Earth Hour 2018 – The World Goes Dark

Once again, the earth has gone dark.  Every year since 2007, thousands of public buildings and landmarks around the globe are switched off  for an hour to raise awareness for climate change. Earth Hour 2018 started in Samoa and spread to all continents.

Numerous sites, including Sydney’s Opera House, the Paris Eiffel Tower and Brandenburg Gate in Germany, went dark at exactly 8.30 pm local time. In addition, millions of private citizens joined in the event and turned off lights in their homes. 187 countries took part in this years Earth Hour , organised by the WWF.

In the past the Earth Hour movement has achieved breakthroughs in  many environmental fields. In 2014 Ecuador’s government banned the use of plastic bags on the Galapagos island. Solar-powered lights were  installed in remote villages in India and 17 million trees were planted in Kazakhstan.

According to the WWF, Earth Hour 2018 will concentrate on the preservation of forests and oceans, as well as wildlife protection. The organisation says that it hopes to raise awareness of global warming especially in the USA, where President Trump has vowed to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

 

 

 

Earth Hour 2012 in Berlin
Earth Hour 2012 in Berlin – Image : David Biene / WWF

Words

  • achieve = reach, get
  • according to = as said by …
  • agreement = document signed by two or more groups or countries
  • ban = forbid
  • breakthrough = here : to do something really important after trying for some time
  • citizen = person who lives in a country or city and has rights there
  • environment = nature and the world we live in
  • especially = above all
  • globe = world
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • in addition = also
  • including = also
  • join = take part in an event
  • landmark = something that is easy to recognise, like a famous building
  • movement = campaign ; a group of people who have the same ideas and want to work together to achieve things
  • numerous = many
  • preservation = to keep something in its original condition
  • public = place where everyone can go to
  • pull out = leave; not be a part of
  • raise awareness = to get people to see and understand a problem
  • remote = far away and hard to get to
  • solar-powered = operated by the sun
  • spread = move to
  • switch off = turn off
  • vow = promise
  • wildlife protection = to save and protect animals that live in the wild
  • WWF = the World Wide Fund for Nature

 

German Cities Plan To Start Free Public Transport

German cities are planning to start free public transport services. The German government has suggested this action after the country, together with 7 other EU member states, have not met EU air quality standards. Pollution, especially in large cities, has become a major problem.

Free public transport will be introduced in five cities including Bonn, Essen and Mannheim by the end of the year.

Some major cities have already experimented with free transport services.  In Estonia’s capital Tallinn, residents have been able to use buses, trams and trains in the city for free since 2013. Paris and Seattle have tried offering free public transport, but only for a short time.

Germany’s decision to provide free public transport could prove to be expensive for its taxpayers. Many transport services get up to half of their money through ticket sales. Thus, the federal government would have to subsidize free transport in cities heavily. Experts claim that it may cost up to 12 billion euros in extra money to run the system for free.

Critics of the proposal say such a measure could put too much burden on public transport systems in large cities. Berlin, Hamburg and Munich already have major problems during rush hours and experts state that inviting more people to use public transport would overload existing systems. As a result, even more money would be needed to expand the country’s public transport services.

In addition to making cities as car-free as possible, car-sharing schemes, low emission zones and incentives for buying electric cars are also measures that are being considered.

City bus in Leipzig
City bus in Leipzig – Image: Christian A. Schröder

Words

  • action =here: something that someone does or wants to do
  • burden = here: to cause problems for …
  • capital = the most important city in a country; where the government is
  • car-sharing scheme = plan in which two or more people travel to places using the same car
  • claim = to say that something is true
  • consider = think about
  • especially = above all
  • expand = make larger and better
  • federal = here: the central government of a country
  • government = people who rule a country
  • in addition = also
  • incentive = something that makes you want to do something
  • including = also
  • introduce = here: start
  • low emission zone = here: an area  in which dirty cars or trucks are not allowed to enter because they produce too much pollution
  • major = very important
  • measure = action, law
  • offer = give someone to use
  • overload = here: not manage
  • pollution = making air, water etc.. dirty
  • proposal = suggestion or plan
  • provide = give
  • public transport = buses, trains, trams etc.. that everyone can use
  • resident = here: a person who lives in a city
  • run = operate
  • rush hour = time of day when buses, trains and trams are full because people are travelling to or from work
  • service = here: help or work that a country gives to its people
  • standard = the level that you have to reach
  • subsidize = to pay part of the costs
  • taxpayer = person who pays money to the government according to the income he/she gets  from working
  • thus = that is why

 

 

Plastic Found in Bottled Water

A new test, conducted by scientists from the State University of New York, shows that bottled water has microplastic particles in them.

250 bottles of water from nine different countries were examined. More than 90% contained tiny pieces of plastic. Sometimes concentrations were as high as thousands of plastic pieces per litre of water. Only 17  examined bottles were free of plastic.  On average, 10 plastic particles, about the width of a human hair, were found in each litre of water.

The companies, whose bottled water was examined, claim that their production met the highest quality standards. In most cases, the plastic gets into the water through the packaging process.

Although the results are not catastrophic scientists and doctors are concerned.  However, they state that there is no proof that the smallest particles of plastic can cause damage to your body. Most of it is turned into waste which leaves the body through faeces.

Apart from bottled water, plastic particles have also been found in beer, tap water, seafood and even in the air.

Bottled water is the fastest growing beverage in the world.  Currently, about 150 billion dollars worth of  water is sold worldwide. Packaged water is especially important for millions of people around the world who do not have access to safe drinking water.

 

Bottled water
Bottled water – Image by Ravitave

 

Words

  • access = the ability to get something
  • although = while
  • beverage = hot or cold drink
  • bottled water = drinking water that is sold in a bottle; sometimes it has bubbles in it
  • claim = to say that something is true
  • concentration = the amount of something in a liquid
  • concerned = worried
  • conduct = carry out
  • contain = to have in them
  • currently = at the moment, now
  • especially = above all
  • examine = to test or look at somehting very closely
  • faeces = solid waste that leaves your body after a certain time
  • microplastic particles = very very small pieces of plastic
  • packaging process = the method used to put  water into the bottle
  • proof = facts that show something is true or correct
  • quality standards = level of quality a company accepts in its products
  • safe = clean
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • state = to say officially
  • tap water = water that comes naturally from a tap rather than a bottle
  • tiny = very very small
  • waste = unwanted material
  • width = how wide somehting is
  • worldwide = around the world

Polar Bears Could Face Extinction Earlier Than Thought

Polar bears could become extinct faster than predicted. That is because there is a shortage of food in their habitat and scientists have now found out that polar bears need more energy than previously thought.

As a result of global warming, Arctic ice is melting quickly, so that polar bears have to travel further in search of food. In a study that has spanned the last three years, scientists found out that polar bears have to travel one and a half times more than in the past.  As a result, they lose weight.

Experiments conducted with modern technology show how polar bears move and behave. High-tech GPS collars were put on 9 female polar bears. Their movements and energy consumption have been tracked over a period of 12 days. Results show that a few of them lost up to 10%of their weight.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, polar bears spend half of their time hunting for something to eat. They rely mostly on young seals as the main source of food, but the seal population is getting scarce because of the melting ice.

A polar bear needs about 12000 kilocalories a day to stay healthy and even more to put on the body fat it needs to survive the winter months.

Over the past ten years, the number of polar bears has declined by 40%. Ice on their habitat, Arctic Sea ice is decreasing at a rate of 14% per decade.  It is currently at its lowest level in 40 years.

 

Polar bear feeding on a dead seal
Polar bear feeding on a dead seal – Image: AWeith

Words

  • according to = as reported by …
  • behave = act in certain situations
  • body fat = here: the fat an animal needs to protect itself from the cold weather
  • collar = band of leather or plastic that is around an animal’s neck
  • conduct = carry out
  • currently = at the moment
  • decade = ten years
  • decline = to go down
  • decrease = become lower
  • energy consumption = the amount of energy you need and use up
  • extinct = to die out and not exist anymore
  • global warming = increase in the atmosphere’s temperature caused by more carbon dioxide and other gases
  • further = a longer distance
  • GPS = system that shows where your position is on earth through a system of radio signals
  • habitat = natural home of a plant or animal
  • lose weight = become thinner
  • melt = when ice turns into water
  • predict = to say that something will happen before it does
  • previously = at an earlier time
  • rely = here: eat
  • scarce = not very much left
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • seal = large sea animal that eats fish and lives near coasts
  • shortage = not enough
  • source = where something comes from
  • span = period of time between two events
  • study = piece of work that is done to find out more about a subect
  • survive = stay alive
  • track = monitor, watch closely
  • World Wildlife Fund = organisation that wants to protect the environment and save animals and plants

 

 

Coca-Cola Wants To Recycle All Packaging By 2030

Coca-Cola, the world’s largest soft drink corporation, is planning to recycle all of its bottles and cans by 2030. The company wants to take on more responsibility and make its contribution to saving our environment. The company sells over 500 types of fizzy drinks, juices and mineral water around the world.

Coca-Cola has announced a campaign called “World Without Waste“. It says that food and beverage companies are responsible for much of the litter that can be found on streets and beaches.

The company said it wants to increase the amount of material that can be recycled in its products. By 2030 Coca-Cola aims at making 50% of all the content in bottles and cans recyclable. It also intends to advise users on how to recycle products best. Coca-Cola plans to work together with local governments and environmental groups.

On the other side, Coca-Cola has also stated that that packaging is important because it can reduce the amount of spoilt food and can extend the shelf life of food products.

Greenpeace, one of the most important environmental organisations,  has welcomed the move but also said that the company should focus especially on reducing the amount of plastic that is produced. Plastic bottles are a major problem because plastic does not break down and degrade quickly. It is eaten by animals and fish and ends up in our food chain.

 

Words

  • advise = to tell someone what they should do
  • aim = something you want to do
  • amount = how much of something
  • announce = to say officially, in public
  • beverage = hot or cold drink
  • campaign = series of actions you do to achieve something; movement
  • contribution = something that you give or do in order to be successful
  • corporation= large company with factories around the world
  • degrade = is a material that changes to a simpler form
  • environment = air, water and land that is around us
  • especially = above all
  • extend = make longer
  • fizzy drink = sweet, non-alcoholic drinks with bubbles of gas
  • food chain = when a smaller plant or animal is eaten by a larger one, which itself is eaten by something larger etc..
  • government = people who rule a country
  • increase = to make more
  • intend = plan
  • litter = waste that is thrown to the ground
  • major = very important
  • move = action, plan
  • packaging = container that a product is sold in; made out of plastic, aluminium or other material
  • recycle = to use something over and over again
  • reduce = lower
  • responsibility = something that you feel you must do because it is a good thing
  • shelf life= the length of time that a product, especially food, can be kept in a shop before it becomes too old to be sold
  • spoilt food = here: food that cannot be eaten anymore because it has already started to decay
  • welcome = to be happy about something

EU Plans To Recycle All Plastic Waste by 2030

The European Union has released plans to recycle all plastic by the year 2030. It wants to ban all types of plastic that can only be used once. The measure comes as a  consequence of China’s decision to ban imports of foreign plastic that is to be recycled in in the country. Currently, the EU exports half of its collected plastic,  most of which goes to China.

The European Commission also plans to reduce plastic waste that is washed up on North Sea, Atlantic and Mediterranean shores. According to the new proposal, it will be illegal to dump plastic waste in the open seas.

Although the EU does not want to introduce a tax on plastic yet, it does aim at the development and production of new kinds of plastic that can be recycled in Europe. EU countries produce 25  million tons of plastic every year but only a fourth is recycled. It takes plastic hundreds of years to degrade.

The EU wants to invest 300 million euros to develop better plastic materials. The new strategy aims at making plastic recycling more profitable

While the production of one-time-only usable plastic items, like drinking straws, coffee cups and takeaway packaging is to be reduced, families should also be persuaded to cut down on plastic usage altogether.

Non-EU countries are also considering cracking down on plastic. Some countries have already started to tax the use of plastic bags. Iceland has announced that it will ban all plastic packaging for domestic products.

 

Plastic waste
Plastic waste

Words

  • according to = as planned by…
  • aim = hope to do something
  • although = while
  • announce = to say something in  public or in front of the media
  • ban = forbid
  • consequence = result of something that has happened
  • crack down on = to become more strict about dealing with a problem
  • currently = now; at the moment
  • cut down on = reduce
  • decision = choice you have made after thinking about something
  • degrade = when a material or substance changes into a simpler form
  • development = designing and producing something new
  • domestic = made in your home country
  • dump = here: throw something away at sea
  • European Commission = central organisation in the EU that has certain tasks to do
  • illegal = against the law
  • item = product
  • measure = action that should deal with a problem
  • persuade = to make someone decide to do something and give them reasons for doing it
  • profitable = to make more money out of something
  • proposal = plan or suggestion made by a group of people
  • recycle = to use over and over again
  • reduce = lower
  • release = announce; to say something in front of people and the media
  • shore = coast; where land meets the sea
  • tax = here: money you must pay to the government if you use or buy something
  • takeaway packaging = here: the packages that are used to put takeaway food into
  • usage = using  a product
  • wash up = here: to land on …

 

Ozone Layer Over Antarctica Is Slowly Recovering

According to the American space agency  NASA, the world’s ozone layer is slowly recovering. A report states that, for the first time,  scientists have observed a decrease in the amount of chlorine in the ozone layer over Antarctica.

Ozone in the atmosphere is essential because it protects life on our planet by absorbing dangerous ultraviolet radiation, which causes skin cancer and damages plant life. Is the 1980s, scientists discovered a hole in the ozone layer, which has become larger ever since.  It is especially large over the Antarctic continent and Australia.

Shortly after the discovery, an international agreement, the Montreal Protocol, was signed, banning the use of substances that are responsible for the destruction of the ozone layer. It limits the use of CFCs, chemical compounds that rise into the upper layers of the atmosphere where they are broken down by the sun’s ultraviolet light. In the process, chlorine is released which destroys the ozone molecules.

Since the ban has taken effect major companies have started looking for alternatives to CFCs.

Changes in the ozone level are usually measured during the Antarctic winter, between July and September, when temperatures are lower and results are more accurate. Since 2005, there has been a 20% rise in the amount of ozone. Even though it is the first time that the hole in the ozone layer has become smaller it will take decades to recover completely.

Environmentalists around the world have welcomed the announcement, stating that we can actually save the environment by acting decisively.

 

Largest ozone hole ever recorded over the Antarctic in 2006
Largest ozone hole ever recorded over the Antarctic in 2006

Words

  • absorb = take something in
  • according to = as reported by …
  • accurate = exact
  • act decisively = to do something about a problem
  • agreement = promise by two or more countries to take action
  • announcement = official statement
  • atmosphere = mixture of gases that surrounds a planet
  • ban = forbid
  • break down = chemical change
  • cancer = serious disease in which cells in your body grow in an uncontrolled way
  • CFCs = chlorofluorocarbons = a gas used in refrigerators and spray cans; they are responsible for the destruction of the ozone layer
  • chlorine = greenish-yellow gas with a strong smell, that is also used to keep swimming pools clean; it is one of the gases that are responsible for the destruction of the ozone layer
  • completely = fully
  • compound = substance containing two or more atoms
  • decade = ten years
  • decrease = when something goes down
  • destruction = when something is damaged completely
  • discover = find for the first time
  • environmentalist = person who cares about nature and the world we live in
  • especially = above all
  • essential = very important and necessary
  • even though = true, but other things are true too
  • limit = control, check
  • measure = to find out how big something is
  • molecule = smallest unit made up of two or more atoms
  • observe = watch closely
  • protect = to keep something safe
  • recover = to return to a normal condition
  • release = set free
  • responsible = the reason for
  • scientist= person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • sign = put your name on a document
  • state = say in public
  • substances = elements; material
  • take effect = start
  • ultraviolet radiation= light that comes from the sun but cannot be seen; it makes your skin darker
  • welcome = to be glad that something has happened

Bleaching Endangers World’s Coral Reefs

A recent study shows that the world’s coral reefs have been showing signs of strong bleaching due to global warmingIn the 1980s bleaching was rare, occurring about once every 25 years. Now the rate has risen to about once every five years. Environmentalists predict that by 2050 bleaching will happen every year or two.

Bleaching is caused when warm water breaks down the algae inside the reefs. They provide food for the corals and keep them healthy. When algae fall off, corals lose their colour and can die within a short period of time. Even if the water surrounding the reefs gets colder again it may take years for the damaged reefs to recover completely.

While bleaching is especially a problem in the waters of the Carribean Sea and Western Atlantic, reefs around Australia and South Africa have hardly been hit. In addition to the warming temperatures of the oceans, coral reefs are also endangered by pollution and overfishing.

Coral reefs are an important ecosystem. They are home to 25% of all marine species and provide a  habitat for countless types of fish. Reefs protect coastal regions from flooding and tidal waves. In addition, coral reefs are tourist attractions that lure millions of people every year.  The tourist industry around the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, for example, is worth about 5 billion dollars a year.

 

Healthy coral on the left and bleached coral on the right
Healthy coral on the left and bleached coral on the right

Words

  • billion = a thousand million
  • bleaching = to make something pale or white; when an object loses its colour
  • break down = to change its structure
  • Carribean Sea = sea between North and South America
  • cause = the reason for something; why something happens
  • countless = too many to be counted
  • due to = because of
  • ecosystem = all the animals and plants in a certain area and the way they live together
  • endangered = to be in danger
  • environmentalist = a person who cares about the world around us
  • especially = above all
  • global warming = when the temperatures in the atmosphere get higher because of increased amounts of carbon dioxide
  • habitat = place to live
  • in addition = also
  • lure = attract; here: bring people to the area
  • marine species = animals and plants that live in the oceans
  • occur = happen
  • overfishing = when you take too many fish from the sea so that the overall number of fish becomes too low
  • pollution = when water becomes dirty so that it cannot be used anymore
  • predict = to say that something will happen in the future
  • protect = keep safe
  • provide = give
  • rare = not very often
  • recent = a short time ago
  • recover = to become as healthy as they were before
  • sign = to show that something is happening
  • study = a piece of work that is done to find out more about a certain topic
  • surrounding = around
  • tidal wave = very large ocean wave that flows over land and destroys things

 

 

 

Chocolate in Danger of Becoming Extinct

Chocolate may be in danger of becoming extinct by the middle of this centuryPests and fungal diseases have been found in cacao trees that may endanger the crop’s survival.

In addition, cacao is also under attack by global warming. Trees grow in a very small area about 20° north and south of the equator, where humidity and temperatures are the same all year round. By 2050 rising temperatures and drier weather will push cacao production up into mountainous areas, many of which are home to wild animals.

Scientists from the University of California are trying to save the plant. Together with researchers from the American food company Mars, they are trying to grow cacao seeds that are more resistant and can grow at higher altitudes.

Most of the world’s cacao production comes from two countries in western Africa, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. These areas may not be suitable for cacao production in the decades to come. Millions of farmers depend on cacao for a living.

 

Cacao tree
Cacao tree – Image: Luis Ovalles

Words

  • altitude = how high up something is
  • cacao = seeds from which chocolate is made
  • decade = ten years
  • endanger = to be a threat to something
  • equator = line around the middle of the earth
  • extinct = die out; not exist anymore
  • century = a hundred years
  • depend on = need
  • fungal disease= disease caused by  a simple plant that has no leaves  and grows in the ground or on other plants; mushrooms are a type of fungus
  • global warming = an increase in the world’s temperatures caused by growing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere
  • humidity = the amount of water that is in the air
  • in addition = also
  • mountainous = in the mountains
  • pest = a small animal or insect that can destroy crops and plants
  • researcher = person who studies a topic in order to find out more about it
  • resistant = here: it cannot be destroyed or damaged
  • rise = to go up
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • seed = small hard object from produced by plants, from which a new plant can grow
  • suitable = here: to be the ideal place to grow something
  • survival = existence ; staying alive
  • under attack = to be attacked by something

Artificial Light Makes Our World Brighter

A new study of satellite images has revealed that our planet is getting brighter and brighter during the night. More and more artificial lighting may cause harm not only to humans and animals but whole ecosystems.

The study has found out that the quantity of light has increased by 2.2 % per year over the last decade. Much of that increase comes from the Middle East and Asia, while in Europe and the USA brightness has stayed about the same.  Only a few countries have actually seen a decrease in the amount of light. Among those are Syria and Yemen.

Artificial light on earth is growing because more and more towns and other settlements are being created in places that were once farmland, forests or wilderness. In addition, China and other booming economies are building whole cities in sparsely populated areas.

Even though large areas of land surface remain dark, there are places on earth where lights never go out, for example, shopping malls, dining districts or international airports.

The technology of artificial lighting is also changing. More and more LED lights are replacing older light bulbs. They are more energy-efficient and emit a brighter bluish-white light. As they are becoming cheaper people tend to buy more.

Doctors warn that too much artificial light can bear health risks. It can lead to shorter periods of sleep, insomnia and changes in a person’s biorhythm.

Scientists have claimed that increased light have an effect on animal habitats. More light near beaches may affect the turtle population that comes there to lay their eggs. Migrating birds that rely on stars to navigate can be influenced by light and travel off course.

 

Satellite image of the United States at night
Satellite image of the United States at night

Words

  • actually = in fact, really
  • affect = influence, change
  • artificial light = light that is produced by people or machines, not naturally by the sun
  • bear = have
  • biorhythm = changes in the way and speed that your body reacts at certain times
  • booming economy = country where business is growing very strongly
  • brightness = being bright
  • cause harm = be a danger
  • claim = to say that something is true, even if you cannot prove it
  • decade = ten years
  • decrease = to go down
  • effect = change
  • emit = send out
  • energy -efficient = here: an object that produces more light and uses less energy
  • even though = while
  • habitat = natural home of a plant or animal
  • image = picture
  • in addition = also
  • increase = to go up
  • influence = here: to change the way you travel
  • insomnia = not able to sleep
  • migrate = to travel regularly to other parts fo the world
  • navigate = to find out which way you need to go when you travel from one place to another
  • off course = away from the route you would normally take
  • quantity = how much of something
  • rely = depend on, need
  • remain = stay
  • replace = to use instead of something else
  • settlement = group of houses or buildings where people live, especially in areas where nobody has lived before
  • shopping mall = large area with a lot of shops
  • sparsely = here: with few people
  • study = piece of work that is done to find out more about a special subject
  • surface = the top layer of an object
  • technology = here: how something is done or produced
  • tend = here: will probably happen
  • wilderness = large area of land that has never been developed  or farmed