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Today we are paying increasing attention to the importance of nature conservation. Thankfully, owing to the far-sighted pioneers who headed the National Parks movement, there are now a number of reserves throughout the world where nature is allowed to reign supreme, and wild life is preserved to be enjoyed by all. But over large tracts of the world's surface the delicate balance between man and nature is still being destroyed by industrialization, over-population and the resulting pollution.

Conservation efforts have existed for hundreds of years. Their aim was always to prevent or control the effects of man's heavy exploitation of a particular natural resource. This normally took the form of excessive hunting in an area, which moved some authorities to use their power to counteract the decimation of animal populations. Sometimes the authority was religious and, to satisfy the gods, a sanctuary was often proclaimed round a holy place, where great numbers of different animals could feel secure enough to congregate and multiply. But the motivation behind early conservation measures was generally more materialistic. Throughout history, royal courts in many countries have enjoyed hunting -- a traditional exercise of skill and bravery -- as the favorite and exclusive diversion of the nobility. If the hunting was not successful, a "hunting domain" was commonly proclaimed where, for the peasant, hunting became "poaching" and was a capital offence.

However, it was not until 1872 in the state of Wyoming, that the first National Park was created as "a public park and pleasuring ground. for the benefit and enjoyment of the people". This was the famous Yellowstone National Park, whose breath taking volcanic rocks and gorges still afforded the same magnificent spectacle as in neolithic times, untouched by the hand of man. Its creators wanted to conserve the natural environment for the purposes of scientific research and for the enjoyment of visitors. But why was it in America and not in Europe, then culturally more advanced, that the idea of National Parks was born?

In Europe, the industrial and agricultural revolutions had occurred gradually. Factories were localized around available energy resources, and agriculture had developed steadily in harmony with the countryside. In the United States, technological advance was uniquely different. It was in only. a few decades that pioneers of exceptional determination and dynamism invaded immense open spaces whose aboriginal inhabitants had until then lived in harmony with the environment. The American settlers' penetration was technically more advanced assault than that which had been made on the European wilderness. The railroads opened up vast new areas for human habitation which quickly led to large scale deforestation, exploitation of resources and the springing up of factories and towns overnight.

For a time, this expansion was threatened by the desperate resistance of Indian tribes to the waves of colonizers, so the tragic plan arose to push them further west by starvation. The millions of bison which roamed the plains and were their principal food source were systematically slaughtered. Scores of sharpshooters, led by men like the legendary Buffalo Bill, rode the roofs of railway carriages, massacring entire herds of bison on sight. Such extermination of wild life dramatically alerted American public opinion to the dangers inherent in the rapid and successful development of the continent. It was further influenced by George Marsh's book Man and Nature (1864) describing the problems of the environment, and by a report written by Frederick Olmsted, Superintendent of New York City's Central Park, in which he warned that without government interference all places "favorable to recreation of mind and body" would become private property, "closed to the great body of the people".

At the end of the nineteenth century, although European countries were more densely populated than the USA, land encroachment and defacement was a less urgent problem than the social and physical consequences of the rapid growth of cities. In any case, individual appropriation of land over many centuries had left few vast spaces available to be taken over "for the benefit and enjoyment of the people". It was in their vast colonial territories, where there were no such problems and where they found themselves beginning to repeat the American experience, that countries like Britain, France and Belgium first followed the American example by establishing National parks in Africa, Asia and Australia. But it was not long before such Parks -- necessarily often smaller -- were also established in Europe, until there are today around 1500 all over the world.

The great success of the movement has, paradoxically, led to its greatest problem as the aims of the original founders are increasingly in conflict with each other. The great numbers of visitors threaten the very character of the Parks, and are often incompatible with the needs of scientific research. This problem is aggravated by greater affluence, increased interest in wild life stimulated by TV and "green" pressure groups, and the ever expanding opportunities of relatively cheap travel. Solutions must be found -- for example, by creating "green areas" where the strict principles of the movement are modified to allow for large scale tourism and the pressure is thereby taken off the true National Parks. With constant care and vigilance, the Parks will continue to play a leading role in the preservation of our natural heritage.

  1.   A National Park is a place "where nature is allowed to reign supreme". Explain briefly what this means.
      From paragraph 2 :
  2. (a) What natural resource has traditionally been under threat ?
    (b) What were the two motives that lay behind the attempts to preserve this natural resource ?
    (c) How did the nobility make sure their "diversion" remained "exclusive" to them ?
  3.   Explain the meaning of the following words as they are used in the passage.
      afforded;   dynamism;   systematically;   alerted;   aggravate
  4.   Use each of the following words as it is used in the passage in a sentence of your own which clearly illustrates this meaning. Your sentences should not deal with the subject-matter of the passage.
      excessive;   harmony;   stimulated;   vigilance
  5.   The men who headed the National Parks movement are described as "far-sighted pioneers".
      -- What does this phrase tell you about them ?
      -- What was happening that made their task all the more urgent ?
      -- What were their aims ?
      -- How and why did these aims eventually prove incompatible ?
      Write your answers to these questions in a continuous paragraph. Use your own words as far as possible, You will need to look again at paragraphs 1,3 and 7 in order to select the appropriate material for your answer.
  6..   Why was the first National park founded in America and not elsewhere ? Use the material from paragraphs 4,5 and 6. Write about 150 words.
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  1.   Nature maintains its balance without man's interference.
  2. (a) Game animals have been traditionally under threat.
    (b) Religious motive to preserve the sanctity of a particular area was one The other was materialistic.
    (c) The nobility carved out exclusive hunting areas, and peasant poachers were punished by death.

afforded -- offered

dynamism -- driving force

systematically -- methodically

alerted -- warned

aggravated -- made worse

  4.   Excessive drinking can be harmful to health.
      In a plural society, a wrong language policy can destroy racial harmony.
      The picture that prefaced the passage stimulated the thinking of the students.
      Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.
  5.   Those who initiated the movement for nature preservation were able to visualize future needs. Their task was made all the more urgent by man's upsetting the balance of nature by industrialization and overpopulation, and the resultant pollution. Their aims were to promote scientific research and provide opportunities to man to enjoy the  pristine beauty of nature. But these two aims became incompatible when such preserved areas attracted tourists who thronged them owing to TV, 'green' pressure groups and cheap travel. Tourism thus interfered with the character of these areas, thereby hampering research.
  6.   National parks were first founded in America because the process of industrialization was rapid owing to advanced technology and the aggressive policy of the pioneer entrepreneurs who opened up vast areas. America penetration as technically more advanced than that of Europe where industrial and agricultural revolutions were gradual and factories established near energy sources, and agricultural did not encroach upon the countryside. Further, in America, railroads attracted settlers who denuded forests, exploited their wealth and built factories and towns. There the Indian resistance to opening up areas was removed by killing bison -- the staple food of Indians. In Europe, the physical problems created by the growth of cities were graver than the problems of deforestation. There were still untouched areas in Europe, and Europeans had their colonies to experiment with national parks. Soon after, later when compared to America, national parks were established in Europe. ( 147 words )

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Comprehension 1


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