Introduction

Learn about what happens if there are too many deer in an area, or when our own overpopulation becomes a dangerous problem, and learn 10 new words in context in a new English Plus Podcast Word Power episode.


Audio Podcast


Too Many Deer

The deer were beautiful, with big, soft eyes and tawny brown coats. Every evening they emerged from the forest preserve to feed on the succulent plants in the yards of neighboring homes. In the spring, each doe was faithfully followed by a pair of young. Protected by the camouflage of their coat and total lack of scent, they were rarely detected by most predators.

For a few years this picturesque scene persisted as deer gamboled playfully among suburban yards, to the delight of fascinated onlookers. Every year the audience observed more and more deer. With the increased population, the search for food intensified. Soon the deer began treating the trees and plants as a kind of commissary offering a variety of foods. In addition, the deer did not frolic playfully anymore. Their eyes were not clear, and their coats were scraggly. What had happened and why?

If left unchecked, any living population multiplies until it meets or exceeds the ability of the environment to support it. This is especially true when all natural enemies have been eliminated. People, in general, have been good to the deer, as they excise the thick undergrowth from forests and eliminate predators such as the wolf. Deer thrive under these conditions and soon reach a state of overpopulation. However, with rigorous management, the excess population can be controlled by harvesting a specified number of deer or by introducing predators.

But this is not just a story about deer. Human beings are subject to the same rules as every other living population. More than 150 years ago, Thomas Malthus, a British scholar, was alarmed by what he saw happening to human populations. To his consternation, his projections suggested that human populations would soon exceed the food supply, which could result in war, disease, and starvation. Fortunately, Malthus’s projections did not come to pass, because technology has allowed us to produce food more efficiently than he projected. However, he may not have been wrong- just ahead of his time. Recently Worldwatch, an environmental organization, released a study that showed we may be reaching the limit of what technology can do to increase the food supply. Despite high-yield grains, the per capita amount of rice and wheat is falling, and we are already taking about as many fish from the sea as we should if we wish to avoid damaging the breeding stock. In addition, as farmland is destroyed by erosion and industrialization, the earth is losing its agrarian potential.

To ameliorate this problem, we must begin to produce food as efficiently as possible and to avoid waste. If we are not prudent about our choices, nature will take steps to adjust the imbalance.

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