house recharges from natural drainage from the 40+ inches of rain received in Erie County every year.  That water is pumped with an electric pump into my house where it is used for drinking, cleaning, showering, and etc.  The gray water from the house is disposed of into our leech bed which infiltrates water into the ground.  The water drains through the soil back into the groundwater supply, thus completing a cycle.  Some of this water is probably lost from runoff and evaporation, which means it ends up draining into French Creek or lost into the atmosphere.  This is a fairly common setup for water in my area, where almost everyone has their own wells.



In my attempt to use only 2 gallons of water in a day, I realized how difficult that actually is.  The areas of water use that I focused on were cooking, drinking, and hygiene.  Immediately, I realized that showering was not a realistic possibility.  Drinking water and cooking were the most important activities that required water, so I focused on satisfying those needs first.  For hygiene, I decided to use a small amount of water to wash my face instead of showering, which greatly cut down on water use.  I drank half a gallon, but I did not leave the sink running like I normal do.  I used another gallon for cooking.  I failed the experiment the first time I had to use the bathroom; that in itself uses more than 2 gallons.  I did use just a fraction of my normal water use of around 100 gallons.  Geography is relevant to water use because of the unequal distribution of water supply and use across the Earth’s landscape.  My area has more than enough water that can support my usage, but many places do not.

I used a couple key concepts from module 2 to help me construct this system diagram. Biogas production in rural India affects the people and environment there in many ways.  Utilizing the biogas generator utilizes technology to increase the carrying capacity of the system.  When using exclusively firewood for fuel, the people had one resource that could be depleted.  Technology allows people to use a waste product to increase the available fuel for cooking and heat.   I highlighted the biogas generator in a different color because it is the main driver of change in this example.  Once biogas generation is possible, Firewood collection is reduced and people spend less time gathering it.  Fuel is produced from the generator which reduces the polluting smoke of firewood, and gives people an efficient form of energy.  The generator also produces usable nutrients which reduces pollution to the environment and produces income.  The nutrients also boost agricultural production which again gives people income and more food.  The addition of the generator to the system increases the stability of the system because there are fewer inflows and out flows.  My diagram is similar to Marten’s in that there are two main interaction categories of humans and the environment.  My diagram is different because it is more focused on the effect of the generator than the overall cycle.  There are similarities because the purpose of the biogas generator is to effect the dynamics of the social-environmental system.  It shows that these are complex systems and it is hard for a systems diagram to simplify it to just a couple interactions.

Untitled drawing


Module 1- Introduction

Hi, I’m Zack.  I just finished my last full semester at State College this past fall; I actually lived in a tent the whole semester on a local dairy farm because it sounded like a good time. Currently, I am living at home in Waterford, PA finishing up two online courses in order to graduate with a Plant Science degree in May. Also, I am working full time this semester.  I grew up on a large farm, and I plan to work in the agriculture industry and get some experience before I take over my family’s farm.  This geography class interests me because reconciling large scale agriculture and sustainability is a personal goal of mine.  Other than that, I’ve been very lucky to travel extensively and I get excited at any opportunity to learn something about the world!

I think a geographical issue that is very important to me is going to be food production.  I am a big proponent of large scale agriculture, but there are many problems that need to be fixed in order for complete sustainability.  Geography will be very relevant do to the varied landscapes and changing climate.  Feeding the world does not mean just producing more food, but creating stable production and distribution to places that actually need the food.