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1110 Experiencing a Drought

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Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 1,110 – Experiencing a Drought.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 1,110. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Go to our website at ESLPod.com. Become a member of ESL Podcast and download a Learning Guide for this episode. What is a Learning Guide, you ask? Well, it is an eight- to ten-page guide we provide that gives you a complete transcript of everything we say here on the episode, as well as a vocabulary list, definitions, sample sentences, cultural notes, and a whole lot more.

This episode is a dialogue between Fabian and Lia about not having enough water where you live – what we would call a “drought.” Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Fabian: How long do you think this drought is going to last?

Lia: I have no idea, but I’m not worried. I grew up in the desert. Not having enough precipitation was just a fact of life.

Fabian: Yes, but people here aren’t used to getting this little rainfall. Their livelihood depends on having a reliable water supply for their crops.

Lia: You make it sound like we’re experiencing another Dust Bowl when the water table is just a little low.

Fabian: I think it’s a little more serious than that.

Lia: What we need here is a reservoir. That would give this town the water reserves it needs in case of a drought.

Fabian: What we really need are fewer dust storms and more thunderstorms.

Lia: And for people to stop over farming. That and deforestation are half the problem.

Fabian: You may be right, but that’s not what people want to hear right now. They need some relief.

Lia: Maybe the town’s water conservation efforts will make a difference.

Fabian: Well, I’m certainly willing to stop bathing if it’ll help.

Lia: I thought you already had.

[end of dialogue]

Fabian asks Lia, “How long do you think this drought is going to last?” How long will it be? A “drought” (drought) is a very dry period of time with little or no rain. Here in California, we have a history of droughts. In fact, as I record this episode, we are in the middle of another drought – a long period of time with little or no rain. Lia says, “I have no idea,” meaning I don’t know how long this drought will last. “But,” she adds, “I’m not worried. I grew up in the desert.” The “desert” (desert) is a hot, dry area with little or no rain.

She says, “Not having enough precipitation was just a fact of life.” “Precipitation” (precipitation) refers to water in any form that falls from the sky, from clouds. That would include rain, snow, and “hail” (hail), which is basically small little balls of frozen rain. Lia says not having enough precipitation was “a fact of life” for her, meaning it was a reality. It was just something you had to deal with when she was growing up.

Fabian says, “Yes, but people here aren’t used to getting this little rainfall.” “Rainfall” (rainfall), one word, is the amount of rain – which in the U.S. is usually measured in inches – that falls from the sky during a certain period of time. Fabian says, “Their livelihood depends on a reliable water supply for their crops.” Fabian is talking about the people in the area where he lives, who are apparently farmers – people who grow things and sell them.

Well, Fabian says that the “livelihood” of the people in this area depends on having “a reliable water supply for their crops.” “Livelihood” (livelihood) is how you make money, how you earn money to live. In an area that has a lot of agriculture, a lot of “crops” (crops) – which are plants that are grown for food or to make other products – you need a lot of water. That’s why Fabian says that they need a “reliable,” that is dependable, “water supply” – something that will give them the water they need.

Lia responds, “You make it sound,” meaning you make it appear, you make it seem, “like we’re experiencing another Dust Bowl when the water table is just a little low.” The term “Dust Bowl” (bowl) refers to a specific period of time in the 1930s in the United States, when there was a drought in the middle part of the United States, causing a lot of people who lived there to leave. In fact, many of the people who lived in this area moved to California in order to find work. Lia is saying that the situation now is not like the Dust Bowl. It’s not that bad.

She says, “The water table is just a little low.” The “water table” (table) refers to the water that is below the surface of the ground – how deeply below the ground the water is found. Lia is saying it isn’t really a serious drought. Fabian disagrees. He says, “I think it’s a little more serious than that” – that is, than how you are describing it, Lia. Lia says, “What we need here is a reservoir.” A “reservoir” (reservoir) is a large area used to hold or store water that is used by a town or a city. Many cities have reservoirs. Los Angeles has a couple of reservoirs, but apparently where Lia and Fabian live, there is no reservoir.

Lia says, “The reservoir would give this town the water reserves it needs in case of a drought.” “Reserves” refers to a supply of something that is being stored for use in the future, especially in a situation where you may not have enough of something. The United States used to (perhaps it still does) have something called “oil reserves,” where the country would store a certain amount of oil in case there was a crisis or an emergency in which we couldn’t get enough oil for our needs. Lia is proposing something like that for water.

Fabian says, “What we really need are fewer dust storms and more thunderstorms.” A “dust storm” is a period of time when you have a lot of very strong wind that is blowing or carrying a lot of dirt and dust through the air. Usually we associate dust storms with a very dry area. “Thunderstorms” are storms where you have a lot of rain that comes down, often in a very short amount of time. “Thunderstorms” also produce loud noises called “thunder.” Fabian thinks the area needs more rain. Of course, we already know this.

Lia says, “And for people to stop over farming.” “To over farm” would be to try to grow similar kinds of plants, similar kinds of crops, in a certain area that might be bad for the soil, for the dirt. Lia is suggesting that the farmers have to change their practices. Lia also says that “deforestation” is part of the problem. “Deforestation” (deforestation) has, in the middle of it, another word, “forest” (forest). A forest is an area with many trees. So, “deforestation” is cutting down those trees. Apparently Lia thinks that that is part of the problem in terms of having enough water in the area.

Fabian says, “You may be right, but that’s not what people want to hear right now” – that’s not what people want you to tell them. “They need some relief” (relief). “Relief” can mean a couple of different things. Here, it means a period of time after a very bad experience, when the experience stops. When the pain stops, for example, you get a period of relief when you no longer hurt – or in this case, no longer have a bad situation.

Lia says, “Maybe the town’s water conservation efforts will make a difference.” “Water conservation” refers to efforts to use less water in your home, in your place of business, in farming, and so forth. The word “conservation” comes from the verb “to conserve” (conserve) which means to save something or to prevent it from getting worse.

Fabian says, “Well, I’m certainly willing to stop bathing if it’ll help.” “To bathe” (bathe) means to clean your body. Fabian is suggesting that maybe he should stop bathing himself. Lia makes a joke and says, “I thought you already had,” meaning I thought you already had stopped bathing, because perhaps she is jokingly saying that he smells or that he looks dirty.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Fabian: How long do you think this drought is going to last?

Lia: I have no idea, but I’m not worried. I grew up in the desert. Not having enough precipitation was just a fact of life.

Fabian: Yes, but people here aren’t used to getting this little rainfall. Their livelihood depends on having a reliable water supply for their crops.

Lia: You make it sound like we’re experiencing another Dust Bowl when the water table is just a little low.

Fabian: I think it’s a little more serious than that.

Lia: What we need here is a reservoir. That would give this town the water reserves it needs in case of a drought.

Fabian: What we really need are fewer dust storms and more thunderstorms.

Lia: And for people to stop over farming. That and deforestation are half the problem.

Fabian: You may be right, but that’s not what people want to hear right now. They need some relief.

Lia: Maybe the town’s water conservation efforts will make a difference.

Fabian: Well, I’m certainly willing to stop bathing if it’ll help.

Lia: I thought you already had.

[end of dialogue]

Our thanks to our wonderful scriptwriter, Dr. Lucy Tse, for her wonderful scripts.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2015 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
drought – a very dry period of time with little or no rain

* If this drought continues, all the orange trees will die.

desert – a hot and dry area with little or no rain, with a lot of sand, few trees, and cacti (plants that have thorns or needles and need very little water)

* If you have to walk through the desert, move at night when it’s coolest and try to rest during the day.

precipitation – rain, snow, and hail; water that falls from the sky

* The ski resorts are saying that it should be a good ski season, because there was a lot of precipitation in the fall.

rainfall – the amount of rain, measured in inches, that falls from the sky during a certain period of time

* Seattle gets an average of 38 inches of rainfall each year.

livelihood – how one earns money to live; one’s career; one’s way of financially supporting oneself

* Being a doctor is not only his livelihood, but also his passion.

water supply – the availability of water to meet one’s needs, especially as provided by a city

* How does the city keep dangerous bacteria out of the water supply?

crop – a type of plant that is grown for food or to make products

* He grew up on a large farm with tobacco, cotton, soybeans, and other crops.

Dust Bowl – an area with a lot of dust, because plants have died and soil (dirt) is moved by wind, especially referring a period in the 1930s, when many people had to leave Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas

* John Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath, describes the struggle of people living in the Dust Bowl.

water table – water found below the surface of the earth, especially the depth at which that water is found

* An oil spill trickled through the rocks and soil and contaminated the water table.




reservoir – a large area used to store water for use by a town, city, or region

* No one is allowed to use boats in the reservoir, because it’s the source of drinking water for several towns

reserves – a supply of something that is being stored for future use, especially for use when the regular source of something is not available

* The country has significant oil reserves, but it will use them only when oil is no longer available for import.

dust storm – a period of time with very strong winds that carry a lot of dirt and dust through the air, making it difficult to see and breathe

* The dust storm made it difficult to see and to drive through the outskirts of town.

thunderstorm – a period of time with heavy and dark clouds, loud noises in the sky, strong winds, and possibly rain and lightning

* The children were frightened by the thunderstorm and ran into their parents’ bedroom.

to over farm – to engage in the bad agricultural practice of growing crops repeatedly on a particular piece of land, reducing the number of nutrients and the quality of the soil (dirt) so that it is no longer good agricultural land

* People have been over farming that property for years. We need to apply some natural fertilizer and let the soil rest for a few years.

deforestation – the practice of cutting down forests (areas with many trees), especially to make room for the expansion of cities or to provide grassy areas for cows to live on

* The organization is trying to prevent deforestation by teaching people how to make a living from eco-tourism in local forests.

relief – a period of relaxation or time when one faces less pressure or fewer demands than usual

* After working so hard to meet the deadline, going back to their regular work schedules was a relief.

water conservation – efforts to use less water, either to reduce costs or to reduce one’s negative impact on the natural environment

* The county’s water conservation efforts include a ban on washing cars and sidewalks.

to bathe – to clean one’s body; to take a shower or bath

* Do you use bubble bath every time you bathe?

Comprehension Questions
1. Which of these things would be associated with a drought?
a) An increase in precipitation
b) A low water table
c) Many thunderstorms

2. What are water conservation efforts?
a) Attempts to keep the water cleaner
b) Attempts to increase water reserves
c) Attempts to establish less water

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
reserves

The word “reserves,” in this podcast, means a supply of something that is being stored for future use, especially for use when the regular source of something is not available: “Toward the end of the race, the runners were drawing on their energy reserves.” To keep something “in reserve” means to have it be ready in case it is needed in the future: “They always keep a few extra computers in reserve, just in case one of the machines stop working.” A “nature reserve” or a “wildlife reserve” is a natural area where people are not allowed to build structures, intended to provide a place to live for plants and animals: “Many people enjoy bird-watching at the nearby nature reserve.” Finally, when talking about an auction, the “reserve price” is the lowest price at which something will be sold: “The painting will not be sold for less than the reserve price of $350.”

relief

In this podcast, the word “relief” means a period of relaxation or time when one faces less pressure or fewer demands than usual: “It was such a relief when the department finally agreed to hire two new administrative assistants to handle much of the workload.” The phrase “relief effort” refers to organized efforts to help people who have little money, housing, or clothing: “The American Red Cross organized a massive relief effort for the people who were affected by the earthquake.” The phrase “comic relief” refers to a humorous moment in a serious situation in a TV show, movie, or book: “That character provides some much-needed comic relief during the tensest parts of the play.” Finally, when talking about maps, “in relief” describes a three-dimensional map that has raised parts to show the height of geographic features: “Only a map in relief can show how tall Mt McKinley is.”

Culture Note
The 1936 North American Heat Wave

In 1936, North America experienced the most “severe” (strong; intense) “heat wave” (period of time with extremely high temperatures) in “modern history” (human history; recorded history). The “timing” (when something happened) could not have been worse, because it “hit” (happened) when people were already suffering significant “hardship” (difficult and challenging experiences) associated with the Great Depression (a very bad period of financial problems; see English Café 327) and the Dust Bowl (a very bad period of farming; see English Café 357).

The heat wave began in June and “peaked” (reached its highest point) in July, with temperatures as high as 121°F (49 °C) in North Dakota. Many cities reported temperatures over 100°F (38 °C) for long “stretches” (something that happens over a long period of time) of “consecutive days” (with something happening on many days, without a break in between them). Many of those high temperatures remained “on record” (were recorded as being the highest temperature) until the 2012 North American heat wave.

Temperatures returned to normal in September, but the hot summer days “took their toll” (caused significant damage and suffering). Many crops were “destroyed” (ruined) by the drought and “extreme” (very strong; very high) heat. The “soil” (dirt) temperature was so high in some places that it reduced the “soil fertility” (ability for land and soil to support plant growth).

More than 5,000 people died during the heat wave, largely because the high temperatures occurred at a time when very few homes and office buildings had “air conditioning” (equipment in a building that blows cool or cold air and that helps to lower the temperature of the air).

Comprehension Answers
1 - b

2 - c