National Geographic Worldwide

This is Steve Ember. And this is Faith Lapidus with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today we tell about the National Geographic Society and its international programs.

Books. Movies. Magazines. Maps. Television programs. Internet sites. Trips for travelers. Continuing support for research and exploration around the world. These are all ways an American organization, the National Geographic Society, is trying to increase its worldwide reach.

The National Geographic Society began in the United States more than a century ago with thirty-three members. Today it has more than nine million members worldwide. It is the largest non-profit scientific and educational organization in the world. It has taught millions of people about the world they live in, the deep oceans and outer space.

In eighteen eighty-eight, thirty-three men gathered at a social club in Washington, D.C. They were scientists, explorers, military officers and teachers. Most of them had traveled many places. They were excited about new discoveries. They believed in the importance of geography – the study of the Earth and its resources.

The men believed travel helps people understand their world and other cultures. So they decided to create an organization for people interested in knowing more about the world. They named it the National Geographic Society.

Nine months later they published their first effort to communicate with members. It was the official record of the society. It contained factual, scientific reports.

Gilbert H. Grosvenor became the editor of the magazine in nineteen-oh-three. He remained with the magazine for fifty-five years. He wanted to increase the Society's membership by presenting "the living, breathing human-interest truth about this great world of ours." He wanted the magazine to offer simple, clear writing describing the personal experience of explorers and photographs of what they saw.

The magazine continues to offer writing that describes the personal experiences of explorers and adventurers. It has become famous for its memorable photographs from around the world. It is a record of what is happening to cultures, nature, science and technology.

Today about forty million people read the National Geographic magazine every month. It is published in twenty-five languages including Japanese, Korean, Greek, Chinese, Turkish and Russian. Eight years ago, only twenty percent of the National Geographic readers lived outside the United States. Now, more than forty percent of the readers live outside the United States.

During the last century, the National Geographic Society expanded in many different areas. It now publishes four other magazines, including one especially for children. It publishes about eighty books a year for adults and children, a total of more than two-thousand books in thirty-two languages.

The National Geographic also produces videos and movies. It has an Internet Web site, nationalgeographic.com. And it has twenty local Web sites, including ones in India, Brazil, Japan, Romania and Latin America.

National Geographic Channels International broadcasts television programs in twenty-six languages. People in about one hundred fifty countries can see them. One recent program followed the steps of early explorer Marco Polo in China. Another went to the middle of a tornado to see nature at its worst.

The main goal of the National Geographic Society still is to support research and exploration throughout the world. The Committee for Research and Exploration has paid for more than seven thousand scientific research and exploration projects in about one hundred eighty countries. Forty percent of the grants have been given to explorers and scientists outside the United States. Recently, the Society has increased its international reach through new programs for younger explorers and for filmmakers.

In nineteen ninety-eight, the National Geographic created the Expeditions Council. The Council awards grants for explorations in unrecorded or little known areas of the world. Rebecca Martin is executive director of the Expeditions Council. She says it is seeking projects that may not be scientific but will provide exciting stories in words and pictures about the world we live in.

In the year two thousand, the Society began a program to honor and give financial support to experienced explorers. There are eight Explorers-in-Residence now. They share what they learn with the public through National Geographic Society books, magazines, television programs, and talks.

Underwater explorer Robert Ballard is one of the Explorers-in-Residence. He returned this year to the Atlantic Ocean to examine the famous sunken passenger ship, the Titanic, nineteen years after he discovered it. He found that other divers are damaging the ship when they land on it and remove objects. His new examination of the Titanic led to a National Geographic book, a magazine report and two television programs.

The newest Explorers-in Residence are Meave and Louise Leakey who are mother and daughter. They are paleontologists who have made important discoveries of early human ancestors and prehistoric mammals in Africa.

Last month, the Society announced a new program for younger explorers. Barbara Moffett is a spokeswoman for the National Geographic Society. She says the Emerging Explorers program is designed to help younger people who are adding to world knowledge.

Up to ten people will be chosen each year. Each one will receive an award of ten thousand dollars to help with his or her research and explorations. The program is open to explorers, scientists, photographers and storytellers who are not yet known for their work.

Nine people are in the first group of Emerging Explorers. One of them is Tierney Thys who works for a movie company in California. She has spent four years traveling the oceans of the world. She is studying a giant sunfish named the mola. It can weigh more than two hundred twenty-five kilograms. Zeray (ze-RYE) Alemseged is an anthropology researcher in Leipzig, Germany. He is leading a scientific dig in Ethiopia's Afar area. His team is discovering important information about the four million year history of human development.

Photographer Jimmy Chin is another Emerging Explorer. He is climbing some of the highest mountains in the world to take pictures of places most people will never see.

Earlier this year, the National Geographic launched the All Roads Film project. Its goal is to provide support to filmmakers who are members of a native group or minority culture.

The All Roads Film project will provide grant money to produce films or videos. Experienced filmmakers will offer training and advice. The project will provide public showings of some of the best movies made by independent filmmakers who have difficulty getting their work shown.

This month, movies made in sixteen countries will be shown at two All Roads Film Festivals in Los Angeles, California, and Washington, D.C. A group of movie industry advisors chose the winners from more than five-hundred entered in the competition.

Members of the native Maoris of Australia made one of the movies. It is about a group of Maori soldiers in World War Two. Another movie, made in Thailand, looks at a Buddhist's feelings about terrorism. An Iranian actress directed a movie that shows Iranian women and what they think.

The National Geographic Society has become increasingly concerned about the need to protect the Earth's natural resources. It also believes that young people must better understand the world if they are to become its future leaders.

And, the Society needs to provide exciting stories for its television programs and magazines that are produced in many areas of the world.

So, Rebecca Martin says, the National Geographic is always looking for younger explorers whose exciting projects will help people understand their world.

This program was written by Marilyn Christiano and produced by Mario Ritter. This is Steve Ember. And this is Faith Lapidus. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

Voice of America Special English

Source: EXPLORATIONS – National Geographic Worldwide
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