Monday, May 23, 2011

"The Environmental Film Festival" from VOA.

I'm Faith Lapidus. And I'm Bob Doughty with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. The Environmental Film Festival in Washington, D.C., has been bringing movies to America's capital for seventeen years. This year, the twelve-day festival showed more than one hundred and thirty movies from thirty-four countries.

The movies were shown in fifty-two museums, embassies, and other places around the city this month. Many movies were about the state of the world's oceans and sea life. The aim of the festival is to educate people about environmental issues affecting our planet.


MOVIE: "After feeding the world for hundreds of years, we showed our gratitude by nearly wiping cod off the face of the earth. Today, the species is on the verge of extinction. And for the fisherman of Aveiro, the consequences have been devastating."

That was from the movie "The State of the Planet's Oceans" made by Hal and Marilyn Weiner. Its first public showing took place during the film festival at the National Museum of Natural History. The movie tells about the effects of overfishing on local economies and on the health of the oceans. The movie also shows how climate change is threatening this ecosystem. In a striking closing scene, the ocean expert Sylvia Earle talks about the importance of protecting the beautiful world that lives under the sea.

We asked audience member James Edwards how watching a movie about the environment can affect people.

JAMES EDWARDS: "I think a film like this can make a difference by raising people's awareness of not only the problems that are out there, because a lot of films are gloom and doom, but solutions that are out there. What are other people doing, what can you do?"

Mr. Edwards is an independent filmmaker in Washington, so he is very interested in the work that other people are doing. And, he says the subject of oceans interests him especially because he has been scuba diving since he was a child.

The Museum of Natural History showed many other movies about the ocean. These included "Fisheye Fantasea" which explores how fish see in the ocean. "Cracking the Ocean Code" is about the work of scientist J. Craig Venter. In the movie he travels around the world documenting the genetic information of small sea creatures.

At the Library of Congress, festival visitors could watch "The Silent World" directed by Jacques Cousteau and Louis Malle. When this movie came out in nineteen fifty-six, it was the first to show scuba diving exploration to the world. The movie takes place during a trip across the Mediterranean, Red Sea and Indian Ocean.


The Environmental Film Festival in Washington was started by Flo Stone. We asked her what gave her the idea to begin this event.

FLO STONE: "I founded the festival in nineteen ninety-three. I'd worked on other film festivals, one on cultural diversity at the Natural History Museum in New York City. But in Washington, I thought it would be wonderful to do a festival on the environment very broadly, cooperating with many museums, universities, libraries, environmental organizations and even embassies from around the world."

Ms. Stone says the National Museum of Natural History asked if this year's festival could pay special attention to the subject of oceans.

FLO STONE: "What is happening in the ocean films, of course, is the technology is so phenomenal. You can film the deepest parts of the ocean. You can track a shark that swims from Australia all the way to southern Africa and back. So, the ocean theme has been extremely popular and exciting."

Not all movies at the festival were about oceans. One movie shown at the National Building Museum is called "Designing a Great Neighborhood: Behind the Scenes at Holiday." It tells about building a community housing project in Boulder, Colorado. The future owners of the houses work together with different building designers to create environmentally safe houses that do not pollute.

MOVIE: "When solar panels supply both hot water and space heating, the goal of zero emissions begins to look achievable."

The neighbors consider choices including solar energy, clean water and plantings.

The movie gives an interesting lesson in how city communities can come together to build healthy and safe housing that is not costly.

Several movies at the festival examined trash in different parts of the world. "Cartoneros" was shown at the Embassy of Argentina.

Its director, Ernesto Livon-Grosman, was there to introduce his film. The movie is about trash pickers who collect paper in the streets of Buenos Aires. Then they sell the paper to sorting centers who prepare trash for recycling.

The movie shows many people criticizing the work of the cartoneros. But in a country that was suffering a major recession, this kind of work was a good way for unemployed people to make money. And, the cartoneros provide a service to the city that is environmentally helpful.

The documentary "Recycled Life" tells about people living in the garbage collection area in Guatemala City. The movie tells about the many families who live and work there.

In "Marina of the Zabbaleen" director Engi Wassef explores a group of Christian garbage collectors in Cairo called the Zabbaleen. The film is presented through the eyes of a seven year old girl named Marina. The movie is about garbage and recycling but also about family, culture, and spirituality.

The Canadian movie "Addicted to Plastic" is about plastic pollution. It was filmed over three years in twelve countries. The film explores ways to reduce the harmful effects of plastic waste. And it looks at new developments such as plastic made from plants.


Several of the festival's events honored the German filmmaker Werner Herzog. The natural environment plays an important role in his documentaries and other movies. For example, you could see his documentary "Encounters at the End of the World" which came out in two thousand seven.


WERNER HERZOG: "These images taken under the ice of the Ross Sea in Antarctica were the reason I wanted to go to this continent. The pictures were taken by a friend of mine, one of these expert divers."

In this movie, Herzog meets the many workers and researchers who live at McMurdo station in Antarctica. He learns about different projects that the scientists are working on.

Werner Herzog's movie "Grizzly Man" tells about the bear expert Timothy Treadwell who lived with and studied bears in the state of Alaska.

"Fitzcarraldo" is a Herzog film that was released in nineteen eighty-two. It tells the story of Carlos Fitzcarraldo, a rubber producer in Peru.

This character fights against the forces of nature to try to realize his dream of building a performance center in Iquitos, Peru.


Several of the movies at the Environmental Film Festival dealt with food and agriculture. The Swedish film "Cows Are Nice" looks at cow farmers trying to make a living in the milk industry.

In the Brazilian movie "Mr. Bene Goes to Italy", a manioc flour producer travels from Brazil to Italy. There, he meets small farmers from around the world who are interested in the "slow food" movement.

"Return of the Honeybee" was shown at the Carnegie Institute for Science. It explores the political and economic effects caused by the disappearance of honeybees. The film shows the important role these bees play in the world's food chain.

The movie "Nora!" examines the career of restaurant owner and cook Nora Pouillon. Her restaurant in Washington, D.C. had the first officially organic kitchen in the United States. She has become an important leader in the organic and local food movements.


Flo Stone says that this year's festival was so popular they had to turn crowds away because there was no room for all the people who wanted to see the movies. Here she explains part of why these films are so popular.

FLO STONE: "I feel that film takes you to places. It introduces you to people all over the world. You get to hear their voices. It inspires you. And the variety of the films is what is so exciting."

The Environmental Film Festival in Washington plays an important role in helping increase understanding about a subject that is important for people all over the world.

This program was written and produced by Dana Demange. I'm Bob Doughty. And I'm Faith Lapidus. You can download podcasts from our Web site, Join us again next week for Explorations in VOA Special English.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"Mosquito Bite?? Don't Scratch it!!"

This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I'm Shirley Griffith. And I'm Steve Ember. Today, we tell about diseases spread by mosquitoes -- the most widely hated insects in the world.


There are more than two thousand different kinds of mosquitoes. Female mosquitoes bite people to drink their blood. Male mosquitoes do not drink blood. They drink fluids from plants. The female mosquito uses its thin sucking tube to break the skin, find blood and inject the victim with a substance that keeps blood flowing.

The female mosquito drinks the blood and uses it to produce as many as two hundred fifty eggs. The insect leaves the eggs in any standing water.

The eggs produce worm-like creatures called larvae in two days to a few months. However, some eggs can stay in water for years until conditions are right for development. The larvae feed on organisms in the water. After four to ten days, they change again, into creatures called pupas. The pupas rise to the surface of the water. Adult mosquitoes pull themselves out of the pupas and fly away.


The World Health Organization says mosquitoes carry organisms that cause disease and death for millions of people throughout the world. The most important disease spread by mosquitoes is malaria. The W.H.O. says two hundred forty-seven million people became infected with malaria in two thousand six. Malaria caused almost one million deaths, mostly among children in Africa. The disease is found in more than one hundred countries in Africa, Asia, the western Pacific Ocean, the Middle East and Central and South America.

Malaria parasites enter a person's blood through a mosquito bite. These organisms travel to the liver. They grow and divide there. After a week or two, the parasites invade red blood cells and reproduce thousands of times. They cause the person's body temperature to rise. They also may destroy major organs. People with malaria may suffer kidney failure or loss of red blood cells.

Some medicines are generally effective in preventing and treating malaria. They are designed to prevent the parasites from developing in the body. People die from malaria because they are not treated for the disease or the treatment is delayed.

The World Health Organization says mosquito control efforts are improving in many areas. But it warns that mosquitoes are becoming increasingly resistant to pesticides, the products used to kill insects.

This month, the W.H.O. joined with other groups to announce a new effort against malaria. The goal is to reduce use of the pesticide known as DDT. The United States banned most uses of DDT in nineteen seventy-two.

The W.H.O. announced ten projects to test non-chemical methods for fighting mosquitoes. These include trees that repel mosquitoes and fish that eat the larvae. However, officials say any reduction in the use of pesticides must make sure that disease control efforts are not weakened.


Mosquitoes also carry dengue fever. The insects can survive in new and different environments. They can spread diseases to new areas. For example, experts say only nine countries had dengue fever before nineteen seventy. Since then, the disease has spread to more than one hundred countries.

The World Health Organization says about fifty million people suffer from dengue fever each year. There is no cure. Children may develop a kind of the disease that is not serious. They may have a high body temperature and some areas of skin may turn red.

Older adults suffer from dengue fever much more. They may develop reddish skin and lose their sense of taste. They also may have pain in the head or behind their eyes. And they may experience pain in joints such as the elbow or knee. This kind of joint pain is the reason why dengue fever is sometimes known as breakbone fever.

The most severe kind of the disease is called dengue hemorrhagic fever. People who have this disease bleed from the nose or other openings in the body. Dengue hemorrhagic fever kills about five percent of all people it infects. The only treatment involves controlling the bleeding and replacing lost body fluids.

Yellow fever is another disease carried by mosquitoes. There are no effective drugs against yellow fever. Doctors can only hope that a person's defense system is strong enough to fight the disease. Yellow fever is found mainly in Africa, the northern part of South America and the islands of the Caribbean Sea. The World Health Organization says there are an estimated two hundred thousand cases of the disease and thirty thousand deaths each year.

A virus causes yellow fever. A few days after a mosquito bite, the victim experiences high body temperature and pain in the head or muscles. Victims also may expel food they ate. Most patients improve after three to four days.

However, fifteen percent of patients develop a more serious condition. High body temperatures return and the body turns yellow in color. The victim bleeds from the nose, mouth, eyes or stomach. Half the people with this condition die within ten to fourteen days.

A vaccine can prevent yellow fever. Experts say the vaccine is safe and very effective. The protection continues for at least ten years and possibly for life.


Mosquitoes also carry lymphatic filariasis, also known as elephantiasis. The disease has affected more than one hundred twenty million people. One-third of those infected live in India. Another third are in Africa. The others live in South Asia or islands in the Pacific Ocean.

Mosquito bites spread the worms that cause elephantiasis. People usually begin to develop the disease as children. Many children never experience signs of the disease. But it may cause hidden damage to the body's lymphatic system and kidneys.

The worst signs of elephantiasis appear in adults. The signs are more common in men than in women. These include damage to the arms, legs and reproductive organs. Two drugs are effective in treating the disease.

Another disease carried by mosquitoes is encephalitis. It causes an infection or swelling of the brain. Many different viruses cause different kinds of the disease. One virus lives naturally in birds and horses. Mosquitoes spread it to people. Mosquitoes in several Asian countries spread a kind of encephalitis known as Japanese encephalitis. A vaccine can prevent this sickness.

Other kinds of encephalitis include West Nile, Saint Louis and Eastern Equine. Most healthy people infected with the virus show no signs. Or they become sick for only a day or two. But those with weak natural defenses may develop a severe infection. They may suffer from high body temperature, head pain, shaking and even death.


Experts have learned many things about mosquitoes. For example, the insects can smell carbon dioxide in the breath of a person or animal from as far away as sixty meters. Mosquitoes often like the blood of animals better than the blood of people.

The insects also like dark colors. They do not bite women who are bleeding during their fertility period. But they do bite pregnant women. Many kinds of mosquitoes are most active in the early morning and early evening. They eat mostly at night.

Experts say the best way to prevent the diseases carried by mosquitoes is not to be bitten by one. There are several ways to prevent mosquito bites. Do not keep standing water anywhere near your home.

Remove all containers that could provide a place for mosquitoes to live. Stay in an enclosed area when mosquitoes are most active. Wear clothes that cover most of the body.

Other ways to prevent mosquito bites are to put anti-insect products on the skin, clothing and sleeping areas. Also, place nets treated with insect poison on windows and over the bed at night.


This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written by Nancy Steinbach. Brianna Blake was our producer. I'm Steve Ember. And I'm Shirley Griffith. Join us again next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

"Mount Saint Helens" from VOA.

This VOA article was broadcast in 2004.

This is Faith Lapidus. And this is Steve Ember with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

On May 18, 1980, a volcano exploded in the northwestern state of Washington. It killed 57 people and destroyed huge areas of forest. Recently, that volcano has become active again. Today, we tell about the famous Mount Saint Helens volcano.The Native American Indians in the state of Washington still call Mount Saint Helens by its Indian name -- Loowit. It means "Lady of Fire." In the past two weeks, this famous "Lady of Fire" has been waking up after 24 years of sleep.

The last major explosion of Mount Saint Helens took place in 1980. The volcano expelled fire, rock and volcanic gas with a force of 480 kilometers an hour. That explosion was 350 times more powerful than the explosions of the first nuclear bombs.

Recent earthquakes near Mount Saint Helens were a sure sign that something was happening deep under the ground. Scientists also knew there is a huge area of melted rock deep underneath the mountain. This liquid rock creates pressure. The pressure can cause more earthquakes. When thousands of small earthquakes began to happen, scientists knew Mount Saint Helens was becoming active once again.

Experts began to closely observe the huge volcano. They placed scientific instruments in many areas on the mountain. These observations are still taking place 24 hours a day.

Scientists said the evidence showed a 70% chance the volcano would do something. They were not sure exactly what it would do. But they were sure it would not be anything like the huge explosion in 1980.

May 18, 1980 Explosion
Volcano experts first observed increased underground activity near the mountain on September 23rd. The experts said this activity continued to increase. This evidence led the experts to believe it might produce a volcanic event.

Scientists observed more underground activity in the next few days. Then the volcano expelled steam and ash thousands of meters into the air. Experts declared the volcano could once again be a danger. At first, they said the volcano was mostly a danger to aircraft. They said the ash could damage an aircraft's engines. The Mount Saint Helens area is a huge National Park. Thousands of people visit each year to look at the large volcano and to learn about the violent explosion in 1980. When there is no danger, visitors can even ask for a permit to climb Mount Saint Helens. They can walk near the top and see down into the area called the crater.

The recent underground activity forced park officials to close the visitor's center closest to the volcano. The Johnson Ridge Observatory is only eight kilometers from the mountain. Park officials told visitors to leave the area immediately.

The volcano expelled large amounts of steam for about thirty minutes on Monday, October fourth (2004). Scientists said it was mostly water that had been super-heated by the liquid rock far below.

The next day, however, the volcano once again began expelling steam and ash several thousand meters into the air. Winds pushed the steam and ash toward the northeast part of the state. When the ash came down, it made driving a car difficult in some areas.

Again, scientists said evidence gathered from the volcano showed more explosions were possible. Experts also warned that explosions of steam and ash were not the only concerns.

Extreme heat near the top of the volcano could melt the huge formations of ice on the mountain. Some areas of ice are more than 180 meters deep. Experts said extreme heat could melt the ice and start huge floods and mudslides down the mountain.

By last Tuesday night, Mount Saint Helens had stopped most activity. Instruments that measured underground activity showed very low levels. The earthquakes had almost stopped.

Tom Pierson is a scientist with the United States Geological Survey. Mr. Pierson said most evidence showed the possibility of more activity. However he says there is still a good chance the volcano might go back to sleep. Other experts said all volcanoes go through periods of activity and rest. This could go on for days, weeks or even months. Officials lowered the threat level by the end of last week.

By Monday, October 11th, (2004) Mount Saint Helens was still producing steam. Cool weather made the steam look more threatening than it was. Research teams were able to measure the heat from near the top of the volcano. The highest surface temperatures were between 200 and 300 degrees Celsius.

Experts say Mount Saint Helens could still explode if there were an increase in the amount of underground activity. They say the explosion could take place suddenly or with very little warning.

Experts say it is extremely difficult to tell what a volcano will do. For example, strong earthquakes and other underground activity near the volcano produced good evidence. Earthquakes under Mount Saint Helens were measured at about one each minute for long periods last week. These were very small earthquakes. Most measured only about one on the Richter scale.

But volcano experts cannot always tell what this evidence means. They cannot tell when an earthquake will grow stronger. And they cannot always tell what the hot liquid rock called magma is going to do. It is also difficult to measure the pressure created by the magma deep inside the volcano.

Most often scientists use all the information they can gather and try to make a good guess. Above all, they try to provide the best warnings when they believe the volcano may become a threat. Around the world there are more than 600 active volcanoes – those that have exploded within the past 200 years. There are more than fifty active volcanoes in the United States. The most active ones are in the states of Alaska, Hawaii, California, Oregon, and Washington. There are twelve major volcanoes in an area of mountains called the Cascade Range. These are in northern California, Oregon and Washington.

Volcanoes produce many different effects that can kill people and destroy property. Extremely large explosions can threaten people and property hundreds of kilometers away. Volcanoes can also affect the weather on Earth.

Ring of Fire
Mount Saint Helens is just one of a large number of volcanoes that form a circle around the Pacific Ocean. This circle is called the Ring of Fire. Beginning in Japan, the ring of volcanoes extends south through the Philippines and Indonesia to New Zealand.

Across the Pacific, the ring begins again at the southern end of South America and extends north along the Pacific Coast to Peru, Colombia, Mexico, and California. The ring stretches up the American Pacific Coast to Alaska and then across to the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia. The Ring of Fire includes about three-fourths of the world's volcanoes.

Many of them have a tragic history of death and destruction. For example, in 1985, more than 25,000 peopled died as a result of the explosion of Mount Ruiz in Colombia. That volcano caused huge mudslides that covered many villages and towns.

In Mexico, millions of tons of ash from El Chichon volcano killed more than 2,000 people in 1982.

Recently, an earthquake in the central part of California measured six on the Richter scale. Scientists say that earthquake and volcanic activity at Mount Saint Helens are not linked. However, they say the two events have a common cause. The land mass deep under the Pacific Ocean and the land mass of the Pacific coast are moving toward each other. These land masses float on liquid rock deep within the Earth.

This movement is called plate tectonics. It causes earthquakes. It also builds mountains and causes liquid rock deep in the earth to flow near the surface and form volcanoes.

As long as these huge land masses continue to move, people will continue to observe and study earthquakes. And they will study volcanoes like Loowit -- the Lady of Fire -- Mount Saint Helens. This program was written by Paul Thompson. It was produced by Mario Ritter. This is Steve Ember. And this is Faith Lapidus. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.


1. Earthquakes and Volcanoes ____________________ .
a. are the same
b. have a common cause
c. always happen together
d. cause one another

2. The Indians called Mount Saint Helens "loowit" which means " __________________ " .
a. Dangerous Mountain
b. Lady of Fire
c. Uncle Ash
d. Lava Flow

3. A circle around the Pacific Ocean where earthquakes and volcanoes often occur is called " ________________ ".
a. The Ring of Fire
b. The Pacific Rim
c. The Pacific Crater
d. The Oriental Express

4. The last major eruption of Mount Saint Helens took place ________________ .
a. 100 years ago
b. less than 35 years ago
c. more than fifty years ago.
d. in 2004

5. In this article, the best meaning of the word "expelled" is "________________ ".
a. pushed out
b. placed under pressure
c. full of smoke and fire
d. caused by an earthquake

6. "Magma" means ________________________________ .
a. the shape of a mountain
b. the results of a volcano
c. hot, liquid rock
d. gaping holes cause by escaping gas

7. Scientists knew Mount Saint Helens was becoming active again because they were warned by ___________________ .
a. smoke coming out of the crater
b. the behavior of some animals in the forest
c. many small earthquakes
d. reports by observers at the Johnson Ridge Observatory

8. Seventy-five percent of the worlds volcanoes are located ______________________ .
a. on the West Coast of the United States
b. in Mexico and Columbia
c. in the "Ring of Fire."
d. Eastern Europe

9. Another name for this article could be " _______________________ " .
a. "World Wide Volcano Danger"
b. "A Dangerous Volcano in Washington"
c. "How Volcanoes Can Be Made Quiet"
d. "Sure Fire Ways to Predict Volcanoes"

10. This article is mainly about _________________________ .
a. the relationship between earthquakes and volcanoes
b. how craters form on the tops of mountains
c. how to prevent earthquakes and volcanoes
d. a very active volcano in the North West United States