In 1969 an accident happened on an oil rig off the coast of California. Between 13,000 and 16,000 cubic metres of crude oil spilled into the sea. The oil polluted the water and killed fish, birds and other marine animals. It was an ecological disaster, and it wasn’t the first one. Modern industrial society had been causing more and more damage to the environment. After the oil rig accident, American senator Gaylord Nelson decided that it was time for a great rally in defense of mother Earth, so he helped organize the first Earth Day, which was held on 22 April 1970. Some twenty million people participated. The organizers claimed that the world – our only home – was in grave danger. Famous journalist Walter Cronkite summarized their message: “half-way measures and business as usual cannot possibly pull us back from the edge of the precipice. […] What is at stake, and what is in question, is survival.”
Even though humanity was (and is) heading towards a precipice, not much has changed. People have continued to injure and ruin the very world in which they live, extracting and consuming its resources without thinking of the consequences. Pollution is worse than ever. For example, it was recently estimated that 500 billion plastic bags end up in the sea every year. 15 billion trees are lost each year. Human activity is also causing the extinction of many plant and animal species. Scientists claim that the last time so many species disappeared was 66 million years ago when a huge asteroid hit the Earth and killed all the dinosaurs. This time, we are the asteroid! Over the years something else has become apparent: not only are we making our planet dirtier, we’re also making it warmer. This will cause the climate to become unpredictable and dangerous. According to most scientists, global warming is the greatest threat humanity will face in the 21st century.
Ecologists, though, have not given up. Earth Day has been celebrated every year since 1970, and in 1990 it became a global event. More and more people around the world are taking action to protect the environment. Even politicians are slowly responding to the pressure of scientists and concerned citizens. Last year, during Earth Day 2016, 175 countries signed the Paris Agreement, a commitment to fight global warming. (See our January 2016 article “COP 21 Trying to save planet Earth”.) This year, Earth Day was accompanied by another event: the March for Science. This was a series of rallies and marches held in more than 600 cities around the world aimed at reminding politicians, and people in general, of the importance of science. Science can tell us what we’re doing wrong, and it can help us find solutions to save the environment.
Earth Day 2017 was celebrated in more than 200 countries. Festivals, rallies and all kinds of events encouraged people to be more environmentally friendly. Earth Day organizers stressed the importance of supporting politicians with a ‘green’ agenda, and they encouraged the development and use of green forms of energy, like solar and wind power. They also suggested some simple actions that everybody could take to help the environment, like planting a tree (or donating money to help someone else plant one for you), eating less meat, and stopping using disposable plastic. Education, they claim, should also play a part: a school is the perfect place in which to learn how to become more environmentally friendly. As the organizers of Earth Day write: “today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders.” This is a great responsibility but also a great opportunity to make the world a better place.
1) Here is the Earth Day official website:
2) Help Earth Day reach three billion ‘acts of green’:
3) Learn about green schools and what you and your school can do for the environment:
4) Here are five more things you can do to help save the world:
5) How much do you know about the environment? Take a quiz:
6) Do you want to know more about the March for Science? Here’s its official website:
1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the right alternative.
1. The oil spill of 1969 was
- caused by Gaylord Nelson.
- the only ecological disaster of its kind.
- one of many such events.
2. Walter Cronkite said that
- we can continue with business as usual.
- we are in grave danger.
- we are falling down a precipice.
3. The cause of pollution is
- industrial society.
- oil rigs.
- plastic bags.
4. Scientists say that we are as dangerous as
- an asteroid.
- global warming.
5. Scientists claim that
- global warming is very dangerous.
- global warming will be solved in the 21st
- global warming is not as dangerous as pollution.
5. Scientists are saying that we are
- extracting and consuming resources.
- unpredictable and dangerous.
- polluting and heating the planet.
6. Earth Day was celebrated in
- 175 countries.
- 200 countries.
- 600 cities.
7. The March for Science
- always accompanies Earth Day.
- was celebrated this year, for the first time.
- was celebrated in 1990.
8. Earth Day is organized
- by politicians with a ‘green’ agenda.
- by schools.
- by ecologists.
9. Earth Day organizers in the importance of schools because schools
- can teach the importance of ecology.
- can organize rallies.
- can support politicians.
2) Complete the sentences with the following words. Put the verbs and nouns in the right form, if necessary.
to injure * unpredictable * to respond * agenda * precipice * claim * oil rig * rally * commitment * to pollute
1. The politician’s ______ is the list of things he plans to do.
2. The workers got together in a ______ to protest against the government.
3. The edge of a steep cliff is called a ______.
4. The smoke from that factory ______ the air.
5. A ______ is a formal agreement.
6. ______ means to answer.
7. Scientists can prove their ______ with very detailed evidence.
8. I never know what she’ll do next. She’s ______.
9. ______ means to cause harm.
10. An ______ is a platform that has machinery that drills oil from underground.
GRAMMAR – Interrogative pronouns
3) Complete the sentences choosing the correct interrogative pronoun (who, whom, whose, which, what, where, when, why, how).
1. Who/Whom helped organize the first Earth Day?
2. When/What and where/how was the first Earth Day held?
3. Where/Why do scientists claim that the environment is in danger?
4. How/Where was the oil rig that caused the oil spill? Whose/Who fault was it?
5. How/Which successful was the March for Science?
6. Who/What was the message that the event tried to convey?
7. Which/Whom animals are risking extinction?
8. Who/Whom are you going to invite to the rally?
9. Who/What caused the extinction of the dinosaurs?
10. What/Where is the Paris Agreement and when/why is it important?
4) Look at the ‘acts of green’ listed on the Earth Day official website. Which ones can you do or are you already doing? In what way are these actions important for the environment? (60-80 words)
5) Do you think it’s easy to be ecologically friendly, or is it difficult? Explain. (60-80 words)