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Welcome! This site is for students to practice their English and keep up to date with environmental issues.

TEN MINUTES OF ENGLISH A DAY!
You can find a mixture of reading, crosswords, videos and short English lessons: these will normally be vocabulary, but I may also treat you to some grammar!

There are now over 200 lessons on this blog. Look through the Blog archive, Post labels and Popular Posts to find what you want.

If you want to print a lesson, click on the lesson title and then look for the Print Friendly icon.

''Let nature be your teacher''
William Wordsworth, poet, 1770-1850

Sunday, 16 November 2014

How almonds are sucking California dry

California's worst drought for over a century is causing big problems for farmers and residents.
Read this BBC article about the situation.
You can also download the podcast.

Read and/or listen to the article, then answer the following questions:
1) How much water do almonds farmers need?
2) What are people doing to their gardens to cope with the drought?
3) For how many years has California had this drought?
4) How much of the world's supply of almonds comes from California?
5) Which country is the biggest market for the almonds?


Answers next week!

Monday, 3 November 2014

Elephants - mega-gardeners of the forest

Level: Upper-intermediate B2
Use of adjectives

Please click the 'Print Friendly' icon at the bottom of the page if you want to print this exercise.

Here is another great video from the BBC's Power of Nature series, this time about the Congo and elephants.

Watch the video (four minutes long) and then complete the sentences below. You need to fill the gaps with adjectives.
1) ''...one of the                                      and                                   tropical rainforests'' (00:04 in the video)
2) ''...and at its heart is an                                             giant.'' (00:17)
3) ''...one of the                      -                     wild places of our world.'' (00:30)
4) ''...the diversity of species that make up the forest is a                                       characteristic.'' (01:14)
5) ''...and they do that by wrapping the seed in a                         ,                             ,                          packet...'' (01:37)

Answers below!




ANSWERS!

1) ''...one of the   largest  and  richest  tropical rainforests'' (00:04 in the video)
2) ''...and at its heart is an  enigmatic  giant.'' (00:17)
3) ''...one of the  life-giving  wild places of our world.'' (00:30)
4) ''...the diversity of species that make up the forest is a  fundamental  characteristic.'' (01:14)
5) ''...and they do that by wrapping the seed in a  nice  ,  little  ,  tasty  packet...'' (01:37)

Monday, 29 September 2014

Don't buy wild-caught salmon

Level: Advanced C1

Please click the 'Print Friendly' icon at the bottom of the page if you want to print this exercise.

Do you know which fish you should buy and which you should avoid?
Here is a report from the Guardian's environment section about sustainable seafood.

First, before reading, find out what these fish are:

  • Salmon (Atlantic)
  • Mackerel
  • Whiting
  • Cod (Atlantic)
  • Plaice (European)
  • Halibut (Atlantic)
  • Dover/Common Sole
  • Mediterranean Tuna (Albacore)
  • Scampi
  • Sea Bass (European)
  • Turbot
  • Lobster (European)
  • Crab (Edible)


Now, read the article and then answer these questions:

1) What is the MCS?
2) Why does it tells us not to eat wild-caught salmon?
3) Which fish are back on the 'Fish to eat' list?
4) True or false: all cod can be eaten?
5) Where is the most sustainable crab from?

Answers below!



ANSWERS!

1) Marine Conservation Society
2) Because of depleted stock due to over-fishing
3) Mackerel, herring and halibut
4) False - only cod from the north-east Arctic, east Baltic and Iceland
5) The Western Channel and the Celtic Sea

Monday, 22 September 2014

Urban gardening takes root in Prague

Level: Upper-intermediate B2

Please click the 'Print Friendly' icon at the bottom of the page if you want to print this exercise.

Urban or community gardening is becoming increasingly popular. But how much do you know about it? This lesson is based on a report on Radio Prague.

Listen to (and read) this report about urban gardening in Prague and then answer these questions:

1) When did Prague's first community garden open?
2) When does the season usually open at the garden?
3) Apart from growing things, what is the other aim of Prazelenina?
4) How is Kokoza different from Prazelenina?
5) According to Anita Blahušová, what plants are the best to start with?

Answers below!



ANSWERS!

1) 2011
2) Mid-April
3) To bring the community together
4) Social work, ecology, employing disabled people
5) Herbs

Monday, 15 September 2014

Alien and invasive species in the UK

Level: Advanced C1

Please click the 'Print Friendly' icon at the bottom of the page if you want to print this exercise.

Many strange species have made their home in the UK. But what are they and why are they a problem?
What invasive species are a problem in your country?

Read this article about invasive species and then answer these questions:

1) Why did terrapins become popular in the UK?
2) What species of snake has been found on the banks of the Regent's Canal?
3) What was captured in the Forest of Dean in 2009?
4) Which exotic bird species is now common in London?
5) Which two species have been reintroduced in the west of England?


Answers below!




ANSWERS!

1) Because of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles craze
2) Aesculapian snakes
3) A young skunk
4) Parakeet
5) (Eurasian) Beaver and Wild Boar

Monday, 8 September 2014

Shubhendu Sharma: How to grow a tiny forest anywhere

Level: Advanced C1

Please click the 'Print Friendly' icon at the bottom of the page if you want to print this exercise.

Here is another great TED talk.

This time it is about growing trees anywhere.
Remember, you can turn on subtitles and view the transcript of the talk.
Watch the video (four minutes) and then answer these questions:

1) Why did Dr. Akira Miyawaki visit the Toyota factory?
2) What benefits did Shubhendu Sharma get from his garden forest after two years?
3) How many trees can they plant in an area of six cars?
4) How does he stop irrigation water from evaporating?
5) How is Shubhendu Sharma going to share his methodology?


Answers below!




ANSWERS!

1) To make a forest in it to make it carbon neutral.
2) The groundwater didn't dry in summer, bird species doubled, quality of air improved, harvested fruits.
3) 300
4) Grass or rice straw covers the soil.
5) Using an open-source internet platform.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Million, milliard or billion?

Level: Intermediate B1

Please click the 'Print Friendly' icon at the bottom of the page if you want to print this exercise.

Confused about millions, milliards and billions?!
Read on! 


Millions and billions

The long and short scales are two large-number naming systems used throughout the world. Many countries, including most in continental Europe, use the long scale whereas most English-speaking countries and Arabic-speaking countries use the short scale.

Long scale is the English translation of the French term échelle longue. It refers to a system of large-number names in which every new term greater than million is a million times the previous term. Thus, billion means a million millions (1012), trillion means a million billions (1018), and so on.
Short scale is the English translation of the French term échelle courte. It refers to a system of large-number names in which every new term greater than million is 1,000 times the previous term. Thus, billion means a thousand millions (109), trillion means a thousand billions (1012), and so on
For integers less than a thousand million (<109), the two scales are identical. At and above a thousand million (≥109), the two scales diverge by using the same words for different number values. These "false friends" can be a source of misunderstanding!

For most of the 19th and 20th centuries, the UK used the long scale, while the USA used the short scale. In 1974, the UK government switched to the short scale.

Scientific         Numerals               Short Scale                 Long Scale
notation                                         (English)                      (non-English)
100                   1                                       one                              one
101                   10                                     ten                               ten
102                   100                                   hundred                       hundred
103                   1,000                                thousand                     thousand
104                   10,000                              ten thousand               ten thousand
105                   100,000                            hundred thousand       hundred thousand
106                   1,000,000                         million                         million
109                   1,000,000,000                  billion                          thousand million/milliard
1012                  1,000,000,000,000           trillion                          billion