olive trees in crisis

🙏🏼 aloha!

(commonly used by tourists and locals alike as a way of saying “hello” or “goodbye”, but it also means “love”, “respect”, “compassion”, etc. it’s a word that holds high significance in Hawaiian culture.)

today we are going to review past actions. many students ask us to explain the use of past simple and the present perfect.

in order to help you figure this out, remember the speaker chooses to emphasize if the action or time has finished, or if she/he wants to emphasize that there is still a connection, a result, a consequence. does the past have an impact on the present? is it connected to the present?

⚠️ today, the material is longer. buuut we split it into 5 parts. read 1 or all. your choice. However, we would love to have your opinion. Is it toooooo long?

part 1: olive trees in crisis

the olive trees in puglia, southern italy, were infected with xylella fastidiosa, a type of bacterium that clogs the xylem of trees and slowly chokes them to death. the disease is spread by spittlebugs, a common insect, which transmit the disease when they feed on healthy plants after biting an infected plant. once infected, the plant slowly dries up, and there are no known cures for this disease. the bacterium reached puglia’s olive trees about 10 years ago and infected and killed 21 million trees, many of which were centuries old.

how did it reach puglia? 

the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa first arrived in Italy in 2008 on a coffee plant and then adapted to infect olive trees in the southern region puglia, where it killed millions of plants. the pathogen causes olive quick decline syndrome (OQDS), making leaves, twigs and branches dry out and scorch, quickly killing the plant. the study, conducted by scientists in italy, france and the u.s.a., confirmed that the italian pathogen could have come from central america and found some genetic traits that could have helped the bacteria thrive. the disease still causes trouble in puglia, even though the epidemic has been slowing down compared to levels between 2015 and 2018.

for more on this take a look in this link.

vocab: take a look in the vocab for part 1.

part 2: conspiracy theories abound

the xylella crisis, which is killing millions of olive trees in Italy, can provide lessons for the COVID-19 pandemic. in 2014, the european commission decided to eradicate all infected trees and those surrounding them, but some local farmers and campaigners did not believe the bacteria was to blame. conspiracy theories arose, leading to mistrust of scientists and the rise of anti-science sentiment. the situation highlights the importance of clear, effective communication from authorities to counteract false information during a crisis.

note: false vs fake.  false means incorrect.  the second, fake means not real. the difference is subtle, for example, a false answer; fake watch.  most of the time they can be used interchangeably, but not always.  we do not say a fake answer, or an incorrect watch.  that is, the watch is not the real thing/brand.  the watch is not incorrect.

for more on this take a look in this link.

vocab: take a look in the vocab for part 2.

part 3: what do dogs have to do with olive trees in crisis?

well, the semi-good news is that dogs can detect the infected trees and therefore prevent the spread of the infection to healthy trees. 

a highly-trained team of super-sniffer dogs could save Italy’s olive trees from the deadly and hard-to-detect xylella fastidiosa bacteria that has been ravaging the southern part of the country’s olive fields for a decade. the bacterium clogs the vessels carrying water from the roots to the leaves, and once infected, the tree slowly dies. with 60 million olive trees, puglia used to produce up to 50% of Italy’s olive oil, but in just a few years, 21 million trees have been infected and killed, many of which were several centuries old.

the dogs are contributing to the solution by being trained to detect the presence of xylella fastidiosa in infected olive trees. these specially trained dogs can quickly and accurately identify trees that are infected with the bacterium, even before any visible symptoms are apparent. this allows for early detection and early action , which can help to prevent the spread of the disease to healthy trees. by using dogs to detect xylella fastidiosa, farmers in puglia are able to focus their efforts on removing infected trees and implementing control measures to contain the spread of the disease, which can help to save their olive groves and livelihoods.

for more on this take a look in this link.

vocab: take a look in the vocab for part 3.

part 4: what has been done to prevent the spread of xylella fastidiosa in puglia?

overall, the prevention of xylella fastidiosa’s spread requires a combination of measures, including the removal of infected plants, quarantine and containment, surveillance, vector control, and research.

  • removal of infected plants: infected trees are removed and destroyed. quarantine and  containment zones: the movement of plants and plant material within and outside the infected areas is restricted.
  • surveillance: to monitor the disease’s spread and detect new infections. 
  • research: extensive research including the development of resistant plant varieties and effective treatments.

vocab: take a look in the vocab for part 4.

part 5 (last, finally): why should olive trees in puglia be protected?

the olive trees in puglia, italy, are an important cultural, ecological, and economic resource. tere are some reasons why it is important to save them:

  • cultural heritage: olive trees have been an integral part of puglia’s cultural heritage for centuries, and they play a significant role in the region’s traditions, festivals, and cuisine.
  • ecological importance: vital component of puglia’s ecosystem. they provide habitat and food for many species of wildlife, including birds, insects, and mammals. they also help to prevent erosion, improve soil quality, and regulate water flow.
  • economic significance: puglia is the largest olive oil producing region in Italy. saving the olive trees ensures the continued production of high-quality olive oil and supports the livelihoods of thousands of people who depend on the industry.
  • climate change resilience: olive trees are well-adapted to the mediterranean climate and are able to withstand droughts and other extreme weather conditions. It help to mitigate the impacts of climate change and ensure the region’s.

vocab: take a look in the vocab for part 5.

language tips

actions in the past. when do we use the past and present perfect.
past simple and continuous:

  • actions that started and ended in the past.
    I cleaned my teeth.
  • actions that happened in a time that has ended.
    yesterday, last year, etc.
  • we are talking about a sequence of actions in the past.
    – I opened the door. the dog walked out. it ran in the garden and then it came indoors.
  • actions that were happening at a specific moment in the past. the moment has ended, but we want to emphasize the action was in progress. we use the progressive/continuous format: verb to be + the verb-ing.
    – at four o’clock yesterday, I was writing the report.
    – the tree was growing all year.
    – the economy was shrinking las year.

present perfect simple and continuous:

simple form

  • when an action in the past is still happening or true – permanent
    – I have lived in turkiya for three years. (I am still living in Turkiya. btw, the government of former Turkey has requested the UN that its official English name be changed to Turkiya.)
  • when we want to talk about how much of an action is completed.
    – I have finished half of the garden.
  • when we want to indicate how many times we have done an activity.
    we have repeated the song 10 times.
  • when we want to emphasize a result or consequence of a past action.
    – I have lost the keys. so I can’t open the door.

continuous form

we use the continuous form when we want to emphasize.

  • an activity.
    – you have been singing.
  • how long an action has been happening until now.
    – you have been working all day.
  • an action is still evolving, changing, progressing
    – the economy has been growing all year.
  • the situation started in the past, it is still happening, but it is temporary.
    – the refugees have been living in camps.


  1. what is xylella fastidiosa?
  2. how is xylella fastidiosa transmitted?
  3. how has the disease caused by xylella fastidiosa affected olive trees?
  4. how many trees have been infected and killed by the disease in puglia?
  5. how did xylella fastidiosa reach Italy?
  6. what lesson can be learned from the Xylella crisis in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic?
  7. why have some local farmers and campaigners not believed that xylella fastidiosa was to blame for the tree deaths?
  8. what is the importance of clear communication from authorities during a crisis?
  9. how have the dogs helped in the fight against xylella fastidiosa?
  10. what has been the benefit of using dogs to detect xylella fastidiosa in infected trees?
  11. how can early detection of Xylella fastidiosa help prevent the spread of the disease?
  12. what have been  some measures that can been taken to contain the spread of xylella fastidiosa?
  13. how has the xylella crisis affected olive oil production in puglia?
  14.  why is it important to save the olive trees in puglia?

*don’t be a stranger

*use this expression as a way to say goodbye and let your recipient know that you want to hear from them again soon. this is a colloquial expression, so avoid using it in formal or professional settings.

💫 special thanks to Andrea for his inspiration and insights.
💯 and Yuber for giving it a trial run!

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