IELTS MASTER | ielts reading test 161

ielts reading test 161

The politics of pessimism

Newspaper headlines and TV or radio news bulletins would have us believe erroneously that a new age has come upon us, the Age of Cassandra. People are being assailed not just with contemporary doom, or past gloom, but with prophecies of disasters about to befall. The dawn of the new millennium has now passed; the earth is still intact, and the fin de siècle Jeremiahs have now gone off to configure a new date for the apocalypse.

It can, I believe, be said with some certainty that the doom-mongers will never run out of business. Human nature has an inclination for pessimism and anxiety, with each age hav­ing its demagogues, foretelling doom or dragging it in their wake. But what makes the modern age so different is that the catastrophes are more “in your face”, Their assault on our senses is relentless. Whether it be sub-conscious or not, this is a situation not lost on politicians. They play upon people’s propensity for unease, turning it into a very effective political tool.

Deluding the general public
All too often, when politicians want to change the status quo, they take advantage of peo­ple’s fears of the unknown and their uncertainties about the future. For example, details about a new policy may be leaked to the press. Of course, the worst case scenario is pre­sented in all its depressing detail. When the general public reacts in horror, the government appears to cave in. And then accepting some of the suggestions from their critics, ministers water down their proposals. This allows the government to get what It wants, while at the same time fooling the public into believing that they have got one over on the government. Or even that they have some say in the making of policy.

There are several principles at play here. And both are rather simple: unsettle people and then play on their fears; and second, people must be given an opportunity to make a con­tribution, however insignificant, in a given situation; otherwise, they become dissatisfied, not fearful or anxious.

A similar ruse, at a local level, will further illustrate how easily people’s base fears are ex­ploited. A common practice is to give people a number of options, say in a housing devel­opment, ranging from no change to radical transformation of an area. The aim is to persuade people to agree significant modifications, which may involve disruption to their lives, and possibly extra expenditure. The individuals, fearful of the worst possible outcome, plump for the middle course. And this, incidentally, is invariably the option favoured by the authorities. Everything is achieved under the guise of market research, but it is obviously a blatant exercise in the manipulation of people’s fears.

Fear and survival
Fear and anxieties about the future affect us still. People are wracked with self-doubt and low self-esteem. In the struggle to exist and advance in life, a seemingly endless string, of obstacles is encountered, so many, in fact, that any accomplishment seems surprising. liven when people do succeed they are still nagged by uncertainty.

Not surprisingly, feelings like doubt, fear, anxiety and pessimism are usually associated with failure. Yet, if properly harnessed, they are the driving force behind success, the very engines of genius.

if things turn out well for a long time, there is a further anxiety: that of constantly waiting for something to go wrong. People then find themselves propitiating the gods: not walking on lines on the pavements, performing rituals before public performances, wearing particu­lar clothes and colours so that they can blame the ritual not themselves when things go wrong,

But surely the real terror cornea when success continues uninterrupted for such a long period of time that we forget what failure is like!

We crave for and are fed a daily diet of anxiety, Horror films and disaster movies have an increasing appeal. Nostradamus pops his head up now and again. And other would-be prophets make a brief appearance, predicting the demise of human kind. Perhaps, this is all just a vestige of the hardships of early man – our attempt to recreate the struggles of a past age, as it’s becomes more and more comfortable.

Mankind cannot live by contentment alone. And so, a world awash with anxieties and pessimism has been created. Being optimistic is you struggle. Hut survival dictates that mankind remain ever sanguine.

Questions 1-5
Choose one phrase (A-K) from the List of phrases to complete each Key point below. Write the appropriate letters (A-K) in Boxes 1-5 on your answer sheet.

The information in the completed sentences should be an accurate summary of the points made by the writer. NB. There are more phrases (A-K) than sentences, so you wilt not need to use them all. You may use each phrase once only.

Key points

1. Newspaper headlines and TV or radio news bulletins
2. Doom-mongers are popular, because people
3. Today, catastrophes
4. To politicians, people’s Inclination for fear
5. The government

List of phrases
A are not as threatening as in the past
B tell the truth
C blame them
D try to make us believe mistakenly that we are in a new era
E calm people down
F are uncertain about the future
G are less comfortable
H are natural pessimists and worriers
I are more immediate
J get what they want by deceiving the public
K is something they can make use of

Questions 6-9
Choose the appropriate letters A-D and write them in Boxes 6-9 on your answer sheet.

6. The housing development example shows that people …
A are not that easily deceived
B like market research
C lead their fears
D are easy to delude

7. Which one of the following statements is true, according to the passage?
A Market research uses people’s fears for their own good
B People are scared by market research techniques
C Market research techniques are used as a means of taking advantage of people’s fears
D Market research makes people happy

8. The engines of genius are …
A properly harnessed
B the driving force behind success
C driven by feelings like fear
D usually associated with failure

9. Continual success …
A makes people arrogant
B worries people
C does not have any negative effects on people
D increases people’s self-esteem

Questions 10-13
Do the statements below agree with the information in Reading Passage 1? In Boxes 10-13, write:

YES if the statement agrees with the views of the writer
NO if the statement contradicts the views of the writer
NOT GIVEN if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this

10. The complex relationship between failure and success needs to be addressed carefully.
11. People perform certain rituals to try to avoid failure.
12. Anxiety in daily life is what we want.
13. The writer believes that Nostradamus and certain other prophets are right about their predictions for the end of the human race.

Crows Can be Craftsmen too

A remarkable colony of inventors has emerged on an isolated Pacific island. They can fashion tools out of materials scavenged from the rainforest. They can even customise a tool for a given job. Meet the crows of New Caledonia.

Thinkers as diverse as Freud, Engels and Thomas Carlyle once pointed to the use of tools as being a defining behaviour of human beings. Then it was found that many animals also used them, from the ’fishing sticks’ of apes to the rocks dropped on ostrich eggs by Egyptian vultures. Crows are particularly crafty. Earlier studies showed that they are almost human-like in their use of tools, with technological features that match the stone and bone tool cultures that emerged among primitive humans between 2.5 million and 70,000 BC.

But only humans were thought to have the brain power required for cumulative technological evolution. This is the skill for innovation that took our ancestors two million years ago from creating flakes of flint, for use in cutting, to honing knives, blades, arrowheads and axeheads.

Now this ‘unique’ attribute of humans has also turned out to be a flattering delusion. A new study shows that the crows of New Caledonia are inventive. With their evolving leaf tools, the birds have levered man off his pedestal.

Dr Gavin Hunt and Dr Russell Gray of the University of Auckland have spent the past decade studying feathered technology in New Caledonia, 900 miles north-east of Australia. After an intensive field survey of local crow industry, the scientists found that the birds rip the leaves of the pandanus tree to fashion three distinct types of tool for grub and insect extraction: wide, narrow and tapered.

Long ago, the birds discovered that they could rip the serrated edge off the leaves to make a wide tool. The skill spread and the crows honed tools with finer working tips, by either narrowing tools or tapering them. (Because the leaves are reinforced by tough parallel fibres, the tapered design is made in steps. The crow nips the leaf, rips along the fibres, makes another cut and tears again, repeating until it has a tool with usually two, three or four steps.)

Leaf tool manufacture is an example of culture: the birds leam through example and their tool-making wisdom grows in sophistication down the generations. The crows appear to have the cognitive requirements for cumulative, though rudimentary, technological evolution, said Dr Gray. Tool manufacture in New Caledonian crows shows striking flexibility and innovation.’ The ability of the birds to innovate is further shown by their making of other tools. They often strip a twig of leaves and cut it off just below a shortened offshoot to create a hook to get bugs out. They also use simpler tools to extract grubs from the dead wood of trees.

Prof Alex Kacelnik, fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford, praised the study as extremely important’. It complements his own research, with Dr Jackie Chappell and Alex Weir, which has turned Betty the New Caledonian crow into a star by revealing her to be the first animal, other than man, to show a basic understanding of cause and effect.

Betty began making tools after her partner snatched away a hook made for her by the researchers, forcing her to make her own from garden wire to fish out morsels from a tube. She wedged the end of the wire into the base of the food tube and turned her head to form the hook. What amazed the researchers is that she can even adapt her hooks if they are not up to the job, something that even chimpanzees are unable to do. Although chimps use sticks in experiments, they have not shown any human-like understanding of basic physical laws. ’When she starts bending the wire it is as if she has a clear objective, even correcting the angle of the hook if it is not right,’ said Prof Kacelnik. ’Although many animals use tools, purposeful modification of objects to solve new problems, without training or prior experience, is virtually unknown.’

‘While we have been emphasising the individual ability of animals like Betty to solve problems, the New Zealand team has been emphasising tool manufacture, the cultural traditions and transmission of information in the wild,’ said Prof Kacelnik. Both strands of research are related by how the crows are not genetically programmed to use a tool, like a spider and his web. Instead, the birds creatively invent new kinds of tools to solve problems and can share skills with others.

The crow family are the Einsteins of the avian world, though Prof Kacelnik added that, at least in terms of tool making, the Pacific crows are smarter than their British cousins. We have not yet identified what it is that makes these crows so special, though it is something to do with ecological circumstances, ’said Prof Kacelnik.

Once scientists have got to the bottom of what makes Pacific crows master toolmakers, they may have to think again about how this skill evolved in humans.

Questions 14-17
Complete the diagrams. Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer.

Questions 18-22
Classify the following statements as referring to the crow(s) in

A the study by Hunt and Gray
B the study by Kacelnik, Chappell and Weir
C both studies

18. can share tool-making skills with other crows
19. can make special tools for a particular purpose
20. can solve problems by understanding rather than learning
21. can make tools better than British crows can
22. can manufacture hooks to extract food

Questions 23-26
Complete the summary. Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer.

It used to be thought that only human beings used tools. Even after we learned that many other (23)…………….also do so, it was still believed that only humans were intelligent enough to gradually evolve better tools. A study of crows in (24)…………………..however, shows that these birds use a leaf tool which has been evolved over several generations. A crow in another study has shown the human­like ability to understand (25)………………… order to manufacture tools, which not even (26)………………………can do.

Coming into the World A little-known island community comes in from the cold

Back in early 1961, few outside the corridors of dwindling British power had heard of the archipelago centred on the main island of Tristan da Cunha, from which the scattered islands that make up the group took their name.

It would take a dramatic volcanic eruption, and an emergency evacuation that would grab the attention of the media, to bring attention to this mysterious outpost of the British Empire. It seemed that the islands, no more than pin-pricks in the Southern Atlantic Ocean, almost equidistant between Buenos Aires in South America and Cape Town in South Africa, preferred not to be found.

The same can be said of the 290 or so residents of Tristan da Cunha at that time. They lived on the remotest island on the entire planet. There was no airport, nor was there space to build one on this mountainous carbuncle projecting from the ocean. The only harbour, impenetrable during rough weather, was 1,500 miles distant from the nearest mainland port. Cape Town. Communications with the outside world relied predominantly on signals to passing fishing boats and the annual visit of the vessel that supplied the islanders with the goods they could not produce themselves.

For this was a self-reliant community, proud of their ability to survive and help each other in times of adversity. Colonised early in the 19th century, until December 1942, money had not been exchanged on the island. However, war-time conditions and new development, in particular a new fishing industry, saw the beginnings of links which meant that the islanders had to accept they were now part of the modern world, however much the older members of the community might resist such change.

The lives of the islanders ticked quietly along, largely ignored as the government of Britain struggled with larger events on the world stage, until the beginning of August 1961. Earth tremors and rock falls began on the 6th, but by October the situation had got so bad that the island had to be evacuated. The entire population eventually found themselves in England, where they were met with unwanted and unexpected attention from the media. They were housed at a military camp just outside the port of Southampton.

Coming from a sub-tropical island and having had little exposure to the illnesses and chill endured by the natives of the British Isles during winter, several of the elder islanders succumbed. The government did not seem to know what to offer the islanders, there was no news about what was happening to their homeland, and the future looked very bleak. These were people who had built up their own way of life for over one hundred and fifty years. They were a compact community who shared only seven family names between them, and now it seemed that their way of life was to be destroyed.

Fortunately, and despite the islanders reluctance to have any dealings with the media, who they suspected looked on them as historical curiosities, the attention helped keep their plight in the public eye. Eventually, word came through that the island was again habitable and, despite strong resistance from the British Government, the vast majority of the islanders voted to return, turning their backs on the temptations of the brighter lights of their temporary home in favour of their own.

The last of the returning islanders arrived in November 1963 and, with the rebuilding of the crawfish canning industry and a growing demand for the island’s stamps amongst dedicated collectors following the publicity caused by the volcanic eruption, the local economy soon recovered, although communications remained as difficult as they had ever been. Michael Parsons, a young British teacher who was employed on the island, recalls that there was no television and mail from the outside world arrived just eight times a year. ‘I was allowed to send a 100-word telegram home once a month, ’he recalls,’ and getting news from home brought a lump to my throat’

Things have changed with developments in technology, but at the beginning of the present century the island was again cut off from the rest of the world when, on May 23rd2001, a hurricane tore through the area. It caused extensive damage, knocking out the radio station and satellite telephone link as well as leaving the islanders without electricity. It would be a week before news of the disaster reached London and several more weeks before a rescue package could be agreed to help the islanders rebuild.

Today the island boasts its own internet café. For the first time people can see what the items they wish to obtain from abroad actually look like before they purchase them – a big bonus in a place where you have to wait many months to receive an order which might prove to be unsuitable for the purpose you had in mind. At last, it seems, Tristan da Cunha has joined the world.

Questions 27-28
Choose the correct letter, A, B, C or D.

27. The writer describes the islands of Tristan da Cunha as
A difficult to find in an emergency.
B a place the media didn’t understand.
C somewhere different countries claimed to own.
D unknown to most members of the public.

28. What does the writer say about the islanders?
A They could go for years with no contact with outsiders.
B They had no means of leaving the island to speak to others.
C They exchanged messages with boats that went past them.
D They travelled to the mainland on the supply ship.

Questions 29-34
Do the following statements agree with the claims of the writer in Reading Passage 3? Write

YES if the statement agrees with the views of the writer
NO if the statement contradicts the views of the writer
NOT GIVEN if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this

29. People living on Tristan da Cunha are totally self-sufficient.
30. The islanders often get ill.
31. Some islanders were reluctant to return after the volcanic eruption.
32. The selling of postage stamps has generated revenue for the islanders.
33. There is no television service on Tristan da Cunha.
34. Communications with the island are often interrupted.

Questions 35-40
Complete the summary. Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer.

First colonised in the early part of the 19th century, Tristan da Cunha remained unknown to many people in the rest of the world until a (35)…………………….forced the small population of this remote island to evacuate their homes and brought their existence to the attention of (36)……………………After spending two years as refugees in (37)…………………………, the British Government reluctantly allowed them to return to the island once it had been established that the danger had passed. The (38)………………………of the island improved when rebuilding work had been completed, partly because of a new interest in the (39)……………………..Disaster was to strike the island again nearly forty years later when a (40)…………………………destroyed many buildings on the island.

1. D
2. H
3. I
4. K
5. J
6. A
7. C
8. C
9. B
10. NG
11. Yes
12. Yes
13. NG
14. Rips
15. Pandanus
16. Wide
17. Tapered
18. A
19. C
20. B
21. C
22. C
23. Animals
24. New Caledonia
25. Physical laws
26. chimpanzees/chimps
27. D
28. C
29. No
30. NG
31. Yes
32. Yes
33. NG
34. NG
35. volcanic eruption
36. the media
37. England
38. (local) economy
39. Island’s stamps
40. Hurricane