Environmental Protest Groups


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.

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


Total votes: 1590


Hello thaouyennguyen,

I'm afraid I'm not sure what you mean. Could you describe what you are trying to do and what you see, please?

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

hello teacher,
when i'm listening to the audio, i hardly realize the words. can you tell me how to listen clearly without looking at transcript?
thank you very much.

Hell sunsueun,

The first thing I'd recommend is to find a recording that's a bit easier. Our Elementary Podcasts, for example, might be a good place to start.

What you listen to, I'd encourage you to listen two or three times without the transcript. Then listen again while reading the transcript. Listen and read as many times as you think is useful. Choose some sentences that are interesting for you or which you find especially difficult, and listen to them several times. Then say them yourself, imitating the pronunciation in the recording. 

Once you've worked like this on one page, choose another page – there are plenty here at LearnEnglish – and follow the same method. Slowly, you won't need to refer to the transcript as much.

Good luck!

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

i'would to ask you just one question
A large number of protest groups have (or has ) been set up by ordinary people to raise awareness of the issues.
Because the word " large number " is singular
thank you

Hi abozoz,

Both of these forms are commonly used but the most common usage now is for the verb to agree with the noun which precedes it, and so to use a plural verb to go with the plural noun: 'have' rather than 'has'.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

British Council Team, I appreciate very much your lesson, it's not only very helpful but also provides very updated information. Thank you very much for your effort and competence !!!!

The article is all about the outcome of being an irresponsible human being. It tells us that we are the reason why pollution occurs, why there's a shortage of fish in some places and other situation that should not be happening. For this to be resolved, responsible persons created a group who will work together to resolve this concerns.
My friends, we can also help in making our world better by doing simple things like conserving water, throwing trash on the bin and plant trees.

Undoubtedly this article open eyes towards the problem that we face in our planet ,moreover this status qua which we harmful our environment must to be changed . thank you so much.