The Internet TESL Journal

The Environment

Gerard Counihan
profesorSs [at]

Activity A

A judge in Spain handed down a novel sentence recently to a factory-owner who had contaminated the environment (a local river). By obliging the man to attend classes on the fragility of the environment, the judge was able to waive the initial sentence-a six-month-spell in jail.

Get students to comment on the above punishment and crime. This should spark a good deal of chat.

My students then went on to say that:

Now get your students to suggest other forms of punishing the man/polluters in general.

Activity B

Imagine the above person had caused poisonous substances to be dumped into a local river, killing 10,000 fish in the process: how can he be punished? Order him to restock the river? Close the factory? And the workers? A huge fine could drive him out of business? Get the students to debate on the concept of work versus that of the environment (which is more important at the end of the day?); this always generates excellent conversation.

Activity C

Survey: Have you damaged the environment in any way?

All of the students will say no, initially, until you mention little things like throwing away paper, smoking, and so on. As usual, if the student cannot remember any recent action, get him to go back in time--or he or she can relate an anecdote involving a friend or a neighbour. This should be a moment of gentle provocation, not an interrogation. My students related the following:

If they cannot think of any personal story, get them to list off how we-or a neighbour-as ordinary citizens, may be polluting the planet without realising it.

Activity D

A survey on "Who is most concerned about the environment" produced the following results (from "most concerned" down):

Do they believe this?

You could give this list of countries to your studnets and ask them to comment on above, as well as simply describe a country they think is very ecology-conscious. They can talk about their own countries, and how their fellow countrymen and government are tackling environmental issues.

Activity E

Finish the sentences:

The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. V, No. 2, February 1999