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

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone

Level: Intermediate / B1

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. Called Wolves: Forest Stewards it looks at the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone National Park.

Watch the video (four minutes long) and read the text with it, then answer the following questions:
1) When did wolves become extinct in Yellowstone?
2) Why were wolves reintroduced to the Park?
3) Which tree species started coming back?
4) What effect did the returning trees have?
5) What other species returned?

Answers below!


1) In the 1920s / Over 70 years ago
2) To manage the rising population of Elk (Cervus canadensis)
Note: This is the American Elk, similar to the European Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) . In Europe the Elk is what Americans call Moose (Alces alces)
3) Cottonwoods, Aspens, Poplars.
4) They stabilised the river banks, slowing and cleaning the water.
5) Beavers.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Sea otters: Saving kelp forests and our climate

Level: Intermediate / B1

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

Here is a great video (four minutes long) from the BBCs Power of Nature series about sea otters and the kelp forests.

Watch the video and then answer the following questions:
1) Where are the kelp forests in this video?
2) Where do the otters sleep?
3) How do kelp forests help us? (three reasons)
4) Which creature makes up the 'hungry army'?
5) How much the carbon storage 'service' of the kelp forest worth in monetary terms?

Answers below!


1) North Pacific
2) In the kelp forest
3) they a) provide a habitat for fish, b) protect the coat against storms and cyclones, c) absorb carbon
4) Sea urchins
5) 200-400 million dollars per annum

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Czech drivers increasingly saving on petrol and switching to cheaper bio-fuels

Level: Advanced / C1.1

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

Here is a lesson on driving and fuel prices. It is adapted from a article on Czech Radio. You can also listen to it with this link:

A: Firstly, discuss/think about these questions:
1         How many kilometres do you drive per week/month?
2         Are you driving more or less than in the past?
3         What is happening with petrol prices in your country?

B: Check the meaning of these words before reading the article below:
               1          spark
               2          fluctuation
               3          dip
               4          tank
               5          straitened
               6          slump
               7          adapt
               8          modify
               9          hail
               10        autonomous

C: Read the article and then answer these questions:
               1          By how much have petrol sales dropped in the last five years?
               2          How much Natural 95 can you buy with 500 crowns now?
               3          How many car owners have adapted their vehicles over the last five years?
               4          How much fuel does Czech Post expect to save by using CNG vehicles?

D: What do the following phrasal verbs and expressions mean?
               1          take account of (paragraph 2)
               2          contribute to (paragraph 3)
               3          pay off (paragraph 6)
               4          last but not least (paragraph 7)
               5          turn to (paragraph 7)
               6          a means of (paragraph 7)
               7          pick up (paragraph 7)
               8          take their pick from (paragraph 7)

Czech drivers increasingly saving on petrol
and switching to cheaper bio-fuels
1. Rising petrol prices in the Czech Republic have sparked a steady drop in demand, with sales dropping by a quarter in the last five years. People are driving less, planning their trips better and adapting their vehicles to run on cheaper types of fuel.
2. Despite brief fluctuations when the price of petrol temporarily dipped, the cost of fuels has steadily climbed over the past five years. Drivers filling up their tanks in the Czech Republic spend on average 500 crowns at the pumps. While five years ago this got them 21 litres of the best selling Natural 95 petrol, today it only pays for 14 litres. And some drivers now are often only filling up for 200 crowns as they take account of the costs of every trip and their straitened circumstances.
3. The higher prices have contributed to a steady drop in sales. Petrol stations sold seven percent less of the best-selling petrol last year as compared to 2012 and over the past 5 years petrol sales have slumped by a full quarter with a decrease of half a billion litres.
4. With petrol currently selling at over 36 crowns per litre, many drivers have started adapting their vehicles to run on cheaper types of fuel, a change that requires minor engine modification and can save the car owner a significant amount of money long-term. For instance driving on E85 bio-fuel can save drivers thousands of crowns a month – filling up your tank with E85 is some 500 crowns cheaper than with regular petrol. An increasing number of petrol stations now offer the E85 ethanol-based fuel alternative and its sales have doubled over the last year.
5. According to available statistics, some 6,000 car owners have had their vehicles adapted to cheaper fuels in the past five years, paying between 4,000 and 10,000 crowns for the modification. Mechanics claim that thousands of others are taking high risks by running their cars on cheaper fuels without undertaking the changes. They warn that this can seriously damage cars and the money saved long-term will not pay off.
6. The slump in petrol sales is also caused by companies looking closer at their transport costs and replacing their fleets with vehicles designed to run on cheaper fuels. For instance Czech Post is now in the process of acquiring 1,500 new vehicles that will run on CNG (compressed natural gas) in a move that is expected to halve annual fuel costs.
7. And, last but not least, higher fuel costs have increased the popularity of car sharing – a trend that was not originally hailed with great enthusiasm by auto autonomous Czechs. Today many people who need to drive to work daily have turned to car sharing as a means of keeping down their growing fuel expenses. Some pick up colleagues and share the monthly costs; others go on the internet and take their pick from the increasing number of offers available.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

China on world's 'biggest push' for wind power

Level: Upper-intermediate / B2

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China is already the world's largest producer of wind power.
Read this article about its plans to double the number of wind turbines, then answer the following questions:
1) How much energy will be produced by wind in 2020 in China?
2) Integrating this surge in wind energy has posed what three challenges?
3) What is China's biggest source of energy?
4) Which country produces the most wind energy in Europe?
5) Which potential foreign markets exist for Chines wind technology?

Answers below!


1) 200GW
2) a: the windiest regions tend to be far from cities
    b: the building of turbines has outstripped the expansion of the grid
    c: the grid has struggled to cope with the intermittent wind energy
3) Coal (75%)
4) Germany
5) Asia, Latin America and Africa

Monday, 6 January 2014

Attenborough: The forgotten story of Alfred Russel Wallace

Level: Advanced / C1

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Charles Darwin is famous, but what do you know about Alfred Wallace?
Watch this wonderful presentation narrated by David Attenborough, then answer the following questions:
1) What is the Malay Archipelago called today?
2) What did Wallace and Walter Bates collect together in Leicestershire?
3) Where did they go in 1848?
4) What was the 'premier natural history society' in Britain where Darwin and Wallace presented their papers?
5) When did Wallace die?

Answers below!

1) Indonesia
2) Beetles
3) The Amazon (Belem)
4) The Linnean Society
5) 100 years ago