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6/30/2014

Topic Reading-Vol.810-6/30/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
June 2014: Echoes of June 1914?
Just a century ago from this month, the crown prince of Austria-Hungary Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, were assassinated by Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip. The assassination led Austria-Hungary to declare war on Serbia, triggering a chain of events that brought other nations into the four-year war.
In 1914, Germany, Russia and the United States were key "rising nations", power has shifted from the global North to the South with Asian countries, especially China, the most benefitted revisionist today. There are already territorial disputes with neighboring countries such as Japan and the Philippines, close allies of the other super power, the United States.
And this very week, China’s special envoy made a historic visit to Taiwan, where China regards and maps as part of its territory. He had been warmly welcomed by the Taiwanese government and expected to open dialogues for closer economic ties for the two Chinas until angry “nationalists” threw paint on him.
Fortunately, it wasn’t bullets but just paint. However, there are much more nationalists, extremists and militants today who are way more informed, networked and armed than in 1914. Who could say the situations are so different now from then. Never say never.
Enjoy reading and learning about how different and close 2014 and 1914 are.


6/29/2014

Topic Reading-Vol.809-6/29/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Study: Deforestation leaves fish undersized and underfed.
The amount of fallen leaves into rivers and lakes makes the fish in the waters fatter and bigger, a new study suggests. That is because much higher proportion of water nutrition is found to be made from carbon from trees and leaves than from aquatic food chain sources.
This means that deforestation makes freshwater fish thinner and its population smaller. This sounds like a serious problem not only from environmental and ecological but also from dietary aspects because it is estimated that more than six percent of the animal protein supply for humans relies on freshwater fishes.
If you compare six percent of today’s seven billion population and that of nine billion of 30-some years later, more forests seems to be needed to sustain the animal protein supply.
Enjoy reading and learning about what deforestation could do to the natural environment and humans’ stomach.

6/28/2014

Topic Reading-Vol.808-6/28/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Poachers massacre elephants in Congo park
Where there are buyers, there always are people who want to sell such items whether they are legitimately grown or obtained or not. Unfortunately, the rarer the item is and the stronger the desire for the item is, the higher the value goes such as shark fin and ivory. They are just part of the giant shark and elephant but can’t be taken without taking the life of the creature.
Poachers are all over the world like drug sellers. Because of the market mechanism, they will never vanish. Instead, they could extinguish the endangered species.
What is the most effective way to stop poaching? Maybe disrupting the market by prohibiting consuming, using, buying and trading such “valuable item” may reduce the suppliers, or poachers. But unless such law is enforced very strictly, the value of the rare item could become even higher, which in turn increase the risk of stimulating more aggressive poaching.
Enjoy reading and learning what money could drive some people to do.

6/27/2014

Topic Reading-Vol.807-6/27/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
To eat, or not to eat dog meat
Sharks, whales, dolphins and dogs seem to draw high attention when they are killed for food while cows,while chickens or pigs are grown to be slaughtered for the same purpose, unless they are restricted by religion.
When fewer strayed dogs are seen on the street in the modern world, most of the dogs fed by humans are their pets, or beloved family member. But there are still ones grown to be eaten by humans in China and Korea where its meat has long been traditional diet.
In China, where any moving or breathing object can be put on the dinner menu, the habit of eating dog meat has become a highly controversial topic. For example, animal activists have been protesting against the annual dog meat-eating festival in Yulin, Guangxi Zhuang where thousands of dogs are slaughtered to be served for the festival goers, mainly local residents.
Is there any landing point between traditional dietary customs and modern views on animal rights and welfare?
Enjoy reading and thinking about this highly controversial topic.

6/26/2014

Topic Reading-Vol.806-6/26/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Dinosaurs 'neither warm nor cold blooded'
Highly metabolized creatures such as mammals and birds need to eat a lot and often to move faster and think more intelligently. They also burn the food to keep their body and blood temperatures higher and more stable than those that don’t metabolize as much as they do such as reptiles and fish.
Which category is more economical or ecologically advantageous thus sustainable? Are there any creatures now or in the past that don’t fit to either high or low metabolic categories?
Some researchers seem to have an answer. Dinosaurs. They analyzed fossil bones of dinos and found that their growth speed fits between warm and cold blooded categories.
Enjoy reading and learning about metabolic system of beings.


6/25/2014

Topic Reading-Vol.805-6/25/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
More grads still opting to start own businesses
More Chinese college graduates are choosing to start up their own businesses than before, according to the survey conducted by an education consulting firm in China.
2.3 percent of the 2013 college graduates opted to start their own business, up from 2% in the previous year and 1.6% in 2011.
What did they do? Education seems to be their preferred sector, followed by retail, media-IT, architecture and wholesale.
Why the move is on the rise? Partly because the government had made it easier to start new businesses by loosening administrative requirements.
Who are choosing to be entrepreneurs? Surprisingly, nearly half of them said they chose to do be self-employed and only eight percent of the self-employed graduates said they had chosen to start their businesses because they were unable to be employed.
How much are they making? Those who graduated the same year, those who have been staying in their business for some time seem to make as much as 40% more than those who have been employed.
Enjoy reading and learning what Chinese entrepreneurs like.

6/24/2014

Topic Reading-Vol.804-6/24/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Airbus electric aircraft takes to the skies
While vehicles on the ground have been showing significant improvement in fuel efficiency, gas emission and noise reduction, such as hybrid, Plug-in-Hybrid and electrically-powered cars, things flying in the air don’t seem to have shown that much changes, at least in commercial level.
Although there are still some innovative challenges and attempts have been made such as solar powered glider or battery-powered chopper, they are nowhere close to be mass-produced.
However, there is always new hope in the horizon. Airbus group is going to fly a battery powered two-seat glider, called E-fan, as early as 2017 to train pilots. Although the duration time of E-fan is limited to half an hour, there are other projects coming on board.
Enjoy reading and learning about what future eco aircraft could be like.


6/23/2014

Topic Reading-Vol.803-6/23/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
The car that runs on sunshine and sweat
What would be the best means of transport to a fast food restaurant a few kilometers away for lunch? Walk, bike, bus. taxi or drive? The former options are more time consuming but healthier and more environmentally friendlier. But when it’s rainy, latter ones seem more comfortable. Also your preference might change according to the lunch you enjoy. You might feel guilty taking a car back home after storing a juicy burger with fries or a round of pizza in your stomach. It seems time, weather and distance all matter to the decision.
Here is a good solution for such situation. A solar-power assisted tricycle with rooftop that can speed as fast as 30 kilometers per hour. If its lithium-ion battery is fully charged by the solar panels, it can run as a 100% eco vehicle. Only thing burned is calorie from the food or your fat, not fossil fuels!
Enjoy reading and learning about this amazing new double-eco, economically and ecologically, tricycle.

6/22/2014

Topic Reading-Vol.802-6/22/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
China investigation finds 1,000 'naked officials' in Guangdong.
In Volume 801, or simply yesterday’s, Topic Reading, several suggestions were made to succeed in business in China. In this volume, you will learn a new initiative taken by one of the most influential provincial governments, Guangdong, whose chief of the Communist Party is one of the most promising candidates in the next generation of Chinese leadership, Hu Chunhua.
The local government cracked down its own officials who have sent their family members abroad. Although this practice itself is not illegal, it might give corrupt officials a way to send any money obtained illegally abroad.
Those who have sent their family members abroad were given a tough choice to make; either bring them back home or quit their jobs, otherwise they will be demoted.
Has this practice been one of the major causes why as many as 30% of foreign college students in the US are from China?
Enjoy reading and learning why sending family members abroad is a problem for a promising party leader.

6/21/2014

Topic Reading-Vol.801-6/21/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
What it takes to succeed in China?
Face-saving and relationships seem to be some of the most significant cultural characteristics you need to understand when it comes to establishing a new business in China.
For example, “Mei Wenti”, no problem in English, is a phrase often heard when you raise a problematic issue or concern to a Chinese counterpart. When you hear this, you may want to suspect something is wrong in the issue or process. Even so, you’d better not regard the person insincere or dishonest. It is better not to directly dig the issue at the moment but to keep it in your mind and deal with it later or in a different occasion. You’ve got to save his or her face.
Another issue you may want to understand and respect is Gunaxi, the basic dynamic in personalized networks of influence, relation and connection in Chinese society. It is essential to respect your Chinese counterpart persons and try your best to establish good relation with them. It’ll take some time, meals and drinks and even songs to build such relationship but once it is built, it could be more assuring and valuable than contracts or agreement on the paper.
Sounds complicating, doesn’t it? Enjoy reading and learning what it would take to start a business relationship in China.


6/20/2014

Topic Reading-Vol.800-6/20/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Wide Asia support for US despite China rise.
Over the course of the last 799 volumes, or a little over two years time, there have been numbers of incidents in the western part of the Pacific and many of those are related to the two giants that lie the eastern and western side of the ocean. And especially the countries around the western area of the Ocean have witnessed and faced threads by the red giant while enjoying economic benefits in trade, investment and tourism with them more than the other. Though countries such as Japan, South Korea and Thailand that have been strong allies of the US, their biggest trade partner is now China and the more visitors are coming from China than others. So, how foreign relationship experts and business executives in Asian countries view the influence and balance of those two rivals in the region? Do they still want the US to be the dominant power or expect it to secure the regional stability?
Enjoy reading and learning the recent survey results about the influence of rise and decline of the super powers in the region.

6/19/2014

Topic Reading-Vol.799-6/19/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
The world's strangest work laws
Still not certain if the bill is going to be enacted, it certainly draws attention from various aspects.
The highly controversial Spanish legislation requires children to take responsibilities for and obligations to their family life including showing respect for their parents and siblings, and performing household chores according to their age. Though no punishment or penalties to be imposed, legalizing such domestic issues is uncommon even for Spain where it had already legalized husbands’ responsibility to share their domestic chores and caring for their children.
There are some other unpopular or strange legal requirements or obligations in the world such as banning to contact off-duty employees via emails, mandating vigorous, thorough annual health check including measurement of waistline to ensure workers mental and physical health. In the meantime, employers in the U.S. aren’t required to provide lunch break or paid vacations.
Enjoy reading and learning how diverse work laws are in today’s highly connected world.


6/18/2014

Topic Reading-Vol.798-6/18/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Foreign tech firms pose threat on Internet
While being accused of its military cyber-attacks to the US government and private entities, China itself accuses the US and its tech companies of their cyber information theft and wiretapping. (“wireless-tapping” to be precise these days?)
It seems that the two rivals have gotten into a cyber-war, like the US and the Soviet had a cold-war in the late 1900’s. Though the impact and effect won’t last as long as the ones nuclear radio activity poses, cyber weapons and attacks could cause even greater devastating damages to the lives of people, business operations and social infrastructures around the world in a matter of a blink affecting as many as millions because things and people are so tightly related and connected each other than ever before via the Internet.
Which side had initiated the attack before the other responded or which does more than the other is no longer the issue. Each has its own say. However, interestingly, this Chinese semi-state-run media uses a quote from Al Jazeera, a Doha based broadcaster owned by the ruling family of Qatar, along with “experts” of their own country. A new ally of China?
Enjoy reading and learning how one side accuses the other in the cyber space.

6/17/2014

Topic Reading-Vol.797-6/17/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Why Online Education May Drive Down the Cost of Your Degree
Are you paying the tuition for the cost, name or value of education? It is astonishing to know that the cost of online higher education varies as much as ten times. While some online courses offer economically friendly tuitions, others charge the same tuitions as their on-ground degree courses. What makes such differences?
Some budget conscious online courses outsource some of their instructors and grading processes. Others don’t even have on-ground campus or facilities such as library, gym or toilets.
On the other hand, premium online education courses claim that students are taught by the same faculty. They also say the cost of producing quality online programs is not the same as the ones posted on YouTube.
Which would be your choice? On-line or on-ground, face-to-face or click-by-click, on-demand or on-schedule?
Enjoy reading and learning the benefits and drawbacks of online education.


6/16/2014

Topic Reading-Vol.796-6/16/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Doh! 20 biggest travel mistakes
Any experienced traveler could give pieces of advice to other travelers. Do this but don’t do that.
And you can follow such advice not knowing if they apply to your itinerary or life style. Still, it won’t hurt much to read or listen to others’ mistakes.
Here are 20 such travel mistakes presented by numbers of experienced international travelers.


It seems that the saving you’re trying to make is smaller than you expect and the price you’re required to pay often higher than you estimated. And likewise, the experience you expect to enjoy during a trip isn’t always as great as a travel guide says because everyone has his or her own preference and priority. The best travel tip may be to expect less and enjoy more. Sounds like a tip for life, doesn't it?

6/15/2014

Topic Reading-Vol.795-6/15/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
9 of the world's most controversial foods
In some cultures, people can’t stop eating certain kinds of dishes made of animals, birds, amphibians or fish whose population is declining to the level that is feared of extinction. Some may call such dishes delicacy and admire the taste in the mouth, appearance on the dinner table or in the banquet menu, even though harvesting or trading such meat or part of the creature is banned.
Maybe that is why some people are attempted to consume such controversial foods and raise the value of the dish, which incentivizes poachers to hunt those endangered species.
What kinds of dishes are they? Enjoy reading the article and seeing the photos of endangered species because of human appetite.


6/14/2014

Topic Reading-Vol.794-6/14/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Meet the armless table tennis champion who proves 'nothing is impossible'
If you were armless, not just one but both, which would be your choice to play, play football or table tennis?
Perhaps 999 of 1,000 would pick a football rather than a racket. Yes he did so first but this Egyptian man, then just a teenager, wanted another challenge. He started vigorous training to play table tennis when he was 13, three years after he lost his arms in an accident, and became one of the most successful and honored Paralympic athletes in the world.
He believes nothing is impossible, as long as one works hard. He appears to the public event to show his skills and determination to encourage the young not to give up.
Enjoy seeing this amazing man playing table tennis and learning what a person can possibly do.

6/13/2014

Topic Reading-Vol.793-6/13/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Abe vows greater Japanese security role in Asia
There isn’t any mountain that looks the same from all sides, even Mt. Fuji.
When someone tries to explain a topic especially the one that is under dispute with others, the explanation is often taken or interpreted very or somehow differently from its intention.
Here is a good example. From Japan’s point of view, the country which has been causing security threats is China. So, any actions or moves to cope with the threats are for security and defense, not aggression or offense, therefore they are pacifist and justifiable.
However, from China’s point of view, that looks nothing but accusation and aggression against them and clear declaration of military expansion to the region that could threat their side of security and territory.
Also, the same explanation is viewed not as as-a-matter-of-factly as Japan thinks or hopes.
Enjoy reading the below news article by a Western media about Japan’s prime minister’s address and comparing it with the one made by a Chinese semi-state media.

6/12/2014

Topic Reading-Vol.792-6/12/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Obama outlines foreign policy vision of 'might and right'
Whether to use the world largest and strongest military force seems to be one of the most difficult decisions to make for the President of the U.S. Such decision may be similar to one for American gun owners when they encounter a situation that threatens their or their family’s safety.
But how much effort and how many other options have been sought and tried before mobilizing the military force? Military actions sometimes discussed as if it were a monetary actions. If one has extra money, it could be used or wasted unwisely. People are tempted to use what they have, either money or might. But money or might should be the last, or the least preferred option to solve any problem because once it is used, more may be needed.
Enjoy reading and learning how difficult to own and use military power effectively.

6/11/2014

Topic Reading-Vol.791-6/11/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
China to scrap millions of cars to improve air quality
Aging cars are one of the major causes of air pollution problem in China as they emit more environmentally harmful gasses to drive the same distance and time than newer ones. So why not replacing them with fuel-efficient, cleaner and greener modern vehicles?
That sounds like a very simple solution but also a very economically costly idea to implement, not to mention the environmental cost to scrap the old ones.
But with its recently put highest priority to tackle the air pollution problems, Chinese government is going to replace millions of such pollution creating old cars with new environmentally friendly ones. And they seem not only to demonstrate strong political initiatives but also to offer economic incentives to those who own such automobiles.
Enjoy reading and learning about China’s quick and radical solution and action to solve a problem.

6/10/2014

Topic Reading-Vol.790-6/10/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Does flossing your teeth prevent tooth decay?
How often you floss in addition to regular toothbrush may depend on how much you believe in the benefits of doing it. Many of you might have heard from your dentists while in the chair that the main purpose of tooth brushing is to remove plaque before spreading. Plaque is the sticky film of bacteria. If it’s left on or between teeth, it breaks down the surface and decays the tooth or inflames the gum. So, it’s essential to brush your tooth as soon as you finish your meal or snack, especially after enjoying sugar-contained food or drinks.
But how effective is flossing? Does it remove more plaque from your teeth and reduce the risk of tooth decay or gum disease? Unfortunately, it seems better than not doing it but not as much as you hope.
Enjoy reading and learning about how effective flossing is.


6/09/2014

Topic Reading-Vol.789-6/9/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
5 Myths About Antarctic Melt
While having more sea ice around western Antarctica, the total ice mass is declining. Why?
It’s because when the amount of ice in Antarctica is mentioned, it refers the ice on the continent, namely glaciers, not the sea ice that melts in summer. Thus, more sea ice around Antarctica means more melted water in the sea that could raise the sea levels. In other words, if the glaciers on Antarctica retreats, more sea ice is formed around the continent that melts and raises sea levels. This is very much opposite from the other side of the globe where sea ice stays throughout the year, which means that the shrinkage of the sea ice in Arctic area raises sea levels.
Enjoy reading and learning why the loss of glacier ice in the westernmost Antarctica matters the most to the rise of sea levels.

6/08/2014

Topic Reading-Vol.788-6/8/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Q. Can art really get any more expensive? A. 'We will see a billion dollar work'
How much in enough for a piece of painted work or sculpture? A million, ten or even 100?
As a matter of fact, an estimated market size for fine art in 2013 is 65.5 billion dollars. On a single day in the same year, the world largest auction house closed 782 million dollars of trades. Need a more concrete figure? A piece of work by painted by a French impressionist Paul C├ęzanne in 1892-93, was reportedly sold for between $250 and $300 million in a closed door sale.
Who are paying such a big sum just for an art work? The super-rich individuals, monetary funds and even some states like Qatar.
Why are they spending or investing that much money? One expert says, "Prices seem to set the value. Overpaying is almost the best thing you can do, because you start to define your own market." This means the deeper the pocket one has, the better the chances the one could get.
Enjoy reading and learning about the robust fine art market.

6/07/2014

Topic Reading-Vol.787-6/7/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
U.S. Online Degrees Pose Challenges for International Students
Is distant learning always fully on demand? Not necessarily. While most of the online education courses let students can access videos and other material on their own time, some part of the programs, particularly for a degree, require live attendance to their class discussions. It is called Synchronous, where students are required to log in at a specific time and participate in class.
That seems challenging for foreign students who are taking courses of under graduate or graduate colleges in the US in terms of time and language. Those who live in different time zones may have to stay up late or through the night to take part in the class that is taken place during the daytime in the US. Also for those whose native language is not English face challenges in participating in live discussions with Americans whose cultural backgrounds and cultures are very different from theirs, not to mention writing essays.
It is still convenient and more economical opportunity for foreign learners who cannot afford to leave their countries and their jobs and spend years in other country.
Enjoy reading and learning about challenges to take US online degree.


6/06/2014

Topic Reading-Vol.786-6/6/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Putin to cut Russian imports of Western goods with new fund
Why the country wants to be less dependent on its western economic partners that not only purchase its natural resources such as gas and oil but also provide funds and technologies that could further grow the economy?
In today’s interconnected world, every country depends on others. Trades, exchanges, interactions, joint projects, resource sharing, counter terrorism and environmental cooperation. Such interconnectivity brings in more benefits and outcomes in a long run in economy, technology, and environment. It also could reduce the risks of conflicts or disputes because the loss of opportunity by military conflict or war is becoming larger than the gain. Zero-sum game seems to be played all over the places in one way or another, doesn’t it?
Enjoy reading and learning about Russia’s latest initiative for the coming decades.


6/05/2014

Topic Reading-Vol.785-6/5/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
China bans use of Microsoft's Windows 8 on government computers
The country is well known for its sudden, radical and unprecedented moves. This time, Beijing ordered a ban not to use the latest version of the world most popular computer operating system as part of a notice on the use of energy-saving products.
How does a ban on the latest OS of the largest tech company support energy saving products? Are there better, at least comparative domestic OS that China wants to promote to grow to less dependent on its rival? What will the users do who are still sticking with the once-most-popular but is now abandoned XP?
Whatever the reason or motive is, it seems like a restriction on free trade, which could trigger a trade war.
Enjoy reading and learning about the latest move by the Red Giant.

6/04/2014

Topic Reading-Vol.784-6/4/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
President Xi addresses CICA summit
There are many common words and phrases to express friendship and cooperation, such as mutual, peaceful, good partners, win-win, trust one another and cooperate on an equal footing.
Anyone could say these words anywhere at any time to anyone but they usually don’t bring about anything unless concrete actions or solutions are agreed between or among the parties.
When two parties engage in argument or dispute on hot issues, such as territory, security or energy, it usually is extremely difficult to find a mutually agreeable settling point unless one of them has no choice but to accept a bitter compromise or intolerable conditions by force or threat.
Enjoy reading beautiful words for peace, security and prosperity that China speaks out to its neighboring countries.


6/03/2014

Topic Reading-Vol.783-6/3/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
The Food Lab: The Hard Truth About Boiled Eggs
Do you like peeling hard-boiled eggs? What are the odds you successfully peel a boiled egg without cracks sticking to the white? Does it depend of how fresh the egg is, how long the egg is boiled, how hot the water was when the egg was put into or how cold the temp is when the egg is peeled?
These factors matter up to some degrees. But some matter much more than others. How you can find what matters the most?
Enjoy reading and learning how to cook a perfect hard boiled egg!


6/02/2014

Topic Reading-Vol.782-6/2/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Top 20 most polluted cities in the world
Which sounds more describing the condition, most polluted air or worst air quality?
Surprisingly to those who don’t often travel to major cities around the Indian Ocean, they seem to be more polluted than other polluted places like Beijing or Jakarta where roads are congested with cars and motorcycles and coals are burned to generate power and cook meals.
The most popular air quality indicator to human health these days is the amount of particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers, PM2.5. These harmful particles are produced when fossil fuels are burned. They are small enough to penetrate into the bloodstream, and then could cause dangerous diseases such as emphysema and cancer.
These top 20 cities reported to have much more such particles in the air than what the WHO suggests as safe to breathe and live with.
Many who live in such polluted and expensive cities may live there for other priorities like money, opportunity and education. One must live first before thinking about the risk of his or her health. However, when their health is threatened, what will become their first priority?
Enjoy reading and thinking about where in the world you may want to live in.

6/01/2014

Topic Reading-Vol.781-6/1/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Spanish island fights snake invasion.
Here is another example of humans’ mischief to the wildlife. Snakes slithered away from the cage in a pet shop or owner’s house. There are numbers of such incidents that have threatened the local residents, both humans and other wildlife especially small lizards. Once a few snakes get into a place where there are no or few predators but plentiful of prays, they thrive in the area and threaten other species or sometimes endanger them.
In a sunny and mild island of the Canary islands, a few Kingsnake escaped from a pet shop and growing its population to the level that threatens other small lizards and put the biodiversity.
Humans, trained falcons and dogs have been fighting with them but they need more help, asking experts from the world to conserve nature of the beautiful island.
Enjoy reading and learning about what small mischief could causes troubles to the environment.