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The fraying web of life

mess up landfills exorbitant non-renewable annihilating exacerbated facilitates demise discharging overfishing unprecedented carcinogenic yen recyclables

For more than half a century Earth has been sending out distress signals first subtle, then unmistakable. At the beginning of the new millennium it is obvious that Earth’s pain has transformed into humanity’s pain.

For example ..…..caused the collapse of the North Atlantic cod fishery which had an ……effect on the life of the whole country, putting 30,000 Canadians out of work and ……….the economies of 700 communities.

In Latin America population pressures and overcrowding ……….the situation, raising the toll from rains and floods which killed 30,000 people and creating ………armies of environmental refugees.

Our …….. for accumulating possessions ……..our pace to inevitable……….

Instead of using……, which is environmentally-friendly approach, we consume ………resources, …….the environment, dumping waste in …………and……… toxic liquids into rivers and the sea. We turn a blind eye even to the fact that many of these pollutants are……., i.e. cause cancer.

log might decorum greenhouse depleted emissions greenwashing stiff deplore pristine stringent warming temper credentials fuels


Up to the most recent times producers were reluctant to manifest commitment to environment protection, stressing that the rules of ………competition should necessitate that their rivals be compelled to face the same ……….regulations.

However ……today demands different patterns of behaviour. Manufacturers are not above showing their environmental …….and ……..to give a more favourable impression than is justified by the real facts. Stripped of their disguise they usually reply that if all polluting industries were closed down the economy would simply collapse.

With all our …… in the fit of rightful anger we ……aggression and yet to build houses and construct furniture we ……..forests – home of two-thirds of all species - which …….climate, capture and store water. Mind, that forests store 40% of terrestrial carbon, and can slow the build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, thus healing the …..ozone layer. Carbon dioxide ………from the burning of fossil ……… are contributing to the ……..effect and gradual global…….

Even ……….environments such as Antarctica can no longer be protected from development and hence from damage.


habitats havoc rejuvenation atrophy portends overselling nonchalant deprive balance mitigating diabolically extinction chilling analogy dilapidated diversity somber contend


Freshwater is by far the most critical ecosystem since all organisms need water to survive. Human water consumption rose sixfold in the past century, double the rate of population growth. People now use 54% of available freshwater and additional demand will not have ……effect on other ecosystems. Water scarcity may soon wither agriculture and industry. The ……..with plant life isn’t farfetched. Moreover fertilizers and ………and outdated sewage systems continue to kill and poison rivers. Introduction of nonnative species into an environment disrupts the existing balance halting………..

Nevertheless humankind is still ………and unconcerned about the possible consequences. And the ……… of Earth’s ecosystems has continued unabated.

Ecosystems are naturally resilient but human impact can affect them………. Not only can it reduce their ability to bounce back but ………them of it completely. Man’s habit of wreaking …….on the shrinking …….of plants and animals destroys biological ………and disrupts fragile natural………. Even the most conservative forecast for the future of the planet is a ……..one. The …….. acceleration of extinction ……………..the disruption of the planet’s ecological balance. The opponents however ……… that conservationist-scientists may be ……… their act and the necessity to support families today certainly outweighs the vitality of saving species prone to……….

vindicate nurture emanates belligerent bottom sustainable commensurate indolent holistic noxious denounce connotation curb


What will it take us to be less ………and to do at least something to ……the process of self-destruction? When will we realize that the ultimate ………line of our existence is global ecosystem stability as there will be neither society nor economy without it? When will we grow up to understand that ………development shouldn’t be aimed at trivial adding economic value but also at creating social and environmental value? Sustainability has a ………of sustaining the ability of the planet to reproduce rather than facilitate the economic growth. When will environmentalism move from being a philosophy promoted by passionate and …… minority to a way of life ………with mainstream behavior? When will a ………approach to the survival of the whole planet prevail? How can we understand that the threat to the well-being of towns and cities……….from deforestation and coral reef destruction? What arguments will we find to ……ourselves in the face of the descendants?

Only a comprehensive global survey can ……..the ……effects of the damage to one system on other systems and determine whether Earth as a whole is losing its ability to ………he full diversity of life and the economies of nations.

extricate species unilateral coalition subversive imperative hurdle lethargic tackle inherent quotas opportune sanction synchronize scenario


The new U.N. report examines the state of knowledge about five major categories of ecosystems, scoring them in terms of their capacity to deliver goods and services ………to life and human economies. It looks at how ………to environment’s robustness people’s activity has turned out to be and where trouble might lie in future. It also helps to draw the guidelines of measures to ……….the whole planet from the impending sinister…………….

The ..…..is to understand that each of us must join the ……..of forces to save the planet. We should stop waiting for ………..moment and free finance to ……the problem of globing warming or preserving endangered……….. Instead we should support all measures to ……………..theintroduction of stringent regulation procedures in this sphere today.

Mankind should address different ways to leap the funding………. For example global market in emissions ………will help to reduce greenhouse cover.

In this cause every step and action is invaluable both on the grass-root level and international one.

However we can’t stay ………to the position of our own governments which are quite often only willing to …….their activity with the rest of the world and procrastinate until it’s too late. ……decisions can become a beacon on our way to safer future.

(based on “Condition Critical”, Time, April-May 2000)


Reading Selection

➢ Look through the articles and choose one for presentation. Find at least one more article on the same topic and make a synthetic review[6].

■ 3.6 A. Dried Out

By Maryann Bird

Time, May 7, 2001

Water, not oil, is the most precious fluid in our lives, the substance from which all life on the earth has sprung and continues to depend. If we run short of oil and other fossil fuels, we can use alternative energy sources. If we have no clean, drinkable water, we are doomed. As the 6 billion passengers aboard Spaceship Earth enter a complex new century, few issues are as fundamental as water. We are falling far short of the most basic humanitarian goals: sufficient and affordable clean water, food and energy for everyone. “I cannot bear to watch the nations cry,” wrote Derek Walcott, the Carribbean-born Nobel laureate, whose poetry often reflects his African heritage. With regional disputes over water resources increasing, and people and ecosystems alike facing urgent, immense challenges, business as usual is not a viable option

On a planet that is 71% water, less than 3% of it is fresh. Most of that is either in the form of ice and snow in Greenland and Antarctica or in deep groundwater aquifers. And less than 1% of that water - .01% of all the earth’s water – is considered available for human needs; even then, much of it is far from large populations. At the dawn of the 21st century, more than 1 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water. Some 2.4 billion – 40% of the world’s population – lack adequate sanitation, and 3.4 million die each year from water-related diseases.

The global governmental neglect behind those numbers is “the most critical failure of the 20th century” and the major challenge for the 21st, contends Peter Gleick, one of the world’s leading experts on freshwater resources. “Governments, NGOs and local communities must address this problem first – as their top priority,” says Gleick, director of the California-based Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security. “There are many tools for doing so, and the economic costs are not high compared to the costs of failing to meet these needs.”

“We are facing a world water gap right now, this minute,” the World Commission on Water has warned, “and the crisis will only get worse. The consequences of failing to bridge the gap will be higher food prices and expensive food imports for water-scarce countries that are predominantly poor.” Hunger and thirst are also linked to political instability and low rates of economic growth.

Scientists, water professionals, environmental campaigners and others have warned for decades that a water crisis was building – alarm bells that rang on many a deaf governmental ear. The crisis is partly due to natural cycles of extreme weather and the expansion and contraction of arid regions. But human activity has been playing an ever-greater role in creating water scarcity and “water stress” – defined as the indication that there is not enough good-quality water to meet human and environmental needs. Like so much of the earth’s bounty, water is unevenly distributed. While people in some parts of the world pile up sandbags to control seasonal floods or strug­gle to dry out after severe storms, others either shrivel and die-like their crops and their livestock before them—or move on as en­vironmental refugees. In Canada—which has about the same amount of water as China but less than 2.5% of its population—the resource has been labeled "blue gold." In parched Botswana, dominated by the Kalahari Desert, water is so precious that the na­tional currency is called pula—"rain" in the Setswana language.

The planet is not actually running out of water, of course. But its people are having an increasingly diffi­cult time managing, allocating and protecting the water that ex­ists. In some areas the hydrological cycle—by which the fresh wa­ter of rain and snow eventually evaporates, condenses in clouds and falls again—may be taking longer to complete as humans use water faster than nature can renew it. As governments, interna­tional agencies and local officials grapple with the situation, re­search findings and conflicts over water rights illustrate the im­mensity of the task. For example:

•The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 792 million people in 98 developing nations still are not getting suffi­cient food to lead normal, healthy lives. Even in the industrialized world and in post-Soviet "countries in transition," 34 million peo­ple remain undernourished. In the Commonwealth of Indepen­dent States, the prevalence of undernourishment is greatest in Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia, while in Central Eu­rope, Bulgaria is considered the worst case. In the Middle East and North Africa, Yemen, Morocco and Iraq are among the worst off.

• Asia and the Pacific have more chronically hungry people than elsewhere, says the fao, but the "depth of hunger"—a calculation based on what energy they get from their food and the minimum energy needed to maintain body weight—is greatest in sub-Saharan Africa, home to some of the world's poorest countries. There, some 186 million people—more than a third of the popu­lation—are considered undernourished.

• In many sub-Saharan countries, according to a report by the World Water Council, the average per capita water-use rates are 10 to 20 liters a day, which it calls "undesirably low." By contrast, per capita residential use in Europe runs as high as about 200 liters. Beset by agricultural failure, fragile ecosystems, erratic weather, war and other factors, 18 sub-Saharan countries face the severest problems in feeding their people, says the fao.

• Disputes over water—including threats of "water wars"—bubble in areas where rainfall is sparse. Ignoring Israeli opposition, Lebanon began pumping water in late March from the Hasbani River, which flows into the Jordan. The village of Wazzani, which had been without water during two decades of Israeli occupation, views access to the river as a matter of simple rights as well as a sym­bol of sovereignty. Other current disputes involve Turkey, Syria and Iraq (the Euphrates); Israel and Syria (the Sea of Galilee); Is­rael, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority (the Jordan); Egypt, Su­dan, Ethiopia and others (the Nile); Senegal and Mauritania (the Senegal); and Iran and Afghanistan (the Helmand).

• In some places, water that is shared by nations has been poi­soned—sometimes accidentally, as in Romanian cyan­ide spill in the Tisza and Danube Rivers, and sometimes natural­ly, as in arsenic poisoning of groundwater in India and Bangladesh. More than 200 river basins are shared, and about half of them are in Europe and Africa, according to the Pacific In­stitute. Nineteen basins are shared by more than five political en­tities, led by the Danube with 17.

As a 21st century issue, freshwater scarcity was ranked second only to global warming in an International Council for Science survey of environmental experts in more than 50 countries. Next on the list were the related topics of desertification and deforesta­tion. Desertification is a feature of every continent, and it serious­ly threatens the livelihoods of more than 1.2 billion people in more than 110 countries. Stemming from a variety of factors—including climactic variations, overgrazing of livestock, tilling land unsuit­able for agriculture and chopping trees for firewood—desertifica­tion has made its greatest impact in Africa. The continent is two-thirds desert or fragile dry land, and nearly three-quarters of its extensive agricultural dry lands are degraded to some degree.

"There is a great deal of natural rhythm in all of these shifts," says Vaclav Smil, professor of geography at Canada's University of Manitoba and an expert on environmental and energy matters. But he says' better farming practices can help: "recycling crop resi­dues, planting leguminous cover crops [plants with seeds in pods], planting trees everywhere." Smil also believes that even the poor­est people should be charged for their water—"as much as they can bear"—to help ensure both efficient use and quality systems. "Otherwise they will waste as much as anybody else."

While much of the focus is on Africa, developed but semiarid European countries along the northern Mediterranean also are suffering from desertification and defor­estation. Much of the soil of Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal has become saline and sterile as a result of fire, drought, floods, over­grazing, overfilling and other factors. Such degradation can be ir­reversible. As industry, tourism and farming place greater stress on coastal areas in particular—and groundwater levels decline— "water wars" are becoming internal. Hundreds of thousands of Spaniards recently took to the streets of Madrid and Barcelona to protest government plans to divert the country's largest river, the Ebro, to supply water to the southeast. Marcelino Iglesias, presi­dent of the regional government in northeastern Aragon, through which the Ebro flows, has denounced the plan as "aiming at an ab­solutely unsustainable model of development... while consolidat­ing a second-class Spain in the interior."

Indeed, dams and irrigation are two of the most controversial aspects of the global water debate and are being examined ever more critically. The final report of the World Commission on Dams concluded that while dams have delivered significant benefits, the price paid—in cost, environmental impact and displacement of people—has in many cases been unacceptable and often unneces­sary. The report found "far greater scope" for alternatives to dams in meeting water, food and energy needs. "We excluded only one development option—inaction," says the commission chairman, Kader Asmal, a former South African Minister of Water Affairs.

"We must rethink water management," says Gleick. "We no longer live in an era, or a world, in which rivers can be endlessly dammed, aquifers relentlessly pumped, ecosystems degraded and impoverished ... We have to focus on how we use water. That's where new water will be 'found.'"

As the world begins to address the situation more seriously, a range of proposals, old and new, are coming to the fore. They in­clude: reducing waste in irrigation (providing more drip to the drop); desalinating (where energy sources and funds permit, as in Saudi Arabia); recycling; making appropriate local choices of crops and grain-fed animals (growing corn rather than wheat in ar­eas where water is not plentiful, raising chickens rather than pigs); employing low-cost chlorination and solar disinfectant tech­niques; increasing water "harvesting"—from sources like rain and fog—for agricultural use, particularly at village level; and trans­portation of potable water in giant polyurethane bags to dry areas (as has been done in Cyprus and the Greek islands for years).

Access to adequate, unpolluted water is increasingly being viewed in development circles as a basic human right, something that governments must ensure. As Mary Robinson, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the dam commission: "In an age of globalization, greater efforts can and must be made to reconcile the need for economic growth with the need to protect the dignity of individuals, the cultural heritage of communities and the health of the environment we all share." For billions of people, that—like water itself—is a matter of life and death.



viable - one which can work successfully;a viable proposition/alternative/method; economically/commercially viable; viably(adv); viability(n).

allocate – to decide officially that a particular amount of money, time or sth such as a house or a job should be used for a particular purpose: allocate sb sth; allocate sth for sth; allocate sth to; allocation (n).

grapple with – to try hard to deal with a difficult problem; to fight or struggle with someone, holding them tightly.

immensity – the great size and seriousness of the problem; immensely (adv) – extremely; immense (adj).

beset – (usually passive) – to make someone experience serious problems or dangers: beset with; besetting sin/weakness – (humorous) a particular bad feature or habit.

sparse – existing only in small amounts: sparse vegetation; sparsely (adv) sparsely populated, sparseness (n).

divert – to change the direction or purpose of sth: diverted traffic; divert sth into; divert attention/criticism; divert people – entertain them; diverting (adj) – entertaining and amusing.

1. Find the words and expressions which mean the same.

A winner of the contest; drinkable, potable water; countries with limited water reserves; suffering from malnutrition; caused by; limited; not completely provided with water.

2. Explain the meaning of the following expressions.


Alarm bells that rang on many a deaf governmental ear; to bridge the gap; far greater scope for alternatives; to come to the fore; to protect the dignity of individuals.

3. Answer the following questions.


- What makes the author think that “water, not oil, is the most precious fluid in our lives”?

- What is the most critical failure of the 20th century according to Peter Gleick?

- What are the roots of the water crisis?

- Why has it become especially difficult to manage the water recently?

- What illustrates the immensity of the task?

- What are the main issues of the 21st century?

- Is Africa the only continent suffering from deforestation and desertification?

- What are the possible ways of lessening the gravity of the problem?

4. For discussion


- Are you concerned about the problem raised by the writer? Do you think she exaggerates?

- Do you think the availability of potable water is a topical problem for our country? Why or why not?

- What other high-ranking environmental problems need immediate consideration in our country?


■ 3.6 B. The Nuclear Wasteland


By Masha Gessen


Russia's plan to import spent nuclear fuel risks making a bad situation worse


MUSLYUMOVO, RUSSIA-A man dressed in gray cotton-padded pants and jacket and a tatty rab­bit hat lies on his stomach very still, pressing his face into a hole in the ice. A warm spring here means the Techa River never freezes, forcing fish to come up for air right in this spot, where he can grab them with his bare hands. Hearing two visitors come down from the road, the man gets up to look. "That's a Geiger counter," he says, noting the device they're carrying. "You looking for radiation? I heard it's all gone away."

It has not. The Geiger counter gives a reading of 154 microrads per hour, roughly seven times the maxi­mum safe dose of back­ground radiation. When the snow melts away, background radiation in some places along the shore will measure over 1,000.

The village of Muslyumovo is less than 50 miles from Mayak ("Beacon"), the world's oldest nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, which has been dumping liquid ra­dioactive waste into the river since the late 1940s. Accidents regularly shake Mayak-at least five occurred in the 1990s—but the best-known one is the 1957 waste-con­tainer explosion, one of the worst nuclear disasters of all time. About 10,000 people were evacuated from the contaminated area that year, and tens of thousands more probably should have been. But a lethal combination of ignorance, poverty, and of­ficial indifference keeps people living on the land and feeding off it—with night­marish consequences.

Despite the alarming record of opera­tional mishaps and regulatory laxness, the

Ministry of Atomic Energy, or Minatom, wants authority to import thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel from power plants in Europe and Asia. The ministry envisions earning billions of dollars-money that could expand its already con­siderable political clout and finance con­struction of new nuclear power plants. The far-fetched plan, which calls for the construction of 40 new reactors in the next 20 years—an impossible undertaking even for a wealthy country—has proved popular with Russian officials, and the parliament is set to give its OK this month. Most of that spent nuclear fuel would end up at Mayak. Up until now, Russia has by and large banned such imports of spent nuclear fuel; the relatively little that it does import, along with domestic fuel, uses virtu­ally all capacity at Mayak and the two other radio­active-waste storage facil­ities in Siberia. If the Min­atom plan is approved, Mayak would reprocess

some of the spent nuclear fuel, yielding plutonium. Next, the atomic energy ministry would construct a new nuclear power sta­tion next to the plant, employing a so-called breeder reactor, which both uses and extracts plutonium-based fuel.

Ignoring public opinion.There's opposi­tion from the Russian nuclear regulato­ry agency, the State Committee for Atom­ic Oversight (GAN). Minatom's response? It is pushing for legislation to curtail the powers of the safety agency, which envi­ronmental activists say is already exceed­ingly permissive.

Minatom—and its allies in the parlia­ment and the Kremlin—are prevailing in the face of opinion polls showing that 70 percent to 90 percent of Russians oppose importing radioactive waste. Last fall, environmentalists gathered 3 million signa­tures in support of holding a referendum— an unprecedented grass-roots success in a country where such organizing efforts are rare. But the Central Election Com­mission threw out just enough votes to quash the initiative. Complains former presidential adviser Alexei Yablokov, one of the organizers, "If we had collected 5 million signatures, they would just have thrown out that many more."

In the villages around the Mayak plant, opposition often gives way to tired indif­ference. "We are worried about feeding our kids, and we really can't give much thought to all this radiation stuff," says Maria Akhmadeyeva, who teaches ele­mentary school in Muslyumovo. "We are soaked with this nuclear stuff anyway," adds her colleague, Russian language teacher Guzal Yalalova.

"I guess the region needs this new nu­clear power plant," acknowledges Muslyu­movo Mayor Gaynulla Kamalov. "But no one's promising us any of the benefits." In­deed, in the past, funds earmarked for res­idents of the contaminated region were consistently siphoned off. An early 1990s deal, in which the United States bought Russian plutonium, was supposed to pro­vide $5.9 million for environmental relief in the region contaminated by Mayak; in fact, according to a General Accounting Office report, only $158,000 was used for the specified purpose: improvements in the local health center. And the medical diagnostic equipment that was purchased has proved a mixed blessing for residents, who still have little money to pay for treat­ment. Mayor Kamalov, 56, knows all about this: He has had to scrimp, save, and beg to pay for five operations for his now 3-year-old grandson, who was born with several tumors around his chest.

Invisible peril.In this remote Ural Mountains region 1,000 miles east of Moscow, residents live with the bitter con­sequences of pollution they can neither see, nor taste, nor smell. Gilmenur Karimova recalls the day four years ago that her granddaughter Alina was born with severely deformed legs and five fingers missing. "We cried so much," she says. The family managed to pay for two operations that enabled Alina to walk, but they are terrified at the $600 per finger they have been quoted for the hands. Alina, who makes beautiful ballpoint-pen drawings of mermaids and her mother despite her handicap, believes her fingers will even­tually grow out.

The contamination is spreading. An un­derground reservoir of radioactive waste from Mayak is inching ever closer to a river that will carry it through the region to the Arctic Ocean. An aging dam that blocks the Techa River poses another danger, which GAN warns will grow if more spent fuel is brought to Mayak for reprocessing.

But these are just the most immediate risks from the possible deregulation of the Russian nuclear industry. Other potential nuclear disasters: a dozen very old reac­tors, including six Chernobyl-type reac­tors and one reactor in the center of Moscow that happens to be the world's oldest. GAN has tried to shut down these monsters in the past, but Minatom has al­ready said it plans to keep them going— and even to re-launch one Chernobyl-type reactor this spring.

Minatom also hopes to build several fast-neutron breeder reactors, a technol­ogy opposed by the United States because it extracts plutonium that could be stolen to make black-market nuclear weapons. The Russians should have their own rea­sons to reconsider: The one existing Russ­ian breeder reactor, at the Beloyarsk power plant, has had 26 accidents. But in Moscow, the issue seems more about po­litical power and its benefits than about nuclear power.



dump– to put sth such as a load somewhere in a careless, untidy way; get rid of: dumping ground; dump on – to criticize someone very strongly; to tell someone all your problems; dump (n); down in the damps – very sad and without much interest in life.

envision – imagine that something will happen in the future.

curtail – to reduce sth such as the amount of money spent: curtail the powers; curtailment (n).

quash– to officially state that a judgment is no longer legal or correct: to quash a decision; to use force to end protests or disobedience: quash a rebellion.

earmark – (usually passive) to decide that someone or something will be used for a particular purpose in the future: earmark sb/sth for; earmark sb/sth as.

peril – great danger, especially of being harmed or killed: in peril; the perils of; you do sth at your peril; perilous.


Date: 2015-12-11; view: 956

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