A Quiz Celebrating Earth Day

Click here to print with ANSWERS.  (Photo: Eliot Porter)

1) According to its website, the society named for this man “has been exploring the seas, establishing protected areas for endangered species and advocating for the silent world…since 1973.”  The underwater pioneer’s 1956 film The Silent World, codirected with Louis Malle, earned the first of three Academy Awards that his films received.

2) This theory or paradigm holds that living organisms on Earth interact with non-living elements in a complex self-regulating system that maintains conditions for life on the planet.  James Lovelock originated the theory, naming it based on a suggestion from a friend, the writer William Golding.

3) One of the defining works of the environmental movement, this author’s Desert Solitaire was termed by a reviewer as “a voice crying in the wilderness, for the wilderness”.  His later The Monkey Wrench Gang served as inspiration for vandalism and other direct action by ardent environmentalists.

4) With an average elevation of only a few feet, this island nation is one of those most endangered by rising sea levels.  In 2014, the country’s president negotiated the purchase of 5,000 acres from neighboring Fiji, to be used in the event of a future migration.  The subject was the site of the bloody Battle of Tarawa during World War II.

5) This futurist and architect is best known for his geodesic dome.  Cited as “the first poet of technology”, he devoted his career to devising sustainable solutions in a broad array of sectors, typified by his 1969 book Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth.

6) To which country would you go to see the following species in the wild?  Each has been designated as “critically endangered” by the World Wildlife Fund.

a) Orangutan

b) Mountain gorilla

c) Saola (Asian unicorn)

d) Amur leopard

7) A lifelong resident of the Catskills, this literary naturalist (1837-1921) was among the most popular authors of his day, eventually publishing over twenty books.  He was a major inspiration for a budding environmental consciousness, often fostered on trips with prominent friends such as John Muir and Thomas Edison.  An annual medal bearing the subject’s name is one of the most prestigious awards for nature writing.

8) Among the murdered supporters of this cause are Chico Mendes, Sister Dorothy Stang, José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and Maria do Espírito Santo, along with dozens of others.

9) Ansel Adams and Edward Weston were friends with this poet, closely associated with the Central Coast of California and a sensibility emphasizing love of nature.  Weston took several pictures of the poet, including one that appeared on the cover of Time in 1932.  Following a photo shoot with the subject, Weston wrote that he “is more himself on grey days.  He belongs to stormy skies and heavy seas.”

10) Scientists Eunice Foote, John Tyndall and Svante Arrhenius each furthered the understanding of this process, by which changes in the Earth’s atmosphere contribute to the planet’s warming.

11) This marine biologist’s 1951 book The Sea Around Us earned the John Burroughs Medal and was made into a film that won the Academy Award for Best Documentary.  In her Burroughs acceptance speech, she stated, “the more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us the less taste we shall have for the destruction of our race.”  Her concern was amplified a decade later in a landmark book, one of the most influential in the history of science.

12) According to the National Research Council, if the entire global production of cereal grains was converted to this biofuel, leaving nothing for food, it would equate to roughly one-sixth of the world’s production of crude oil.  In the United States, the principal source of the subject product is corn.

13) John McPhee’s 1971 book, Encounters with the Archdruid, centers on this man, one of the most prominent environmentalists in American history.  He served as the first executive director of the Sierra Club, later founding Friends of the Earth and Earth Island Institute.  In an obituary of the man he termed “Earth’s best friend”, McPhee wrote that the subject “as much or more than anyone in the mid-century, expanded [ecology’s] reach and inherent power until it became the environmental movement.”

14) Whose 1927 photo Monolith, The Face of Half Dome launched his career as one of the most celebrated photographers of the twentieth century?  As he wrote, “The splendour of Yosemite burst upon us and it was glorious.”

15) Brazil’s Amazon constitutes by far the world’s largest rainforest.  Which four countries come next in terms of total area covered by rainforest?

16) This pioneer of conservation and wildlife management is most famous for his 1949 book A Sand County Almanac.  In the book’s foreword, he wrote, “Now we face the question whether a still higher ‘standard of living’ is worth its cost in things natural, wild and free.”

17) In what context would one generally discuss chlorosis, hardening off and tilth?

18) This author won the Guardian First Book Award for Mountains of the Mind, which he followed with several more vivid explorations of our natural heritage, including The Old Ways and Underland.  An important voice on climate change, he stated in a 2019 interview, “It’s difficult to get a sense of catastrophe happening immediately…There’s a deferral of the problem to an unspecified future, but actually it’s happening all around us now.”

19) The countries represented by this common acronym for the leading emerging markets comprise four of the world’s six largest emitters of greenhouse gases, accounting for over 40% of the global total.

20) This acclaimed poet, who has worked a Kentucky farm for more than forty years, is a leading proponent of sustainable agriculture.  As he opined in a 2018 interview, “an economy worthy of the name should begin with proper care of its sources in the natural world and in the local cultures of land use.”

21) The area encompassed by this US National Park has been described as a “river of grass flowing imperceptibly from the hinterland into the sea”.  The area, which is the most important breeding ground for wading birds in North America, has been on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger almost continuously since 1993.

22) Ed Ricketts was a pioneer of marine ecology and author of an important study of intertidal ecosystems, Between Pacific Tides (1939).  He was a close friend of this author, with whom he collaborated on the latter’s The Log from the Sea of Cortez and who used Ricketts as the model for the character Doc in several works, including Sweet Thursday.  Following Ricketts’ untimely death, the author wrote, ”His mind had no horizon.”

23) One of America’s foremost nature photographers, he created several large-format books published by the Sierra Club, including In Wildness is the Preservation of the World and The Place No One Knew.  The latter portrayed Glen Canyon, a remote region of spectacular beauty and geological interest, which was flooded to create Lake Powell.

24) Preservation of Yosemite and other wilderness areas owed much to this Scottish-born American naturalist, whose writings and lobbying were instrumental in the creation of the national parks system.  As he wrote, “in every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”


man, you might say, is nature

dreaming, but rock

And water and sky are constant – to feel

Greatly, and understand greatly, and express greatly, the


Beauty, is the sole business of poetry.


Robinson Jeffers, from “The Beauty of Things”