The EnvironmentGerard Counihan
profesorSs [at] blabla.es
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:
- The decision was a good idea
- The decision was too lenient
- He should go to jail as well
- He should also pay a heavy fine
- He should carry out community work/service
- Pay towards the cost of a purification plant
Now get your students to suggest other forms of punishing the man/polluters in general.
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.
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:
- Emptying my ashtray in an isolated mountain car park
- Changing the oil of my car in a lay by
- Using sprays, although I did not realise their noxious effects
- Washing dishes in a river (while camping), using non-environmentally friendly liquid
- Throwing batteries away
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.
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.
Finish the sentences:
- If I saw somebody throwing an empty packet on the street, I would ...
- If I discovered the factory I worked in was secretly polluting the environment, I would ...
- If I were minister for the Environment, I would ...
- If I had to do without perfume/deodorant, I would ...
- If I were a fish, I would ...
- If I were a fisherman, I would ...
- If I could not eat tinned tuna fish, I would ...
- If I lived on an island, I would ...
- If a nuclear bomb exploded, I would ...
- If they tried to build a nuclear power station near my house, I would ...
- If I lived in a jungle, I would ...
- If I were an endangered species, I would ...
- If I had to light my fire with either coal or wood, I would ...
- If I had to travel to work by car or by public transport, I would ...
- If I wanted to dump a box of rubbish, but I could not find a bin, I would ..
- If the local council were planning to build a dump near my house, I would ..
The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. V, No. 2, February 1999