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The Secrets of Nature

What alterations in our course are necessary? Experts disagree, but many believe that the key to our long-term survival lies in the widely ignored lessons of nature.

Consider these facts: undisturbed ecosystems persist for decades, centuries, even millions of years.

The rate of extinction in such ecosystems is low. Human society, on the other hand, now wipes out a vertebrate (backboned) species every nine months and itself faces global extinction after only a relatively short stay on earth.

Why is it that nature persists while we deplete and destroy? The secret of nature is that survival hinges on a sustainable system - a system that perpetuates itself without destroying the very things that permit life to continue.

Nature capitalizes on four major strategies to meet this end.

The first is recycling. The global ecosystem is a consummate recycler. Water, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and all other substances are used over and over. The long-term future of humankind depends on following a similar direction.

Nature’s second secret is the use of renewable resources – resources that renew themselves through natural biological or physical and chemical processes.

Wood, water, and wind are examples. For millennia, humankind heated its homes with wood, reaped the riches of the biological world for food, and fashioned its goods from flax and other plant products. Only in the past 200 years has our allegiance to renewable resources wavered. Today, we depend heavily on a variety of nonrenewable substances: fuel, plastics, and synthetic fabrics made from oil; metals; and so on. Our new dependency, many think, is a dangerous trap. It cannot be sustained indefinitely. Our long-term future requires a greater dependency on resources in a from of self-care.

Nature’s third secret is conservation. A flat wildebeest or an obese ostrich do not exist in nature. For the most part, organisms use what they need - no more, no less. Modern industrial societies, on the other hand, are often gluttonous, overeating, wastefully consuming and recklessly depleting. Ecologists warn us that we cannot do so forever with impunity.

The fourth secret of nature is population control. Through a variety of ways, populations of living things are kept from living beyond their means. Predators trim the prey populations. Diseases eliminate the weak and aged. Environmental conditions keep populations from exploding. For humans, technological advances, medicine and sanitation have removed many of the natural barriers to human population explosion .The upshot of the rapid human population expansion is often foul-smelling skies, filthy water and landscapes devoid of vegetation and animal life. The ecosystem is sacrificed to continue population growth. Most ecologists agree that we must learn to control our numbers to preserve the global ecosystem.

Such are the secrets of nature: recycling, renewable resources, conservation and population control. It is ironic that today we must go back to nature to relearn these forgotten lessons. If we are to survive for thousands of years to come, we must build a sustainable society, a society that lives in harmony with nature,

Not a society that seeks complete domination over all living things or destroys its renewable resource base. Building a sustainable society does not mean reverting to a primitive existence, it means using resources in a pattern laid down by nature.


A great frontier lies ahead of us. It is not the great expanse of space or the oceanic depths that we must conquer, but rather it is ourselves. Ahead of us lies the greatest and sometimes most inaccessible frontier - that of self-understanding and self-control. Before we race further into space to satisfy our needs, we must learn to look deeper within ourselves and find ways to build a sustainable society.

We can achieve such a society within our lifetimes, but each of us must help.

Individuals must do more than pay lip service to recycling, conservation, renewable resources, and population control, and they must take action now.

This book looks at the problems and suggests ways to build a sustainable society.

It concerns itself more with the long-term future of humankind, recognizing fully that we must make changes now to transition smoothly into sustainability. Some of you may wonder why we should worry about future generations. Shouldn’t we let them fend for themselves? And why should we change our ways now? Part of the answer is that we hold the future in our hands. At no time in history has the present generation had such potential to shape the future. The decisions we make on nuclear energy, acid rain and tropical rainforests will affect our sons and daughters and their children more profoundly than they will affect us. It is for this reason alone that we must rethink the past and redefine the future.

A sustainable society will not be a radical departure from our current way. In fact, many examples of sustainability are now commonplace, like bottle bills, battery recycling, water conservation, and wilderness preservation. It takes only a small effort and a little wisdom to get back on track. Abraham Lincoln said it best:

“As the times are new, so we must think and act anew.” Let this be our challenge: to see that the future is no longer what it used to be and to build an enduring future.

I Explain the meaning of these words/word combinations; Quote the sentence in which they occur; translate them into Russian.


to stem from

to outpour

oil glut

to mistreat



to trim

vertebrate species

to deplete

to hinge





municipal garbage


sustainable society

to pay lip service

to fend for oneself

to flounder

to lull



II Ask 5 questions to the text.

III Give a summary of the text.

IV Comment on the Secrets of Nature.

V Choose 10 lines of the text for a pair dictation. Check the portion in class.

VI Give the gist of the text (p.p. …).

VII Look through 2 weeks’ – one month of any quality daily/weekly recent issues (one country). What ecological issues are being raised? Are they given due prominence-leader, accompanied by illustrations? Prepare a cover up for the group. What makes the given text sound dramatic? Comment on its stylistic peculiarities.


"l сентября" — приложение к газете «Ecology»

There has been considerable interest in ozone and the greenhouse effect recently. They are issues which seem to be bothering many people. But there is also a lot of confusion, particularly concerning the role, played by gases such as ozone.


1. Most of the oxygen molecules in the earth's atmosphere contain two oxygen atoms. This is known as diatomic oxygen and it makes up 20.95% of our atmosphere. It is this type of oxygen that we need to breathe. However, the two atoms can be split up by solar radiation and when each of these then joins with diatomic oxygen, the result is a three-atom molecule of oxygen. This triatomic form of oxygen is called ozone. The earth's ozone is found mainly in two areas: either at ground level or high above our heads. The presence of ozone can be a good or a bad thing... it depends on where it is.

2. Ozone is poisonous and damaging - this makes ground-level ozone a problem. Although it does occur naturally, human activities are increasing the amount of ozone that we breathe. Action is needed to reduce ozone on the earth's surface.

About 90% of the ozone in the earth's atmosphere is located in the stratosphere - a band 15-50 km above our heads. This fragile layer, known as the ozone layer, is crucial to our life on the planet. It absorbs 99 per cent of the ultraviolet (UV) radiation of the sun. Without the ozone layer, this radiation would probably kill most of us. It is the damage being caused to this layer that is worrying people. We need to take measures to protect it.

3. These two problems can't balance each other out. We need to find different solutions for both issues.

Some human activities produce ozone and these levels can be high enough to cause damage to our health, and to animals, trees, plants, crops and everyday materials. Increasing levels of ground-level ozone also adds to the acid rain and greenhouse effect problems.

Ozone does not come directly out of car exhausts or chimneys. It is formed when other pollutants react in sunlight. The other pollutants need to be present before ozone can be produced and, therefore, ozone is known as a secondary pollutant (the others are called primary pollutants). The main pollutants causing ozone are nitrogen oxides and unburned hydrocarbons. An important source of both pollutants is road traffic. Ozone isn't formed straight away: there is usually a delay until the other pollutants have reacted in sunlight - this may take several hours.

4. High concentrations of ozone form mainly during sunny days in or near towns which have a lot of road traffic. One survey has shown that towns with a population of 100000 or more can cause a build up of ozone in neighbouring countryside. You are not safe if you live well away from a big town. Ozone can be transported long distances - sometimes over 1000 km.

If there is a wind carrying the primary pollutants away from the town, the highest levels of ozone may not occur until they have had time to react. This may be a long way from the source of pollution. That's the trouble with this type of pollution... it has no respect for neighbours' rights.

5. Increased amounts of ozone at ground level are usually caused by a combination of pollutants and local weather. On days when there is a daytime temperature inversion they are stuck in a band of air close to the ground. They can't escape and their levels can build up dangerously.

Southern California in the USA was the first area to experience severe ground-level ozone pollution. People started complaining of eye and chest irritation as far back as the 1940s; the problem is still there.

Ozone is poisonous and can damage people's health. Even at low concentration it can cause irritation of eyes, nose, throat and chest. Children and the aged are most at risk, particularly if they already suffer from chest complaints and blood diseases. Ozone alerts have been broadcast in many countries - such as the United States, Japan and the UK - for several years. Groups that are "at risk" are advised to go inside and avoid exercise when there is an ozone alert.

6. Unfortunately, just because ozone levels don't remain high all the time it doesn't mean that we are safe. Short bursts of breathing ozone are just as damaging as prolonged exposure. Hiding indoors may not even be enough... ozone can be produced by some electrical equipment. For example, badly maintained photocopiers can produce quite high levels of ozone, particularly when they are put in small, poorly ventilated rooms.

7. Natural and man-made materials are also affected. Ozone can be an important link in the build up of acid air pollution - a huge problem around the world. It can also weaken textiles and cause paints and pigments to fade. Many museums and art galleries have installed air-conditioning equipment to prevent damage to paintings and valuables. Rubber is particularly prone to ozone damage which causes it to harden and crack. Many car tyres and insulating materials are now treated with chemicals to prevent attack by ozone. World-wide, up to 30% of air pollution damage to man-made materials could be caused by ozone.

8. Ground-level ozone damages plants - in certain conditions it may kill them. It attacks cell membranes and internal structures of the leaf, affecting photosynthesis and respiration of the plant. The first sign of visible damage is that the plant's leaves start to go blotchy and eventually drop off. Ozone-damaged plants may be more sensitive to climatic change and attack be pests and diseases.

9. In recent years forests throughout the world have been showing increasing signs of damage, and ozone is thought to be one of the main causes in some areas - including Western Europe and North America. It is particularly damaging when combined with other air-borne pollutants - to make the solid pollutant cocktail. Agricultural crops which can be damaged by ozone include potatoes, tomatoes, soya bean and spinach. In the USA ozone damage may cause a 20% reduction in crop yields.

I. Ask two questions to each subdivision of the text.

II. Make a semantic map/ collage of the text.
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