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English Detective #18, Making Sustainability Practical: July 30,2013
July 30, 2013

The Current Investigation (Introducing this issue):

This issue looks at some practical proposals for more sustainable ways to use resources. In a TED talk Michael Pawlyn suggests learning from nature how to design much more efficient projects and to reuse the wastes of one process as resources to produce something more.

Wangari Maathai demonstrated the value of planting trees-- and of people taking action to make their own lives and their societies better.

In a second short TED talk, Jennifer Granholm suggests (with a very American, informal style and sense of humor) a way to get around congressional gridlock to increase clean energy jobs in the U.S.

In addition to a brief note about a couple of Greek roots, there is one main practice activity: reading/listening comprehension questions based on both TED talks. Be sure and try them if you want to work on your reading comprehension or are preparing for a major test like the IELTS, TOEFL, SAT, or GRE. (The Wangari article has its own comprehension questions.)

At the end of the newsletter, there are also links to several sources with more information on the Sahara Forest Project and Wangari Maathai. (I found them fascinating.)

Your First Clue: Vocabulary we’ll Emphasize in this Issue

channel, converse, denote, deviation, devoted, dispose, empirical, enhance, ethnic, federal, gender, insert, interval, intervene, layer, mature, overall, radical, scheme, termination

Which words do you already know? Which are familiar (you have seen them, or can guess their meanings), but you’d like to know more about them? Which are completely new?

Make a note of the words you would like to learn. After practicing them and taking the next quiz, how many have you learned?

Notice how they are used in the readings and practice activities. Then try to use some of them yourself, in a sentence or two.

Getting the whole story: this issue’s reading/listening practice:

Here's the TED talk on Nature’s Genius

and the talk on clean energy.

Here is the article on Wangari Maathai.

Click here for reading comprehension practice (based on the TED talks).

Follow the Clues (Vocabulary Practice):

You can review this issue’s vocabulary (as well as issue 17’s) with the Social Science Crossword. Here are the answers.

Word Family Investigator:

Bios is the Greek word for life, and is combined with other roots to form many useful scientific words as well as some that are common in daily life: antibiotics, biodegradable, biodiversity, biography, biological, and biomass, among others. See Greek Roots for more information on some of those combinations.

Bio-mimicry combines bio- with the Greek word for imitation (also used in the English words ‘mime,’ ‘mimic,’ and ‘mimicry.’ It means to imitate life or the adaptations of various living creatures.

Symbiosis combines syn-/-sym- with bio- and a noun ending that refers to a process. It is when two forms of life work closely together for their common good. An example would be lichen, which is actually two very different plant varieties living so closely together they appear to be one. Fungi provide its structure, and algae provide nutrients via photosynthesis. (Photo= light, syn= with, + thesis= a proposition or process. In other words, a process of using light to produce something.)

Investigating on your own: Check out these sites for more information on the Sahara Forest Project and a Wangari Maathai memorial

For those interested, the Sahara Forest Project proposed in Pawlyn’s talk has received funding from a big foundation in Norway and government approved for a large scale trial in Jordan-- quite an example of collaboration between countries and between disciplines (architecture, engineering, +). At the end of the article are links to more on the original Sahara Forest Project (in North Africa) and plans for related energy production in the U.S. (which they claim could fuel 90% of the U.S. energy grid using less than 1% of the U.S. desert area). Click here for that article.

If you use Facebook, you might want to look at Wangari Maathai’s memorial page. She died in 2011, but her page has been maintained to honor her. There are some of her speeches, tributes from all over the world, and links to ongoing Green Belt activities and related movements.

Coming in the next issue: Great ideas for the Cities of the Future.

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