Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.
I'm Doug Johnson. This week:
We listen to a new album from Darius Rucker …
Answer a listener question about vegetarians …
And tell about people who ride their bicycles to work.
Biking to Work
More Americans than ever are riding their bicycles to work instead of driving. They are doing this because of gas prices, a slowing economy and concerns about the environment. Faith Lapidus tells us more.
Many Americans have been leaving their cars at home and riding to work on bicycles. Andy Clark is the executive director of the League of American Bicyclists. His group supports bicycling for fun, fitness and transportation.
Mr. Clark says this is good news for the environment. He says riding a bicycle to work does not burn fossil fuel or create dangerous pollutants. Experts say the effects are the most important on short trips. The Department of Transportation says fifty percent of Americans drive eight kilometers or fewer to work. Shorter car trips release more pollution into the air for each kilometer driven. This is because the device in a car engine that reduces the harmfulness of emissions needs to warm up before it can work well.
Members of Congress have supported bicycling as environmentally friendly transportation. For example, Minnesota Representative James Oberstar is a strong supporter of bicycle use. He says cities, counties, state governments and state highway transportation agencies are planning the roadways of the future. They are creating roads and paths for bicycles in cities and between communities.
Last year, the Pacific Northwest city of Portland, Oregon, had the highest percentage of bicycle commuters in the United States. Portland has been doing progressive city planning for many years to create special paths for bike riders.
Andrew Land is one of Portland's citizens who bikes to work every day. Mr. Land is thirty-three years old and has never owned a car. He has biked to work for twelve years. Before moving to Portland six years ago, he lived in Washington, D.C. But he was hit by a car twice while biking to work there. That has not happened in Portland where there are special roads for bicycles. Mr. Land bought a house near these special bike lanes. He rides almost five kilometers to work each day. He also uses the sixty-four kilometer bike path around the city.
Andrew Land rides a cyclocross bike. He says it combines the best parts of a racing bike and a mountain bike. You might say that Andrew Land is "into bikes." He recently attended a show of handmade bicycle frames. It was organized by thirty bicycle frame builders in Portland. And he attended a legal rights workshop for bicyclists.
Vegetarians in the U.S.
Our listener question this week comes from India. K. Jameel Ahmed wants to know about vegetarians in the United States. To answer this question, we first have to describe several ways Americans define a vegetarian diet.
Some vegetarians do not eat any meat products or any food made from animal labor, including milk products, eggs and honey. This kind of diet is called a vegan diet. But most vegetarians include dairy products in their diet and many vegetarians eat eggs. Some people consider themselves partial vegetarians, because they do not eat meat or farm birds, but they do eat fish.
There are many reasons people choose to be vegetarian. Some religions such as Hinduism observe vegetarianism as part of an effort of nonviolence towards animals. Many other people have non-religious moral reasons for not eating meat. They believe that killing farm animals for food is immoral and cruel.
Other vegetarians believe it is more healthful to eat a plant-based diet. The American Dietetic Association says that vegetarians often have lower cholesterol and blood pressure as well as lower rates of some kinds of cancer and diabetes.
And some vegetarians reject eating meat for environmental reasons. Some studies show that the industry of raising large farm animals leads to water and air pollution, land damage and climate change.
The Vegetarian Resource Group in Baltimore, Maryland did a study in two thousand six on the number of vegetarians in the United States. About two point three percent of the adults they questioned said they were vegetarians. Six point seven percent said that they never eat meat. This was a small study, so its results may not be very exact. But earlier studies have also found that about two percent of Americans say they are vegetarians.
However, the American Dietetic Association says interest in vegetarianism is increasing. Organizations like the Vegetarian Resource Group and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals give advice on how to become a vegetarian on their Web sites. PETA also tells how to prepare meat-free food. And it lists messages from famous vegetarians including the actress Alicia Silverstone and the singer Moby.
Food writer Michael Pollan has a more moderate suggestion than total vegetarianism. He says Americans should eat like people did several generations ago. He says they should eat small amounts of natural, well-grown foods that are mostly plants.
Singer Darius Rucker recently released his first country album, "Learn to Live." You might recognize his voice. Rucker is also the lead singer of the popular band Hootie and the Blowfish. Darius Rucker has taken time off from the band to make his own records. Critics are praising his energetic country sound. And one of the songs on the album has made history. Shirley Griffith tells us more.
That was the song "Don't Think I Don't Think About It." It is the first number one country music hit by an African American artist in about twenty-five years.
Darius Rucker said it was not difficult to make country music after years of writing rock songs. He said Hootie and the Blowfish had always been influenced by country music. He grew up listening to country music in his native South Carolina.
Rucker also said that he did not want to write country songs about drinking alcohol and chasing women. He said he is forty-two years old and his songs are about a man thinking about his life, his relationships, his children and his goals.
Here is the song "While I Still Got the Time."
Darius Rucker recently finished a performance tour around the United States. He will travel again this winter to play music from his new album. We leave you with the sharp humor of "All I Want."
I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.
It was written by Shelley Gollust and Dana Demange, who was also the producer. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com.
Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.