Once the fourth largest stretch of inland water in the world, the Aral Sea may be completely dry a few years from now because a government diverted the rivers that feed it. Should we be shocked by this? Look at a map of Britain. If the Thames, the Clyde or the Severn were diverted, what would happen to wildlife, transport, docks, countryside, irrigation, bridges, the quality of people's lives? How do people improve the environment or make it worse? What would you like done (or not done)?
How do we get water? Why do we need it? How important is it historically? (The water cycle, canals and rivers, seafaring, water supply.) What is a desert? (Usually 250mm10 inches or less of rain a year; about 5 per cent of the Earth's land surface; can be in cold areas as well as hot.) Could we have desert in Britain, for example in East Anglia. Which countries get the highestlowest rainfall? What causes floods?
Pretend you are child living by the Aral Sea, and the boat in the picture belongs to your family. Write about what happened to your lives when the water level began to drop, leaving your boat high and dry.
Ted Wragg is professor of education at Exeter University