The Environmental Connection

March 1, 2005
The last several months have brought dramatic and tragic reminders of the destructive power of water and soil. From tropical storms in the Caribbean and southeastern US last fall to the tsunami in Asia in December, and from the aftereffects of wildfires to the sudden shifting of the earth in massive landslides, we’ve been seeing nature at its most violent. The theme of EC05, IECA’s 36th Annual Conference and Expo, is Environmental Connection, and as we gather in Dallas it’s worth looking at that theme in a new light. We know we can control much in our environment, and we can also mitigate the effects our own actions have on it. Most of us attend the show to see new tools and learn improved techniques for doing exactly that. And for many of the devastating events like those we’ve been watching around the globe, the planning and preparation carried out by members of the erosion control industry can lessen the damage-as when strong preventive measures are put in place as soon as possible after a fire strips a region of its soil-protecting vegetation, for example. Although the tsunami itself was not something that could have been prevented, as the people along the affected coastlines rebuild their lives and livelihoods-and as they assess how the offshore changes have affected their coastlines and their fishing industries-knowledge and expertise from many EC-related disciplines will help in the process. In his guest editorial, John Peterson states that although we might not think of it in these terms, “We are engaged in one of the most important professions there is, one that ensures civilization’s very survival.” To work with, and sometimes to educate, those who make the regulations that shape how the land is used is to engage in nothing less than “safeguarding the national welfare.” Perhaps we should think more often of the long-term effects of the work, whether it’s in response to-or for prevention of-dramatic events like those we’ve seen recently, or, just as importantly, in the ongoing stewardship and protection of the environment. There are forces in the world we can’t harness, despite the best technology and research. What we can do is offer expertise, guidance, and a view of how the earth can change over a century or in just a few minutes. In whatever part of the world you’re working, whether consulting on a huge rehabilitation project or concentrating on the day-to-day prevention of incremental losses of soil, you’re part of that connection between us and the environment-a sometimes violent, sometimes contentious connection-that in the long run can make more difference than just about anything else you could be spending your time and effort doing.