Advanced level English
parts of the western USA are covered in desert; and these deserts are
The United States has long been reluctant to follow the lead
developed countries, in recognising the threat of global warming;
indeed, while things are slowly changing, there is still a
strong lobby of conservative thinkers in the USA who
argue that global warming is not man-made, so there is no point in
bothering about it. But as dramatic climatic excesses cause increasing
damage on America's coasts, and inland too, the problems are becoming
too big to ignore.
desert in Colorado.
IF GLOBAL WARMING turns out to be as serious as some scientists are now
camels might become the animals best able to live in much of the
American West by the time the present century comes to an end. A mean
temperature rise of six degrees, which certain computer models are now
suggesting, might leave much of the United States of America, from the
Mississippi to the Pacific coast, uninhabitable.
In recent years, Americans living in
parts of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico have had to get used to
more frequent summer days with temperatures in excess of 100°
Fahrenheit (over 38° Celsius); and most years now, long hot
summers are leading to the destruction by fire of millions of acres of
forests. Slowly, but perceptibly, the West is already returning to
desert; it is a trend that seems liable
No one should really be very suprised
about this, even without the additional problems due to global warming.
Way back in 1878, John Wesley Powell, one of the early explorers of the
deserts of the Southwest, warned of the dangers of settling the new
lands to the west of west of the 100th meridian. Powell submitted a
warning to Congress to this effect ten years later, but as often
happens, short-term economic interests, not to say vested
, meant that Powell's warning was not heeded
In those days, the area now known as the
"Great Plains" was more commonly referred to as the Great Desert. From
the Rio Grande to the Canadian border, large parts of this region were
virtually uninhabited and uninhabitable. Moving sand dunes were a
common feature of the landscape, particularly in years of low rainfall.
Yet despite the inhospitality
of the terrain, from the mid nineteenth century onwards the area was
progressively colonized by settlers who made use of any water course
possible, to establish farms and homesteads, using irrigation and
groundwater to make up for the dryness of the land, or growing plants
such as alfalfa
which did not require too much rainfall.
Gradually, like a miracle, the taming
of the desert began. In the twentieth century, a massive dam
building programme was set in motion. In many cases, the dam building
was on a gargantuan scale: on the Columbia River alone, as many as 55
dams were built, including the colossal Grand Coulee dam; and although
a few early environmentalists pointed to the sheer
folly of many of the projects, theirs were literally voices in the wilderness
Many powerful businessmen and speculators, often with friends in
Congress, who had much to gain from the dam projects and the generous
federal subsidies that often accompanied them, made sure that
opposition to their projects was stifled
Powell, in its desert landscape. Water is low.
Ironically, 100 years to the day after
he explored the spectacular Glen Canyon on the Colorado River, Powell
was honored in a manner that must have made him turn in his grave; the
250 kilometer long lake that had drowned the canyon was named Lake
Thanks to the dams and the irrigation,
agriculture began to flourish in areas where it should never have
flourished, and millions of settlers moved into the region,
establishing towns and cities that put further pressure on the area's scarce
Now serious problems are arising; the
level of the region's main underground water table, the Ogallala
Aquifer, is falling, and its salinity is increasing; tens of thousands
of acres of land have already been taken out of agriculture, and the
deserts are once again spreading out.
Today, the remains of the Great American
Desert cover an area of some 227,000 km2, mostly in California, Arizona
and Nevada; this is the land of cacti and yuccas, "Joshua Trees"
creosote bushes, and the other drought
plants that can survive in this hot arid region; but the "sage brush
desert" stretches much further, and sand dunes and "bad lands" are
found as far north as South Dakota.
At the head of a now fertile valley in
Colorado, Great Sand Dunes National Monument, the largest area of dunes
in the USA, stands as a very visible reminder that it will not take
much to bring back the deserts that once covered a large part of the
American West. A six degree rise in average temperatures could be more
than enough to do just that.
lucerne - dam
barrage - drought
dryness - forecast
: predict - get used to:
become accustomed to - heed
respect - inhospitality
quality of being unsuitable for human habitation - seems liable to
may perhaps - sage brush
a low bush that covers large arid areas of the American west - scarce
: rare - sheer
: total - stifle
: stop - taming
domestication - vested
: personal interests - wilderness
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or false questions
Here are six
statements: read the article, and decide which ones are true, and which
The western desert was much larger 200 years ago than it is today. (T/F)
2. The main cause of the desertification of the west is global warming.
3. “Lake Powell�? is named for John Wesley Powell,
who first discovered it. (T/F)
4. Grand Coulee dam is one of many dams on the Columbia River. (T/F)
5. Agriculture is not the only big user of water in the American west.
6. The Ogallala Aquifer is a large and popular lake. (T/F)
Careful reading for information
Here now is a
parallel version of the three first paragraphs of the article. Read it
carefully; in most cases, the information, though expressed
diffrerently, has the same meaning as the original; but in ten
cases, this is not the case, and the second text says
something different. Underline all the cases where the
information given is not the
same as the
information presented in the original article.
IF GLOBAL WARMING becomes as serious as some
scientists are now predicting, camels might become the animals most
suited to living in a large part of the American West
by the year 2200 . An average temperature increase of six degrees,
which certain computer models are now
suggesting, might leave much of the USA, from the Mississippi to the
west coast, uninhabited.
These last few years, Americans living
in parts of Texas, Arizona and Mexico have had to accustom themselves
to increasingly frequent summer days with temperatures over
100° Fahrenheit (nearly 38° Celsius); and and most years
now, long hot summers without rain are leading to the
destruction by fire of
millions of acres of Western forests. Slowly, but invisibly, the West
is already reverting to desert; it is a tendency that seems certain to
No one could really be very suprised
about this, even without the big problems caused by global warming. As
long ago as 1878, John Wesley Powell, one of the first explorers of
the Southwestern deserts, warned of the dangers of cultivating the new
lands to the west of the 100th meridian. Powell submitted a warning to
Congress on this point ten years later, but as often happens,
short-term economic considerations, not to say vested interests, meant
that Powell’s warning was not read..
for information : answers:
The following words do not give the same meaning as the words used in
the original text.
the year 2200 .
Slowly, but invisibly
No one could
without the big
dangers of cultivating
Powell’s warning was not read
Students should write a letter to the President, supporting or
criticizing the Everglades revival program.
The role play can be used as a pair work exercise, either involving two
students or one student and the teacher.
EFL teachers: Help develop this resource by contributing extra teaching
materials or exercises.
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