Facts about the state of the global environment read like quotes on a poster for an epic Hollywood movie. However, many people feel that governments are not taking the environment seriously enough.

Magazine - Environmental protest groups


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Environmental Protest Groups

Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got ’till it's gone
They paved paradise and they put up a parking lot

(Joni Mitchell – Big Yellow Taxi)

Facts about the state of the global environment read like quotes on a poster for an epic Hollywood movie – expanding deserts in Africa, huge forest fires in Indonesia, serious shortages of fish in Europe, thousands of deaths from air pollution in Brazil, disappearing forests in the Amazon, melting ice-caps and increasing radiation levels in the polar regions. But just as there is no evil Lex Luther or Ernst Blofeld responsible for these disasters, there is no Superman or James Bond to save the world. The human race has caused these problems and we are going to have to work together to solve them.

However, many people feel that the governments of countries around the world are not taking environmental issues seriously enough. To allow the voices of concerned people to be heard, a large number of protest groups have been set up by ordinary people to raise awareness of the issues, and to put pressure on politicians to act before it is too late. A few of the organisations have become household names, particularly Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace. Two smaller groups, Surfers Against Sewage and Reclaim The Streets, are less well known, but take themselves just as seriously.

Surfers Against Sewage (SAS)

Surfers Against Sewage was founded in 1990 by water sports enthusiasts, who were becoming more and more concerned about the health risks they faced when using beaches in Cornwall in the UK. Human and toxic waste pumped into the sea was causing serious illnesses, and beach goers felt that they were “playing Russian Roulette with their health” every time they went into the water.

SAS alerted people to the problem by going to public events with their surfboards, where they handed out leaflets wearing wetsuits and gasmasks. They soon attracted the attention of the media and other concerned water users from around Britain and were able to put pressure on the government to ban dumping untreated waste in the sea, rivers and lakes. The group was so successful that in 1998, only 8 years after they started campaigning, the government agreed to spend 8.5 billion pounds on cleaning up Britain’s aquatic environment.

Surfers Against Sewage has acquired a cool image over the years. In 1999 the director of The Beach, a Hollywood blockbuster starring Leonardo Di Caprio, wanted to use the SAS logo on actors’ backpacks. SAS refused permission however, because they were concerned about the environmental damage that making the film had caused to the tiny tropical island of Phi Phi in Thailand.

Reclaim The Streets (RTS)

Reclaim The Streets was started in London in 1991 to campaign “FOR walking, cycling and cheap, or free, public transport, and AGAINST cars, roads and the system that pushes them.” RTS began by protesting against road building through unspoilt areas of the British countryside, and now have expanded their activities to draw attention to environmental, political, economic and social injustice around the world.

RTS campaigns by stopping traffic and turning roads and motorways into huge street parties. Members of the group dig up tarmac and plant trees, make beaches and paddling pools for children to play in, decorate the street with colourful banners, and give out free food and drink. A huge sound system is set up, bands, jugglers and clowns perform, and hundreds or even thousands of people dance and party. The carnival is usually broken up by the police after a few hours, and in the past some of the demonstrations have been marred by violence between police and protesters.

RTS doesn’t have any clear aims, it says that it is a ‘disorganisation’ rather than an organisation, since there is no one in charge, but the methods that the group uses have caught on, and are now used worldwide. As the RTS website says, “The Reclaim The Streets idea has grown up and left home, street parties and suchlike often happen without anyone in RTS London hearing about them until afterwards.”

Protest and the Internet

Both SAS and RTS have extensive websites providing information about their activities, and providing links to like-minded groups around the world. It seems that nowadays the Internet is helping more and more people express their dissatisfaction with the status quo, and work together to find solutions to the problems that the modern world faces.


aquatic (adj.): living or growing in, happening in, or connected with water

blockbuster (n.): a book, film, etc that is very popular and successful

epic (n.): a story or film which is very long and contains a lot of action

Ernst Blofeld: the villain in some James Bond films

found (v.): to start an organization, especially by providing money

household name (n.): someone or something that everyone knows

issue (n.): an important subject or problem that people are discussing

Lex Luther: the villain in Superman

mar (v.): to spoil something

paddling pool (n.): a shallow pool that small children can play in

polar (adj.): relating to the North or South Pole

Russian roulette (n.): a very dangerous game of chance where each player aims at their own head with a gun which has one bullet in it and five empty chambers (= spaces where bullets could go)

status quo (n.): the situation that exists now, without any changes

tarmac (n.): a thick, black substance that is sticky when hot and is used to cover roads

toxic (adj.): poisonous





I'd like to know the meaning of this sentence.'serfers against sewage was founded in 1990'

Thank you.

Hello Naaka,

Is it the word 'founded' that you find difficult? Try looking it up in our online dictionary at the the right hand side of the page?

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

I'm always scared when thinking about my country's environment nowadays. it's really seriously damaged. i hope Vietnamese goverment will try better to protect our environment. And groups such as SAS and RTS should be founded more and more to raise awareness of people, following legal system,of course !!!! Nice to learn English here ^^^ Have a good day!!

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here in Egypt we need a lot of organizations to rescue our society we're facing a lot of pollution we are likely to play Russian roulette with our healths

Hello dear instructors!

I have a question about methods of learning words. So far, I have learned words using two methods: translation and through definitions. However, I can't identify for myself which one of these two methods is much more useful for my english, from which of these methods I can derive more benefits, from translation or from definition. Therefore, I have decided to consult you about this issue: What do you advice me to learn words through translation or definition, and if you explain the benefits of each method I will be very grateful to you ! Thanks in advance!

Hello Abbas Eli,

I think both approaches have validity and can be most useful used together. Translation is often a very quick and easy way to establish meaning, which can be useful when you need to check an item while reading, for example, and it can be very useful to compare words in different languages too see what the differences are in terms of use, connotation, style and so on.

The main problem with translation is that it can be misleading. Words rarely have one-to-one equivalents in terms of meaning and are often used in different patterns (collocations), and so definitions and examples such as those found in monolingual dictionaries and collocational dictionaries are usually more precise and helpful than translations, especially once the learner reaches higher levels.

I hope that answers your question.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much for the answer. I find it very useful and important.




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