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 240 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

Friday, 25 January 2013

Air pollution in the Czech Republic

Level: Advanced / C1

Emissions cuts have failed to reduce pollution in one of the big industrial areas in the Czech Republic. Read this article from The Prague Post and answer the following questions:
1) What is causing the smog?
2) When did pollution problems first begin?
3) What are PM2.5s?
4) How much has Arcelormittel spent on environmental improvements in the last ten years?
5) Lifespan in the region is shorter than the rest of the Czech Republic, but by how much?

Answers below!


1) Temperature inversion trapping pollution
2) The 19th century
3) Particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter
4) Four billion crowns (4bn Kč)
5) About five years shorter

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Sustainable fish quiz

Here's a short quiz from the BBC about sustainable fishing.
Have a go - see if you can do better than me! (I only got four correct!)

Andes glaciers melting

Level: Advanced / C1

Glaciers in the Andes have melted significantly.
Read this article about the glaciers and answer these questions:
1) Why are the glaciers so important?
2) How many glaciers were studied?
3) True or false: low-level glaciers are melting more quickly
4) Could the retreat of the glaciers be due to lower rainfall?
5) Where was the world's highest ski run?

Answers below!


1) They provide fresh water for millions of people
2) About half of all Andean glaciers
3) True
4) No - there has been little change in rainfall
5) Chacaltaya glacier, Bolivia

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Air pollution in China - video lesson 12

Recently the levels of air pollution in Beijing have been dangerously high.

Watch this short video (two minutes) about smog in China, then answer the following questions:
1) Hospital admissions went up by how much over the weekend?
2) What are the long-term health problems of smog?
3) China burns how much of the world's coal?
4) How many cars are there in Beijing?
5) What does the reporter say about the smog?:
   ''You can .............. it, you can ............... it, and you can ............ it.''

Answers below!


1) 30%
2) Asthma, respiratory problems, stroke, heart disease, cancer
3) Half of it
4) Five million
5) You can see it, you can smell it, and you can taste it.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Elephant poaching

Level: Advanced / C1

The killing of elephants for ivory is getting worse in Africa. Here is a BBC article about elephant poaching in Kenya (warning - it is not nice to read about).

Read the article and answer the following questions:
1) Across Africa, elephant poaching is at it's highest for how long?
2) When was the international ivory ban introduced?
3) How many elephants were killed in 2011?
4) Which city is the biggest market in Africa for illegal ivory?
5) According to Ian Craig, how long will it be before free-ranging elephants disappear from northern Kenya?

Finally, what do you think we should do about the problem? Please let me know what you think.

Answers below!


1) For 20 years
2) January 1990
3) 25,000
4) Lagos
5) 15 years

Friday, 11 January 2013

Lions extinct in 25 African countries

Level: Advanced / C1

Lions are in more trouble than we previously thought.
Read this article about Lions from Wildlife Extra, then answer these questions:
1) Which organisation did the survey?
2) How many lions do they believe still survive in Africa?
3) Why have lion populations declined?
4) Which country is mentioned as a major destination for trophy hunters?
5) Do lions still exist in Cameroon?

Finally, what do you think can be done to help lions in Africa?

Answers below!


1) LionAid
2) 15,244
3) Habitat loss, loss of prey, conflict with humans, diseases, illegal wildlife trade, excessive trophy hunting.
4) Tanzania
5) Possibly, but they may be extinct.

Important environmental dates in 2013

Every year there are many important conferences, events and days to commemorate something.
I have compiled a list of what is coming up this year. Click on an event to get a link to the relevant website.
Please let me know if I have missed anything!

8      EEB Clean Air Conference, Brussels
15-16 Participatory Action Planning for Biodiversity, Netherlands
29-31 How to Plan for Nature, Netherlands

2      International Wetlands Day
4-8  National Green Week (USA)
5-7  Wind Power and Environmental Impacts Conference, Stockholm
20-21 Mountains Under Watch Conference, Italy
21     Invasive Species in Europe Conference, Brussels
24     Future Environment and Energy Conference, Rome

5      Climate Change and Protected Areas, Brussels
5      Forum for the Future of Agriculture, Brussels
11     Marine Nature Restoration in Northern Europe, Copenhagen
12-14 NATURA 2000 Monitoring Workshop, Swansea
20     World Sparrow Day
22     World Water Day
23     Earth Hour
25     Advancing Sustainable Tourism, Bonn

1      World Bird Day
5-11 International Dark Sky Week
15     EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy, Ghent
19-23 Wetland Link International Conference, Suncheon
22     Earth Day
22-24 Sustainable Ocean Summit, USA
23-26 Carpathian Protected Areas, Slovakia
25     Penguin Day

      Green Office Week (UK)
9      Slow Fish - sustainable fisheries, Genoa
11-12 World Migratory Bird Day
17-19 Climate Change and Health Conference, London
21-24 Mountain Protected Areas, Czech Rep.
22     International Day for Biological Diversity
24     European Day of Parks

5      World Environment Day
6      Sustainable Tourism in Estuary Parks, Netherlands
8      World Oceans Day
9-14 World Environmental Education Congress, Morocco
13-15 Waters in Sensitive and Protected Areas, Zagreb
15     Global Wind Day
17     World Day to Combat Desertification
17-23 Recycle Week
18    Ecosystems and Sustainable Development, Bucharest
25-27 Climate Change and Nature Conservation in Europe, Bonn

2-4    European Organic Congress, Vilnius
7 Jul-9 Aug    Summer of Soil, Sweden
11     World Population Day
31     World Ranger Day

18-23 INTECOL Congress: Ecology, London

1      International Danube Festival, Romania
1-6    World Water Week, Stockholm
12    European Greenways Awards, Portugal
12    EuroVelo, Greenways and Cycle Tourism Conference, Nantes
16     International Ozone Day
16 -22 European Mobility Week
18     World Water Monitoring Day
21     Zero Emissions Day
22     Car Free Day
22     World Rhino Day
23-27 Artificial Reefs Conference, Izmir
26     World Maritme Day
27     World Tourism Day
29     World Rivers Day

1-4 7th International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations
2-4 Nature & Sports EURO MEET, Slovakia
4      World Animal Day
4-10 10th World Wilderness Conference, Spain
7      World Habitat Day
9-13 EUROPARC Conference, Hungary
9-13 EUROPARCs 1st International Youth Conference, Hungary
10-12 CIPRA Conference Annuelle, Bolzano
12-18 Biology Week, UK
13     National Fungus Day, UK
13     International Day for Disaster Reduction
14-16 Port-Cros Symposium - 50 years of biodiversity, France
21-27 International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC3), France
23-25 2nd European Ecotourism Conference, Romania

4      Green Infrastructure Conference, Brussels
6      Sustainable Tourism and Biodiversity in Protected Areas, Brussels
6      World Responsible Tourism Day
13-14 9th European Water Association Converence, Brussels
15     Biodiversity and Health Conference, Vienna
16-24 European Week for Waste Reduction
11-22 UN Climate Change Conference, Poland
19     World Toilet Day
21     World Forum on Natural Capital, Edinburgh

9-13  European Forest Week
11     International Mountain Day


4-5      Future Environment and Energy Conference, Melbourne

1      Forum for the Future of Agriculture, Brussels

8-11    EcoFil - lakes and rivers, Czech Republic

12-17 Shallow Lakes Conference, Turkey

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Reindeer cull

Level: Advanced / C1

Here's another story about the damage done by introduced species. This time it is reindeer (caribou) on the island of South Georgia.

Read this BBC news report and answer the following questions:
1) How many reindeer are on South Georgia?
2) When were they introduced?
3) Who will be doing the cull?
4) How many people live on South Georgia?
5) Which other animal is being culled on the island?

Also see the lesson on Himalayan balsam for more about invasive species.

Answers below!


1) 3,000
2) 1911
3) Sami herdsmen from Norway
4) None (no permanent residents)
5) Rats

Friday, 4 January 2013

Past simple - grammar lesson 7

Level: Pre-intermediate / A2

Lost, alone and injured on a mountain

Complete this text using the past simple form of these verbs:
fall                   find                 break               laugh  
spend               leave                lose                  need   
take                 celebrate          save                 can’t

Gary Smith yesterday 1   celebrated     his twentieth birthday, but he’s lucky to be alive. In March this year he was climbing Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain, when he 2                               his way and 3                          sixteen hours in sub-zero temperatures.
‘My friends 4                                       at me for having so much survival equipment, but it      5                                          my life.’
On the first night the weather was so bad that it tore his new mountain tent to pieces. So he moved to a Youth Hostel. He 6                             the hostel at 10:00 the next morning, but that afternoon he was in trouble. ‘I 7                                           off a rock and 8                      my left leg. I 9                                    move’
Mountain rescue teams went out to look for Gary, and 10                              him at 09:00 the next morning. A helicopter 11                             him to hospital, where he 12                           several operations.

Adapted from New Headway Pre-intermediate, OUP

Answers below!


1)  celebrated
2)  lost
3)  spent
4)  laughed
5)  saved
6)  left
7)  fell
8)  broke
9)  couldn't
10) found
11) took
12) needed

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Oil rig rescue - video lesson 11

Level: Advanced / C1

An oil rig has run aground on the Alaskan coast. Here is a short BBC news video about it.

Watch the video and answer the following questions:

1) How many salvage experts are on board the rig?
2) The rig is stuck on a                       bank.
3) How high are the waves that are mentioned in the report?
4) Where was the rig being taken to?
5) What sea-life is possibly being in danger? (Three things are mentioned in the video.)

Answers below!


1) 5
2) The rig is stuck on a  shingle  bank.
3) 35 feet
4) Seattle
5) Sea Lions, Sea Otters, Salmon

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Deer and woodlands

Level: Advanced / C1

Deer are having a big impact on woodlands in Britain. Here is an article looking at the problem.
Read the article and then answer the following questions:
1) What is FERA?
2) How many sites were investigated in the deer study?
3) How many deer are culled each year in Britain?
4) How many species of deer are there in Britain?
5) What are the threats from deer to woodlands?

Answers below!


1) Food and Environment Research Agency
2) 35
3) 350,000
4) Six
5) Reduction in growth and density of saplings, bark damage, change in under-storey composition.