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Class Supplement, TOEFL iBT Independent Essay Writing, Land Usage -partly rewritten-

2012年6月7日

Writing Topic
Imagine that you have been given a large area of land to use however you wish. How would you choose to use this land?

☆Let’s Think
Here we have another hypothetical question with few conditions. This time, we think about land usage. The word “land usage” often reminds you of investment and you might think of building condominiums on it and making a fortune by renting or selling them. But remember this is a test question. I doubt if you can impress your raters with an essay based on this idea unless you are a real estate expert.

To get good scores, you will have to make points with your idea and deal with inevitable counterarguments. If you say that you are going to use the land for money, you will have to explain why you think making money is more important than realizing your dream or using it for the public good. It is true that philanthropists are actually people who made money first and then are helping the needy now, and if you intend to follow suit, that is fine. However, the idea is still off the topic in that you do not tackle the core of the question: a good usage of a huge area of land, which is not just an object of investment but something that provides space, soil, eco-system, the atmosphere above it, life and joy of people, and many other good things that we can take advantage of.

As we have seen before, to answer a hypothetical question with few specific conditions in the TOEFL independent writing section, it is safe to stick to your specialty, the thing that you have a lot to write about to meet the minimum-300-word requirement. Think of problems or wants in the area that you know well and think if there is any good use of the land in order to solve the problem or meet the demand. You might ask yourself questions as follows:

1. What do you like or what are you interested in?
2. What is the problem?
3. How would you use the land to solve the problem?
4. How would you persuade readers to accept the idea?

In my humble case, the answers to these questions are as follows.
1. What do you like or what are you interested in?
I like crows.
2. What is the problem?
Most people hate crows.
3. How would you use the land to solve the problem?
I would build a town for peaceful coexistence of crows and people.
4. How would you persuade readers to accept the idea?
1) By clearing up misunderstandings about crows
2) By calling attention to the attractiveness of crows
3) By arguing about the merits of making friends with crows

☆Note
This question does not mention the cost. Therefore, you do not have to deal with it. You are dealing with a hypothetical question. This is the same as you do not care much about the inconsistency in fiction, for example, when you read a comic in which the main characters become smaller than oxygen molecules and still have no problem with breathing.

Now answer these questions.
1. What do you like or what are you interested in?

2. What is the problem?

3. How would you use the land to solve the problem?

4. How would you persuade readers to accept the idea?

☆Essay for Ideas and Expressions
There would be many wise or innovative uses of a large tract of land, but I would make it a town which is a test case for peaceful coexistence of crows and people. No other birds are so stigmatized as crows, probably in my country Japan in particular. They are regarded as filthy scavengers, spiteful punks, and the sign of death, yet, if observed carefully and without prejudice, they will turn out to be as smart and likable as dolphins. In fact, some people call them flying dogs.

Crows, the big black birds you see littering the sidewalk on garbage collection days, used to live in forests and feed on dead animals on the ground. Development replaced trees with buildings and dead animals with garbage bags. They have been doing the same to survive, nesting on the power poles and eating food on the ground, but now humans are offended by their routine. Crows attack people only to protect their offspring, and the worst thing they can do is to swoop from behind and kick, which they rarely actually do because they are afraid of humans. They remember the face of the person who attacked or threatened them and repeatedly retaliate, but think of their trauma and it is understandable that they do it for self-defense. The biggest stigma that crows bear is the image of death, which probably derives from their color―surely they eat dead bodies but so do many other creatures, from bacteria to dogs. The fear of the color black is our problem, not theirs. In the eyes of humans on the ground crows on power lines are eerie dark spots in the sky, but seen from high above, they are precious pieces of life shining in purple and green. Incidentally, crows are much cleaner than other birds like chickens. They bathe a few times a day if possible.

Although loathed, crows are rather well known to be very smart, affectionate, and remarkable birds. The intelligence level of crows is said to be that of an average 7-year-old human child. They store their food and remember the places, the number of which reaches thousand. They use their calls as vocabularies for their communication and use and, sometimes, make tools. They play. They love slides and jungle gyms and mimic human words and machine noises. They cherish their family and some of them communicate with humans. There are many reports that crows grieve the death of other crows. I myself know a crow which has been missing its mate that disappeared three years ago. One of the most striking things about crows is their eyes. As they can see ultraviolet, they can spot a piece of white bread on the snow field from 200 meters above. Now you might find this bird a little more interesting than before, if not wishing to make friends with it.

In my opinion, it is a shame that we do not have good relationships with crows, these smart birds that happen to live closest to us, and here comes my model town for them and us. In this town, part of the garbage would be sent to the areas designated for crows, thus the streets would stay clean and the cost of waste incineration and CO2 emissions would be reduced. As crows eat mice, insects, and many other things in nature other than garbage, the amount of food given to crows would be controlled in order not to disturb the ecosystem. Those white droppings they leave everywhere could be diverted off of the streets if we successfully communicated with them, and this might be rather easy considering their learning ability. My wildest dream is to let them participate in rescue operations. Since they can fly a long distance and their cognitive level is high, not to speak of their great eyesight, they could make good rescue crows. Of course to protect animal rights, only those willing and having the aptitude would be given the missions.

I once saw a crow perched on a power line entertaining a dog down in a garage. The dog, wagging its tail and jumping around in the small space, looked quite happy to see its friend with wings. The scene reflected their positions in this world. Both born with almost the same intelligence level, one is confined and the other free. Crows could have been domesticated long ago since their cleverness must have been noticed by our ancestors, but they have not. I feel, with no offence to dogs, that crows know what dignity is and keep a distance from humans. They are hated but live proudly. They are sensitive enough to feel the pain of life, yet they won’t give up on life and can do without such things as hope or dream or religion. Perhaps we could learn something important from them by living much closer to them than now.

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