Write and Respond 2-Sam Cini

As someone who has taken some classes in my previous semesters that deal with topics of sustainability, it was sometimes hard to grasp the magnitude surrounding these topics and issues. Math 33 was able to allow me and my fellow students get a grasp on the numbers and statistics surrounding the various occurrences in our life that have ties to some form of sustainability.

I believe I had a relatively clear understanding of things that effect sustaining our environment and ecosystems, but I hadn’t learned a lot about the financial sustainability. One of the lessons I remember being intrigued with was the one about the future values of property in various scenarios. I liked this because I had never really thought of how the probability of something occurring could cause such a drastic change in the future value of an item

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Bring On the Robot Overlords

Robbie Horton
Write and Respond Assignment #2

This course has given me a wealth of new tools that help me to analyze numerical information. As the semester progressed, I have gained more than just valuable knowledge about several environmental issues that I consider critical for our species’ continued survival; I have gained the ability to better process and explain this information. I not only have a greater understanding of my personal water footprint (and what affects it most significantly), I feel like I have been armed with enough information to functionally explain the concept to someone who does not understand it. I also now have access to resources that can help me explain water footprints in-depth, and the means of helping curious people calculate their own, as well as some valuable information on some of the more high-impact behaviors that can be most easily changed.

I am now more comfortable with calculating percentages, and percentages of percentages. I feel more able to parse data from graphs and charts, and I feel MUCH more prepared to identify and expose misleading graphs and statistics used to obfuscate or misrepresent factual data. I can now explain to a layperson (like myself) how systems of stocks and flows can operate, and I have a much deeper understanding of how equilibriums are reached and stabilized (or unstabilized). I have a functional grasp on what factors can change a system’s equilibrium, and can explain (through analogies like the Japanese bamboo water clock) what used to strike me as counterintuitive about how and why incremental changes in an environment can build up for a long time without visible impact, only to eventually cause a sudden and catastrophic shift. Given enough information, I can now even predict (with some degree of accuracy) when and how a system will shift from one point of equilibrium to another.

With all this newfound comfort, however, has come a matching set of unsettling knowledge. My already very high degree of cynicism has been bolstered even further by some of the lessons covered in this class. The rate at which developed nations (especially our own) consume safe water is alarming in the extreme when considered alongside existing reserves and population growth projections. The introduction to game theory and dominant strategies covered at the end of this course was particularly interesting/uncomfortable to me, as it quantified in explainable terms some of the “inherent” issues I have been concerned by for years now regarding resource usage and how people attempt to justify taking courses of action that ultimately hurt everyone. Unfortunately, however, we did not learn any reliable and consistent means of preventing people from taking advantage of the perceived “weakness” of others for short-term gain (as I helped convince my team to do in the Lake Pollution extra-credit exercise). Short of everyone suddenly deciding to play nice forever (unlikely), I don’t see many long-term “solutions” to issues of resource scarcity that don’t involve massive levels of unnecessary suffering and death. I suppose the best scenario I can come up with is that of a universal benevolent dictatorship run by an omniscient artificial intelligence. Bring on the robot overlords.

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Write and Respond 2

To the question of feeling more knowledgeable about a particular issue, I could honestly answer in many different ways. Walking into this class on the first day of classes, my knowledge of sustainability as a whole was extremely limited. My very brief knowledge came mainly from biased media and word of mouth. This is extremely unfortunate because these are issues that need to be understood if we are going to make drastically needed changes to preserve our world. Although this is considered a math class, the knowledge I will remember and take with me will be less about formulas and equations and more about the human impact on the environment and how we need to change individually and as a population.

Specifically, the concept of flood insurance, which was introduced to the class in a guest lecture, was extremely eye-opening to me. Walking into the class with zero knowledge of flood insurance, I was shocked to see just how important it could be to people not only in flood zones but even people who do not live in areas commonly associated with heavy rain. Living in the middle of New Jersey, flooding has never been a huge concern growing up.  Although we had our fair share of storms, hurricanes were not a thought to anyone. Because of this, no one I knew ever talked about or had flood insurance. When Superstorm Sandy hit people were shocked and called it a “once in a lifetime” type of storm. Then barely a year later we were hit with Hurricane Irene. Hundreds of people were affected by both of these storms including my family even though we are considered a “minimal flood hazard zone” by FEMA, or Federal Emergency Management Agency. This just goes to show that anyone can be affected by flooding or natural disaster and everyone should be protected with flood insurance.

Currently, there are some issues with the insurance system now. Since it is all ran by one company, they control the price. This causes many people to think it is not worth it. If more people were informed of just how necessary it really was and made the purchase more companies would open causing prices to drop and the monopoly to be eliminated. This would create jobs and really help the people who need it pay for it while protecting many people who do not realize they could use it.

The best way to help people purchase the insurance is to make people more informed about it. Informing people about the benefits of having it will decrease the number of foreclosures on houses, decrease the cost to have own it, and overall save us money in the long run. Especially in the time we are in where we are seeing more and more natural disasters we need things like flood insurance now more than ever. Whether it is teaching about it in classes like we did here in Math 33, or if it is more advertisements and media uses to get the information out there, being proactive is not only smart but needed.

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Write and Respond: Reflection Writing Assignment

Before I have ever taken this class, sustainability has never been one of my main priorities. I have always tried recycling, taking quick showers, and turning the sink off while I brush my teeth but I never realized how big of an issue sustainability is for the human population. Throughout the past few years, sustainability has become a more controversial topic. One of the issues that stood out to me in this class was becoming a paperless society. There are many different opinions on this topic and this class has really opened my eyes on it. It gave me a new perspective that I did not think I would ever have.

Since being in Math 33, my awareness for the amount of paper we use has augmented. I have realized that although we recycle a lot of plastic and paper as a campus, we still waste and burn through a lot of those resources. In the beginning of the semester, professor deForest gave out an extra credit opportunity. It was to write an essay advocating for the development of a Penn State University map app. This was to allow students, faculty, or any visitors to have access to a map without having to use paper. I remember hearing about this project and thinking this was a good idea. If I had never taken this class, I would have never known about this app and project. Ever since I heard about going paperless, I thought if we could ever do that as a campus. I became very concerned with Penn State’s paper use. I thought about the classes I took during my time here and how many of them didn’t use any paper materials. After thinking about it, there were a few classes I had all my materials available electronically and did not have to use any paper. Even in this class, there are many ways to potentially cut back on the amount of paper we use. For instance, instead of using note cards to take attendance ever class, we could use clickers. And for the classes we have guest speakers, you could do the clicker questions at the end of class to hold people accountable for staying the whole class.

Reflecting back on this class, I definitely feel much more confident in my knowledge of climate change. After taking Math 33, I know more about the causation of the rise in temperature. One of the guest speakers had the topic of flooding and natural disasters. We learned a lot about flood insurance and the amount of times a certain region gets flooded. I realized that there is a strong correlation between the increase of climate and the amount and severity of flooding and hurricanes. Although I am no expert in climate change, I feel now that I have a stronger grasp on the causes and effects, all thanks to this class.

Math 33 has opened my eyes to the way Penn State stays accountable for all the resources they use. I have been introduced to the process of becoming a sustainable campus. I never used to be a huge environmental advocate, but this class has changed my mind. We only have a limited time on this planet and we must make it able to be used by the next generations. I am very lucky to have taken a class like this to change my perspective on the world.


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W&R 2 Climate Change

Trenton Wright

Math 33 has helped me understand a lot more about the pressing issues on our environment. It was interesting to discuss and read about the math that can be used to potentially maintain and even save our environment. In my opinion, In class the most controversial issue discussed was climate change. Obviously, I was familiar with the term, but didn’t always understand everything it entitled and how or why it was happening. The fact that global warming is due primarily to humans releasing gases is into the air is scary. It’s unfortunate to know that as a society we could be doing a better job protecting are planet, while many turn their heads not wanting to believe that it is happening. The math and science is present to prove that the surface temperature is rising. I am more alert of this issue and have a better understanding of climate change because of this course. I would encourage many others to take Math 33 to learn how certain equations and formulates may equate to a more sustainable environment. It sounds kind of dumb to say now but, I never realized these issues within climate change could be represented through mathematics.

Climate change has already had effects on the environment. Glaciers are melting, ice on rivers and lakes are breaking. Scientist have predicted the rise of sea levels and more intense heat waves, both are occurring today. Without reducing greenhouse gas emissions, global temperatures will continue to rise. Temperatures are predicted to rise anywhere from two to ten degrees Fahrenheit. It was alarming to learn that there are so many other effects of global warming other than temperature rise. Precipitation has increased in general, however some areas have increased more than the national average and some have decreased. It is projected that heavy precipitation will occur in regions where precipitation is expected to decrease such as the southwest. Hurricanes will also become stronger, the intensity as well as frequency has increased throughout the last three decades. Due to the increase in temperature hurricanes are inevitable. Global sea level is projected to rise anywhere near 1 to 4 more feet. This is connected by melting land ice and sea expansion. Storm surges and high tides could combine with sea level rise and increase the risk of flooding in many regions.

Math 33 has allowed for me to explore the issue of climate change in a more fact-based way. I am alert that climate change is happening now and am aware of the future results if something doesn’t change within the sustainability of our society as is. After this semester, I am hopeful that people will begin to tackle climate change from a more mathematical and scientific standpoint. I also feel more confident discussing the issue of climate change. Before this class I wouldn’t of had the knowledge to talk about climate change or even make a debate. Climate change can be helped if more people are educated on the issue and take time to listen to research. I would refer this course to anyone who is looking to learn more about the environment from a mathematical view, while applying real life concepts.


NASA, Global Climate Change , “Consequences Of Climate Change”


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Write and Respond 2: Reflective Writing Assignment


Throughout this course, I found out that this course is very helpful and meaning  for following reasons.

First, this course helps me to realize how does the small things can change our life, for example if you change the Incandescent  bulb to LED lights, this little act can save 35 $ for a month and saved 450 $ dollars for a year, 900 Kw energies will be saved in a year.  Besides, this course challenged my mind in some point, before that I thought the dishwasher is wastewater than hand wash, however, according to the database, it shows that using hand wash is going to cost 150 gallons a week, but dish wash is just spent 70 gallons a week.  I also learnt from the blog that pollution is more deadly than smoking and obesity, 9 million people died prematurely from pollution-related diseases in 2015, accounting for 16% of all deaths worldwide. Which is very awful. Database and science will tell you the truth.

Second, this course allows me start to aware the sustainability issue. This course helps me to realize that what kind of environment issues that we are facing and how should we do to deal with those environmental problem. Like Beijing air pollution is very severe and how to solve that problem is crucial.  Also, there are a lot of other issues still exist, glacial melting, California wildfire, water pollution, etc. I think the purpose of this class is to act some changes in our behavior; there are still a lot of problems existing in the environment. Waiting for the people like us to solve it.

Third, this course lets me learn a lot of different type of mathematic problems.  In this course we learned about 7 chapter, but I feel like we learn lot, each week we learn about the various thing and different way to solve the mathematic problem , but what I think is that what we leant is very useful, which I can actually apply to my real life, like scientific notation,  how to calculate the global water supply, stock flow model, math tic type setting, equilibrium, exponential model, logarithm, expected value and discounting, etc. those mathematic calculate extend my knowledge.

This course effect globally, not just United States, but also Asia, African, Europe. Sustainability issues are a worldwide issue; we need to be aware of the environment change, not just focus on our hometown, we should concentrate on everywhere, because the earth is a whole, if one part of it suffered the damage, the other would be affected too.

What am I going to do is that I will also influence the people who around me like my friend and my family tell them about the sustainability, and suggest them to change a little bit, just like using the dish wash instead of hand, turning the indecent bulb to LED, using shower instead of bath, a little bit will change a lot.

To sum up, this course helps me to focus on the social, environmental issues, not only let me learn how to calculate the mathematics but also let me focus on the daily life, I think this course is meaningful, and I will suggest more and more people take this course.



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The Misinformation of GMOs

Entering a math class in the beginning of the year, I had no idea how much we would be discussing applicable issues that can be observed in the world today. As a self-prescribed math-averse student, I was daunted by the idea of a math class, yet was rewarded with a semester of learning about how math practically relates to our current sociopolitical climate, and our literal environmental climate. Particularly, I wasn’t expecting to form such strong opinions about a variety of issues, many of which I previously didn’t know that much about. One issue in particular that really stuck out to me was our guest lecture discussing GMOs. Never did I think that discussing genetic modifications of food would cause me to feel so passionate, but this lecture caused me to reevaluate my current perspective and stance on GMOS and “organic” food.

This particular topic has stuck with me so vividly throughout the course of the semester because it continues to be extremely polarizing. Throughout my life, I too believed that GMOs were somehow inherently less healthy than other alternatives, despite my having minimal to no knowledge about the subject matter itself. Through a combination of commercials, advertisements, and things I’ve heard from peers, I was led to believe that GMOs and genetically-modified food are mutant-foods that lack the inherent health benefits of more organically farmed foods. The term “chemicals” sounds very dangerous to a lot of people and turns people off of consuming any food imbibed with them. I wrote my first Write & Respond on the everlasting debate between organic farming vs. traditional farming, and in doing so, incorrectly implied that GMOs were harmful to the environment because they utilized the use of chemicals to produce better produce. However, the lecture sparked my interest in understanding how GMOs might be used to actually benefit the environment. “GMO” is a very misleading term because many incorrectly equate it to mean pesticides; however, it is simply referencing the produce itself once it is modified, without the use of herbicides or pesticides. GMOs can allow for better produce that is grown quicker and more efficiently and actually can eliminate the need for environmentally harmful chemicals such as pesticides. It is a form of technology that can work in tandem with organic farming to eliminate many of the damaging conventional farming methods that are currently plaguing the agriculture industry. This class allowed me to see how damaging it is to wholeheartedly believe something without truly understanding the history or the science behind something. Recycling is another example of something that we discussed that is very divisive primarily due to the lack of dissemination of accurate information regarding the subject. I am glad that I was able to be given a forum wherein I could discuss the matter in a reasonable manner with my peers, as well as being educated about aspects I may not have originally understood.

This is simply one area that caught my interest throughout the semester, but I will honestly say, it is the one about which I have felt most passionate and can say with certainty that I will do my best to educate my peers about it in the future, especially in the face of the spread of misinformation. I hadn’t realized how damaging conventionally farming could be, so I hope to see the rise of GMOs in the future in order to more sustainably farm. I’m glad this class helped me realize that it is not okay to always accept what others say, and doing one’s own research is always necessary to fully form an opinion.

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Water Pollution’s Toxic Effects

Erin Brennan
Professor deForest
Math 33
12 December 2017

Write and Respond 2

            Throughout this course, I have found myself in awe of how many environmental issues I was unaware of. I have learned of many problems regarding ecological sustainability during Math 33, however, in my opinion, the biggest problem our planet should be concerned about is water pollution. The reason I believe this is because water is Earth’s most sacred resource. Most people do not realize just how important it is to keep our water clean, which may be because the majority of us have access to clean water right in our household. However, there are over 700 million people in this world who are without clean water (CDC). I had no idea that such an abundant number of people in this world were unable to acquire pure water. It was a shock to me when learning this statistic, solely because I know that 70% of our earth is covered in water; so how could so many be left without it? (CEF). Realizing how this specific issue is considerably problematic for every living person and organism, I have become more concerned with how our bodies of water are being treated worldwide. My curiosity about this complication led to my further investigation on what exactly contaminates our water.

There are many different types of water pollution that alter our clean water supply; such as chemical, radiological and biological pollutants (Environmental Pollution Centers). Many of us are unaware of just how much the water we use on a daily basis is affected by these contaminants. The water we drink, bathe in, swim in, and even some our food is at risk due to dangerous toxins found within it; which ultimately puts our health at risk. Although our bodies are well equipped to fight off exposure to small amounts of chemicals we ingest, as time goes on, and the more we neglect the fact that our water supply becomes contaminated every day, the worse off we will be in the future. In other words, the pollutants might not impact our health immediately, but over time the exposure to harmful toxins can lead to serious illness and possibly even death in some cases. I believe this is a major environmental danger, because not only does it affect us humans, it also puts our wildlife at risk. To me, this is the most devastating aspect of water pollution. Most of the time water is contaminated by humans, and countless poor animals are suffering from humans lack of consideration. Not all contaminations of water are caused by people, however, the main sources of pollution are often caused by industrial waste, and can be referred to as “point sources”. Point sources mean that the pollutants came from an individual source, while non-point comes from multiple sources.

Regardless of who or where the pollution is coming from, there are many ways every individual can preserve clean water. I feel more knowledgeable about this topic from just a few hours of researching and attempting to find ways of managing my personal responsibility for environmental issues; starting with water preservation. The most obvious way to protect our water supply is by reducing the use of it. Another great way to sustain clean water is to always dispose of harmful materials correctly. Paint, Oil, and Medicine are the more common toxins that humans pollute our waters with. There are disposal areas in almost every community, where these types of waste can be properly taken care of (SFGate).

There are further ways that people can help, such as advocating for clean water in their local communities. Starting small and spreading awareness about this crippling issue can help people realize what they may be doing wrong, and hopefully, correct their harmful actions. If everyone were to recognize the detrimental destruction that water pollution causes, it could lead to further awareness, and hopefully a change in the way large industries dispose of their hazardous products. With industrial waste being a large source of our world’s water pollution, communicating how much damage these companies cause, could produce dramatic changes in further attempts to purify our water. Thus, becoming a step closer to helping those who had little to no means of it, obtain access to fresh water.

We all know that having clean water is a necessity to living a long and happy life. If we neglect the reasons for having a clean water deficiency, the issue of water pollution will only grow larger, and consequently, create a more severe problem for our world. Everyone should take action in preventing these negative occurrences, so we can all see a better tomorrow.





“What Is Water Pollution?” What Is Water Pollution | Environmental Pollution Centers,     www.environmentalpollutioncenters.org/water/.


“Global Water, Sanitation, & Hygiene (WASH).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,          Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 Apr. 2016,                   www.cdc.gov/healthywater/global/wash_statistics.html.


“Sources and Causes of Water Pollution.” Conserve Energy Future, 3 Jan. 2017, www.conserve-   energy-future.com/sources-and-causes-of-water-pollution.php.


“How Does Water Pollution Affect the Environment?” How Does Water Pollution Affect the           Environment? Pollution Solutions Online, 7 May 2016, www.pollutionsolutions-                  online.com/news/water-wastewater/17/breaking-news/how-does-water-pollution-affect-  the-environment/38029.


“Ten Ways to Keep Our Water Clean Globally.” Home Guides | SF Gate,



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W&R 2

This course was eye-opening in the sense that sustainability is in all aspects of life. I never thought about all the ways it can be improved and actually how significant the impacts can be to little changes over the course of weeks, months, years, etc. For example, the topic of water usage is one the hit home for me personally. For instance, I researched the water usage from simple tasks like laundry, showering, and washing dishes after becoming interested in it from class. I kept a log for one week estimating how much water I was actually using. I recorded everything  I could think of that used water. I do not have the exact amount anymore but it was disturbing to say the least. Since then, I have significantly reduced my personal water footprint with small things. Taking shorter showers, reducing my amount of dishes, and doing larger loads of laundry with the same amount of water are keeping my usage much lower than before.

I think this class is valuable to take even if you aren’t interested in a career in sustainability or recycling. It’s a lifestyle to be conscious of the environment and how we can reduce our personal as well as our generation’s impact on future ones. I am a nursing major, but I am still grateful my advisor recommended this class for me because I learned some great lessons about recycling too. Since coming to PSU, recycling has been implemented in a lot of ways from the different cans to sort waste to hall winners for the ones who recycle the most. It’s not only good to know the benefits of what you are doing but you are motivated with things too. I did not know that a big part of THON is zero waste and it’s very important for donations, grants, etc. until becoming part of a committee. This class also helped put that in perspective into all the ways I can help become closer to that goal of zero waste. There is no one aspect that stood out to me because all of them are equally as  important and contribute to the environment.

I feel much more confident in my knowledge about sustainability and why it is important. I will admit I did not know much about the concept of connecting and neighbors (Ch 3 ) before this class but I am much more confident with the information we covered in that section more than anything else. The way one’s actions can spiral into affecting many other’ actions is an interesting concept that can be applied in a lot of ways. The idea of a bystander affect is something I had only ever heard of in a psychology course, but I think it was important to see the application of it in other parts of life too.

I feel as though I can accurately relay the information learned in this class to others and help grow the sustainability effort. My family does not practice many acts of recycling or things like that at home, but I definitely will be bringing back some of my knowledge over break to spread the word.

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Write and Respond 2 – Kyle Nolan

Kyle Nolan

Russ DeForest

Math 33

3 December, 2017



            Coming into this class, I didn’t exactly know what to expect. Being honest, I took this class looking to fulfill my General Quantitative credits and get out of math as soon as possible. After spending the first couple weeks in the class, I realized it is much more than a math class, but it also touches on many moral concepts regarding our concerns for the environment. What stuck out to me the most was the topic of clean energy through a Case Study in class. It touched on the subject of wind power and what may be a viable solution and what may not.

Being 100 percent clean energy is a long way away for the United States as a whole, but for California, they’re setting the bar to become the first 100 percent clean energy state [Scientific n.pag]. Clean energy can be all from solar, wind power, hydropower, geothermal, and ocean current; but is hard to mass produce the energy for an entire state using only small sources such as these. The bottom line is that while clean energy is great, we need some of our population to look into cleaner forms of energy use each day.

Because of this class, I now take much more concern about my impact on the environment when regarding energy use. I have considered uses from solar and wind to power my home in the future, and I have made it a point to talk about my concern about clean energy with my family and friends. Looking more specifically into wind power, I was intrigued by a case study when I was told that people were being paid yearly by the government for energy given by wind turbines. Though the cost is big to make them and start using them, the return is clean energy for you and your surrounding area, all while getting money back in the end.

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Wind turbines work like an inverse fan, where electricity creating wind becomes wind creating electricity [Energy n.pag]. These turbines can be grouped up into a wind farm, which make differences on a large scale for the electricity grid, or you can use smaller turbines for uses around the house. When the numbers are broken down, in 2013 over 4% of the United States population used wind power for their homes, proving this is a reliable and upcoming source, as it has been growing at 25 percent each year since then [awea n.pag]. Once this form of energy is spread, we can innovate and grow this to an extent that makes California’s goal possible.

Morally, after taking this class, I feel as if it’s our duty as a generation to change into the clean energy era, not only for us but the future generations to come. I plan in the future to become as much of an advocate of this as possible, even if my future career has nothing to due with these environmental debates. I highly recommend this class to my friends, I believe that is a class that should be required for everyone, at least a class that challenges our beliefs and ways we view the world.






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