Recently more and more attention has been focused on the problem of preserving the environment. Over the past thirty years or so the quality of many people's lives has deteriorated in some respects because of tech≠nological progress. Those people living near airports are constantly attacked by the noise of increasingly larger and more powerful jet aircraft taking off and landing. We have ugly buildings which have appeared in towns and cities. Some of these are blocks of flats-high-rise buildings built because of the high price of land.
The motor car has been responsible for many changes in the environment. On the one hand it has brought mobility to millions of people but on the other it has led to the construction of more and more noisy and dangerous roads and has polluted the atmosphere with exhaust fumes.
While towns and cities have become larger and uglier and more densely populated, the rural areas have lost most of their population owing to the need for fewer workers in agriculture. The countryside has also been affected by the large-scale use of insecticides. For one thing the killing of insects has resulted in a loss of bal≠ance in the ecology. Insects, although a nuisance to farm≠ers, provide food for birds. Many people are afraid that fruit and vegetables sprayed with chemicals may have some poisonous effect upon the people who eat them.
Recently, however, certain counter measures against the destruction of the environment have been introduced. One of the first acts of Parliament to coun≠ter pollution was the Clean Air Act, which opened the way to smokeless zones in large towns and cities. This followed a very bad winter in which many people with bronchial complaints became very ill or died through the effects of a mixture of smoke, fog and fumes known as "smog". Rivers which are fouled up with industrial chemical waste are now being cleaned, and fish which could not live there a few years ago can be caught again.
“ŚÍŮÚ 13. THE ATTACK ON BRITAINíS ENVIRONMENT
Most of the western nations have the same basic environmental problems, but they take different forms in each country. Onů of Britainís environmental successes has been the control of air pollution, especially in London. Thirty years ago hundreds of people died every year from the dreadful London smogs. Since then London and many other cities have become smokeless zones, area where no coal fires are allowed. But now the increase in traffic is threatening serious air pollution in the cities again.
However , the commonest air pollution comes from the cigarette smoke which pollutes many public places, like cinemas, pubs and restaurants. Though cigarette advertisements are not allowed on TV or radio, you can still see them on posters in cinemas, and in newspapers and magazines. The advertisements donít tell you that doctors believe cigarettes cause 30,000 deaths in Britain every year.
Traffic and aircraft can cause serious noise pollution. Aircrafts are very noisy when they take off and the noise spreads over a wide area. Heathrow airport, near London, is the busiest airport in the world.
There has been bad pollution on Britainís rivers, and the government has tried hard to stop it. There are now strict laws against water pollution, though it still quite often happens accidentally. Britain and France share the problem of oil pollution from the channel. This has caused great damage to beaches and wildlife.
The need fro new roads causes great environmental difficulties. They often spoil the countryside and bring noise and pollution to thousand of homes. Since 1985 the pollution of Britain has increased by 11% but the number of cars increased by 400 %.
Cars cause other problems too: thousands of people die in car accidents; car parks use valuable spaces in towns and cities; cars use a lot of limited amount of oil. Unfortunately, itís difficult to do anything about all this because cars play an important part in the lives of many families, and the car industry employs a large number of people.
Friends of the Earth suggest that the bicycle is the best way to travel because itís cheap, quiet and riding it keeps you healthy. However, there are far fewer cyclists in Britain than in some other European countries. It can be dangerous to cycle in large cities as British motorists donít seem to notice cyclists. Some people think that only buses and bicycles should be allowed in the city centers.
“ŚÍŮÚ 14. COLD? BRITAIN IS ACTUALLY GETTING HOTTER
Most Britons could be forgiven for thinking a new Ice Age is upon us. Small comfort, then, as we struggle through snowdrifts and cope with burst pipes, that the present cold is a sign the British climate is generally getting milder.
Ironically, most scientists now believe the short sharp shock of severe cold that has struck Europe for three winters running is an indicator that the world is growing warmer. The burning of fossil fuels is building up a blanket of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, creating a "greenhouse" effect.
Britain and Europe have certainly experienced weather this cold before. In the 17th century, the Thames froze solid so of≠ten that it became a regular winter sports attraction. The weather then was so severe that it is sometimes referred to as the Little Ice Age. Even in the early 19th century, Britain's cli≠mate was still colder than it is today. We still have a cherished picture of Charles Dickens's Christmases ó although, in fact, snow at Christmas has been a rarity in southern England for 150 years.
Studies of temperature trends around the world show that it has been warming up since the middle of the 19th century. Most experts agree that this is a result of human activities. By burning coal and oil, we are putting carbon dioxide into the air. This acts like a blanket round the earth, trapping heat that would otherwise escape into space. As long as we keep burning fossilfuel, the trend is likely to continue. So why have we had such severe cold spells in Europe recently? According to researchers at the University of East Anglia, it is all part of the same process. When the climate of the globe changes, it doesnít do so evenly. Britain and Western Europe are just unlucky in being in the path of a particularly significant wind shift.
By comparing the weather in different seasons, during the warmest and coldest years of the 20th century, the researchers have built up a picture of what is going on. Their key new discovery is that although spring, summer and autumn are all warmer, severe cold spells in winter are most likely over the whole of central Europe. So then, short cold spells mean it's generally getting warmer ó but the bad news is it could get TOO warm. If the predictions come true ó and the present changes are exactly in line with computer forecasts ó within the next 40 or 100 years we shall see a change in climate as dramatic as the shift which ended the last Ice Age.