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TOPIC VOCABULARY: The environment

Other words for environment

  • Habitat – the natural home of an animal or plant
  • The natural world – used when talking about nature
  • Ecology – the relationship between animals and plants to their natural environment
  • Dwelling – place where animals or plants live

Environmental issues

  • Deforestation – clearing trees; changing forest into bare land
  • Overpopulation – when there are too many of a species, more than available resources can support
  • Intensive farming – farming techniques that can have a long term effect on the land
  • Extinction – where an entire species of animal or plant is completely killed off; there are no more on the planet
  • Greenhouse effect – where the sun’s warmth is trapped inside the atmosphere due to greenhouse gases
  • Renewable energy – where electricity is generated from sources that are not reduced by using them (e.g. hydro power or solar power)
  • Fossil fuels – a natural fuel that often has an environmental impact when used (coal, gas and oil)

Types of pollution / other words you can use

  • Acid rain – this is caused by rain becoming acidic due to air pollution
  • Contamination – this is where something is damaged or affected by another form of pollution (a secondary effect)
  • Emissions – these are gases that are released into the atmosphere (e.g. car exhaust emissions)
  • Soil erosion – when soil is easily washed away because trees or other plants are no longer holding it in place. Commonly happens after deforestation
  • Toxic waste – this is the by product of producing something that is dangerous to the environment. Nuclear power has a lot of toxic waste.
  • Smog – a thick form of air pollution that is like a fog (common in many large cities like London or Beijing)

Solutions to environmental problems

  • Recycling – converting waste into something that is reusable
  • Conservation – to keep something safe / protected; preventing damage or injury
  • Biodegradable – packaging or a product that decay (break down) naturally and harmlessly, therefore avoiding pollution
  • Preservation – this is similar to conservation. The main difference is that conservation does allow changes that are not dangerous – preservation aims to maintain the present condition without changes.
  • Sustainable development – economic development where natural resources are used in a limited way and can therefore continue (e.g. planting new trees after cutting down existing trees)

The people involved

  • Activists – people who campaign for the environment / environmental protection (Greenpeace, for example)
  • Conservationists – people who acts to protect the environment. NOTE: we do not use the word ‘preservationist’


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