Your are going to read a book extract on travel. Read the text carefully and complete the tasks.

When I moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1990, I felt at a loss. Accustomed to living in England’s secondary nature, I had difficulty reading a landscape in which so much primary nature showed through the patchy overlay of around 140 years of white settlement and enterprise. Hunting for a workable analogy, I tried to see myself as a visitor to Roman Britain at the end of the second century, taking in the new cities, the network of paved highways, the agricultural estates and military installations, superimposed on a land lightly occupied by tribal people. But that conceit was flawed: the British tribes had permanently altered the land with mines, farms, forts, and ritual and funerary monuments long before the Romans came, while the Northwest Indians left few visible traces of their 12,000-year habitation. West of the Cascade Range, where wood rots fast in the soggy climate, the Indian past faded continually behind the ongoing present, like the dissolving wake of a cedar canoe. Artefacts like painted chests, ritual masks and wall hangings survived, but whole towns were reclaimed by the forest within a generation, leaving little more than overgrown shell middens to mark where they’d stood. Wherever the land was significantly shaped, or ‘scaped’ the work appeared to have been done just recently—a spreading accumulation of raw concrete, pressed steel, brick, sheetrock, telephone poles, pavement, fencing, neon, glass and vinyl, scattered in piecemeal fashion across a nature whose essential bone structure of mountains, lakes, forest and sea inlets was still so prominent that the most ambitious attempts to build on and subdue it looked tentative and provisional.

Living in Seattle, one would have to entomb oneself in the basement to avoid the view. On clear days, the snowy bulk of Mount Rainier, high as the Matterhorn, towers over the city, which squats on the edge of Puget Sound, more than a hundred fathoms deep. The lower slopes of the Cascades to the east and the Olympics to the west are thickly furred with forest, or the appearance of forest (for most of the visible timber is actually second- or third-growth ‘tree farms’). Black bears and cougars forage in the suburbs; threatened Chinook salmon flounder through the shipping on the Duwamish Waterway, struggling upstream to spawn and die; from my window, less than two miles north of downtown, I watch bald eagles on their regular east–west flight path over the Lake Washington Ship Canal; a walker in this city can see killer whales breaching, California sea lions hauled out on docks, beavers, coyotes, opossums, foxes, raccoons.

Nearly four million people live in the coastal sprawl of metropolitan Seattle, and there can be very few cities of its size where it’s so easy to feel like a trespasser on the habitat of other creatures, and to be uneasily aware that those creatures, given half a chance, would quickly regain possession of their old freehold. Squint, and you can imagine the wood-frame houses collapsing into greenery, and large mammals denning in abandoned malls. It’s hardly surprising that the urban Pacific Northwest is home to a strain of radical environmentalism whose aim is not just to conserve what’s still left of nature in these parts, but to dismantle the machinery of industrial civilization and restore large tracts of country to the wild.

(adapted from Jonathan Raban’s Driving Home: An American Scrapbook)


  • What does the author mean by ‘But that conceit was flawed’?

Choose if the following statements are true (T), or false (F), or if there is no information given (NI).

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