Sunday, October 28, 2012

Everglades National Park (Florida, USA)

This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS, in VOA Special English. I’m Steve Ember. And I’m Faith Lapidus.

This week, we tell about Everglades National Park in the American state of Florida.

When many people think of Florida, images of sandy coastlines or fun theme park rides come to mind. Yet about an hour south of Miami lies a natural wilderness different from anywhere else in the United States.

Everglades National Park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the country. The park is home to several rare and endangered species. It is also the third largest national park in the lower forty-eight states, after Death Valley and Yellowstone. Each year, more than one million people visit the Everglades.

In 1947, President Harry Truman spoke at the official opening of Everglades National Park. He said the goal of creating the park was to protect forever a wild area that could never be replaced.

The Everglades is considered one of the great biological wonders of the world. The expansive wetlands stretch across more than six hundred thousand hectares. It is a place where plants and animals from the Caribbean Sea share an ecosystem with native North American species.

Nine different environments exist within the Everglades. They include mangrove and cypress swamps, estuaries and coastal marshes.

In the 1940s, Marjory Stoneman Douglas wrote a book called, “The Everglades: River of Grass.” She described the area as, “the liquid heart of Florida.”

Unlike most other national parks, Everglades National Park was created to protect an ecosystem from damage. The Everglades is home to about fifteen species that federal officials say are threatened and endangered. They include the Florida panther, the American crocodile and the West Indian manatee.

In addition, more than three hundred fifty bird species and three hundred species of fresh and saltwater fish live within the park. The Everglades is also home to forty species of mammals and fifty reptile species.

Visitors to the Everglades will see many exotic plants. They include what is said to be the largest growth of mangrove trees in the western world. Gumbo-limbo trees, known for their peeling red skin, strangler figs and royal palms are also among the area’s plant life. The country’s largest living mahogany tree also lives in the Everglades.

Sawgrass grows in some areas of the park. Be careful – sawgrass is very sharp, with teeth just like a saw. It can grow up to four meters tall.

With about one and one-half meters of rainfall each year, plants and trees never stop growing in the Everglades. That is why it is hard to tell that a storm, Hurricane Andrew, caused severe damage to the area in 1992.

The dry, winter season is the favorite of most visitors, when insects like mosquitoes are less of a problem. The rainy season lasts from June to November. There are many ways to explore the Everglades. Visitors can see alligators while hiking the Anhinga Trail.

The Everglades is one of the only places on Earth where freshwater alligators and saltwater crocodiles live in the same area. Visitors using canoes or airboats are likely to see large groups of wading birds like the wood stork or the great blue heron. It is even possible to see flamingos in the Everglades.

Some visitors might enjoy riding bicycles through Shark Valley. Others may want to move slowly through shallow waters where they can see insects and wildlife up-close. Park guides also lead visitors on tram rides.

Experts say changes to the Everglades are threatening several different kinds of wildlife. They say the threats are a result of actions the United States government began more than fifty years ago, and settlers began even earlier.

The National Park Service says that early colonial settlers and land developers believed the Everglades had little value. The settlers had plans to remove water from the area. In the 1880s, developers began digging canals to reduce water levels.

At the time, they did not understand the complexity of the Everglades’ ecosystem. As a result, they were not prepared for all the work and caused environmental problems. The ecosystem, however, was able to survive.

Even larger efforts to drain the wetlands continued between 1905 and 1910. Farms were built on large pieces of land. This led to increased development, with more people moving to the Everglades and also more visitors.

More changes came in 1948. At that time, Congress approved the Central and South Florida Project. As part of the plan, the Army Corps of Engineers built roads, canals and water-control systems throughout South Florida.

The aim of the project was to provide water and flood protection for developed areas and agriculture. Workers built a huge system of waterways and pumping stations to control the overflow of Lake Okeechobee, north of the Everglades.

Today, fifty percent of South Florida’s early wetland areas no longer exist. Populations of wading birds have been reduced by ninety percent. Whole populations of animals are in danger of disappearing. The endangered creatures include the manatee, the Miami blackhead snake, the wood stork and the Florida panther.

In recent years, environmental experts have learned about the damage to the Everglades. They say the balance of nature there has been destroyed.

About ten years ago, Congress approved a plan to restore and improve the Everglades. Federal, state and other organizations are partners in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. The project is expected to cost about twelve billion five hundred million dollars.

Early in two thousand ten, work began on the Picayune Strand Restoration Project. A goal of the project is to re-establish natural water flow across more than twenty-two thousand hectares of land. Workers removed water from that area in the early 1960s. At the time, the goal was to develop the land of Picayune Strand for homes. However, the development harmed healthy wetlands.

Project organizers hope to re-create wetlands in Picayune Strand and nearby lands by redirecting the flow of water in that area. At the same time, they are seeking to re-establish natural water flow to the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife refuge.

Goals of the project are to make major additions to the size and improve wetland ecosystems in nearby lands. The area includes the Collier Seminole State Park and the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. If the goals are met, the project should help threatened and endangered animals.

For example, the population of one big cat has been falling in recent years. Panthers once existed in much greater numbers. But too much hunting, loss of panther homelands and vehicle strikes have reduced their population. Fewer than one hundred of the animals now live in Florida. Earlier this year, however, a mother panther and her two kittens were seen as they walked along a road.

Wildlife experts are working to increase the number of panthers and other animals at risk. At the same time, biologists are attempting to remove Burmese pythons. Officials believe there are as many as one hundred fifty thousand of these large snakes in the Everglades.

However, the snakes are a foreign species, native to Southeast Asia. Owners of pythons left their unwanted snakes in the Everglades years ago. Biologists say adult pythons are able to eat small deer and bobcats. When pythons are found in the Everglades, they are often killed. In two thousand eight, the National Park Service removed and destroyed three hundred eleven of the snakes.

Scientists are now experimenting with other ways to remove the snakes, including use of traps and offering payments to hunters.

The future of the Everglades is not clear. However, efforts to protect the area are continuing so people from all over the world may continue visiting this biological treasure.

This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written by Brianna Blake and Jerilyn Watson. Our producer was June Simms. I’m Faith Lapidus. And I’m Steve Ember. Read and listen to our programs at voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

"The Greatest Baby Doctor" from Voice of America.

I'm Faith Lapidus. And I'm Steve Ember with PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English. Today we tell about the world's most famous doctor for children, Benjamin Spock.

Benjamin Spock's first book caused a revolution in the way American children were raised. His book, "The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care," was published in nineteen forty-six. The book gave advice to parents of babies and young children. The first lines of the book are famous. Doctor Spock wrote: "Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do".

This message shocked many parents. For years, mothers had been told that they should reject their natural feelings about their babies. Before Doctor Spock's book appeared, the most popular guide to raising children was called "Psychological Care of Infant and Child." The book's writer, John B. Watson, urged extreme firmness in dealing with children. The book called for a strong structure of rules in families. It warned parents never to kiss, hug or physically comfort their children.

Doctor Spock's book was very different. He gave gentle advice to ease the fears of new parents. Doctor Spock said his work was an effort to help parents trust their own natural abilities in caring for their children.

Doctor Spock based much of his advice on the research and findings of the famous Austrian psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud.

Doctor Spock's book discusses the mental and emotional development of children. It urges parents to use that information to decide how to deal with their babies when they are crying, hungry, or tired.

For example, Doctor Spock dismissed the popular idea of exactly timed feedings for babies. Baby care experts had believed that babies must be fed at the same times every day or they would grow up to be demanding children.

Doctor Spock said babies should be fed when they are hungry. He argued that babies know better than anyone about when and how much they need to eat. He did not believe that feeding babies when they cry in hunger would make them more demanding. He also believed that showing love to babies by hugging and kissing them would make them happier and more secure.


"The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care" examined the emotional and physical growth of children. Doctor Spock said he did not want to just tell a parent what to do. He said he tried to explain what children generally are like at different times in their development so parents would know what to expect.

Doctor Spock's book did not receive much notice from the media when it was published in nineteen forty-six. Yet, seven hundred fifty thousand copies of the book were sold during the year after its release. Doctor Spock began receiving many letters of thanks from mothers around the country.

Doctor Spock considered his mother, Mildred Spock, to be the major influence on his personal and professional life. He said his ideas about how parents should act were first formed because of her. He reacted to the way in which his mother cared for him and his brother and sisters.

Doctor Spock described his mother as extremely controlling. He said she believed all human action was the result of a physical health issue or a moral one. She never considered her children's actions were based on emotional needs.

Doctor Spock later argued against this way of thinking. Yet, he praised his mother's trust of her own knowledge of her children. In his book, "Spock on Spock," he wrote about his mother's ability to correctly identify her children's sicknesses when the doctors were wrong.

Benjamin Spock was born in nineteen-oh-three. He was the first of six children. The Spock family lived in New Haven, Connecticut. His father was a successful lawyer. Benjamin was a quiet child. He attended Phillips Academy, a private school in Andover, Massachusetts. Later he attended Yale University in New Haven. He joined a sports team at Yale that competed in rowing boats. In nineteen twenty-four, he and his team members competed in rowing at the Olympic Games in Paris, France. They won the gold medal.

Benjamin Spock worked at a camp for disabled children for three summers during his years at Yale. He said the experience probably led to his decision to enter medical school. He began at Yale Medical School, but he completed his medical degree at Columbia University in New York City. He graduated as the best student in his class in nineteen twenty-nine. Benjamin Spock had married Jane Cheney during his second year in medical school. They later had two sons, Michael and John.

Doctor Spock began working as a pediatrician, treating babies and children in New York City in nineteen thirty-three. During the next ten years he tried to fit the theories about how children develop with what mothers told him about their children. In nineteen forty-three, a publisher asked him to write a book giving advice to parents. He finished the book by writing at night during his two years of service in the United States Navy.

Jane Spock helped her husband produce the first version of "Baby and Child Care." She typed the book from his notes and spoken words.

During the nineteen fifties, Doctor Spock became famous. He wrote several other books. He wrote articles for a number of magazines. He appeared on television programs. He taught at several universities. And he gave speeches around the country to talk to parents about their concerns.

During this time, he discovered things he wanted to change in the book. He wanted to make sure parents knew they should have control over their children and expect cooperation from them. So, in nineteen fifty-seven the second version of the book was published. He continued to make changes to "Baby and Child Care" throughout his life.

In the nineteen sixties, Benjamin Spock began to be active in politics. He supported John F. Kennedy in his campaign for president. He joined a group opposed to the development of nuclear weapons.

Doctor Spock also took part in demonstrations to protest the Vietnam War. In nineteen sixty-eight, he was found guilty of plotting to aid men who were refusing to join the American armed forces.

Doctor Spock appealed the ruling against him. Finally, it was cancelled. However, the legal battle cost Doctor Spock a lot of money. The events damaged public opinion of the once very trusted children's doctor. Fewer people bought his books. Some people said Doctor Spock's teachings were to blame for the way young people in the nineteen sixties and seventies rebelled against the rules of society. A leading American religious thinker of that time called Doctor Spock "the father of permissiveness."

In nineteen seventy-two, Doctor Spock decided to seek election as president of the United States. He was the candidate of the small "People's Party."

He spoke out on issues concerning working families, children and minorities. Doctor Spock received about seventy-five thousand votes in the election that Richard Nixon won.

Doctor Spock's marriage had been suffering for some time. For years, Jane Spock drank too much alcohol and suffered from depression. She reportedly felt her husband valued his professional and political interests more than he valued her. In nineteen seventy-five, Benjamin and Jane Spock ended their forty-eight-year marriage. One year later, Mary Morgan became his second wife.

Doctor Ben Spock
and Associate
More than fifty million copies of Doctor Spock's "Baby and Child Care" book have been sold since it was published. It has been translated into thirty-nine languages. The eighth edition was published in two thousand four. It includes the latest medical information about nutrition, physical disorders and behavior. It also deals with social issues such as working mothers, day care centers, single parents and gay and lesbian parenting.

Benjamin Spock died in nineteen ninety-eight at the age of ninety-four. Yet his advice continues to affect the lives of millions of children and their parents.

This program was written by Caty Weaver. It was produced by Lawan Davis. I'm Faith Lapidus. And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program in VOA Special English.


1.Dr. Benjamin Spock didn't believe that _____________________ .
a: mothers should trust their own knowledge
b: babies should be fed when they cry
c: babies would grow to be more demanding if their needs were satisfied
d: showing babies love would make them happier

2. The 2004 version of "Baby and Child Care" differs from earlier versions because it ________________________
a: encourages mothers to trust their instincts
b: encourages mothers to give love to their infants
c: additionally deals with social issues such as working mothers and day care centers
d: shocked mothers who were accustomed to an old way of thinking

3. In college, Benjamin Spock was _______________________ .
a: an accomplished athlete
b: a shy scholar
c: a ladies man
d: an average student

4. In "Psychological Care of Infant and Child", writer John B. Watson didn't recommend ______________________ .
a: timed feedings for babies
b: hugging or kissing infants
c: firmness and discipline
d: adherence to rules

5. Benjamin Spock's mother, Mildred Spock, was _____________________ .
a: the example of all Doctor Spock's ideas about baby care
b: like other mothers, didn't trust her own knowledge of infants
c: was more correct diagnosing child illnesses than doctors
d: wasn't very controlling

6. Benjamin Spock's experience _________________ eventually led to his decision to enter medical school.
a: at a camp for disabled children
b: in the U.S. Navy
c: as a writer of books about babies
d: in his undergraduate career at Yale University

7. In 1972, Doctor Spock became ________________________ .
a: a candidate for president of the United States
b: a short story writer
c: film maker
d: an alcoholic

8. Doctor Spock protested the Vietnam War and helped men who refused to join the American armed forces because ______________________ .
a: he had been a pacifist from an early age
b: he felt that the war cost too much money
c: he wanted to increase his fame in order to sell more books
d: his work with babies made him realize how precious human life is

9. In the book "Spock on Spock", Benjamin Spock __________________ .
a: updated his earlier books with the most recent medical advances
b: wrote about his mother and his personal life
c: wrote about methods for treating disabled children
d: wrote about his political philosophy

10. Before Dr. Spock's book became known after 1946, most mothers _____________.
a: were instructed to be more affectionate towards their babies
b: were encouraged to respond to babies when they cried
c: were told that they must get up during the night to attend to the needs of their infants
d: were told they should reject their natural feelings about their babies

11. Doctor Spock's critics have accused him of _____________.
a: creating rules that are too strict for parents to follow
b: advocating principles that led to the kind of permissive behavior seen in the 1960s
c: creating unreal expectations for the growth of children
d: indirectly causing the Vietnam War

Doctor Spock speaks with Jacqueline Kennedy from Youtube:

Sunday, March 4, 2012

"Lonesome George Lives in The Galapagos Islands"

I’m Faith Lapidus. And I’m Steve Ember with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

Today, we tell about the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean and the unusual creatures that live there.


Love is not easy to find when you are the last male of your kind. At least that is how it seems for the Galapagos Islands tortoise that scientists call Lonesome George. He is just one of the many animals and plants that live on the famous group of Pacific Ocean islands.

The islands were named for the large land turtles that live on them. At one time, the islands were home to about 15 different kinds of land turtles. The largest island, Isabela, has five different kinds of tortoises. But, Lonesome George is not one of them. He comes from a smaller island called Pinta.

Scientists found George in 1971. Humans and non-native animals had caused much damage to the environment on his island. Some animals and plants had disappeared. Lonesome George was the only tortoise found on Pinta.

Scientists took the turtle to the Charles Darwin Research Center on Santa Cruz Island. They wanted to help him find a female tortoise for mating to produce baby tortoises. The scientists had been successful in similar efforts for thousands of other tortoises

The researchers placed George in the same living area as females from the nearby island of Isabela. Scientists thought George would be more closely related to the females from Isabela than to other Galapagos tortoises. However, George has not been able to mate successfully with the female tortoises. No eggs have been produced. Scientists say this might be because of the genetic differences between George and the tortoises on Isabela Island.

Scientist Edward Lewis has studied the genetic material of tortoises around the world. But he has not found one with DNA like George’s. Scientists are also investigating George’s diet to make sure a lack of nutrients is not causing his failure to reproduce. He eats papaya fruit, grass and a special balanced diet. He weighs 88 kilograms.

Scientists also say there is a possibility that other tortoises might exist on George’s native island of Pinta. Scientists did not discover any other young tortoises when they removed George from the island more than 30 years ago. However, young tortoises are very small and like to hide.

Any other tortoises on the island would now be adults and might be easier to find. However, one major problem is that Pinta is thickly covered with plants. Scientists are planning to search the island for a possible mate for Lonesome George. If no babies are produced, the Pinta Island tortoises will disappear when George dies. He is between 70 and 80 years old. But some tortoises live longer than 150 years.


Mystery always has been part of the Galapagos. In 1535, a ship carrying the Roman Catholic Bishop of Panama came upon the Galapagos accidentally. Tomas de Berlanga named the Galapagos group the Enchanted Isles. He was surprised to see land turtles that weighed more than 200 kilograms and were more a meter long. He said they were so large each could carry a man on its back. Bishop Berlanga also noted the unusual soil of the islands. He suggested that one island was so stony it seemed like stones had rained from the sky.

The British nature scientist Charles Darwin is mainly responsible for the fame of the Galapagos Islands. He visited the islands in 1835. He collected plants and animals from several islands. After many years of research, he wrote the book "The Origin of Species." He developed the theory of evolution that life on Earth developed through the process of natural selection. The book changed the way people think about how living things developed and became different over time. Darwin said the Galapagos brought people near "to that great fact -- that mystery of mysteries -- the first appearance of new beings on earth".


More than 125 landmasses make up the Galapagos. Only 19 are large enough to be considered islands. The Galapagos are a province of Ecuador. The island group lies across the equator about 1,000 kilometers west of the coast of South America.

Scientists have been wondering for years about the position of the Galapagos in the Pacific Ocean. Scientists used to think that the islands were connected to the South American mainland and floated out to sea slowly

Today, most scientists think the islands were always where they are now. But they think the islands once were a single landmass under water. Volcanic activity broke the large island into pieces that came to the surface of the sea over time.

But scientists wonder how animals arrived on Galapagos if the islands were always so far from the mainland. Scientists think most Galapagos plants and animals floated to the islands. When rivers flood in South America, small pieces of land flow into the ocean. These rafts can hold trees and bushes. The rafts also can hold small mammals and reptiles. The adult Galapagos tortoise clearly is too big for a trip hundreds of kilometers across the ocean. But, turtle eggs or baby turtles would be small enough to float to the islands.

The islands are home to many unusual birds, reptiles and small mammals. Some of the animals live nowhere else on Earth. The tortoise is the most famous Galapagos reptile. But the marine iguana is also unusual. It is the only iguana in the world that goes into the ocean. The marine iguana eats seaweed. It can dive at least 15 meters below the ocean surface. And it can stay down there for more than 30 minutes.

Several strange birds also live on the Galapagos. One of them is the only penguin that lives on the equator. Another is the frigate bird. It has loose skin on its throat that it can blow up into a huge red balloon-like structure. It does this to attract females who make observation flights over large groups of males.

The Galapagos also are noted for a bird that likes water better than land or air. The cormorant is able to fly in all the other places it lives around the world. But the Galapagos cormorant has extremely short wings. They cannot support flight. But they work well for swimming.

The Galapagos Islands also have a large collection of small birds called Darwin’s finches. Charles Darwin studied the finches carefully when he visited the Galapagos in 1835. He separated the birds by the shapes of their beaks. Finches that lived in different places and ate different foods had different shaped beaks.


Scientists continue to study life on the Galapagos Islands. They have also studied the deepest parts of the ocean that surrounds the islands. A few years ago, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. sent marine biologist Carole Baldwin to the Galapagos. Ms. Baldwin traveled 900 meters down to the bottom of the ocean near the islands. She did so in a clear plastic bubble watercraft called the Johnson Sea-Link Two.

The Sea-Link had powerful lights to battle the extreme darkness of the deep. The watercraft also had several long robotic arms. They collected sealife. The trips to the bottom of the sea resulted in the discovery of more than ten new kinds of sea life. Some of the discoveries were captured on film. A movie called "Galapagos: The Enchanted Voyage " was made in 1999.

The movie was filmed using the Imax Three-D technique. It was shown on a huge screen at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington for several years. Later, the movie was released on DVD for people to buy and watch in their own homes. The movie provides an experience similar to a 40-minute visit to the interesting and unusual Galapagos Islands.


This program was written by Caty Weaver. It was produced by Mario Ritter. I’m Steve Ember.

And I’m Faith Lapidus. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.