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

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 250 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

''Joy in looking and comprehending is nature's most beautiful gift''
Albert Einstein, physicist, 1879-1955

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Invasive species - Himalayan Balsam

Level: Advanced / C1

Invasive species are a big problem all over the world. But here is an encouraging story of a project to control one such species in Wales.
Read the article and answer the following questions:
1) When did the North Wales Wildlife Trust start to control Himalayan Balsam?
2) The river Alyn flows into which other river?
3) Why is Himalayan Balsam relatively easy to control?
4) What problems does the Signal Crayfish cause?
5) Which other plants are mentioned in the article?

Answers below!


1) 2009
2) The river Dee
3) It can be easily uprooted
4) It carries a disease, it burrows into river banks and it eats salmon eggs
5) Japanese Knotweed, Giant Hogweed

Christmas crossword

Okay, it's not strictly an environmental subject, but food vocabulary is useful! So, have a go at this BBC Christmas food crossword and see how you do.
Merry Christmas!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Fracking in the UK

Level: Advanced / C1

The UK government has given permission for fracking to re-commence after recent safety concerns.

Here is a good article looking at the truth (or otherwise) of fracking.

Read the article and answer these questions.

1) What is the real name for 'fracking'
2) Why did the UK government temporarily ban it?
3) Where else in the world has fracking caused earthquakes/earth tremors?
4) What is in the fluid that is used for fracking?
5) Why are residents in Pavillion, Wyoming unhappy with fracking?

Finally, what do you think? To frack or not?!

Answers below!


1) Hydraulic fracturing
2) Because of earth tremors
3) Canada and the USA
4) Water, sand and chemicals
5) They claim it is affecting their drinking water

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Extreme weather - crossword

Here's a new crossword from the BBC. This time it is about extreme weather.
A few difficult words and phrases in it. Let me know how you get on!

Monday, 19 November 2012

Tales from the Wild Wood

There is a great series on BBC television at the moment about woodlands.
Write and woodsman Rob Penn has a year-long project in Wales to bring part of an abandoned woodland back to life.
The programme is being shown on the BBC4 TV channel. I know some of you may not be able to receive this, so I will try to find a way to make it available in the future.
It is a great programme for many reasons: the English is very good and understandable, so it is suitable for students learning English; also, the programme looks at many aspects of woodland management and the problems facing modern woodlands in Britain.
I hope you have the opportunity to watch it.

Monday, 5 November 2012

New blog

I have created a new blog which focusses on signs with bad English:

Please have a look and let me know what you think!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Astronomy photographer of the year 2012 - video lesson 10

Level: Advanced / C1

Something a bit different this time. An exhibition of amazing photos at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, London.
Watch and listen to the BBC video (6 minutes long) about it. Then answer these questions:

1) 00:31 - Which two planets is the man observing ?
2) 00:52 - Where are the two lost hikers?
3) 02:00 - Where was this photo taken?
4) 03:00 - What is the Spaghetti Nebula?
5) 03:43 - What happens to Mars' polar cap in these photos?
6) 04:49 - Which insect is in the foreground of this photo?

Answers below!


1) Venus and Jupiter
2) Yosemite
3) London
4) Remnants of an exploded star
5) It shrinks (summer)
6) Fireflies

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

World Ranger Day 2012

Level: Upper intermediate / B2

Today is World Ranger Day.
Here is an article from WWF about their support for rangers and how you can support them too.
Read the article and then answer these questions:
1) What are rangers also known as?
2) How big is the Eastern Plains Landscape in Cambodia?
3) How many rangers work in the Rimbang Baling Wildlife Reserve in Indonesia
4) What are Nepal's southern plains known as?

Answers below!

1) Forest guards, park wardens or field enforcement officers
2) 15,000 square kilometres
3) Three
4) Terai

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Yellowstone slide show

Level: Advanced / C1

Here are some great photos of Yellowstone National Park.
Read the text which is with each photo and then answer these questions:
1) In which state is Yellowstone National Park?
2) What is a caldera?
3) How high can Old Faithful reach?
4) What gives Grand Prismatic Spring its orange colour?
5) What is a confluence?


1) Wyoming
2) The collapsed cone of a supervolcano
3) 55m
4) Pigmented bacteria
5) Where two rivers meet

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Bark Beetles in Czech Forests

Level: Advanced / C1

Here is a short article about the controversial clearance of trees in a Czech national park to control bark beetles.
Read the article and then answer the following questions:
1) Who is the EU Environment Commissioner?
2) When did the EU write to the Czech government?
3) Who is Jan Stráský?
4) How big is Šumava national park?
5) What is the neighbouring national park in Germany called?

Answers below!

1) Janez Potočnik
2) In mid-June 2012
3) Head of Šumava National Park
4) 16,827 ha
5) Bavarian Forest National Park

Saturday, 23 June 2012

IUCN 2012 update

Level: Advanced / C1

Here is an article about the latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Read the article and then answer the following questions:
1) What is the IUCN?
2) How many species were assessed?
3) What is the world's largest venomous snake?
4) How many people depend on coral reefs for food, coastal protection and their livelihoods?
5) Why are invasive species a problem?

Answers below!


1) The International Union for Conservation of Nature
2) 63,837
3) The King Cobra Ophiophagus hannah
4) More than 275 million people
5) They are a threat to food security, human and animal health, and to biodiversity

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Sydney's rubbish - video lesson 9

Here is a short video (two and a half minutes) about rubbish in Sydney.
Watch the video and then answer the following questions:
1) How many people live in Sydney?
2) ''In places it looks like a                                  store''
3) What can the plastic do to marine life?:
 ''. . . .  choke   ,                             or                   it.''
4) How long did it take to fill the two bags with rubbish?
5) Two Hands Environmental Group has how many Facebook followers?

Answers below!


1) Five million
2) clothing
3) entangle     poison
4) Twelve minutes
5) 20,000

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Schwarzenegger says green quest goes on - video lesson 8

Here is a short video with Arnold Schwarzenegger speaking about renewable energy in the USA.
You may be surprised at how much he knows about this subject!
Watch the video and then answer these questions:
1) California is          % more energy efficient that the rest of the USA.
2) If the USA were energy efficient it could close          % of its coal power plants.
3) ''The future is                                                            ,
4) What does Mr Schwarzenegger say about America's energy plan?

What do you think? Is he right?

Answers below!

1) 40%
2) 75%
3) Green energy, sustainability and renewable energy
4) There is no plan!

The birth and spread of national parks

Level: Advanced / C1

Here is a BBC travel article about the history of national parks around the world.
Read the article and then answer these questions:
1) Which was the first national park in the world?
2) Who founded the Sierra Club?
3) Where is the Royal National Park?
4) How many national parks are the in the world now?
5) Where is Band-e-Amir?

Answers below!


1) Yellowstone, USA
2) John Muir
3) Australia
4) More than 4,000
5) Afghanistan

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Bison, vodka and Poland's primeval forest - video lesson 7

Level: Advanced / C1

Here is a good, short (four minute) video about Bialowieza Forest in Poland.
Watch it and then answer these questions:
1) How many Bison are in Bialowicza?
2) Who is Mateusz Szymura?
3) What did he study?
4) How many tree species are there in the forest?
5) Complete the quote form Mr Szymura:
     ''Our goal is to protect the ______________''

Answers below!


1) 500
2) Park Ranger / Guide
3) Forestry
4) 24
5) (natural) process

Monday, 23 April 2012

On the beach - crossword

Time to start thinking about booking your summer holiday!
Better start practising the vocabulary too!
On the beach crossword

Friday, 20 April 2012

Butterflies in Britain

Level: Advanced / C1

Here is a short reading lesson based on a BBC article: Rare UK butterflies 'bounce back'

Read the article and then answer the following questions:
1) What caused the increase in butterflies?
2) Who does Tom Brereton work for?
3) How many species of butterfly can be found in Britain?
4) Why does the Peacock butterfly have large dots on its wings?
5) What is the UK's largest resident butterfly?

Answers below!

1) Record-breaking temperatures and dry weather
2) Butterfly Conservation
3) 58
4) To frighten away or divert predators
5) Swallowtail

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

EU Common Agricultural Policy - video lesson 6

Here is an interesting short (3 minute) video on You Tube about the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP):
Watch the video and then answer these questions:
1) How much land in Europe is used for agriculture?
2) How much money will be spent on the CAP from 2014-2020?
3) 75% of global food comes from how many plant and animal species?
4) How much meat did the average EU citizen eat in 2011?
5) How much water is required for 1kg of beef?

What do you think about the CAP? Should it be reformed? How?
Let us know what you think!

Answers below!

1) 40%
2) 371.72 Euros (37% of the budget)
3) 12 plant and 5 animal species
4) 85.7kg
5) 15,500 litres

Shale gas in Bohemia

Level: Advanced / C1

Local Czechs rally against shale gas drilling in Bohemia

A            What is shale gas?
B            Is there any in your country?
C            What are the problems with it?
D            Vocabulary. Check the meaning of these words:
               1          rally
               2          gather
               3          deposit
               4          mayor
               5          pressure group
               6          subsidiary
               7          water table
               8          insulate
               9          contaminate
               10        anticipate

Now read the article:

Hundreds gathered on the main square of the northwest Bohemian town of Náchod to protest against the planned exploration and eventual extraction of shale gas deposits in the region. Although the Ministry of Environment has already issued a survey licence to an Australian-owned company, local municipalities have appealed against the decision.
 “We want to support the mayors who have clearly expressed their opposition to exploration and extraction of shale gas in this region. We have also found out that the owners of the firm should be here and we want to show them their plans won’t go through in our region,” said Jiří Malík, an ecologist and representative of the anti-shale gas pressure group STOP HF.
Hutton Energy says its subsidiary, Basgas Energia Czech, “will be one of the first independent oil and gas companies to focus on unconventional [shale] gas resources” in the Czech Republic. The company says its 777 km² in the Náchod, Trutnov and Broumov districts has been identified as a “Silurian shale gas with similar characteristics to others in Poland and North America.” Based on initial exploration in Poland, the fact the site has “high organic content and silica content means it has high potential for shale gas production.”
Opponents of shale gas extraction claim it damages the environment and can contaminate water tables and thus water supplies for local residents. “Any hydraulic fracturing [fracking] in the Czech Republic will lead to the contamination of groundwater,” Malík said.
Pavel Lhotský from Basgas Energia Czech tried to reassure the meeting that exploration and extraction would not pose any threat to local water supplies. “Each bore hole will have concrete and steel shielding,” he said during the debate hosted by the regional governor.
Lhotský also claimed that in the US, where shale gas has been extracted for over 10 years, there has not been a single case of contamination of groundwater from the process. However, in April 2011 the US National Academy of Sciences published a study showing that water supplies in upstate New York and Pennsylvania have been contaminated with methane as a result of shale gas extraction.
The anticipated reserves of shale gas lie around 1.5 km under the ground, whereas the groundwater tables are at a maximum depth of 500 metres. According to Malík, “it is absolutely certain” that some materials will get into the groundwater, such as chemicals used in the extraction process and the gas itself.
The Náchod district assembly passed a motion on February 20 opposing local shale gas exploration. Some 50 local administrations in the region have signed a petition against surveying for shale gas, and submitted a formal objection to the Ministry of Environment against the permit issued to Basgas Energia Czech.
The permit for exploration includes a site near the town of Náchod, which is a key source of local drinking water. “We must not let anyone ever drill here. What’s important for us here isn’t gas but water,” assembly member Fiedler Libor said at the meeting. “Náchod is around 80 percent connected to the Polická křídová basin, and there is a great danger of contamination of the groundwater,” Náchod Mayor Jan Birke said at the same meeting. Franc is also opposed to Hutton Energy’s plans. Drilling towers “don’t belong in the shadow of the Krkonoš Mountains or above the Babiččiný Valley,” he said.
Apart from its plans in the Náchod, Trutnov and Broumov districts, Basgas Energia Czech also wants to survey a 946 km² block in the Beroun district 30 km southwest of Prague.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

UK consumers go bananas for Fairtrade

Level: Upper intermediate / B2

Here is an interesting article in the Guardian newspaper about Fairtrade products.
Read the article and then answer these questions:
1) By how much did the sales of fairly traded products increase in the UK last year?
2) What was the main factor in this growth?
3) Who were the first major sugar brand to convert to Fairtrade?
4) Where does M&S Fairtrade tea come from?
5) What does 'go bananas' mean?!

Answers below!

Have a look at Faitrade banana day!

1) 12%
2) Major supermarkets selling Fairtrade goods at the same price as conventionally produced goods
3) Tate & Lyle
4) Kenya
5) 'To behave in a very excited, angry or emotional way about something'
(from Online English Lessons)

Friday, 24 February 2012

Phrases for comparing - grammar lesson 6

The UK and Australia: the same or different?

Level: Intermediate / B2

Complete the sentences comparing the UK and Australia with these words:

as (x2)             completely      different         from                less

more                similar              slightly            the                   to

1. The climate in Australia is different                                                the climate in the UK.

2. Australian coins look similar                                                                        British coins.

3.  A lot of wild animals in Australia are                                             different from the wild animals that you find in England.

4. Supermarkets in Australia are exactly the same                   supermarkets in the UK.

5. The cost of living in Sydney is very                                    to the cost of living in London.

6.  Houses in the British countryside look very                                   from houses in the Australian countryside.

7.  Australian TV programmes are                               or                                 the same as British TV programmes.

8. Australian road signs are                                          different from road signs in the UK.

9. Daily life in Australia is about                     same                daily life in the UK.
 Adapted from New Cutting Edge Intermediate, Longman, 2005

Answers below!

1. from
2. to
3. completely
4. as
5. similar
6. different
7. more    less
8. slightly
9. the     as

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Proportion of land area covered by forest

Level: Upper intermediate / B2

Charts bin a good site with lots of visual material on environmental (and other) issues.
Have a look at this map of Proportion of Land Area Covered by Forest and then answer these questions:
1) Which European country has the largest percentage of forest cover?
2) Who has more forest cover - the USA or Canada?
3) Which countries have zero forest cover?!
4) By how much did forest cover fall in Brazil from 1990 to 2010?
5) True or false: forest cover in the UK has fallen

Answers below!

1) Finland
2) Canada
3) Oman, Greenland
4) From 69% to 65.6%
5) False

Sunday, 12 February 2012

English course

English Language Course for Environmental Professionals

15th – 22nd August 2012
Juniper Hall Field Centre, Surrey, England

A repeat of last year’s very successful and enjoyable Environmental English course in the UK at the Juniper Hall Field Centre in Surrey, just south of London.
Please see the photos on the right of this page. 

More details to follow soon, or email:

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Snow: crossword

It's snowing here in Prague, so I thought I would post the BBC's Snow crossword!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Prague seeks routes to slash public transport deficit

Level: Advanced / C1

Here is a longer than usual reading lesson for you. It is about public transport in the beautiful city of Prague (where I am lucky enough to live!).

A            How good do you think the public transport system is in Prague?

B            How is it financed? Does it make a profit or a loss?

C            Check the meaning of these words before reading the article:
               1          slash                                        2          paymaster
               3          praise                                      4          burden            
               5          (un)bearable                        6          raid
               7          diminish                                 8          hike
               9          keen                                       10        envy

E                        What do the following phrasal verbs, expressions and idioms mean:
               1          face up to                                2          back on track
               3          in the front line                     4          break even
               5          stem from                                6          go down this route
               7          wipe out                                   8          cushion the blow
               9          quick fix                                  10        get around

F                        Read the article and answer these questions:
               1          Who funds Prague’s public transport system?
               2          How many trips are made on the system each year?
               3          How big is DPP’s budget deficit?
               4          How much does a basic ticket cost?
5          True or false: DPP is buying buses from Škoda.

G            How do you think the situation should be solved?
               What do you think about passengers who do not pay?!

Prague seeks routes to slash public transport deficit
Prague’s much-praised and heavily-subsidized public transport system is facing tough times as its council paymaster faces up to how to deal with a cash crisis. The Czech capital’s well-developed bus, tram and metro system is frequently praised by tourists and visiting transport experts alike; but is one of the city’s biggest burdens thanks to high payouts to cover operational expenses and investment plans. On average it eats up a quarter of the city’s overall expenditure.

That burden has been covered by a growing overall deficit from 2009, but now Prague City Council is now seeking to get its finances back on track with its transport company, Dopravní podnik hlavního města Prahy (DPP), in the front line for some tough decisions.

The Council has a 50-page analysis of steps it can take to relieve the debt burden of DPP. It offers three basic scenarios for the future of the capital’s transport system, which is used for an estimated 1.22 billion trips a year (about 55 percent of all journeys across Prague):
·                     Maintaining the current trend, thus increasing DPP’s debt burden on the city’s finances. This could only continue until the level threatened to lead to a downgrade in the city’s financial rating or debt servicing payments became unbearable. More time could be bought by raiding the budgets of other city services.
·                     Diminishing the financing burden of DPP on the city by making passengers pay a much greater proportion (or even all) of the costs of their journeys. Currently tickets and travel passes only cover around a third of operational costs.
·                     Cutbacks in the network and services offered by DPP so that the transport network can break even. Also renegotiate the calendar for already agreed new tram and bus deliveries, as well as a public tender for financial institutions to offer solutions to DPP’s short-term cash crisis. That crisis largely stems from payments which need to be made as a result of past financing packages and transport equipment purchases.
The impact of making passengers meet more of the costs of public transport could be dramatic if the City Council goes down this route. The analysis warns that sharp rises in ticket and travel pass prices will occur if DPP’s expected operational deficit of Kč 1.2 billion this year is to be wiped out. One scenario it presents for wiping out the deficit is for a 40 percent hike in ticket prices this year, with lower increases (3 – 10%) in following years.

The study points out that prices for single trips on buses, trams and the metro are already high compared with the purchasing power of most of Prague’s 1.3 million inhabitants. A charges policy that would favour longer-term travel passes (mostly used by residents) against the simple tickets (mostly bought by tourists) is offered as one means of cushioning the blow of further increases on Prague residents.

Initial responses to the study suggest that the Prague City Council is not keen to hike up ticket or travel pass prices, which were already raised in the summer. The basic one way single ticket is now Kč 24. Prague citizens are estimated to have to work around twice as many minutes as counterparts in Vienna and about a third more than Berlin inhabitants to cover the ticket price.

The survey points out that Prague has boosted services over recent years, with the increase in passengers not keeping up with the improved service. Cuts in services will not necessarily result in a corresponding reduction in passengers, it suggests. Prague’s transport network and services are already the envy of much richer European cities who could better afford to finance similar services, it adds.

A quick-fix solution could be to cut back on purchases of new trams, buses and metro cars. The annual budget for this runs at around Kč 3.5 billion this year and for the following five years. Long-term contracts have been signed for buses with SOR Libchavy and for trams with Škoda Transportation. Lawyers are currently analyzing whether the Škoda Transportation contact can be amended or in some ways got around with regards to the calendar and number of trams, the survey says.