Sustainable Cities: Alex Deebel

The town I grew up in for 14 years was Hummelstown, Pennsylvania. Hummelstown is a small town near the capital, Harrisburg, with a population of roughly 4,520 people. There are shops and restaurants along Main Street, and several developments of homes surrounding the High School and Middle School. The majority of people who live in Hummelstown live in other housing developments around fields and farms on the outskirts of town. These developments would be similar to the automobile suburbs we talked about in module 7, and have much less urban density than any larger town or city.  Resident health seems to be average or above average, and there is very little poverty and unemployment in Hummelstown. The main forms of employment for residents are in small businesses, and agricultural services.

As a small, old town, Hummelstown could implement a few changes to be more like Copenhagen, Denmark. Having the tight streets and allies of Hummelstown become “car-free” would be a great option for the local government. The area is becoming more and more populated around my town, so fixing the increase in traffic problems with a car-free town could be a viable option. Although a large amount of the population lives outside the downtown area, there could be parking lots on the town’s border once they arrive. Having an open area without cars speeding through the streets, where cycling could become a social norm would be a plausible, sustainable action. Since the town has all of the essential stores and public buildings very closely to one another, the normal flow of people should not change that much. Hummelstown has been trying to “go green” so this seems like a great example they could follow to become more sustainable like Copenhagen.

As I mentioned, the area around Hummelstown is becoming increasingly urbanized. While there are no food supply issues yet, the large farms are being purchased by developers, threatening our current supply chain.  Urban farming, like the examples in Haiti and Detroit, is becoming an attractive alternative for many crowded or resource limited towns and cities. Urban farming practices such as personal gardens for vegetable consumed regularly are already being put to use by at least one restaurant in Hummelstown. There is a restaurant that has a personal garden growing next to the seating on their outdoor deck. If the other restaurants in town used the same practices, they would be less dependent on the big grocery stores for their daily produce. Townspeople would then see that the restaurants are doing it, and would most likely be inclined to do the same. There is a lot we can learn from Haiti and even cities in the US that are more limited.


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.


Biogas in India


This image above is a system diagram for biogas in India, with system diagram, we can better understand the relationship between system’s components. In the diagram, we can see that how biogas affects ecosystem and social system, biogas generator uses locally accessible cow dung to produce clean methane gas, and the “leftover” slurry can be used as organic compost, which should be seen as a sustainable development since it doesn’t compromise the resources of the future generations. When comparing my diagram to the one in “What is Human Ecology?”, the same part would be that we both use arrows to show the effects, the different part would be that I use the procedure of producing biogas as a “tree trunk” and present the effects in two categories, but in the reading the author list the major topics under the two categories and find the relationships between the topics. I think the reason why we have differences and similarities is that we both know arrow can help us clear our thoughts and trace the chain of effects, but we have different ways to arrange the information. By comparing the diagrams, I think I would focus more on the correlation between different effects rather than just listing them under different categories, and I would also consider sing line arrows since it makes the diagram cleaner.