Subject Material

Protecting Our Planet (Letter to the Editor)

Published: 01.09.2009, Updated: 03.03.2017
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Pre-reading: Our “throw-away” society is a sign of economic growth and an improved standard of living. Has this gone too far? Do you feel greedy? Discuss the quote below.

"There is enough in the world for everyone's need, but not enough for everyone's greed." (Frank Buchman)

How much does this human activity affect our climate? There have been natural variations in climate over the centuries and scientists still disagree about the degree of influence from human activity. Other influences, such as solar energy, can also affect the climate. Sceptics doubt the predictions of the IPCC (UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). These predictions indicate changing rainfall patterns, rising sea levels, retreating glaciers, thinning Arctic sea-ice and an increasing incidence of extreme weather due to global warming.

The following two letters appeared in the correspondence columns of an environmental magazine in Britain. Readers had been asked to give their opinion on the environmental effects of growth and development.

The Case Against

Dear Editor,
Traffic jam. photo.Traffic jam 
I entirely disagree with the opinions expressed by Jim Miller last week.The costs of growth and development  are already too high and the future is bleak. Unless we  do something, the world will not be a fit place to live in.    It is pointless to use dangerous chemicals, to make soft white toilet paper. It is pointless to use non-renewable energy to make plastics when we could use other materials. It is useless to go on making things we do not really need.

Traffic threatens to choke all our cities and air pollution threatens the air that we breathe. We are threatened by floods, hurricanes and rising sea levels. If we carry on pouring out greenhouse gases, we are going to die.
And all this because of people's greed for material things.
We need to rethink our whole way of life and live in small communities which only produce the food and goods they need. Why should man, who is just an animal, have the right to destroy the whole planet?

Yours sincerely.
Jackie Seville

 

The Case For

The following week, there was a reply to Jackie Seville's letter. This is an extract from the reply.
Dear Editor,
Jackie Seville's letter last week just shows how naive she is and how little she knows about human beings. Development is essential. Unless there is growth and development, the standard of living cannot rise. It is ridiculous to expect people with a high standard of living to suddenly stop buying luxury items and driving cars. We all need cars. Our whole lifestyle has become geared to them. Especially older people need transport from door to door. No-one wants environmental disaster, but equally no-one wants to go back to the Dark Ages.

Providing that development is controlled, it can do no harm.Without economic growth we would still be living in mud huts. We are making progress on issues such as pollution and the unlawful killing of animals. Disease contaminated water has been eliminated in the more developed countries, and there are more national parks to protect plants and wildlife. Politicians are setting new goals to reduce carbon emissions and more people are sorting waste for recycling.

We have the technology to control the environment. Providing that we work within the system we will win.

Yours sincerely,
Fred Plant

Comprehension

(The Case Against)
1 Why do you think the writer says the costs of growth are too high?
2. In what way does traffic choke our cities?
3 In what way does the writer say we should "rethink our whole way of life'?
4 In what ways are the writer's suggestions practical/impractical?

(The Case For)
1 According to the writer what will happen if there isn't growth and development?
2 What does the writer mean by "going back to the Dark Ages”?
3 How does the writer suggest that we can protect wild animals?
4 When does development do no harm?
5 Mention some examples of recent disasters due to extreme weather in Norway or elsewhere.

Discussion

Development can sometimes have a negative effect on the environment. Discuss some of the effects of the following:
• road construction
• dam construction
• burning fossil fuels and forests
• mineral exploration
• population growth
• uncontrolled commercial fishing

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