In this post, I’m going to write an IELTS Writing Task 2 model essay in response to this question about environmental problems from Cambridge 14 (Academic):
You should spend about 40 minutes on this task.
Write about the following topic:
Some people say that the main environmental problem of our time is the loss of particular species of plants and animals. Others say that there are more important environmental problems.
Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.
Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.
Write at least 250 words.
First of all, I’ll take you through my 4 Step Approach to essay planning:
- Analyse The Question
- Decide My Position
- Generate My Ideas
- Develop My Ideas
Step 1: Analyse The Question
The first thing to do is analyse the question. One way of doing this is to (VERY carefully) simplify the question. In this question, I think the simplified question is this:
What is the most important environmental problem? Is it species loss…or something else?
We can also simplify the 2 views:
View 1: species loss is the main environmental problem.
View 2: there are “more important” ones.
What might these “more important” environmental problems be? Global warming comes to my mind.
Step 2: Decide My Position
So, what do I REALLY think about this issue? In other words, what’s my position on this issue?
I think species loss is a major problem, but I think global warming is the more important one. However, I think the two problems are linked: my understanding is that global warming will lead to species loss anyway; if global warming causes species loss, it makes sense that global warming is the bigger problem.
Step 3: Generate My Ideas
Next, I need to generate some ideas for this essay.
I must also remember that the question is asking about environmental PROBLEMS, not solutions.
View 1: species loss is main environmental problem.
Well, I agree it’s important. Why do I think this?
- important to protect species – we share the world – moral obligation
- also loss of species affects humans (e.g. affects food chain, loss of fish in seas means less food for us)
View 2: there are “more important” problems.
I think global warming is a more important problem. Why do I think this?
- danger that global warming will escalate and lead to runaway warming
- ultimately this will lead to species loss anyway
Step 4: Develop My Ideas
Next, I’m going to develop my ideas using a logical structure. This will give me a clear essay plan.
- species loss a major concern, but is it main one?
Body Paragraph 1
- Main Idea: moral obligation to protect species
- Explanation: loss of species is permanent, future generations
- Example: dodo
Body Paragraph 2
- Main Idea: loss of species affects humans
- Explanation: food and drugs
Body Paragraph 3
- Main Idea: global warming is more important
- Explanation: runaway heating will lead to more problems, including species loss
- Example: polar bears
- both are important, but global warming will cause species loss, so it’s the most important problem.
I decided to write 2 separate paragraphs in my discussion of the first idea – it seems more logical to do this.
So, all I need to do now is expand these notes into full sentences and link them together! While I write, I must, at all times, remember my position: species loss is an important problem, but global warming is even more important, and they are also linked.
So here’s my essay:
My Model Essay
The loss of natural habitats, in part due to intensive agriculture and industrial-scale mining in some parts of the world, as well as urbanisation, has put the survival of many species of plants and animals under threat. While this is certainly a major concern, is this the most pressing environmental problem that we should deal with?
I certainly feel that humanity has a moral obligation to safeguard the survival of different species of fauna and flora. The loss of any species is permanent and means that future generations will not be able to appreciate the wonders of a diverse natural world. For example, the tragic extinction of the dodo is something which we still lament even today.
Moreover, it can affect us detrimentally too. Many herbal remedies are derived from plants, and so the destruction of rainforests could easily have a negative effect on the production of medicinal drugs. In addition, we are part of a natural food chain, so the loss of animals, such as fish, means we will have less food in the future.
Ultimately though, there is a far wider problem that needs to be addressed: global warming. As a result of emissions of greenhouse gases, such as CO2 and methane, global temperatures are rising and we risk seeing runaway heating. This will lead to a number of problems, including flooding, extreme weather and drought, but also the extinction of species. Indeed, polar bears are already struggling to survive because of the loss of polar ice caps due to rising temperatures.
In other words, working to safeguard the survival of the natural world without tackling global warming would be entirely ineffective, so it’s not really a case of which one is more important: all environmental issues are ultimately interconnected, and so we need to take a holistic approach to the issue.
Task response: had I just argued that global warming was more important than species loss, it would be good enough for a Band 7 or 8 for TR, but I went further: I argued that both problems are important, and that they are linked. It’s a more developed position, and I think worthy of a Band 9. But explaining this position requires some advanced language, so it’s tricky for many students to do well.
Vocabulary: I desperately wanted to use the phrase “flora and fauna” somewhere! (If you don’t know it, fauna = animals, flora = flowers. There’s also a lot of natural collocation in this essay, and these phrases have precise meaning:
- intensive agriculture
- industrial-scale mining
- under threat
- the most pressing environmental problem
- has a moral obligation to
- herbal remedies
There’s some repetition of words: loss, survival and species are repeated, but this is not a problem. I’ve tried to paraphrase where appropriate (e.g. “natural world” instead of “species”).
Overall, the essay uses “natural and sophisticated control” of vocabulary, with no errors (as far as I can tell!) so it’s at a Band 9 level.
I hope you like my model essay. Remember, it is only ONE possible response out of an infinite number of possible responses to this task. If you want to read more about this topic, here’s a great article by The Guardian newspaper about the loss of insects.
Read some more IELTS essay questions.
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