Deep-sea mining: Good or bad for the planet? (Medium)


Some solutions to deal with climate change could damage the environment. An idea under scrutiny is deep-sea mining – the exploration of metals used for ‘green’ products, which could undermine delicate ocean ecosystems. Sam and Neil discuss the topic and teach you related vocabulary.

This week’s question

According to recent estimates by Unesco oceanographers, how many different marine species have their home in the ocean?

a)     70,000

b)    170,000

c)    700,000

Listen to the programme to find out the answer. 


situation that seems impossible because it contains two opposite ideas

problem that is very difficult to solve

increase/grow by a factor of (x)
be multiplied by that many (x) times

silver bullet
simple and immediate solution to a complicated problem

slippery slope
situation or habit that is difficult to stop and is likely to get worse and worse

open the door to (something)
(idiom) allow something new to start, or make it possible to happen

Lắng nghe và điền vào chỗ trống:

Cloze Test



Hello. This is 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English. Im Neil.


And Im Sam. Here at Minute English, we often discuss the new inventions and ideas scientists dream up to fight climate change  � technologies geo-engineering which could reduce global warming by reflecting sunlight back into space.


Often these ideas are controversial scientists disagree over whether the technology is possible, and whether, in some cases, it could do more harm than .


In this programme, well be finding out about a new idea to collect lumps of precious metals, nodules, from the bottom of the ocean. The idea, known as deep-sea mining, could provide the metals like copper, and cobalt which are needed for the green technology used in electric car batteries and other renewable energy. But deep-sea mining actually damage delicate ocean ecosystems as well?


Well be hearing from two experts and learning new vocabulary soon, but first I have a question for you, Sam. Mammals like dolphins and whales represent a amount of all marine biodiversity - the thousands of animal species living in the sea. Even all the different of fish combined make up less than 3% of all living things in the ocean. So, according to recent by Unesco oceanographers, how many different marine species have their home in the ocean? Is it:

a) 70,000?

b) 170,000?

c) 700,000?


Ill guess there are around animal species living in the sea.


OK, Sam, Ill reveal the answer at the end of the . Deep-sea mining is supported by some scientists because it could provide the raw materials, especially metals, needed to power cars. Amongst them is, Bramley Murton, a professor of marine biology at Southamptons National Oceanographic Centre. Here he outlines problem to BBC World Services’, Science in Action.

Bramley Murton

As in so many things in life, there's real kind of paradox or a conundrum. The global grid capacity by 2050 will have to increase by three . Electrical car ownership is set to increase by a factor of 25. Solar and wind generation is going to by a factor of a hundred. All of these things which we need to do to decarbonise are going require raw materials and metals in particular. So, as a society were faced with this conundrum. We need to .


Professor Murton describes the situation using two words. Firstly, he calls it a conundrum  � a problem is very difficult to solve. He also calls it a paradox  � a situation that seems impossible because it two opposite ideas. Deep-sea mining could damage the ocean, but paradoxically it might provide rare metals needed to decarbonise planet.


At the heart of the problem is that, in the future, green activities like driving electric and using solar power is going to increase by a factor of a hundred. If something increases by a of a certain number, it becomes multiplied that many times.


But another marine biologist, Helen Scales, isnt . Here she explains her doubts to BBC World Services’, Science in Action.

Helen Scales

My concern at this is that deep-sea mining and deep-sea nodules in particular are being seen as a silver bullet to solve the crisis, and in such a way as well that I think, that we can hopefully rely on life carrying pretty much as normal. My concern is that it really will be opening a door to something much more those tests  � its leading down a rather slippery slope I think, towards this getting permission for deep-sea mining be open on a commercial scale.


Helen worries that deep-sea mining will be seen as a silver to the climate crisis  � a simple and instant solution to a complicated problem. She thinks the tests which been permitted to assess the difficulty of mining underwater could open the door to mining on a large scale would damage fragile marine eco-systems beyond repair. If you open the door to something, you allow something new to , or make it possible.


Helen thinks starting deep-sea mining leads down a slippery slope  � asituation or that is difficult to stop and is likely to get worse and worse. And that could spell the end thousands of marine animal and plant species.


Yes, our oceans need protection as much as our land skies - which reminds me of my question, Sam.


Yes, you asked how many different marine species in the ocean and I guessed it was b) 170,000.


Which was the wrong answer, Im afraid! are estimated to be around 700,000 marine species, only about 226,000 of which have been identified so far. OK, recap the vocabulary weve learned from the programme, starting with conundrum  � a problem thats very difficult to fix.


A paradox describes a situation that seems impossible because it contains two opposite ideas.


If something by a factor of ten, it becomes multiplied ten times.


The term, a silver bullet, means a solution to a complicated problem - often a solution that doesnt actually exist.


A slippery slope is situation or course of action that is difficult to stop and is likely to get worse and worse

And finally, the idiom to open the door to something means to allow something new to start or to it possible. Once again, our six minutes are up. Bye for now!





created with the online Cloze Test Creator © 2009 Lucy Georges


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