3. Ships in the Desert
1. I was standing in the sun on the hot steel deck of a fishing ship
1capable of processing a fifty-ton catch on a good day. But it wasn’t
2a good day. We were anchored in what used to be the most
productive fishing site in all of central Asia, but as I looked out over
3the bow, the prospects of a good catch looked bleak. Where there
should have been gentle blue-green waves lapping against the side of
the ship, there was nothing but hot dry sand – as far as I could see in
4all directions. The other ships of the fleet were also at rest in the
sand, scattered in the dunes that stretched all the way to the horizon.
1 I was standing …… on a good day
1) in the sun: in the sunlight, as opposed to in the shade (在荫处)
2) capable of: having the ability of
3) to process: to prepare by a special method
4) catch: the amount caught
5) on a good day: good here means satisfying
6) capable of processing a fifty-ton catch on a good day: having the ability of cleaning and
preparing for marketing or canning 50 tons of fish caught on a productive day
2 But it wasn’t a good day.
1) It refers to the day I was there. 3 the prospects of a good catch looked bleak
1) bleak: not promising or hopeful
2) it was not at all possible to have a good catch, to catch a large amount of fish 3) This is obviously an understatement because with sand all around there was no chance of
catching fish, to say nothing of catching a lot of fish.
4 Where there should have been … there was …
1) Pay attention to the structure. This implication is that once there were gentle waves lapping
against the side of the ship but there were none now. Instead, in the place of the waves
there were stretches of sand.
2) lap: to strike gently with a light, splashing sound
3) in all direction: everywhere
5Ten years ago the Aral was the fourth-largest inland sea in the world,
comparable to the largest of North America’s Great Lakes. Now it is
6disappearing because the water that used to feed it has been
diverted in an ill-considered irrigation scheme to grow cotton in the
desert. The new shoreline was almost forty kilometers across the
sand from where the fishing fleet was now permanently docked.
Meanwhile, in the nearby town of Muynak the people were still
canning fish – brought not from the Aral Sea but shipped by rail
through Siberia from the Pacific Ocean, more than a thousand miles
2. My search for the underlying causes of the environmental crisis
has led me to travel around the world to examine and study many of
7these images of destruction. At the very bottom of the earth, high in
the Trans-Antarctic Mountains, with the sun glaring at midnight
5 The other ships … to the horizon
1) How could the other ships be at rest in the sand?
The other ships were also anchored in the original coast but now water had turned into sand
therefore they were surrounded by sand and could not move.
2) dune: a rounded hill or ridge of sand heaped up by the action of the wind
3) that stretched …to the horizon: that extended as far as the eye could see; that extended to
the far off place where the sky meets the earth
6 Why is the Aral disappearing?
It is becoming smaller and smaller because the water that used to flow into the sea has been turned away to irrigate the land created in the desert to grow cotton. The scheme was an ill-conceived one because it failed to take into consideration the ecological effect.
7 My research for … destruction
1) Why did he travel around the world?
He traveled around the world because he wanted to see, check and study cases of such
destruction in order to find out the basic causes behind the environmental crisis.
2) image: typical example
through a hole in the sky, I stood in the unbelievable coldness and
talked with a scientist in the late fall of 1988 about the tunnel he was
8digging through time. Slipping his parka back to reveal a badly
burned face that was cracked and peeling, he pointed to the annual
layers of ice in a core sample dug from the glacier on which we were
9standing. He moved his finger back in time to the ice of two
10decades ago. “Here’s where the U.S Congress passed the Clean
Air Act,” he said. At the bottom of the world, two continents away
from Washington, D.C., even a small reduction in one country’s
emissions had changed the amount of pollution found in the remotest
11and least accessible place on earth.
8 At the very bottom … through time
1) at the very bottom of the earth: the southern end of the earth’s axis; bottom here means
2) high in the … Mountains: at a high place in the mountain chain
3) Why did the author say the sun glared through a hole in the sky? Where comes the hole?
It refers to ozone depletion. (臭氧层空洞)
4) unbelievable coldness: so cold that you cannot imagine
5) the tunnel he was digging through time: the farther the samples from the glacier, the deeper
he drilled, the farther the sample in time; in other words, the surface of the glacier is an
indication of recent time while the deeper part of the glacier tells of situation of a much
9 Slipping his parka back … we were standing
1) parka: 派克大衣, a hooded fur jacket worn as outer garment by Eskimos
2) a badly burned face: caused by overexposure to direct sunlight
3) cracked and peeling: note the use of past participle and present participle; on the face there
were lines that were split open and pieces of skin were coming down
10 He moved his finger… ago
Following the layers of ice in the core sample, his finger came to the place where the layer of ice was formed 20 years ago.
11 At the bottom … on earth
1) two continents away: the two continents refer to South America and Antarctica
2) emission here means the amount of pollutants discharged
3) least accessible place on earth: the place which is most difficult to get to in the world
3. But the most significant change thus far in the earth’s
atmosphere is the one that began with the industrial revolution early
12in the last century and has picked up speed ever since. Industry
meant coal, and later oil, and we began to burn lots of it – bringing
rising levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), with its ability to trap more
13heat in the atmosphere and slowly warm the earth. Fewer than a
hundred yards from the South Pole, upwind from the ice runway
where the ski plane lands and keeps its engines running to prevent
the metal parts from freeze-locking together, scientists monitor the
air several times every day to chart the course of that inexorable
14change. During my visit, I watched one scientist draw the results
12 But the most significant…ever since
1) thus far: up to this time
2) pick up speed: develop in an accelerated speed; become faster
3) ever since: from then until now
13 Industry meant … warm the earth
1) industry meant coal: the development of industry meant the use of large amount of coal as
fuel to generate power
2) it: standing for coal and later oil
3) rising level: the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere grew
4) with its ability to trap more heat in the atmosphere: heat cannot easily get through carbon
dioxide and go into the high altitude, so carbon dioxide plays the role of a cover, keeping
the heat near the earth
5) the part after the “dash” serves as an adverbial of result
14 upwind from the ice runway …that inexorable change
1) upwind: in the direction from which the wind is blowing or usually blows 顶风
2) ice runway: runway is a strip of paved ground for use by airplanes in taking off and landing,
and here in the South Pole the runway is a strip of ice ground
3) ski plane: an airplane with skis instead of wheels for landing and taking off in the snow 4) Why are the engines of the plane kept running?
Because the pilot fears that if he stops the engines, the metal parts would be frozen solid
and the engines would not be able to start again.
5) monitor: to watch or check on (a thing)
6) to chart the course: to show the onward movement on an outline map
7) inexorable: that cannot be altered, checked
of that day’s measurements, pushing the end of a steep line still
higher on the graph. He told me how easy it is – there at the end of
the earth – to see that this enormous change in the global atmosphere
is still picking up speed.
4. Two and a half years later I slept under the midnight sun at
the other end of our planet, in a small tent pitched on a
15twelve-foot-thick slab of ice floating in the frigid Arctic Ocean.
After a hearty breakfast, my companions and I traveled by
snowmobiles a few miles farther north to a rendezvous point where
the ice was thinner – only three and a half feet thick – and a nuclear
16submarine hovered in the water below. After it crashed through
the ice, took on its new passengers, and resubmerged, I talked with
scientists who were trying to measure more accurately the thickness
of the polar ice cap, which many believe is thinning as a result of
17global warming. I had just negotiated an agreement between ice
15 Two and a half … Arctic Ocean
1) at the other end of our planet: Antarctic as one end and Arctic as the other end
2) pitch: set up; erect
3) slab: a piece that is flat, broad and fairly thick 4) frigid: extremely cold
16 After a hearty breakfast…in the water below
1) A hearty breakfast: a satisfying and rich breakfast
2) Snowmobile: a kind of motor vehicle for traveling over snow, usually with steerable
runners at the front and tractor treads at the rear
3) rendezvous point: the place where a submarine was to pick them up 4) hover: to wait close by, esp. in an overprotective, insistent or anxious way
17 After is crashed…of global warming
1) after it crashed through the ice: after the submarine broke through the ice with force and
smashing noise and surfaced
2) took on its new passengers: picked up the author and his companions
scientists and the U. S. Navy to secure the release of previously top
18secret data from submarine sonar tracks, data that could help them
learn what is happening to the north polar cap. Now, I wanted to see
the pole itself, and some eight hours after we met the submarine, we
were crashing through that ice, surfacing, and then I was standing in
an eerily beautiful snowscape, windswept and sparkling white, with
the horizon defined by little hummocks, or “pressure ridges” of ice
that are pushed up like tiny mountain ranges when separate sheets
19collide. But here too, co2 levels are rising just as rapidly, and
indeed, global warming ultimately temperature will rise with them –
is expected to push temperatures up much more rapidly in the polar
regions than in the rest of the world. As the polar air warms, the ice
here will thin; and since the polar cap plays such a crucial role in the
world’s weather system, the consequences of a thinning cap could be
3) resubmerged: went down under the water again
18 to secure the release of previously top secret data: to ensure the making public of data which were originally classified as top secret
19 and then I was standing …sheets collide
1) eerily: mysteriously or uncannily, esp. in such a way as to frighten or disturb
2) windswept: swept by or exposed to winds
3) with the horizon defined by little hummocks: with the stretch of ice field characterized by
4) How are these hummocks formed?
When separate layers of ice, broad in extent, strike violently against each other, ice is pushed up
into ridges by the force of the collision.
20 As the polar air … could be disastrous
1) polar cap: the polar region of ice
2) to thin: to make or become thin or thinner
could be: note the use of modal verb. Here “could be” indicates possibility.
5. Considering such scenarios is not a purely speculative
21exercise. Six months after I returned from the North Pole, a team
of scientists reported dramatic changes in the pattern of ice
distribution in the Arctic, and a second team reported a still
controversial claim (which a variety of data now suggest) that,
overall, the north polar cap has thinned by 2 percent in just the last
22decade. Moreover, scientists established several years ago that in
many land areas north of the Arctic Circle, the spring snowmelt now
comes earlier every year, and deep in the tundra below, the
23temperature of the earth is steadily rising.
6 As it happens, some of the most disturbing images of
environmental destruction can be found exactly halfway between the
North and South poles – precisely at the equator in Brazil – where
billowing clouds of smoke regularly blacken the sky above the
21Considering such scenarios …exercise
1) scenario: an outline for any proposed or planned series of events, real or imagined 方案
2) Thinking about how a series of events might happen as a consequence of the thinning of
the polar cap is not just a kind of practice in conjecture (speculation), it has got practical
22 Six months … last decade
1) the pattern of ice distribution: the regular way ice is distributed
2) a still controversial claim: a statement which some scientists still do not completely
3) which a variety of data now suggest: data coming from different sources point to this
4) overall: in general
23 Moreover…steadily rising
1) establish: cause to be accepted or recognized
2) Arctic Circle: an imaginary circle parallel to the equator, 66? 33′north of it
3) Tundra: any of the vast, nearly level, treeless plains of the Arctic regions
24immense but now threatened Amazon rain forest. Acre by acre,
the rain forest is being burned to create fast pasture for fast-food
25beef; as I learned when I went there in early 1989, the fires are set
earlier and earlier in the dry season now, with more than one
Tennessee’s worth of rain forest being slashed and burned each
26year. According to our guide, the biologist. Tom Lovejoy, there are
more different species of birds in each square mile of the Amazon
than exist in all of North America – which means we are silencing
27thousands of songs we have never even heard.
7. But one doesn’t have to travel around the world to witness
humankind’s assault on the earth. Images that signal the distress of
24 where billowing clouds…rain forest
1) billowing: large swelling mass of
2) Where do the billowing clouds of smoke come from?
They come from the burning of the rain forest.
3) the immense but now threatened Amazon rain forest
What is meant by “now threatened”?
It means the existence of the rain forest is now in danger as a result of large-scale
25 Acre by acre…beef
1) Bit by bit trees in the rain forest are felled and the land is cleared and turned into pasture
where cattle can be raised quickly and slaughtered and the beef can be used in
2) Pay attention to the connotation of the two “fasts” in fast pasture and fast food. With that
comes the “fast” disappearance of the rain forest.
26 …with more than … each year
1) worth: equal in area or size
2) slash: cut with a sweeping stroke
3) the area of rain forest burned in one year is bigger than the state of Tennessee
27 which means …even heard
Since miles of forest are being destroyed and the habitat for these rare birds no longer exists, thousands of birds which we have not even had a chance to see will become extinct.
our global environment are now commonly seen almost anywhere.
28On some nights, in high northern latitudes, the sky itself offers
another ghostly image that signals the loss of ecological balance now
29in progress. If the sky is clear after sunset – and if you are
watching from a place where pollution hasn’t blotted out the night
30sky altogether – you can sometimes see a strange kind of cloud
high in the sky. This “noctilucent cloud” occasionally appears when
the earth is first cloaked in the evening darkness; shimmering above
31us with a translucent whiteness, these clouds seem quite unnatural.
And they should: noctilucent clouds have begun to appear more
32often because of a huge buildup of methane gas in the atmosphere.
(Also called natural gas, methane is released from landfills, from
coal mines and rice paddies, from billions of termites that swarm
28 images …anywhere
Typical examples showing the dangerous environmental situation in the world can be found
29 On some nights … now in progress
1) in high northern latitudes: 在北纬高纬度地区
2) the sky itself offers another ghostly image: the sky alone presents another example of ill
omen showing there is ecological imbalance and this kind of imbalance is developing
30 and if … altogether
1) blot out: hide entirely; obscure
31 This “noctilucent cloud” … unnatural
1) noctilucent: designating or of a luminous cloud visible at night in the polar regions at an
altitude of c. 50 miles 生物(性；发光
2) to cloak: to conceal, hide
3) to shimmer: to shine with an unsteady light
4) translucent: partially transparent
32 because of … in the atmosphere
1) methane: 甲烷
2) because there has been a big increase of methane gas in the atmosphere
through the freshly cut forestland, from the burning of biomass and
33from a variety of other human activities.) Even though noctilucent
clouds were sometimes seen in the past, all this extra methane
carries more water vapor into the upper atmosphere, where it
condenses at much higher altitudes to form more clouds that the
sun’s rays still strike long after sunset has brought the beginning of
night to the surface far beneath them.
348. What should we feel toward these ghosts in the sky? Simple
35wonder or the mix of emotions we feel at the zoo? Perhaps we
should feel awe for our own power: just as men tear tusks from
elephants’ heads in such quantity as to threaten the beast with
36extinction, we are ripping matter from its place in the earth in such
37volume as to upset the balance between daylight and darkness. In
33 Where does methane gas come from?
1) release: let go; emit
2) landfill: the disposal of garbage or rubbish by burying it under a shallow layer to ground 3) termite: 白蚁
4) swarm: to move in large numbers
5) biomass: the total mass or amount of living organism in a particular area or volume 生物
34 What should we feel … the sky?
What should our attitude be toward these terrible signs of ecological imbalances in the sky?
35 Simple wonder … the zoo?
Should it only be a feeling of surprise and admiration or a combination of different feelings we
experience in the zoo?
36 just as men… with extinction: men are killing such large number of elephants for their tusks that the species will soon extinguish
37 we are ripping … darkness: we are using and destroying resources in such volume that we are
disturbing the balance between daylight and darkness