Discussing Environmental Issues in Spanish-Speaking Countries

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

Spanish-speaking countries face environmental issues just like the rest of the world. For this reason, you want to know how to approach the topic of environmental issues in Spanish, and this lesson gives you the vocabulary you need.

Environmental Issues in Spanish-Speaking Countries

There are many Spanish-speaking countries, which might make it overwhelming to learn about environmental issues in each country. Don't worry. The best way to approach this conversation topic is by referring to the main problems Latin America and Spain face overall. Some environmental problems include the destruction of nature and the scarcity of natural resources.

Environmental Issues Vocabulary

The topic 'environmental problems' is translated in Spanish as los problemas ambientales (lohs proh-BLEH-mahs ahm-bee-ehn-TAH-lehs). Let's learn some additional vocabulary specific to environmental issues along with several expressions we can use. We'll begin with issues Latin American countries and Spain face.

Main Issues

You can always begin a conversation about environmental issues by saying Un gran problema ambiental en los países de habla hispana es... (A big environmental issue in Spanish-speaking countries is...). Then, add any of the issues we have below:

  • el cambio climático (pronounced: ehl KAHM-beeoh klee-MAH-tee-koh): climate change
  • la contaminación de los suelos y ríos (pronounced: lah kohn-tah-mee-nah-see-OHN deh lohs SWEH-lohs ee REE-ohs): pollution of the land and rivers
  • la contaminación del aire por emisiones (pronounced: lah kohn-tah-mee-nah-see-OHN dehl AH-ee-reh porh eh-mee-see-OH-nehs): pollution of the air due to emissions)
  • la deforestación (pronounced: lah deh-foh-rehs-tah-see-OHN): deforestation
  • la escasez de agua (pronounced: lah ehs-kah-SEHS deh AH-gwhah): water scarcity

Now, let's follow along during an interview with Dr. Casales, a specialist in environmental issues. You'll see there are other terms we learn as Dr. Casales answers the interviewer's questions.

  • Interviewer: ¿En qué partes de los países de habla hispana hay gran deforestación? (In what areas of Spanish-speaking countries is there great deforestation?)

  • Dr. Casales: El problema en España es grande en la Sierra de Guadarrama y en América Latina está en todos los países, aunque preocupa mucho la situación de la Amazonia en países como Venezuela, Ecuador, o Perú. (The problem in Spain is big at the Guadarrama Mountains and is all over Latin America, although the situation of the Amazon is very concerning in countries like Venezuela, Ecuador or Peru.)

  • Interviewer: ¿Y dónde vemos escasez de agua? (And where do we see water scarcity?)

  • Dr. Casales: Más recientemente, en Bolivia, donde la sequía ha provocado la muerte de muchos animales en los Andes y la desesperación de la gente. (More recently, in Bolivia, where a drought has caused the death of many animals up in the Andes and the desperation of the population.)

Translation: The opening of roads in the Amazon forest destroys the environmental equilibrium.

Now, let's continue with our vocabulary on environmental issues.

  • la extinción de las especies (pronounced: lah ehks-teen-see-OHN deh lahs ehs-PEH-see-ehs): species extinction
  • el incremento de la población (pronounced: ehl een-kreh-MEHN-toh deh lah poh-blah-see-OHN): population rise
  • el incremento del efecto invernadero (pronounced: ehl een-kreh-MEHN-toh dehl eh-FEHK-toh een-vehr-nah-DEH-roh): rise in greenhouse gases
  • el mal manejo de los desechos (pronounced: ehl mahl mah-NEH-hoh deh lohs deh-SEH-chohs): inappropriate waste disposal
  • la falta de conciencia (pronounced: lah FAHL-tah deh kohn-see-EHN-seeah): lack of awareness

Let's ask a couple of questions about these issues.

  • Interviewer: ¿Qué nos puede decir sobre la extinción de las especies? (What can you tell us about the species extinction?)

  • Dr. Casales: También es un problema. Como ejemplos puedo decir que el águila imperial española está en peligro de extinci. También, el cóndor en los Andes. (It is also a problem. As examples, I can say the Spaniard Imperial Eagle is at risk of extinction. Also, the condor in the Andes.)

Translation: It is estimated that currently there are only 300 pairs of the species Imperial Eagle in Spain.


In addition to the vocabulary that refers to specific environmental issues, we need to learn some key words about the solutions.

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