Teacher’s notes on Environmental Challenges – A river ran through it – Part 2

These lesson planning notes for teachers are for use with the text of the newspaper article in the Student Centre ‘A river ran through it’ Part 2. (See also Part 1.

B Listening activities

1. Tell the class that you are going to continue the passage on climate change.

2. Play a recording of the first 5 paragraphs. Ask them to listen out for this information.

  • What used to be seen on the Murray River? (paddle wheels boats)
  • What’s a gigalitre? (One gigalitre is 1,000,000,000 litres)
  • What do Louise and Andrew Burge not believe? (That climate change is the cause of the drought.)
  • What two groups are in conflict? (environmentalists and farmers)
  • What has happened to farmer debt? (it has doubled)

3. Play the tape again and ask the students to listen out for words that mean the same as:

  • changed completely – transformed
  • fell very dramatically – plummeted
  • reject – refute
  • uncontrolled – rampant
  • very serious – acute
  • strangely and worryingly – eerily

4. What evidence has the Burge family got against climate change? (Photos from the past)

5. Why is Wayne Cockayne unhappy? (His town is dying. Young people are no longer going in to farming.)

Reading activities

1. Give out the text. Tell the students to scan the text to find references to the following:

  • 300 gigalitres – The amount of water coming into the Murray-Darling catchment areas in June 2007.
  • UN report – According to a UN report, per capita, Australia’s emissions of greenhouse gases are among the highest in the world.
  • rampant land-clearers / passionate conservationists – The farmers are sometimes seen a the people clearing and therefore destroying the land while in fact they are often strong conservationists looking after the land.
  • depression – Something experienced by many farmers recently.
  • 120 farmers – The number being looked after carefully (actively) by the doctor.
  • every four days – One farmer commits suicide every four days.
  • 1870 – The time when Neil Eagles family started farming in that area.
  • 400 years old – The age of some of the river red gum trees in Kingston-on-Murray, an area once described as a ‘garden of Eden’.
  • Banrock Station – An area famous for wine production and one also trying to protect the environment.
  • 48 countries – The World Bank estimates that by 2025, about 48 countries will experience water shortages, affecting more than 1.4bn people, the majority in under-developed regions.
  • a billion litres – Lost production in milk in 2006.

2. Tell the students to read the text. What examples of metaphor can the students find in those paragraphs? If they do not spot them all, point them out and discuss the meaning.

They include:

  • outskirts
  • a herd mentality
  • As the drought bites
  • This town’s gone backward
  • high-profile landowners
  • back-to-back appointments
  • a handful of appointments
  • the last straw
  • hangs in the balance
  • blistering summer

3. Does Dr Von Rensburg have enough support? No. He could use a permanent psychologist working with him all the time.

4. What does Neil Eagle mean when he says ‘It’s become nearly a religion, this idea of global warming’ (para. 9). People have started to believe in this idea without questioning it, just like many people do with religion.

5. When it comes to sorting out climate problems over water, what advantage does Australia have over some other areas of the world? It is one country with one language and there are no international issues to face. When a river flows through many countries, the issues are far more complex and difficult to resolve.

D Exploration of language 1

Look at this sentence from the text: A national mental health report stated that one farmer commits suicide in Australia every four days.

Notice the use of both the Past Simple and the Simple Present in this sentence.

Here is another example: The government stated that a man dies of lung cancer every 30 minutes.Now make up sentences of your own using this combination of sentences.

E Exploration of language 1

What is meant by a wry smile (para. 9)? In what other ways can you describe a smile? Divide them into two groups: honest smiles and others.

A wry smile is one with a mixture of amusement and irony involving, for example, both good and bad news. For example, where the farmer works hard to build an excellent reservoir and then no rain falls. He might give a wry smile. It is ironic that he has worked so hard on the reservoir but then there is nothing to fill it.

Examples of different smiles could include:


  • open smile
  • friendly smile
  • pleasant smile
  • cheerful smile
  • happy smile
  • sunny smile
  • cheery smile
  • delighted smile
  • enchanting smile


  • wry smile
  • ironic smile
  • twisted smile
  • smug smile
  • sarcastic smile / laugh
  • evil smile
  • bitter smile
  • sulky smile
  • cynical smile