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TOPIC 4: Nature, the environment and energy

About Topic 4

The Nature, the environment and energy topic includes fossil fuels and renewable fuels, climate change, threats to the environment (deforestation, pollution etc) and their effects, the biosphere, and animal life/human attitudes to animals.

In this topic, remember to show that you can write in an impersonal, academic way, even if you feel strongly about something. Remember that emotional words such as terrible, shocking, disgusting or wonderful, fantastic, brilliant cannot be used in Academic English essays of this type. You can use Academic English such as regrettable, worrying, inadvisableor admirable, helpful, invaluable instead, which are more accepted in these situations.

This topic is often used for Ideas>Cause/effect type Tasks.

Topic 4 example Task

Pollution of rivers, lakes and seas is a major concern for people who seek to protect the environment. What are the possible causes of water pollution, and what effects does this have on animal life and human society?


Band 9 model essay

Water contamination is a serious form of pollution, and one that can be challenging to rectify. There seem to be two main causes involved, and a variety of damaging effects on people and the biosphere, which we will discuss here.

Probably the main factor is the issue of emissions from cars, factories and other human activities. These emissions contain damaging pollutant particles which can contaminate rainwater run-off and thus enter the water cycle, by transferring through the water table into aquifers, streams and rivers. Filtration and processing are not really viable options for such large volumes of water, and so the water table remains tainted with these elements over long periods, as we see in Eastern Europe today. In situations where soil erosion and logging have already damaged the local environment, the accumulation can be very serious. The other major cause is accidental or deliberate dumping of waste products in places outside of controlled landfills or waste processing centres. Even small amounts of abandoned waste can enter water supplies through the ground, often undetected.

The effects on animal life can be severe, especially for species which are already endangered by such threats as poaching, habitat loss and food chain disruption. Contaminated water can lead to dwindling numbers or even potential extinction, as may indeed happen to the Asian tiger populations. The impact on human society can also be distressing, including the poisoning of drinking water, famine or drought due to lack of safe irrigation, and long-term loss of land as we see, for example, after the Bhopal poisoning catastrophe in India. Such effects tend to have an especially grave impact on the very poorest in society, with the least resources to counter the environmental effects.

Overall, we see that emissions and dumping are the main origins of the problem, and that the effects on both humans and animals are exacerbated by the existing environmental, criminal or social problems.

(316 words)



Contamination (sự làm bẩn) = pollution by poisons or dangerous elements

E.g.      The atmosphere in large cities is often contaminated by smog, as we can see in China.


The biosphere (tầng sinh quyển) = the relationship between all living things on the planet

E.g.      Children should be educated on the biosphere through field trips and practical experiments.


Emissions (khí thải) = gases entering the atmosphere

E.g.      Scientists spend their whole careers studying the effect of emissions on the climate.



Pollutant particles (phần tử gây ô nhiễm) = microscopic elements of pollution

E.g.      I remember going to a factory and seeing the snow covered with pollutant particles.


Run-off (nước ngầm) = water that runs from the ground into rivers and lakes

E.g.      We should try to collect and use more run-off water, to avoid having to recycle water so much.


The water cycle (vòng tuần hoàn của nước) = the natural process of water moving from clouds to rain and seas

E.g.      Scientists believe the water cycle is responsible for various natural events, especially in coastal areas.


Aquifers (tầng ngậm nước) = underground, natural water stores

E.g.      My family have a well which connects to an aquifer, giving very pure water.


Filtration (sự lọc) = the process of filtering and removing impurities

E.g.      Water filtration might be a solution to water shortages in very hot countries.


Water table (mạch nước ngầm) = the layer of water below ground

E.g.      In my town, the water table is very high, and water will appear in even a small hole.


Tainted (làm bẩn) = polluted or contaminated

E.g.      The Mediterranean is badly tainted in some areas by sewage pollution.


Soil erosion (sự xói mòn đất trồng) = the loss of soil by wind and rain activity

E.g.      Deforestation has increased soil erosion seriously in Brazil.


Logging (chặt) = cutting down trees for timber and industrial use.

E.g.      Logging has endangered many species throughout the world.


Dumping (sự vứt bỏ rác) = leaving waste deliberately without storing or treating it.

E.g.      In most countries, dumping rubbish is a criminal offence.


Waste (rác thải) = any material not wanted or needed after a process

E.g.      In my country, we use waste from cotton manufacture for lighting fires.


Landfills (bãi rác) = organised areas where waste is buried in the ground

E.g.      Surprisingly, Britain still sends most of its domestic waste to landfill sites.


Waste processing (xử lý rác thải) = recycling or reducing waste into manageable forms

E.g.      My brother has a waste processing company, which is subsidised by the local authority.


Poaching (săn bắn trái phép) = illegally hunting and killing animals

E.g.      Elephant poaching should be a much higher priority for the world authorities, as elephants are an endangered species.


Habitat loss (phá hủy môi trường sống) = destruction or disappearance of an animal’s natural home

E.g.      Logging has caused substantial habitat loss for wildlife in many countries.


Food chain (chuỗi thức ăn) = the natural system of animals eating other animals and plants

E.g.      The food chain has been disrupted by the loss of certain species, with widespread impacts on all animals.


Dwindling numbers (con số nhỏ dần…) = (to dwindle = to steadily decline in quantity)

E.g.      States seem to have dwindling funds to pay for animal sanctuaries, although they are still able to pay for government officials and their perks.


Extinction (sự tuyệt chủng) = the final death of all animals in a species

E.g.      Dinosaur extinction may have been caused by a meteor or volcano, but scientists seem unsure about this.


Famine (nạn đói) = a situation where there is a lack of food in an area for a long time

E.g.      Many singers help make charity songs to raise funds for famine relief.


Drought (hạn hán) = similar to famine, but a lack of water

E.g.      Drought in central Africa can continue for many years, apparently.


Irrigation (sự tưới tiêu) = supplying water to land for agriculture

E.g.      If we want quick solutions to famine, better irrigation and farming methods would probably be the first step.


Catastrophe (thảm họa) = a great disaster affecting many people

E.g.      The continuing destruction of the rain forests is a catastrophe for the global biosphere.


Exacerbated (làm trầm trọng) (= to exacerbate = to make an existing problem worse, accidentally or deliberately)

E.g.      Famine in Africa has been exacerbated by civil war and political instability.