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Unit 1 ‘The Environment’

Vocabulary 1 The Environment


The environment is the natural world in which people, animals and plants live. However, the way they live and behave may affect the environment. Scientists believe that human beings are responsible for today's major environmental (relating to the natural world and the effect that human activity has on it) problems. They say we have ignored two impor­tant principles of nature (all the plants, animals and things that exist in the universe that are not made by people). First, natural resources (usable materials that are supplied by nature, e.g. gas, minerals and wood) have a limit. There is only so much life that each ecosystem (a community of living things depending on each other and the environment for survival) can support. Second, all our actions have consequences.


A major cause of environmental damage (harm) is the fact that natural resources are public possessions. The main environmental problems are a decrease in natural resources and an increase in environmental pollution (the process of making air, water and soil dirty).

For a long time now, we have been producing more waste (materials that are no longer needed and are thrown away) than nature can deal with. We have also created new toxic (poisonous) substances that we cannot recycle (treat things that have already been used so that they can be used again) safely. The result is pollution.

Industry (the production of goods from raw materials, especially in factories) is a major cause of air pollution. Burn­ing coal, oil, and wood release carbon dioxide and other gases into the atmosphere (stop holding these gases so that they can move freely in the atmosphere). A thick blanket of these gases forms and traps heat (prevent heat from escaping) within our atmosphere. This is called the greenhouse effect. The result of the greenhouse effect is global warming (the increase in temperature of the earth's atmosphere, which is caused by the increase of particular gases, especially carbon dioxide).


Communities, governments, and industries have been working together to protect our environment (to make sure that it is not damaged). For example, the Kyoto Protocol requires each participating country to reduce its level of greenhouse gas emissions (the production of the gases that are thought to cause the greenhouse effect) by the year 2012. Another achievement has been the fact that many countries have banned (decide or say officially that something is not allowed) the use of the kinds of gases that can destroy the ozone layer (damage it so badly that it no longer exists). In 1998 Suriname set aside 1.6 million hectares of its rain forests (thick forests in tropical parts of the world that have a lot of rain) as a reserve (a piece of land that is a protected area for animals, plants, etc).

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