Lost Worlds

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EFL Movie Study Guide for: Lost Worlds--Life in the Balance

from www.krigline.com   www.krigline.com.cn

Story: Will wild animals someday freely roam through today’s great cities, as they do through the deserted ruins of ancient Tikal? What can we learn from the mistakes of these once-great civilizations? This documentary takes you to places that will surprise you with their beauty and complexity, from the mysterious mountains of Venezuela to the water system under your feet. Because of earth’s biological diversity, when we protect nature, we protect ourselves. (Documentary, narrated by Harrison Ford; 40 minutes; Imax; 2006)

Warning: some students are squeamish about the bugs, but it has lots of beautiful scenery

A few terms (vocabulary):

*abandoned: to leave a place without intending to return (often because of safety)

*bellwether: something that indicates future development or trends, like the “lead sheep” (with a bell around its neck) shows the way that all of the sheep that follow it will go

*(biological) diversity: the variety of interconnecting life that keeps things healthy

carnivorous plants: plants that “eat meat” (i.e., that live by killing animals, instead of by gaining nutrition from the soil)

deforestation: to clear forests; i.e., to cut down too many trees

*dense: tightly packed or close together; concentrated; not sparse (“Compared to the countryside, the city is densely populated.”)

dusk: the period after day but before night

ecosystem: interdependent creatures and the environment they inhabit and depend on

faucet: the thing that water comes from in your bathroom (also called a tap)

habitat: the natural conditions and environment in which a plant or animal lives

inhabitants: those who live in a certain place.

jaguar: a large cat (like a leopard), mainly found in the forests of the Americas

kelp: a type of large seaweed, that supports a wide range of living things

*metropolis: big city. “Beijing is a densely populated metropolis”

*nursery: pre-kindergarten school; a place that helps small children/plants/animals to grow and develop properly (“Kelp is a nursery for spawning fish.”)

okay: OK, all right

*to pollute: to make the environment dirty by dumping waste or smoke into rivers, lakes, or the air

*shallow: not deep, often referring to water or thinking

*resourceful: able to use whatever is available, often in un-normal ways, to achieve a goal (“The soil is very poor, so plants and animals must be resourceful to get the nutrition they need.”)

restoration: the process of restoring something or “bringing sth back” that was damaged

to reweave: to weave again; to reconnect complex things, like the way someone makes cloth or clothes by hand

species: a biology term for organisms that are very similar and that can be bred (put together) to produce plant/animal “children” (“Many species are being driven to extinction.”)

watershed (of a river): the land area that drains into a particular lake, river or ocean

phrases and proper nouns 

to be “master” of sth: to be the boss; to be in charge of things

to tip the balance of life: to do sth that gives one form of life an unfair or unnatural advantage

the Table Mountains (Roraima): the unique mtns shown in this film; the indian name is “tepuis”

Venezuela: a country in northern South America where you’ll find the Table Mountains; 委内瑞拉


Discussion Questions (mostly taken from the documentary; be sure you understand the underlined words)

1.     What keeps all cities and civilizations alive, then and now? In modern cities, it is easy to take a lot of things for granted. Give examples.

*2.     All ecosystems have a balance that keeps it living. What causes the balance to change? What happens when natural biological diversity is interrupted? Give examples from the film or from your own knowledge/experience.

3.     According to the film, long ago 1/3 of all land was covered with pristine (unspoiled) forests, full of life. China’s forests (and those of the Mediterranean) were the first to be cut. Why? Why did the speed of deforestation increase in the Industrial Revolution?

4.     In the last 50 years, we’ve cleared more forests than in all our previous history. Less than half of the original forests are left. Why? So what (why is this important to us)?

*5.      “When we protect nature, we protect ourselves.” How is this true? Give examples. Why should we care about tiny frogs or other odd creatures? Why do you think this expensive documentary was created?

6.     What happened to the “Lost Civilization” of Tikal? Why did such an advanced city disappear? See quote 1. In what ways are we masters, and in what ways are we utterly dependent upon nature?

7.     To what extent does modern technology allow us to “tip the balance” of nature without serious consequences? How is technology an asset and how it is a liability to civilization? If Tikal had our technology, might it still exist? Explain your answer.

8.     People love to see places like Roraima, but when they do they create trash and damage the environment. Tourism is a great business. Why? In what ways is tourism a good thing or a bad thing? Give details.

*9.     How do we balance tourism and environmental protection? In places like Venezuela, the government does not have the money or personnel to “police” distant areas like Roraima. In China, this could be said for a lot of places. Who is responsible to protect the environment?

10.  It is always cheaper for a business to pollute than for it to care about the environment. In our day, it is cheaper to throw many things away and then buy new ones (e.g., plastic bottles), than it is to fix or reuse them. What implications does this film have concerning the development of China, from a business perspective?


Quotes from the film:

1.        “In the cities we think we are the masters of our lives, but everything comes from nature.”

2.        “Roraima is a biological island, lost in time, eroded by eons of wind and rain.”

3.        “Maybe our work will help us understand our world and the world we have to lose.”

4.        Harvard University Professor Edward O Wilson: “What could be more inspiring than to begin the age of restoration, reweaving the wondrous diversity of life that still surrounds us?”

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