Module 10 – Biodiversity

Explain an area of biodiversity hotspot location, using the Conservation International Hotspots Globe Conservation International map located in the Module 10. Summarize in 150-200 words the location, species, geography, threats, and anything else you feel is important about the area. Explain what H.I.P.P.O. stands for and describe each threat. Lastly, describe a threat your hometown can or is facing and connect the threat to the hotspot location you described.

I chose to write about the Mesoamerican forest hotspot. It is third largest hotspot in the world according to the CEPF. It is located in Central America and includes all of the subtropical and tropical ecosystems of Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, about a third of Mexico, and two-thirds of Panama Mesoamerica has about 17,000 species of vascular plants and nearly 3,000 are endemic. There are about 1,120 bird species and more than 200 species restricted to the region. The mammals in Mesoamerica has about 440 species and more than 65 of these are endemic. Reptiles in Mesoamerica have about 690 species and nearly 240 are endemic. Some of the endemic species are the quetzal, howler monkey, and about 17,000 plant species. Mesoamerica has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world. Between 1980 and 1990, deforestation averaged 1.4 percent annually. It is also estimated that 80 percent of the area’s original habitat has been cleared or severely modified.  El Salvador has less than five percent of its original forest left.

H.I.P.P.O. stands for habitat loss, invasive species, pollution, human population, and overharvesting. Habitat loss is when an area is converted from usable to unusable habitat. Examples of habitat loss can include: industrial activities, agriculture, mining, deforestation, and water extraction. The invasive species threat is when an animal, plant, or microbe moves into a new area. This can have an affect the resident species such as new species can parasitize the residents, compete with them for food, bring diseases, or modify habitats. Pollution is when the discharge of toxic synthetic chemicals and heavy metals into the environment. This has an impact on species and can lead to extinctions. The human population is about 6.8 billion and the increase in the population leads to an increase threat to biodiversity. Overharvesting can be the targeted hunting, gathering, or fishing for a particular species and the harvesting by-catch in ocean fisheries that causes biodiversity loss.

My hometown of Archbald in northeast Pennsylvania, can face the threats of habitat loss and human population. I have seen much greater habitat loss in my area in the past few years. There has been deforestation in a few areas for the timber and for development. Also, construction has begun on two power plants in my area that has left the surrounding area unusable. The human population has also been increasing in this area. There have been many new living places built and being built and an increase of cars and traffic that has led to more pollution. The threats my hometown faces are related to the Mesoamerican forest hotspot threats. The threat both locations face is deforestation and affects both areas similar. The animals in the areas affected have to find somewhere else to go, and in my area, they usually end up in someone’s backyard. This deforestation might make the human lives better, but overall it has a great impact on the areas biodiversity.

Module 10- HIPPO

  1. What does HIPPO mean?
  2. How does HIPPO apply to your hometown? Does any of its components affect your hometown?


H- Habitat loss- There have been varous ways that the environment has lost land. Humans are the cause of many, including deforestation, using land for farming, building on the land, etc. What used to be land for animals to live is being turned over to the humans to use for their own needs.

I- Invasive species- New species can change a whole ecosystem when introduced. Because they have not lived with the resident species, there are no predators to control the growth rate/ population. Because of this, the new species grows without limitations and can wipe other species out of that areas ecosystem.

P- Pollution- This is when a substance that has negative effects to the environment is introduced. Even some natural substances can cause problems to the environment when there is too much of it present. Pollution can lead to the extinction of different species if not monitored.

P- human Population- The population boom since the 1800’s to now has hurt biodiversity because people had to find new land to live, thus destroying nature. Species environments have had to change to adjust to humans.

O- Overharvesting- This is the hunting/ targeting of certain species to the point of diminishing returns.

2. I have seen parts of HIPPO present in my hometown in many ways. My hometown is McMurray, PA which is 30 minutes outside of Pittsburgh. I moved to Peters Township in 2000. My family has witnessed the township develop and grow. The first sign of HIPPO that I’ve seen in my hometown is habitat loss. With more people moving to Peters, there has been new communities being built for the past 15 years. Housing developers have been buying farmland up to set up new neighborhoods. The township is debating building a new high school on farmland also. With these new housing developments popping up wherever they can fit, there;s been a lot of land cleared and forests taken down in order to house all the new people wanting to move to Peters.

Another part of HIPPO that my hometown has started to see is Pollution. The township has started new campaigns to help the environment and control pollution. During the last few years of High school, more recycling bins were put around the school and teachers started clubs to learn more about helping the environment. Also, the township has put more recycling methods in place. We now are instructed on different ways to sort our trash. The township gave everyone new recycling bins and instructions on what items go into what trash bins. The township has put up new signs and warnings on different areas that could be used to dump trash. All the sewers have stickers on them reminding people that they go directly to drinking water.

Again Human population applies to my hometown. With the population boom that my town has seen, animals have had to move to find new land to live. Recently, we have had a coyote problem. With land being taken away from them, coyotes have been forced to move around to find new places to live. This is forcing them closer to people. With more housing developments taking up land, animals have been disturbed.

Also, deer started to act like an invasive species to us. Our township has joined in an effort with neighboring townships to bring in experienced hunters over the last couple years. The hunters are used to control the deer’s population and make sure that their numbers stay low enough for the environment to handle.


Jason Brown

Module 9: Climate Diplomacy

WikiLeaks climate change nit5075My system diagram shows the connection between the WikiLeaks cables and climate change. The article explains how the United States used different tactics to gain support for the Copenhagen accord and highlighted the unethical ways to do business. The diagram starts with the climate change issue because it is the focus of the article and the reason for the Copenhagen accord. In my diagram, climate change is linked to the Copenhagen accord because the U.S saw this opportunity to boost themselves on a global scale and that the accord’s purpose is to reduce the impacts of climate change. The next linkage is the WikiLeaks Cables. This is the center for the diagram for it being the main point for the article. The WikiLeaks Cables reviled how the U.S was able to gain support for the Copenhagen accord. The WikiLeaks Cables also showed how the United States took this issue of climate change and lead the world on changing it. The result of the United States efforts to gain support for the Copenhagen Accord made 116 countries associating with the accord and 26 counties intend to associate with it. The WikiLeaks Cables is also linked to climate change because the United States tactics helped curb the effects of climate change. The last linkage in my system diagram shows the overall results of the Copenhagen accord. The article states that 75% of the 193 countries that are parties to the UN climate change convention and support the accord are responsible for over 80% of current global greenhouse gas emissions.

I believe that it was right for the State Department cables to be made public after the fact. It shows how the negotiations are made between countries and what is the true costs. This kind of collective action problem can be dealt with in different ways. The way the United States handled it would be different if another country was focused on making the accord happen. The issue of climate change is growing and cannot be solved by one country on their own. The individual and collective action changes are ways to begin to create ways reduce the impact of climate change. Some of the ways the United States conducted climate change diplomacy showcased in the WikiLeaks Cables can be unethical. The use of spying and threats were probably used as a last option, but should not have been used to gain support for an important issue like climate change. This effects everyone in the same way and the Copenhagen accord should have benefited all counties equally. Also, the United States does not look as trustworthy if they are spying on counties and threating them for support. The WikiLeaks Cables did raise awareness of how important the issue of climate change is on a global scale. The United State should have worked more closely with the counties wanting the same outcome and have an open discussion with the counties that were more hesitant with the Copenhagen accord. Another option was to go through the United Nations and follow their standards to create another accord on the issue of climate change.

Module 9- The Copenhagen Accord

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2) The diagram I created starts off with the main idea that the issue of global warming is a main concern among most countries. The United States wanted to be a key player in trying to reduce this issue, while at the same time, making sure that they will choose a plan that helps them the most. The U.S. pushed the Kyoto protocol away because there were many restrictions and laws that were aimed at larger countries, such as the U.S., and instead, the United States proposed the Copenhagen Accord. This was much more favorable to larger countries, but hurt developing countries that aren’t able to get their hands on the supplies that the larger countries have at their disposal. in order to get support for this, the U.S. began to promise money to smaller countries for their support. When any country started to doubt the U.S., the United states would then dangle the money in front of them and threaten to take the opportunity away from them. WikiLeaks then got involved when they got their hands on many of the negotiation conversations that were occurring between the U.S. and the smaller countries. They made these conversations public, showing how the U.S. was trying to force these countries’ hands into signing onto their agreement. Even with about 75% of countries supporting the Copenhagen Accord, the plan fell through because of lack of trust between the countries involved. The U.S.’s ethics were all over the place in trying to get what the ybelieved the right plan to be to help with global warming.

3) In my opinion, I believe that it was right for the cables to be made public. We as citizens have the right to know how our government is operating and should have a say in the manner in which some business is conducted. The U.S. should have tried to solve this problem in a way that helped out the most countries, or benefit at least everyone involved in some way. Instead, there was a loss of trust between countries because of the bribery and espionage. Global warming is an issue that will require every player to participate in order to be solved. Without trust, there is no way that everyone will decide on efficient steps without checking each others proposals along the way, to make sure that no one is getting a better deal. This was a rough issue for developing countries. They were given the choice of jumping on board to a plan they didn’t like in order to get financial aid right away, or stay away from it all together and miss out on a huge financial opportunity for their country. Instead of using the wrong ways to get support, the U.S. could’ve tried to modify plans to fit different countries needs and make sure that everyone got an equal deal. The smaller countries deserve respect and should not be left behind by the more developed countries. The U.S. could’ve been altruistic and made sure that all the countries could get together to solve an issue that they all play a part in, but instead, they went about this selfishly and lost trust.


Jason Brown

Hazards in Malaysia

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

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

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

Module 8: Vulnerability Reduction

The Nathan World Map of Natural Hazards helped me identify the natural hazards that my town in northeastern Pennsylvania can face. According to the maps, my area is at risk from tropical cyclones, an increase in heavy rain, hailstorms (up to zone 3), extratropical storms (up to zone 0), tornados (up to zone 3), and wildfires (up to zone 1). The maps in the Nathan map document show a general risk for a specific area and a specific threat. In some of the maps it is hard to identify what category a specific area is in. I do agree with the metrics provided for my area. Living in this area, we can experience crazy weather sometimes. I was actually born during the blizzard of 1993, there was a tornado a few miles away that destroyed car shop a few years back, number of floods, strong storms with damaging winds and hail, and a few small brush fires that lasted a day or two.

The current disaster from the RSOE EDIS is a 90-foot wide sinkhole in Tarpon Springs, Florida. My hometown can experience this same type of disaster. The risk for this type of disaster is higher than other parts of the country. My area is vulnerable the acid in our groundwater being able to dissolve the porous rocks. My area is not as vulnerable as Florida, but they seem to be more common. The scale of this disaster relative to the size of my hometown would be the same. This happened in a mobile home park and displaced about twenty people. My town also has a mobile home park about the same size that is described. The sinkhole opened in an area where there is a higher density of people living and that is why the impact was higher. If it happened in front of my house, the impact would be far less. The severity of this type of disaster on the human population in my hometown depends on where it happens. The population is mixed with older and younger people. If this would happen near a senior living complex, the severity would be high because of the assistance need when trying to evacuate quickly. These type of disasters do not have advance warning and give little time to leave the affected area. Reducing my town’s vulnerability to such a disaster would begin with the inspection of areas looking at water runoff, underground pipes, the types of soil and rocks. Another way to reduce the vulnerability is to have a proper waste water disposal system.

I was able to find a site that compiled natural disasters and weather extremes from 1950 to 2010 and calculated the likelihood of an event. The data says that the chance of an earthquake in Lackawanna County is about the same as the Pennsylvania average and is far lower than the national average. The risk of tornado damage in Lackawanna County is lower than Pennsylvania average and is also lower than the national average. The site also has a chart that shows the number of events that happened. The top three were thunderstorm winds, floods, and hail. I would agree that these events occur the most often and sometimes they can be destructive. Flooding is usually the most impactful because I live in a valley, and effects a widespread of people.  

Lackawanna County Natural Disasters and Weather Extremes. Retrieved April 01, 2016, from

There are many actions that can be done to reduce vulnerability to natural hazards in my town. The first action would be make sure my town and its people are prepared for multiple different types of natural hazards. This can be done by practicing response times, rescue training, making sure people know where to go, and have emergency items before something happens. Emergency responders also need to know what to do when a natural hazard occurs and how to handle it. After the event the area impacted needs to have a concrete plan in place to recover and rebuild in the shortest time possible. I personally can stay alert and know what may happen and know where emergency supplies are. I can also help in a time in need by helping neighbors, family, and other people that may need assistance to safety.

Module 6: Food Choice & Social Norms

A few weeks back, my family and I hosted a super bowl party for about twenty people. We provided the food for the party. When my mom told me what she was going to buy, it was the typical party foods and snacks. There were sandwiches, chips and dip, wings, pizza, and other snacks. The drinks included soda, beer, and some water. Most of the people that attended this party expected this type of spread because these types of foods are correlated to football itself. There were a few that mentioned that they wished there were healthier options, but ate the food anyway and enjoyed it. The people that do not usually eat these types of foods were pressured into eating these foods in order to not go hungry or to fit in with the rest of the people.

This type of social norm connects to the societal issue of obesity and convenience of food choices. Obesity is an issue that affects many people and can be caused by many different factors. The food choices at the party can be related to obesity by the vast amounts of food present at the party and no limit as too how much or how little one has to eat. Although, this is not an everyday occurrence, the experience can impact how one makes food choices in the future. The convenience of these types of foods is the main reason why they were at the party, by being easy to prepare and eat. This social norm should not be. It will only take a little more effort to have healthier choices available and show that you do not have to always eat this way at a party.food_diagram_nit5075

Module 6 Social Norms

Jason Brown

I go through a situation every year where my food choice is influenced by social norms, and that time of year is Christmas Eve. My family is Catholic and my mom’s side of the family is 100% Italian. Each Christmas Eve, all of our family and friends gather at our house where we celebrate the Feast of the Seven Fishes. I have never been really into fish and this has tested me each year. We prepare fried cod, smelts, crab, and tons of other dishes. One of the main items that people go for is pasta with an anchovies sauce. It is infused with different flavors that help to hide the fishy-ness of the sauce, so those who don’t like fish go for that. Every year, I adjust though and I eat the fish even though I may not enjoy all of it. I do it for my family and my religion. I have started to adjust to some of the fish and  have enjoyed it recently. But I had to warp my preferences to go with the norms of the dinner and be with my family for my religion.

One of the main societal issues that comes from this dinner is food waste. Every year, adults and kids will try new foods or different types of fish and if they don’t like it, it goes right to the trash can. I can’t tell you how many times that I have walked around after the party and found half eaten food on plates just sitting around. This directly relates to ethics. While we are blessed to have the food, by wasting it we are showing no empathy for the millions of people starving around the world. This is one of the main issues with society. People need to appreciate all that they have cause many others have nothing close to that. The social norm for this should be people finding ways to try new foods in ways that excite them. Like if they were to mix the food with something else or just simply leave it be and let others eat it. This way there would be less wasted food and more people would be happy with the end result.


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Module 5 Development Case Studies

Jason Brown


The case study that i found interesting came from the Colby Sustainable Development page and was titled “Bicycles as Transportation Policy”. The study is about Japan’ climb back from World War 2 and trying to redevelop. One of the main additions to their development is the use of bikes around Japan as a main type of transportation. Because of the nation’s lack of petroleum, bikes are a great replacement for cars and let the citizens know that the reduction of the use of fossil fuels is important. Many of the older systems of travel grew old and inconvenient for the everyday riders, so substitutes had to be found. Bike ownership went up and actions were taken to try and boost the use of bikes. Pollution went down from cars to bikes and pathways and parking was built for the bikers to use. The government continued to promote bike use by putting railway stations near residential areas so commuters didn’t have long ways to bike and still could use energy efficient transportation to get to work. Bike rentals went way up as citizens would rent bikes in the city after using the train, thus helping the economy. Japan has discouraged the use of cars with more costs of owning one in the city. But as people continue to get more money, they feel the need to get more expensive cars. So the government has more work to do to promote bicycle use.



The second case study I found comes from the Action On Smoking and Health global action. It concerns trying to make France smoke-free. The articles describes this as a rough change to make because of France’s background. For decades, France has had an overall society based off of cafe living, where the citizens like to relax out in the open and smoke as they eat or go about their activities. They have instituted new laws that try and weed out smokers from indoor places and also at work. Also, measures have been taken to build designated smoking rooms, but most companies are unwilling to pay for them even if it means increased productivity from their workers who smoke. High taxes and restrictions on marketing and ads were supposed to come around, but have all been shot down and not put into place just yet. The government works in a way where they can not simply institute new laws that the people do not like, or else there will be more civil protest.

3. Both of these studies play a part in where I am from. McMurray, PA is in the suburbs outside of Pittsburgh. My township is called Peters Township and over the years, I have seen examples of these case studies. Peters has had more bike traffic in recent years as we have had a number of our trails updated and rerouted to connect more main channel trails. More people have been riding their bikes to work and leaving their cars at home. New bridges have been able to let bikers reach new trails that let them get to work. Also, Peters has been trying to install more sidewalks for the public to use. More and more kids are ditching school buses and riding their bikes to school or carpooling. The second case relates to the USA because of the limitations that the government has been putting on tobacco companies. Now american consumers are learning about the dangers of smoking and they are starting to change their feelings about cigarettes. Now when I go to our local convenience stores, I have seen less ads for cigarettes and tobacco products. One impact of the downfall of smoking that I have seen around my township is that vaping and other forms of “safer” smoking have taken off. A vape shop opened up in one of our main shopping centers and has attracted all kinds of different demographics of people to come and test their luck at trying to ween themselves off of cigarettes. We can learn from these cases that people do not always want to change. We saw in case 2 that the french still really love to smoke. Luckily, in the US we have been able to make changes to the percentage of consumers that smoke. Also, from Case 1 we saw that most of the Japanese took to their bikes and liked the idea. I have cousins who live in Japan who always talk about the high number of students who walk and bike to school. Their schools got rid of their bus systems cause nobody used them and it was better for the environment. My hometown could try something like this if more people are willing to help the planet.



Module 4: Water Tracking and Usage

Jason Brown


I am from a suburb of Pittsburgh in Washington County, PA called Peters Township. My family has one source of water which is provided by the municipality. Peters Township gets the water from the Pennsylvania America Water Company and their website shows that 92% of their water sources are from surface water, 7% comes from wells, and they purchase 1% of the water sources. PAWC services about 650,000 customers and 400 communities in 36 different counties. The Monongahela river is the source of surface water and provides about 110 million gallons of water every day. The PAWC has three main channels that water goes through to get to our taps. First, the water goes through the pumping station where untreated water is removed by large pumps and pipes. Then, raw water is sent to a treatment facility, where the water gets treated and becomes purified to meet the standards of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Finally, the water goes through the distribution system, which is a large network of pipes that span all over in order to reach any house, business, or fire hydrant that is serviced by the company. The water is then able to be used by me in my home.



February 9th

Use                  USGS Rate Estimate              My water usage for today

Shower            5 gallons/min-  10 minutes/2x 100 gallons

Brush teeth      0.3 gallons- 3 times                 0.9 gallons

Toilet               3 gallons/flush-Used 4 times   12 gallons

Handwashing  1 gallon/time-8 times               8 gallons

Drinking          32 oz/water bottle- 2 bottles   .5 gallons

Ending total: 121.4 gallons of water that day.

With the USGS website estimations, I totaled 121.4 gallons of water on Feb 9th. I see this as pretty accurate because I do less activities at school with water than I would at home. Living in the dorms, I really don’t wash dishes and I didn’t do any laundry on this day for example.


With just two gallons of water, I changed my routine dramatically. I was able to avoid using it to cook by eating at the commons. I drank about.5 gallons of water throughout the day. The rest though was used when I brushed my teeth, washed my hands/face, and flushed the toilet. I was able to not shower though for the day because I didn’t really do any physical activity that made me sweat. I think I went over the 2 gallons limit though by washing my hands and flushing the toilet. I kind of have to do that though. I don’t want to make any one mad in the dorm that I live in and I wanted to keep my hands clean for obvious reason. So I failed this experiment but only for my personal hygiene. I bet if I did it at home, I could pass. This was a lot less water consumption though to my regular day described in part 1-b. I was able to cut back dramatically and see what it is like for other people every day. Geography is very important to water consumption. I never really saw this until my cousins in California started to have problems and we had to send them bottled water. Geography plays a role in how water gets around and it can cut people off from it. This is why people are always creating new systems for more drinkable water to be available.

Module 2-Jason Brown

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My diagram shows what the original problem was and how it was solved to help the community. It started off with the stoves. The people were worried about the negative impacts that the smoke had on their health and how damaging it was to the environment. Trees had to be taken down for firewood and the kids were missing school to help their mom cook so they could eat. Then, a positive feedback loop was created with the introduction of the biogas system. People started to recycle cow dung which polluted the village and turned it into usable methane gas. This not only stopped the killing of trees, but it lead to no more smoke. Also, the leftover mixture could then be used to fertilize the fields and sold to other local villagers for profit. Now because of this, there will be more waste in the future. Profit will rise. There will be more jobs to keep this running. The loop will keep going and the village’s health will greatly improve.


The diagram that the book showed had very specific terms just like mine did. I tried to put mine into social and ecosystem like the book and it kind of worked. We both connected everything together and showed how one box lead to another.The main difference is mine not having as much info as the books. I could have connected more items. These similarities and differences exist because we both looked at this system in different ways. We saw how different activities connected to each other. We can see how the bigger issues break off into smaller subtopics by looking at these diagrams and see the true drivers of the system.