MCAT CARS: Chalking to Raise Awareness of Urban Flora


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CARS 79: MCAT CARS: Chalking to Raise Awareness of Urban Flora

Session 79

How should you approach MCAT CARS passages about random topics? We analyze a passage about rebel botanists to show you how to uncover the point of the passage.

If you want some more help with your CARS section or with your MCAT score in general, go check out what Jack Westin is doing. His course will help understand the CARS section and help you break it down even more.

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

Link to the article:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/may/01/not-just-weeds-how-rebel-botanists-are-using-graffiti-to-name-forgotten-flora-aoe

Arising international force of rebel botanists armed with chalk has taken up street graffiti to highlight the names and importance of the diverse but downtrodden flora growing in the cracks of paths and walls in towns and cities across Europe.

The idea of naming wild plants wherever they go – which began in France – has gone viral, with people chalking and sharing their images on social media. More than 127,000 people have liked a photo of chalked-up tree names in a London suburb, while a video of botanist Boris Presseq of Toulouse Museum of Natural History chalking up names to highlight street flowers in the French city has had 7m views.

Presseq told the Guardian: “I wanted to raise awareness of the presence, knowledge and respect of these wild plants on sidewalks. People who had never taken the time to observe these plants now tell me their view has changed. Schools have contacted me since to work with students on nature in the city.”

France banned pesticide use in parks, streets and other public spaces in 2017 and in gardens from 2019, leading to a surge in awareness of urban wild flowers in the country.

French botanist and campaigner Sophie Leguil, who lives in London, set up the More Than Weeds campaign to change perceptions of urban plants in the UK after helping to spread the Sauvages de ma rue (“wild things of my street”) chalking campaign in France led by Tela Botanica. She has won permission to chalk up Hackney’s highways and make chalk trails to highlight the forgotten flora at our feet and is asking other councils to allow the same.

“The pesticide ban in France has played a major role as it has forced local authorities and mentalities to change, and raised awareness,” said Leguil.

“I’ve been wanting to do it on a larger scale, with permission, and I hope to get more authorities interested in creating trails. We talk a lot about plant blindness – what if putting names on plants could make people look at them in a different way? I despair at how sanitised London has become. Plants can be managed differently, with benefits – cost-saving, biodiversity, education.”

In the UK it is illegal to chalk anything – hopscotch, art or botanical names – on paths or highways without permission, even if it educates, celebrates and fosters interest and knowledge in nature.

[01:38] How to Deal with Random Topics

Jack is addressing a couple of things today and next next week such as random topics. Because oftentimes, he finds that his students are good at reading. But when they are faced with a really foreign concept or to a foreign topic, they become lost. They just get drowned in doubt. So Jack is teaching us how to read through the nuances and how to get to the point of the sentence and how these sentences can really give you a lot of information. Just make sure that you’re really paying attention.

[02:40] Paragraph 1, Sentence 1

Arising international force of rebel botanists armed with chalk has taken up street graffiti to highlight the names and importance of the diverse but downtrodden flora growing in the cracks of paths and walls in towns and cities across Europe.

Jack says:

A botanist is someone who deals with plants. But why are they armed with chalk? And street graffiti is confusing. This is the kind of sentence that throws a lot of students off because the topic is so random.

We’re talking about these plant people and they’re supposedly rebels. But are they really rebels? It’s probably sarcasm. But it says that they’re trying to highlight the names and importance of downtrodden Flora downtrodden. Why are they downtrodden? It kind of suggests that they’re oppressed. And then they’re growing in the cracks of these towns and cities.

So you just need to know that we have these scientists or plant people who are highlighting plants using chalk throughout the city. And it’s supposedly international. So maybe it’s not just one location that this is happening and it’s happening in multiple countries.

This first sentence gives us a lot of great information. If you have an open mind, and you go in trying to understand the clues, you’re going to probably make sense out of what it’s really saying. 

“MCAT CARS is very much like a puzzle. It’s okay if you don't understand everything perfectly when you read it.'Click To Tweet

[05:04] Paragraph 2, Sentence 1

The idea of naming wild plants wherever they go – which began in France – has gone viral, with people chalking and sharing their images on social media.

Jack says:

We’re given a little bit more information here that this happening began in France, and it’s becoming this viral sensation on social media. And they made it very clear here. They’re talking about naming wild plants. And it has gone viral so it’s popular.

[05:56] Paragraph 2, Sentence 2

More than 127,000 people have liked a photo of chalked-up tree names in a London suburb, while a video of botanist Boris Presseq of Toulouse Museum of Natural History chalking up names to highlight street flowers in the French city has had 7m views.

Jack says:

The previous sentence says it has gone viral, and now they’re giving the numbers. It’s giving us evidence of why it’s popular.

“When you're reading these sentences, a major strategy that everyone should use is to always ask yourself why.”Click To Tweet

One strategy when reading these sentences is to ask: Why are they discussing this at this point? That’s not just true for each sentence you read. But it’s also true for the paragraph. Try to figure out how the paragraph relates to the previous paragraph you’ve read. 

The previous paragraph was all about how they have these botanists who are actually chalking up the plants. This paragraph is giving us more information, which cities, which people, and more specifically, the popularity of it.

Now, why would the author bring up the popularity of this kind of activity? Maybe to suggest that this isn’t just a crazy one-off. And this is happening everywhere that this is important. Maybe this is something that we should be aware of, that we should listen to and pay attention to.

That’s probably why the author brought this up because it’s a big deal to the author. So we shouldn’t just take this for granted or just brush it off. It’s not just some random kindergarten kid drawing on the sidewalk so it gives it more importance in our lives.

[08:24] Paragraph 3, Sentence 1

Presseq told the Guardian: “I wanted to raise awareness of the presence, knowledge and respect of these wild plants on sidewalks.

Jack says:

So Presseq gave the quote to The Guardian and he wanted people to respect even the plants on the sidewalk. This is not the author’s point of view. But the author could challenge Presseq’s point of view. 

The fact that the author introduced this means that it probably is the author’s position as well. But we just don’t know yet. If they don’t tell us, then we probably assume it is the author’s point of view or else, why else would they bring this up?

So don’t be surprised if they go and say it’s a bad idea. But don’t assume that just because this is introduced then this is definitely the author’s position. You have to keep reading and then at the end of the passage, you can make up that conclusion.

[09:53] Paragraph 3, Sentence 2

People who had never taken the time to observe these plants now tell me their view has changed.

Jack says:

This is Presseq continuing his quotes saying that he has talked to other people and they had their view changed from previously not observing them to now apparently observing them and maybe caring about them.

[10:17] Paragraph 3, Sentence 3.

Schools have contacted me to work with students on nature in the city.”

Jack says:

So it’s showing that schools are now reaching out to him about what he’s doing. This is basically trying to raise awareness and trying to show that people actually care about this. And it should be important.

[10:43] Paragraph 4, Sentence 1

France banned pesticide use in parks, streets, and other public spaces in 2017 and in gardens from 2019, leading to a surge in awareness of urban wildflowers in the country.

Jack says:

Now we’re given a backstory here as to why this is happening and it’s because of this ban of pesticides used in parks, streets and other public spaces.

[11:13] Paragraph 5, Sentence 1

French botanist and campaigner Sophie Leguil, who lives in London, set up the More Than Weeds campaign to change perceptions of urban plants in the UK after helping to spread the Sauvages de ma rue (“wild things of my street”) chalking campaign in France led by Tela Botanica.

Jack says:

We’re given another name of a botanist here, Sophie who has this campaign more than weeds. And this new person is doing the same thing.

You don’t have to know all the details. But you should be aware that they discussed it. They discussed someone from London who has their own program.

And then you have to try to understand the author’s flow. And that’s the hard part. When you’re reading, if you’re not paying attention, all of this will seem like a blur. That’s where just paying attention to the puzzle, the way that the maze is being drawn out will help you get the correct answers.

Because ultimately, they’re going to try to trick you with these details. They’re going to try to throw in these details at random places and the questions. If you’re not confident with the way you read the passage, you’re going to be picking something that wasn’t really discussed. 

Simply paying attention, trying your best to follow the flow of the passage, will actually eliminate that from happening. That will prevent you from being anxious and worried and lost when you get to the question.

'Pay attention as much as you can. Do you have to remember the exact details? No. But you have to try your best to actually pay attention.'Click To Tweet

[13:24] Paragraph 5, Sentence 2

She has won permission to chalk up Hackney’s highways and make chalk trails to highlight the forgotten flora at our feet and is asking other councils to allow the same.

Jack says:

So Sophie is doing a little policy campaigning to try to get permission to do some chalk on some potential other places. In this case, though, try to visualize and understand that they’re asking for permission. They’re asking other councils to allow the same so it seems like in some cases, you have to actually get permission to do this.

[14:10] Paragraph 6, Sentence 1

“The pesticide ban in France has played a major role as it has forced local authorities and mentalities to change, and raised awareness,” said Leguil.

Jack says:

So now you may be thinking, well, it’s not just outside knowledge. That might probably be common sense for the for MCAT CARS, but you’re still responsible for that. Because they’re explaining it to you, maybe not directly. But you have enough information so you can assume that pesticide does actually prevent plants from growing.

[15:06] Paragraph 7, Sentence 1

“I’ve been wanting to do it on a larger scale, with permission, and I hope to get more authorities interested in creating trails.

Jack says:

It’s showing how this person is really trying to campaign for making this happen and then what she sees as the importance of it.

[15:30] Paragraph 7, Sentence 2

We talk a lot about plant blindness – what if putting names on plants could make people look at them in a different way?

Jack says:

Now we know why it’s important to her so that people would look at plants in a different way and that we should respect them more, and care about them more.

[15:49] Paragraph 7, Sentence 3

I despair at how sanitised London has become.

Jack says:

This person is talking about just not liking how clean it is really. We think of weeds as this bad thing. And she’s saying she doesn’t like how clean things have come.

This is something that a lot of students will read and go what’s going on there? 

So these plants are important to the author, but they may not be important to society at large, at least not right now. That’s the assumption that we have to be making that most people don’t care much about these plants. They’re killing them with pesticide.

So it sets up this scene that the author wants you to know, or at least this botanist wants you to realize.

[16:48] Paragraph 7, Sentence 4

Plants can be managed differently, with benefits – cost-saving, biodiversity, education.”

Jack says:

This person is very passionate about saving her urban plant life.

[17:06] Paragraph 8, Sentence 1

In the UK it is illegal to chalk anything – hopscotch, art or botanical names – on paths or highways without permission, even if it educates, celebrates and fosters interest and knowledge in nature.

Jack says:

Now we see where the problem is because it’s illegal in the UK to chalk anything.

[17:35] The Main Idea

It’s all about raising awareness of these urban plants and that we as a society have kind of pushed them off to the side and killed them. And this person is trying to show that there’s more to them than that.

So they just want to raise awareness of urban flora by chalking their names. They didn’t call it nuisance. But we can probably assume it is.

A lot of students potentially will struggle maybe with names because the names are pretty challenging. It brings in some law things like it’s illegal in the UK. 

Again, going back to the mindset of the student, how do they try to force out the non important stuff?

It’s all about being open-minded. Understand that we can go anywhere at any time. And passages are like art. Your job is to look at this piece of writing, and try to figure out what the author was trying to convey.

This was more written in a journalistic approach. From other people’s perspective, it’s actually easier to find the bigger points.

What’s nice about this passage is that it introduces a really random topic and a really random way or activity to deal with that topic. If you’re not open to reading about it, you’re not going to get that bigger point.

So when you ask yourself, what are we talking about? Why are we talking about this right now? You’re going to start slowly capturing the essence or the big picture of the passage.

'Always ask yourself why are we talking about this? Where are we going? What are we discussing?'Click To Tweet

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Jack Westin

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