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Could you check my problems?


8 Apr 2004
I'm making an exam.

If you have time, could you check my multiple-choice problem?
(I'm afraid the text is too long. I'm sorry.)

The year was 1960. Newspaper headlines all over the world warned of a food crisis. Millions of people in China were dying of starvation. Millions more in Sub-Saharan Africa did not have enough to eat. In some developing countries in other parts of the world, people suffered from malnutrition. Even in Japan, some children went to bed hungry every night. Something had to be done soon to increase food production and avoid a worldwide disaster. We needed a "Green Revolution."

The year was 2010. Half a century after the food crisis, newspaper headlines warned of a world water crisis. Lakes were drying up in Central Asia. The Sahara Desert was getting bigger. Rivers were running dry in Asia, in the Middle East, and in North and South America. Drought was sweeping across whole continents. Something had to be done soon. We needed a new revolution: a "Blue Revolution"!

In the 1960's there was a worldwide food shortage. The Great Chinese Famine of 1958 to 1961 killed at least 15 million people (some people say more than 30 million). Tens of millions in Asia and Africa faced starvation. Something had to be done. Scientists joined with governments and ordinary farmers to find a solution: the Green Revolution.

The Green Revolution had three "pillars": new types of crops, chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and irrigation. There was a quick and very positive effect on global food production. By the end of the 20th​ century, the productivity of farming dramatically improved worldwide.

The Green Revolution was a huge success. For the first time in history, Africa and Asia began to have enough food to feed their populations. India was able to end its cycles of famine.

But there have been unintended consequences. So much water is being used for irrigation that supplies are running out. Fertilizers have caused pollution in many countries.

Water shortages are creating more and more problems worldwide. For one dramatic example, consider the Aral Sea in Central Asia. Although called a "sea," it is actually a lake, once the fourth largest in the world, covering an area nearly the size of Kyushu and Shikoku combined. It was famous for its blue waters, beautiful beaches, and busy fishing industry.

Look at the photos of the Aral Sea taken from 1973 until 2009. Now it is almost dry. The region's fishing industry has been destroyed, bringing great economic hardship.

What happened to the Aral Sea? Two big rivers used to run into the lake, but today most of the water has been used for irrigation and it is drying up. There is also heavy pollution. The retreat of the Aral Sea has caused local climate change, with summers becoming hotter and drier, and winters colder and longer. The result has been called "one of the planet's worst environmental disasters."

There are lots of unintended consequences of the Green Revolution. The drying up of the Aral Sea was partly caused by the Green Revolution. In India at least a quarter of the farmers are using underground water that nature cannot replace. Chemical fertilizers contribute to the pollution of drinking water from underground wells. One official of the International Water Management Institute says, "The situation is getting worse. It looks like a trip to disaster."

Water shortages are now common throughout the world and may be just as serious a problem for the 21st​ century as food shortages were for the 20th​. By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world's population could be living under water-stressed conditions.

Farmers do not have enough water for food production. In urban areas, competition for water is getting worse with population increase and economic growth.

A quarter of the world's lands are degraded. Many large rivers run dry during part of the year. Half of the wetlands of Europe and North America no longer exist. In many places the impact on the environment is beyond repair.

Water scarcity now threatens the Green Revolution. The future production of sufficient food will not be possible unless we learn to use water more efficiently. For a long time, progress in agricultural production has been measured in terms of "yield," the amount of produce that could be taken from an area of land. In water-stressed areas, maximizing the yield per unit of land should now give way to achieving the maximum yield per unit of water used. This requires better use of rain and irrigation water, combined with good agricultural practices.

The 20th​ century needed the Green Revolution; the 21st​ century needs a "Blue Revolution." The Green Revolution had three "pillars." So does the Blue Revolution: efficient irrigation, realistic pricing, and water harvesting.

One idea for more efficient irrigation is a system called "drip irrigation." Instead of flooding a whole field, water is supplied directly to individual plants by allowing it to drip slowly to the roots through tubes. In Jordan, the drip method has reduced water use by a third, while raising yields. Israeli farmers have dramatically improved productivity by using both drip irrigation and the recycling of urban water onto the fields.

Another pillar of the Blue Revolution is realistic pricing. The price of irrigation water is often so low that there is little economic incentive to save water. In most countries, the present system was designed around the middle of the last century, when water was viewed as an unlimited free resource. The price of water must be changed to more realistic levels.

Water harvesting means storing and using rain and wastewater efficiently. In the 19th​ and early 20th​ centuries, many American houses had a rain barrel to collect rain. Water harvesting was common during the Edo period in Japan. But in the 20th​ century we saw a steady decline in water harvesting thanks to cheap water from the tap. The 21st​ century is likely to see its revival. As long as you have rain, all you need to do is to build holding tanks or ponds.

In urban areas, water harvesting can be applied on a large scale. Wastewater can be treated and reused. Instead of being dumped in rivers, a city's wastewater is treated. Harmful contaminants are removed, while nutrients are used as fertilizer for crops. Treated water is used for drip irrigation on nearby farms, and the fresh produce is sold in the city. Water harvesting plants may be expensive, but they pay off in the long run.

Water sufficiency and food sufficiency are tied together. But one big problem is that we need water not just to grow food. Water is also needed in almost every step in making and processing all sorts of products. The chances are that you have no idea how much water you use every day. How much would you guess? Three or four liters in food and drink; 15 or 20 for washing? Thirty or 40 liters a day at most? What would you think if you were told that the average Japanese person uses 3,800 liters of water every day? It's true, but how can that be?

The answer is found in the idea of "virtual water": the water you indirectly consume. It requires about 15,000 liters of virtual water for one kilogram of beef, because of all the water needed to grow crops for feed. So if you have gyudon for lunch, you will spend 1,889 liters of virtual water. A new cotton shirt costs 2,495 liters of water, most of it used for cotton production.

The term "water footprint" is used to show how much virtual water we consume. A nation's water footprint is equal to the use of its own water resources, plus the virtual water imports, minus the virtual water exports. Japan has a footprint of 170 billion cubic meters of water per year. Although we are rich in water, our food self-sufficiency rate is only about 40 percent. Importing food means importing virtual water. As a result, we import more virtual water than any other country in the world.

This may sound like bad news for Japan, but it need not be. The international trade in virtual water is actually good. It allows food to be grown where it makes most sense, and it creates good relationships between trade partners.

Thanks to the natural rain cycle, water is the most renewable of resources. If we as nations—and as individuals—work together, there will be enough water for all. If we can couple the 20th​ century's Green Revolution with the Blue Revolution in the 21st​, we can have a bright, Blue-Green future.

My question: Choose three choices that are true to the text.
(あ)Japan used to collect and make use of rain in the Edo Period.
(い)Japan exports a large amount of food to Asian countries.
(う)By 2025, there will be enough water for all the people in the world.
(え)In the 19th century, many American houses had a barrel to collect rain.
(お)The Green Revolution was a failure.
(か)Treated wastewater should not be used on farms.
(き)If you import more virtual water, you can produce much more vegetables in your country.
(く)Water harvesting plants are worth building.
I took the test like I would as a student -- that is to say, I looked at the question statements and looked back in the text to see if they were true or false. I didn't read the text thoroughly but I didn't see any problems in the text.

Here are the statements I thought were true (ie supported by the text): あ, え, く
Ohhhhh, you solved my problem! Thank you very much! I really appreciate it. あ、え、く. Yes. That's the answers I intended.
I do realize that IELTS uses a similar 'reading' question design, but my personal opinion is that this type of reading assessment question sucks.

Yes, I do know that (unfortunately) some uni entrance exams use this design (or analogous ones), which is one of the reasons those exams receive so much criticism.

Look at TOEIC, TOEFL, SAT, GMAT, GRE and you won't find that "wall of text" style of reading question--and note that they do just fine without it.

Your passage is four full screenfuls of text on my 15" laptop screen, and for that you only get a pitifully small bit of response data back on your students. It asks students to ID three out of eight 'correct' statements. This is a huge waste of time assessment-wise. Analyze your test data, and I'll bet that your students are just guessing, throwing darts instead of actually reading for answers.

No, I don't like this type of 'reading' question design..., and it is especially unsuited to high school students here in japan (to their abilities,and their stage in the learning process). Sorry to be critical/honest.
In my opinion, it can be all right to give this question because my students have already read the whole text and they don't have to read it again.
I'm kind of at a loss here.

So it's not a test question(?), and it's not there to read ("don't have to read it again")? Then why is all that text even there? In your first line you say you're making an exam, and would like this problem to be checked. What would you call this then? It seems like it's not a problem on an exam?

Instead of being a language/reading exam question (read, and answer the following questions), this is checking retention of material and ideas that have previously been covered? Not really an exam, but checking on homework/classwork progress?

Got it. I guess...
johnnyG, it IS a test question. In Japanese schools, we usually give questions about the text the students have already read in the previous lessons. This type of questions are mainly given to see if the students can understand the question sentences and they have already read the text in the lessons. Many of the twelfth grade students I teach do not listen to my lessons or do not understand them even if they try to understand the lessons. Their levels are far too low to understand the text.
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