Quiz 1:
Reviewing Comprehension Skills

Copyright 2000 © Laraine Flemming.
Copyright is granted exclusively to instructors and students using textbooks written by Laraine Flemming. General distribution and redistribution are strictly prohibited.

Directions: Read the following selections. Then answer the accompanying questions.

Note: Look over the opening list of vocabulary words to make sure you know what they mean when they appear in the selection.

1. Defending the Rain Forest

Words to Watch for:

impunity: without fear of punishment
inextricably: being difficult to untie or separate
alliance: union

1 The earth's rain forests are crucial to the planet's weather system; they are also home to countless animal and plant species. Yet in only a few centuries, humans have managed to reduce by half the area covered by rain forests—from 15 million to 6 million square miles. Up until the 1980s most people neither knew nor cared about what was happening to the rain forest, but suddenly in the early eighties, saving the rain forest became an international cause, championed by celebrities like singer Sting and super-model Christie Brinkley. Although the rain forests are still under attack, efforts are now being made to control the damage, and greater numbers of people have developed an interest in preserving these steamy woodlands.

2 One of the main reasons for the shift in attitude that occurred in the 1980s was the work done by Francisco Chico Mendes. A labor organizer in Brazil, Mendes had been a rubber worker, or tapper, from the age of 9; but as an adult, he quickly realized that his livelihood was being threatened by ranchers who burned the rain forest in order to create pastureland. Rich and possessed of political clout, the ranchers were destroying the forests with impunity until Mendes, recognizing that the fate of the rubber tappers and that of the rain forest were inextricably linked, decided to form a union (The National Council of Rubber Tappers) that would fight for what Mendes called extraction reserves. The reserves were to be legally protected forested areas held in trust by the people who lived and worked on the land—in other words, the rubber tappers in whose interest it was to preserve the rain forest.

3 Guided primarily by Mendes, the union used a variety of tactics to gain its objective. To stop clear-cutting of the forest, they would engage in demonstrations of passive resistance. Often that meant workers would physically place their bodies between the chainsaws of hired loggers and the trees intended for cutting. Mendes also forged an alliance between the tappers and the native Indians of the Amazon, figuring correctly that there was power, influence, even safety in numbers. Aware that environmental groups were concerned about the future of the rain forest, Mendes tirelessly attended environmental meetings and conferences, seeking publicity for his movement wherever he could find it.

4 By 1987 Mendes had become so well-known as a champion of rain forest preservation that he was invited to Washington to give a speech to U.S. policymakers. The subject was a roads project that could, if precautions were not taken, threaten rain forest development. Although Brazilian ranchers were in favor of the roads, Mendes and his union were concerned about the environmental consequences. Subsequent to Mendes visit, funding for the project was cancelled.

5 In 1988, Mendes and his union finally accomplished what no one had believed possible. The Brazilian government established the very first extraction reserve with the promise of more to come. Thrilled and excited by the victory, Mendes was still worried about the personal consequences of such a stunning victory over the ranching interests. As it turns out, he was correct in his foreboding. On December 22, 1998, Chico Mendes was assassinated in his own backyard by the son of a wealthy rancher.

6 Fortunately for both the rain forest and the rubber tappers, Mendes influence did not end with his death. If anything, his murder inspired his supporters to keep fighting in his memory. Although no one today, more than a decade after his death, would claim the rain forest and the rubber tappers are safe, the political stage is set for positive change. Many of Mendes colleagues have won political office in rain forest regions and are fighting to continue his struggle.


1. What is the main idea of the reading?

2. Why does the author tell readers about extraction reserves?

3. Would you call the information about the extraction reserves a major or a minor detail? _______________________

Explain your answer.

4. In paragraph 4, the author relies on the reader to draw what inference about the cancellation of funding for the roads project?

5. What two patterns of organization does the author rely on in this reading?

2. Doctors Without Borders

Words to Watch for:

skepticism: suspicion, disbelief
instrumental: of great importance, crucial
figurative: not capable of happening in reality
literally: in reality

1 In 1971, a group of young French doctors decided to launch a volunteer organization that would offer medical help and food supplies to victims of wars and natural disasters; the goal of the organization was to offer an alternative to the Geneva-based International Red Cross (ICRC). In contrast to the ICRC, which refused to take any political stance whatsoever—to the point of keeping silent about Hitler's concentration camps in World War II—Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders, insisted upon bearing witness to the horrors its volunteers encountered, even if that meant stepping on political toes. Born in the wake of World War II, members of the group hoped to erase the horrifying memories of the doctors who worked for the Nazis in concentration camps. If they had used medicine in the service of torture and death, Doctors Without Borders would use it to nourish, sustain, and protect life.

2 According to one of the group's founders, Bernard Kouchner, the initial response to the group was skepticism, even ridicule. For many, the goals of Doctors Without Borders seemed hopelessly idealistic. Few were willing to believe that a group of doctors would work long hours in dangerous places, without even the hope of financial gain. That degree of dedication and determination seemed unattainable. The general consensus was that Doctors Without Borders could not last more than a few years.

3 As it turns out, the general consensus was wrong. In October of 1999, Doctors Without Borders received the Nobel Peace Prize. For almost thirty years, the roughly 2,000 member organization had gone anywhere it was needed, never failing to help those in need while consistently speaking out for those who could not speak for themselves.

4 It was 1971 when the first wave of volunteers went to Biafra, bringing food and medical treatment to the starving victims of Nigeria's civil war. Although it was their first humanitarian relief effort, the volunteers were not shy about castigating the more powerful nations like France and the United States for being halfhearted in their attempts to ease the suffering of the Biafran people. By 1972, more volunteers were in Nicaragua, this time to assuage the ravages of a catastrophic earthquake. Nicaragua was the group's first response to a natural disaster, but it was far from the last. In 1974, volunteers from Doctors Without Borders were among the first on the scene in Honduras, where they treated the victims of Hurricane Fifi. Between 1979 and 1986, as war spread throughout Africa, the organization created a network of emergency relief programs for refugees forced to wander from place to place in an effort to find food and shelter. In 1980, as starvation stalked the country of Somalia, the medical organization set up nutritional programs in Kenyan refugee camps. In 1989, when communist rule crumbled in eastern Europe, Doctors Without Borders was there to offer up-to-date health information.

5 The work of the organization continued into the 1990s as volunteers offered emergency assistance to the Kurds fleeing Iraq and went to Somalia to care for the casualties of a brutal civil war. They also travelled to Yugoslavia to help refugees forced from their homes because of the ethnic rivalries that erupted following the collapse of communism. Perhaps the biggest challenges to the group's capacities were the civil war in Burundi and the genocide in Rwanda. While the rest of the world looked away until the slaughter was too great to ignore, Doctors Without Borders was on the scene between 1993 and 1995, deploying more volunteers than in any previous missions. Typically, they were instrumental in making the rest of the world recognize the bloodbath taking place as a result of tribal warfare. Doctors Without Borders was not afraid to go to Kosovo, and volunteers worked to help both Albanian and Serbian refugees throughout 1998 and 1999. They also went to Turkey in October of 1999 when Istanbul and surrounding areas were racked by an earthquake. True to their founding stance as political volunteers, they were among the first to point out that some of the hardship and misery could have been avoided had building codes been observed.

6 The website for Doctors Without Borders opens with the slogan, "We have two million people in our waiting room." The waiting room might be figurative, but the numbers are not. Over the years, the organization has quite literally served millions. Yet, upon hearing about the Nobel, Bernard Kouchner focused on those they had not reached: "I'm thinking of all the people who died without aid, of those who died waiting for someone to knock on their door." (Quotation from Doctors Group Wins Nobel, ABCNews.com, November 18, 1999)


1. In which of the opening paragraphs do you find the most complete statement of the main idea?

a. paragraph 1b. paragraph 2c. paragraph 3

2. In your own words, what is the main idea of the reading?

3. Why does the author mention the 1972 earthquake in Nicaragua, the 1974 hurricane in Honduras, and the genocide in Rwanda? In their role as supporting details, what do all three have in common?

4. What pattern do you see at work in paragraph 4?

5. Write out the transitional sentence that appears in paragraph 4.

Last change made to this page: December 1, 2004

Answer key

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