The Tie That Binds Us

Jan. 1, 2002
Much of the tension in the world is the result of mistrust and misunderstanding between nations. This points immediately to organizations such as ours, which exists to spread information across national boundaries. Our objective is to promote the idea of environmental improvements through erosion control, and this is of benefit to everyone-in whatever country they live. It’s fine that our industry flourishes in the wealthy countries of the world, but it is likewise needed in the less wealthy third-world communities. The International Erosion Control Association (IECA) is making progress here by encouraging the formation of new chapters in these areas. The difficulty has been to open our resources to the people operating in our industry in these countries at a price they can afford. This is a challenge to IECA, and if we don’t find a solution, we will continue to appear exclusive.I believe we need to look at our overall structure and consider changes, which would make it easier for people in the less-well endowed areas of the world to gain memberships and responsible positions in the upper levels of the organization.As international development director, I have pursued this concept during my time on the IECA Board of Directors to the extent that we now have new chapters being formed outside the USA.Executive Director Ben Northcutt and I had the privilege of attending the recent launch of the Malaysian Chapter, which was attended by more than 80 members and invitees. This follows the establishment of the South African and Peruvian Chapters. I believe that in the not-too-distant future we will have chapters in the Philippines, China, and Turkey, and I hope more will follow in Europe. But what does all of this mean? For starters, it creates a headache for the IECA board, which has grappled with the infrastructure required for the global expansion that, up to now, was virtually nonexistent except at membership level. I have always had a vision from the time I first attended the IECA conference in Salt Lake City in 1981 that IECA should be and would be a worldwide organization. Though I tried through the 1980s to get things moving in Australia, it was not until early 1993 that I achieved my goal of forming a chapter there. I did not achieve this alone; many other dedicated members made it possible. This was the same situation for those chapters that now operate throughout the US, South Africa, Peru, and Malaysia.My long-term goal is to see IECA operating globally, with the headquarters in the US. The model I have in mind follows Rotary International, whereby the world is divided into regions that operate independently but are still tied to the headquarters through an international board. In my model, each region would also have an elected board that would preside over the region’s activities. An example might be an Asian Region with chapters in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and so on. It might also mean also that in the years to come, each country has subchapters.And now to “the tie.” When I was 14, every Saturday afternoon I attended the local movie theatre. Part of this interest was to meet our mates and also to show off to the local girls. To do this, we preened ourselves (some of us shaved), but in most cases we wore outlandish clothing. In the local men’s wear shop I saw a tie for sale that would surely enhance my ongoing popularity at the movies. It had a big red rose in the centre and was surrounded by numerous colourful flowers. Boy, was it great. I wore the tie outside of a short-sleeved multicolored jumper. As a result of this “show,” I did get to sit in front of the curtain row for several weeks with the pick of the local beauties.Years later, I have become the recipient of “the tie that binds,” and it is not unlike the tie I bought all those years ago. Although it does not bring me the same rewards that I sought at 14, it gives me the privilege of selecting someone who has given his dedication and time to the erosion control industry, something for which many would qualify. I do not believe in receiving rewards for doing the job you are paid to do, but I do believe that those who give of their time unflinchingly in a voluntary capacity do deserve recognition. When I think of John Peterson and of the late Rick Granard, two previous recipients, I know that the tie went in the right direction. I hope that in your eyes, I too have met this criterion.Though the tie is gaudy to most, I see its value in pursuing IECA’s goals: to both reduce and prevent erosion. What you see might be bright, but its underlying intent is promotional, and I look forward to passing it onto the next recipient for 2002.I hope that in the future the “tie that binds” will in fact become a reality and that IECA truly will be international.