Saturday, January 25, 2014

Mexico: New SOIL Fund Work in Oaxaca

My apologies for neglecting my blog for several months.  Fortunately, my colleague Julie Etra has come to the rescue with the following blog post regarding her SOIL Fund volunteer work in southern Mexico.  Julie is the Region 1 Vice President for International Development with the International Erosion Control Association.  - Will

The SOIL Fund has completed 5 Vetiver plantings in and around the southern Oaxacan town of Huatulco, Mexico. Four of the five plantings include nurseries, while three are demonstration projects. Vetiver, a grass native to India, has long been known for its excellent erosion control characteristics, and due to its form (bunch) and lack of seed production is not invasive and will not outcompete native species.

The SOIL Fund hopes that through education and dissemination, the use of this plant will be increased to control erosion on slopes destabilized from road construction, cultivation, and logging.

Sign advertising SOIL Fund work at Copalita, near Huatulco, Mexico.  Pictured are Cornelio Gabriel Ramos and his son, Christian Tadeo.  Cornelio is a local bird guide (pajarero). 
photo by Julie Etra.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Why Two Blogs?

I suppose it was inevitable.  Sooner or later in the course of 50+ blog posts I was bound to say some things that ran afoul of the International Erosion Control Association's management team and membership.  After all, IECA is in the business of serving erosion control professionals and businesses that provide erosion control products.  The negative opinions I have occasionally expressed about the policies of foreign governments or obnoxious travelers I have encountered as well as my sometimes "salty" language are not exactly what IECA had in mind when they suggested I do a blog about my 2012 around-the-world trip to attend erosion control-related conferences and meet with erosion control professionals.

In my very first post, "Intro to My Trip" (July 19, 2012), I pointed out that I am an opinionated SOB and didn't "plan on toning it down for this blog."  While I have done my best to stay positive most of the time, I'm no Pollyanna.  Those of you who have done much traveling (particularly if you have ventured overseas without the benefit of a tour guide) know about the annoyances that go along with beautiful vistas and nice people you encounter along the way.  I've shared some of the negatives because I hoped that readers would find them informative and entertaining.  Your feedback has told me that I was largely correct. 

Still I've been uncomfortable about getting too blunt in my blog posts since my principal purpose has been to promote IECA's charitable arm, the SOIL Fund, which provides support for erosion control projects primarily in developing countries.  So when the IECA administration took me to the woodshed for being naughty one time too many, I came up with a solution which they enthusiastically support:  TWO BLOGS. 

Here is how it's going to work.  Henceforth, the "Erosion Control Around the World" blog will stick to erosion control issues outside North America including reports of erosion and sedimentation problems, the work of erosion control professionals, relevant conferences/workshops, and erosion and sediment control projects.  This blog will continue to be associated with IECA and the SOIL Fund and will carry their logos.  The IECA Region 1 administration in Denver, Colorado, USA will provide editorial support and will continue to provide a link to the blog on the SOIL Fund page of their website (     
The new blog?  It's called, "Perspectives of a Wandering Geographer" ( and will include stories (and photos) not related specifically to erosion and sediment control.   These posts may include information on the history, politics, and physical/cultural geography of the places I visit.  I'll write about travel experiences, good and bad, as well as the people I meet.  I will also share my "self-edited" opinions.  The "Erosion Control Around the World" blog will include links to these stories but the blog will in no way be associated with the International Erosion Control Association or the SOIL Fund.

A few thoughts about the title of this new blog.  Ever since I received an M.A. in geography from the University of Montana 40 years ago, I've often struggled with what to call myself professionally.  Many people with geography degrees have this problem.  What do geographers do anyway?  Are we experts in reciting the state capitals backwards and forwards?  The answer is that people who have studied geography wind up in a great variety of professions and businesses.  In my own case, environmental science has been a good fit for me especially since I have an undergraduate degree in geology and an associate degree (which I earned many years later) in environmental technology.  However, when I travel, I look at the world from the perspective of a geographer.  I see the spatial pattern of the physical and biological environment (the climate, geology, water resources, landforms, soils, and ecosystems) as well as the human interaction with that environment (including human culture, economics, population, transportation, and so forth).  It is this perspective that I bring to my writing, photography, and my general view of our planet and human civilization. 

As of today (August 5, 2013), there are no posts on the new blog.  Over the next few days, I hope to start moving some of my past posts from the Erosion Control blog to the Wandering Geographer blog.  Some posts may wind up on both blogs for now if that seems appropriate.  Next, I need to share several stories from my recent trip to Colombia.

[Update on August 9:  All stories not related specifically to erosion control have now been moved to the Wandering Geographer blog.]

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