Friday, May 13, 2022

Monterrey COIL Project: Livable Cities

This post is a bit longer than usual because I am both describing a recent teaching collaboration and including the thoughtful work that our students produced. Because the post is rather long, I am going to open with the conclusions -- what some might call the take-away findings.

DRAFT -- as of May 13 in the afternoon, this post does not yet include student work. Please return later today for full information about this project. 

Introduction and Conclusions

This post elaborates on a presentation my geography colleague Dr. Boah Kim and I presented at the BSU-CARS Symposium in May 2022. We were among faculty members from several departments who were describing our recent experiences in several parts of the world with Collaborative Online International Learning, or COIL. Specifically, we reported on our COIL experience with colleagues at TEC-Monterrey in Mexico.

My conclusions:

  • COIL is a valid and valuable international experience, both for those who have additional international opportunities and for those who may lack access to -- or even interest in -- conventional international experiences.
  • Small is beautiful: a short-term assignment of limited scope can produce very positive results.
  • Experience helps: partners with previous COIL experience helped this project to succeed, even though we had not worked together previously.
  • Language: the high level of English proficiency among the students in our partner institution was essential to the success of the project.


I had no international academic experiences until the summer after I completed my master's degree, but providing international experiences for undergraduates later became a big part of my career. I have led or co-led short-term programs in Nicaragua, Cape Verde, Cuba, Costa Rica, Panama, and Brazil. I also helped to establish a program of long-term exchanges in Brazil that provided semester-long international experiences for more than a dozen students. 

These have been important, life-changing experiences for the students involved and for me as a professor. They often have ripple effects on other students and on the family members of the students who participate. 

Despite our best efforts, however, only a tiny percentage of the students I teach have had experiences of this kind. And because of an extended global pandemic, I am on an involuntary hiatus from such experiences myself. I am grateful that I traveled with students in January 2020, but it will be at least May 2023 before I do so again! 

Enter COIL -- Collaborative Online International Learning, a concept well described by its name and more fully elaborated on the website of SUNY COIL, one of the institutional leaders in this kind of programming. I was intrigued by this concept when I learned of it from some of our campus leaders in international programs in the depths of the pandemic. I explored the COIL concept with colleagues with whom I had developed some of the successful programs described above, but we did not find a way to make it work. 

In early 2022, I received a more specific invitation: to develop a COIL project with potential partners at TEC-Monterrey, a private university in northern Mexico with deep experience in the approach. We soon formed a team involving two TEC faculty in a planning/architecture program and two BSU geography professors.

We situated the collaboration in my upper-level course Latin America: Globalization & Cohesion. The course was well underway when we began planning, so I had to adjust my syllabus and assignments considerably to make the COIL possible. I decided that the only way to make the experience worthwhile -- especially as it came near the end of an exhausting academic year -- was to give the project plenty of space to succeed. By this I mean that I decided to devote class time to it and to reduce other planned assignments. 

The TEC professors had previous experience with these international collaborations and they had administrative support that was very helpful in structuring the project we did together. The project structure had several key components:
  • Synchronous meetings that would include faculty input and also small-group break-out rooms for the students.
  • Structured "ice breaker" activities -- low-stakes but relevant questions that required students to start talking and writing together during the first meeting.
  • Asynchronous collaborations in the same small groups, working for a week or two on more focused questions and with the goal of combined work products.
The course in which this work was situated is a broad survey course; a collaboration on environmental, cultural, or political geography would have been viable. But since the focus of my collaborators and of the TEC-Monterrey students is urban studies, we made that the focus of our projects. Specifically, Dr. Kim introduced the use of the SWOT (Strength-Weakness-Opportunity-Threat) concept to analyzing urban places and planning. Fortunately, three of my students were in her urban planning class, and a fourth member of that class was able to join our collaboration.

We formed three student groups of equal size, with equal numbers of Monterrey and Bridgewater students in each. All of the Monterrey students applied SWOT analysis to an area of Monterrey itself. The Bridgewater students did the same with three different nearby urban places: the cities of Lowell and Brockton and the Boston neighborhood of Dorchester. The level of familiarity with these places varied considerably, so there was a lot of learning required about places close to home. This was fitting, though: in all of the international programs I have led, people learned something about their homes.

The students spent about two weeks applying SWOT to two aspects of these places: mobility and demographic makeup. 

Student Work and Reflections   (more being uploaded soon ...)

After comparing mobility in their communities through a SWOT lens, each group created an infographic to summarize those comparisons. Each group developed its own format, as seen below. Each infographic is a bit too big for this blog screen; please click each to enlarge.

The rest is coming soon....

Monday, May 09, 2022

Higher Education Leadership Opening

Note: The opening paragraphs here are adapted from recent communication from my faculty union to the membership. I include them to provide context for my own comments below and also by way of inviting others who might wish to communicate with DHE about this search.

The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE) is currently preparing a search for a new Commissioner which will formally launch the week of May 16th. The Commissioner is the leader “responsible for providing overall direction to public higher education in Massachusetts and helping shape state-level policies that maximize the benefits of higher education to the Commonwealth and its citizens."

Those with an interest in higher education -- which truly should be everybody in Massachusetts --has been invited to participate in a public forum (that date passed before I got this posted) and in the following ways:

  • Provide feedback on the experiences, characteristics, and priorities for the next commissioner: The search committee is asking for stakeholders to weigh in on the values and vision they hope to see in the next Commissioner. You can add your thoughts here.
  • Recommend or nominate a candidate: Do you know someone who would make a great leader of public higher education in Massachusetts? Submit their name here and the search committee will reach out.

I took the first part of this request seriously and have decided to make my responses to the survey public, because I think that too often "input" about critical matters in education is collected quietly to avoid any real discussion happening publicly. 

When I arrived in 1997, I was shocked to see how poorly Massachusetts treats its public colleges and universities. 

The photo above -- note my complete lack of grey hair -- is from a 2005 speech at the State House. The situation has become less favorable since I delivered Public Higher Education is a Public Good, as part of an earlier effort to encourage the Commonwealth to recognize the inherent value of what we do in our colleges and universities.

Since then, the situation has worsened, though educators and students alike continue to give our all to the education enterprise. I hope we can find "leaders" willing to do the same.

Herewith, the current (May 2022) survey questions and my responses.
  1. Your primary affiliation:
    MA Public College/University Faculty

  2. What prior experiences should the next Commissioner have?
    At a minimum, the Commissioner should have served at as a tenured professor or librarian in a public university. All other qualifications are extra, but this is the only way the Commissioner can value the "secret sauce" of a higher education system that was once the envy of the world.

  3. What are the attributes, characteristics, and values that you would like to see in the next Commissioner?
    The commissioner needs to value academic freedom -- in a very real sense -- and to understand how this serves students in the long run.
    An emphasis on short-term "workforce" goals is, ironically, what leads to a poorly prepared workforce.

  4. What experience in leading, developing and/or supporting DEI programming should the next Commissioner have?
    Experience with programming and buzzwords counts for nothing in my estimation. Experience respecting and working with educators and students from many backgrounds is what counts.

  5. Given the challenges and opportunities facing higher education and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, what do you think is the most critical work to be done by the next Commissioner in the coming decade?
    Educating the Legislature about the perils of continuing to shift the costs of higher education to students and their families. Most politicians are still old enough to have benefited from public higher ed that was public not only in name but in financing. They have allowed the 80/20 funding ratio to be flipped, and it is killing our chances of inclusive and effective education.

  6. What are some of the attractive features of working to advance higher education in Massachusetts that would be appealing to potential candidates for the Commissioner position?
    Several thousand of the most creative, resilient and compassionate educators in the country are working in public higher education in Massachusetts. Simply enabling them to do to their work is the single best way to contribute to the social and economic revival of this vibrant Commonwealth.

  7. Other comments:
    I am delighted to have a chance to provide input to this process. In the cradle of democracy and public higher education, those who do the teaching have been marginalized.
    Please, please choose someone who values academic freedom, the time our faculty, librarians, and staff members commit to the education endeavor, and the time our students need to commit to learning. Every $10 shifted to student fees is an hour each student spends NOT studying.
    And faculty and librarians should not be humiliated and bullied at the bargaining table for simply trying to hold on to living wages and standards of academic freedom.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Iturbide and Kahlo

While contemplating a good way to wrap up my course on the geography of Latin America, I was fortunate enough to hear this bit of radio journalism.

I thought I recognized the photographer's name and I was even more certain that I recognized her focus on indigenous people as her favored subjects at a certain point in her career.

Indeed, this was the photographer I was thinking of, and I had posted an article about the work of Graciela Iturbide in this space early in 2019. I wrote Mexico Contrasts, In Black & White based on a NYT article before I even went to her exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. (Search the MFA site for her name to see a lot of related stories.)

It was also in early 2019 that I learned of a Frida Kahlo exhibit that was coming to MFA in the same season and some new scholarship around her life and work. I wrote about this at the time in Frida La Pared.

I did not write much about the exhibit itself, but at the time I did post this sign that I had found just outside the gallery.

To honor the voice of the artist, throughout this exhibition we have included texts in both Spanish and English.

I have seen a lot of bilingual signage in museums, but I do not think I have ever seen a bilingual sign about bilingual signs. Attention was being called to their use because they were the first such signs used in MFA since it opened in 1876. A Juneteenth 2019 story on WGBH reminds me that this was during a time of controversy and introspection about race and access in the museum. 

Iturbide's Casa de la Muerte (1975) captures Mexican motifs of the dead.


Those reading this post now (April 26, 2022) might have an opportunity to visit the Immersive Frida exhibit in Boston or in another city.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Ukraine Library Heroism

From the journalists at Here & Now (WBUR) comes a story of heroic librarianship and unfortunate timing. The current war on Ukraine is an effort not only of territory but also of erasure. 
Ukrainian-American Wolodymyr Mirko Pylyshenko dedicated his life to building a collection of artifacts that would make denial of Ukrainian identity impossible. Scott Tong's  interview (11-minute listen) with his daughter and a Ukrainian municipal official describes the building of that collection and the unfortunate timing of its return to Ukraine.

Pylyshenko's ID from a US-operated refugee camp is a reminder
of the high stakes of his library project and of a time when the
United States was more accomodating of refugees than it is today. 

This story is not unprecedented; what comes to mind most immediately is the tale of the Bad Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, who heroically protected artifacts in Mali.

Lagniappe: Poetry

Among the documents considered vital to this archive are poems. The most brutal dictators, it seems, fear poetry. I recall a Romanian friend who was imprisoned as a teenager for reading a poem. Her father was able to get her released after five days; her classmate who had written the poem served five years. For a poem about the beauty of the land.

In Nicaragua today, poets and their readers take similar risks.

Arizona Coffee

 Despite the popular brand name, tea does not grow in Arizona; nor does coffee. Except where it does: in the terrarium known as Biosphere 2, which was built just north of my old home in Tucson when we lived there in the 1990s. 

Coffee is growing in both the "rain forest" and "orchard" portions of the experimental planet-in-miniature.

New plants are being added as part of a peculiar fundraiser related to Earth Day. Donors can pay $500 for the chance to help plant seedlings, and $100 for 12 ounces of a decaf version of the crop. Details are scant, and as a Coffee Maven I do have some questions. One of the collaborators in the project is a part-time faculty member in the department from which I eventually wrested my doctorate, so I might start my inquiries with him. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

Musica: Paraguay

My interest in Latin America began with deforestation in the Amazon and eventually led me to the study of coffee. Along the way, I have found the many kinds of Latin American music to be an excellent lens on the region's cultural geography.

I was therefore very pleased to learn something about the music of Paraguay from the BBC global podcast Music Planet: Road Trip.  An episode originally broadcast in May 2020 describes the invention and diffusion of Guarani, an entire genre that can be traced to a single composer. The samples are long and the narration short, so this is a very enjoyable listen. I will be delving into other episodes, both from the Americas and elsewhere.

The story never really defines the genre, but it gives many examples in several languages. I found this intriguing, because the genre is named for Guaraní, one of the two national languages of Paraguay. Journalist William Costa explains in Culture is Language (The Guardian, September 2020) why this language is important to the identity of Paraguans -- indigenous and otherwise. I find the embrace of Guarani as a musical genre in Spanish and Portuguese somehow heartwarming.

This story of the music of Paraguay reminds me of story of music in Paraguay. In other words, I am using it as yet another excuse to encourage readers -- especially those with any interest at all in education -- to watch Landfillharmonic. This is a film about the intersection of education and sustainability, and of classical and heavy-metal musics.

It is available as a DVD at the BSU Maxwell Library and streaming for rent or purchase on Vimeo. I suggest a purchase: once you see this film, you might want to watch it again right away. 


One of the artists who is sampled in the Guarani episode is the brilliant Brazilian musician and dissident Chico Buarque, about whom I have written in Overcoming Condor and other posts.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Just-in-Case Chaos

Long Beach containers: the giant Legos that move the world
Image: Port Technology

During one of my brief bouts of non-academic employment, I worked in a business that was deeply involved in supply-chain issues. We packaged 100,000 meals every day, with food and packaging materials flowing into our warehouse and back out in an incredibly complex dance. 

Thankfully, I was not in charge of all that -- in fact, no one person could be. Even then -- in the mid-1990s -- logistics were complicated and pricing was so competitive that we measured the cost of everything to the tenth of a U.S. cent. Even though my role in all of this was rather peripheral, my employer knew the value of my understanding it better, and so I was one of many employees sent to take a course for supply-chain professionals called Just-In-Time. It was one of six parts of a certification program I did not complete, but it was the overview -- offering a global perspective that I continue to value as a geographer.

Of course, most normal people do not pay much attention to supply chains and do not even hear the two words being used together. But 2020 and 2021 (and 2022) are not normal times, so many people have become reluctant students of the vagaries of the world space-economy (as we geographers like to call it). 

For many, the incredible stuckedness of the Evergiven in the Suez Canal in March 2021 -- and the even more incredible stuckedness of hundreds of other vessels -- was the introduction to supply chains. For others, it had been the disruption of microchip and automobile manufacturing because of the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. In both cases, we became aware that efficiency and expediency come at the cost of resilience and redundancy.

In short, Just-in-Time minimizes costs and maximizes speed by not storing inventory. In extreme cases -- and most cases now are extreme -- parts enter an assembly line directly from a delivery truck, which got them from a train or a ship. I explained some of the technologies that make this possible in my 2011 post The Biggest Ships Ever

This is all very efficient and convenient, up until the moment it is not. Late in 2021, massive disruptions led to wild speculation and finger-pointing on the part of people who had not given the system much thought previously. I found two brief radio pieces quite instructive. 

In November, NPR reporter A Martinez spoke with Danny Wan, executive director of the Port of Oakland, about the persistent backlog at California ports. In December, NPR's Steve Inskeep talked with John Porcari, port envoy of the White House's Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force about the federal role in facilitating global traffic.

It is easy to conclude that when something goes wrong, some individual is to blame. But the world has become complicated in ways that are sometimes revealed only in crisis. We have an obligation to become better informed so that we can meaningfully participate in decisions that might make us even more vulnerable in the future, in exchange for small gains in efficiency.


Gas prices are another example of something that is far more complex than it seems and whose response to market factors triggers irrational responses, even among those who claim to love the free market

Blogger Crazy Eddie draws on the wisdom of Trevor Noah to explain why gas prices are high in a recovering economy. I share it here because both fuel prices and supply-chain problems have a prectable (and predicted) post-pandemic trajectory.

Bugging Out

In a recent episode of Fresh Air, co-host Dave Davies interviewed journalist Oliver Milman, whose reporting for The Guardian led him to write the new book The Insect Crisis: The Fall of the Tiny Empires That Run the World

Bees are just one of many kinds of essential insects.
Image: WikiMedia

The subtitle is a good summary of the 40-minute interview, which is nevertheless worth our attention. Milman piqued my interest when he described what a world without insects would be like; he credits the recently deceased ecologist E.O. Wilson -- whom I mention many times on this blog -- with some rather grim ways of describing just how empty our world would be without insects. He then describes some of our dependencies in detail, along with some interesting ways in which the sharp decline of insects is being documented. He offers some small glimmers of hope, because modest changes in human habits have been shown to benefit insects greatly. They require our attention, though.

From the beginning, this discussion reminded me of the work of an earlier biologist about whom I have written even more on this blog: Rachel Carson. After all, her landmark 1962 book Silent Spring derives its title from a grim, quiet scenario in which birds are no longer present. Her focus was birds, but she described their endangerment in the context of human attacks on insects. 

Silent Spring did lead to some softening of those attacks, but as Milman makes clear, human activity continues to threaten these essential creatures in many ways, both deliberate and accidental.

The insecta class has persisted for 400,000,000 years, through several mass-extinction events. We have an opportunity -- and responsibility -- to ensure that a brief century of human "progress" does not prove to be their undoing. 


I was heartened to learn -- just a day or so after hearing the story above -- that an unusually large bee had been found in Indonesia, four decades after its presumed extinction. The rediscovery of the enormous Megachile pluto resulted from a very deliberate search that followed a rather accidental discovery of its nests. 

This part of the story exemplifies the attention to detail that has always fascinated me about entomologists. I used to go hiking and camping a lot with a friend who had studied entomology before becoming a geographer. (We did all of this travel in his VW Bugs, but that is another story.) Countless times, I would be walking along in almost complete oblivion to my surroundings when he would stop, gasp, and gesticulate wildly toward a smudge on a branch or fencepost or a bug that looked like all the other bugs to me. Invariably, it was a highly unusual bit of insect nest or food, or a bee disguised as a wasp disguised as a bee.

I hesitate to post this, because it is a hopeful anecdote that does negate the more systematic findings about the precipitous decline of insecta as a class. But we will take encouragement where we can find it, as we continue to work for the protection of all the remaining critters and the ecosystems of which they are a part.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Low Tide; High Wind

I am fortunate to row often -- usually more than once a week -- in the waters of New Bedford, Massachusetts. Sometimes this is in the ocean waters of Buzzards Bay or in Clark's Cove, but most often in the harbor formed between New Bedford and Fairhaven by the wide mouth of the Acushnet River. I often refer to harbor rowing as "inside" rowing because it takes place behind the protection of the New Bedford - Fairhaven Hurricane Barrier, by some measures the biggest structure of its kind on the planet. At 20 feet, it provides protection to both of the municipalities for which it is named and in extreme cases, for craft of all sizes that are kept -- sometimes just for the duration of a storm -- within its rocky embrace.

This makes the harbor a great place to observe ships resting between nautical ventures of work or play. We see refrigerated vessels carrying fruit, pleasure craft both ordinary and exceptional, barges and tugs engaged in decades-long cleanup efforts in the harbor itself, and of course the fishing boats that make this the most highest-value seafood harbor in these United States. 

For the past several years, we have seen a whole new category of ships: a growing assortment of survey vessels -- a general term I use (somewhat correctly, I hope) for the ships that are berthed in New Bedford between periods of work offshore. The one photographed above started showing up just in the past few months. It is blue in color, huge in size, and features an enormous helipad (above the stern, which is left in this photo) for landing supplies when it is far from any harbor.  One of its towers is for pushing communication equipment as far above the horizon as possible. The other -- in the center of the ship -- is for drilling into the sea floor for survey and construction purposes. A geology colleague of mine spent a few months in the Indian Ocean on a vessel that was similarly equipped; I greatly enjoyed his stories.

On the first weekend in December, my spouse and I decided to take a long walk -- part of our ongoing preparation for our upcoming Vermont Inn to Inn Walk and an excuse to perhaps get a better view of some of these vessels. We checked a tide chart and parked our car on Rodney French Boulevard near the end of the Hurricane Barrier Walk, about an hour ahead of low tide. As the satellite image reveals, there is a sandbar connecting the hurricane barrier to Palmer Island. At high tide, there is just enough water for a skilled steerer and crew to guide a whaleboat through this gap; at low tide, we can walk. I later learned that it is generally walkable for a four-hour window around low tide, but I am a cautious sort, so we timed our walkabout such that we would be on the island for just the middle hour of that window. 

The walk afforded us a view of another of these engineering vessels, the Dina Polaris

The scale of the effort involved in developing offshore wind turbines is remarkable. Both the wharf and a deep channel have been built specifically for these ships, so that they can provide research and construction support for very large wind turbines being placed on the south side of Martha's Vineyard. The property was used for metal recycling during a long pause when the original Cape Wind project had been abandoned and Vineyard Wind was not yet underway. 

See the Vineyard Wind company site and an April 2021 news story for much more detail about the project. 

As we walked around the island, I looked for remnants of the hotel/brothel that had been there decades ago, but did not see any sign of the foundation. We did, however, have a nice view of the lighthouse and nearby osprey nest. We would not have walked this close to the osprey platform during nesting season. 

A few weeks after our hike, my fellow rowers and I started to notice some additional vessels, including a bulk carrier that I can only describe as humongous. The Oslo Bulk 8 measures 354 in length. The lifeboat stored above the stern looks like an amusement-park ride to me. We are not certain what this ship is used for, but it seems to me making regular passages from Limon, Costa Rica to New Bedford. I have been in Limon, where I saw thousands of containers of fruit ready for export, so I am going to be trying to find more information about the use of this vessel.

Update: While I have had a number of tabs open for this post, the Baker administration has been working toward even greater expansion of offshore wind. Read WBUR's update of December 17, 2021 for details. 

And further update: This story will continue to evolve and will warrant separate new posts in the coming year. It will also be a major part of my summer course New Bedford: Maritime City if I am able to offer in in 2022. The latest update (as of January 2022) is New Bedford says wind boundary changes just a start, which describes ongoing efforts to accommodate the commercial fishing industry as the wind farm develops.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

(West) Liberty for All

Images: West Liberty, Iowa Town Website

In the United States, liberty for all and government of the people are ideals that are important in the abstract but sometimes met with resistance in real life. I was therefore heartened to hear the story of West Liberty, Iowa

Described as a "majority minority" town, it is an example of a changing rural landscape in the United States. The country has always been more diverse than some seem to imagine -- or prefer -- and not just in urban places. West Liberty is an example of a community whose political leadership is beginning to reflect its true demography. In other words, it embodies the American ideal of E pluribus unum

This is how it should be. I lived for seven years in border communities in Arizona and Texas where representation often did not reflect the makeup of the community. 


The story discusses hardships that many in the community have overcome; it also mentions the importance of a local meat-packing plant as a reason many people have migrated to West Liberty. The 2006 film Fast Food Nation is a comedy/drama (very dark comedy, in my opinion) that describes some of the injustices associated with such plants that emerged throughout much of rural America in the late 20th century.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Reflections of Richard Leakey

It seems that the past several weeks have featured more than the usual number of notable deaths, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, E.O. Wilson, and Betty White. Just after the passing of these nonagenarians came news of the death at age 77 of a slightly younger fellow whose work I knew less well.

Word Art from the Ngaren Museum 
My favorite librarian and I both recall hearing anthropologist Richard Leakey in a lecture hall when we were students, though we cannot recall for certain when or where this was. I remember only that he was part of a noted family of anthropologists and that he had rather a cantankerous personality. As with many notables, I seem to have learned more about him after his death than I did when he was alive.

Vivienne Nunis interviewed Leakey for the BBC program Business Daily, in the context of a career changer. In just 18 minutes, they discuss several very different phases of his professional life, which really began when he was a child tagging along on archeological digs with his parents, anthropologists Louis and Mary Leakey. He lived his entire life in the English colonial territory that would become the country of Kenya.

In the first phase of his adult life, he reached into the distant past, literally uncovering the lives of humans who had lived in the Rift Valley 1.6 million years ago. He then became a noted conservationist whose audacious protests led to protection of elephants through restrictions on the trade in ivory (this benefited whales as well). His work as a conservationist was linked in complicated ways to his political life and other government service.

The most important part of the interview is the discussion of the work of what has turned out to be his sunset years. His understanding of humans across eons led him to fervent work on the problem of climate change. He sees the arc of human experience from deep prehistory to a precarious future from his lifetime in the Rift Valley, where we began and where our fate is clearly undecided. He and his colleagues have been working to capture that entire arc in the Ngaren Museum, where ground will be breaking soon on a project animated by this view of time.

Leakey was also profiled in a 2010 issue of Sierra, the magazine of the U.S.-based environmental organization. In Elephant Man, journalist Susan Zakin begins the story at the Peponi Hotel on the island of Lamu, where they were supposed to meet. His refusal to come ashore at the hotel becomes a metaphor for his uneasy status with fellow colonials. The profile she writes provides important details about the first two phases of the life Leakey discussed with Nunis last month, especially his work in environmental policy. 

Note: Their meeting took place at a time when many tourists were avoiding Kenya because of violence surrounding national elections. This coincided with my owned planned visit to the country. I had plane tickets and plans to meet a student and her family near Mount Kenya -- where both tea and coffee are produced. Just before the trip, she completely disappeared. I was never certain whether something had happened directly to her and her family or if she cut off contact to protect me.


Leakey's transition from renowned anthropologist to avid climate-change activist reminds me of a similar transition on the part of Jane Goodall, a protegée of Louis Leakey who thankfully is still with us. I point to some of her work in my 2020 post Jane Goodall: Climate, Community, Coffee. I have updated that post to include her January 2022 BBC interview, which pairs nicely with the Leakey interview above.

Friday, January 07, 2022

Crossing the Chaco

The Amazon rainforest is the largest ecosystem in South America; it is the one that drew me into the study of geography. I know quite a lot about it, though I still have plenty to learn. 

Three-banded armadillo is one of 150 mammal species
in the Gran Chaco. Image: WWF

I know very little, however, about the second-largest ecosystem of South America: the Gran Chaco of Paraguay, Argentina, and Bolivia. It is also second in biodiversity, with over 500 species of birds alone. 

Map: Wikipedia. Chaqu is a Quechua word meaning 
"hunting land" and hinting at the region's diverse fauna.

I have even more to learn about it, especially as both the land and the people of the Gran Chaco are threatened by rapid changes related to the opening of a bioceanic transportation corridor. The Amazon experience is, sadly, instructive -- rapid expansion of roads is bringing all manner of peril. In both cases, heretofore uncontacted civilizations are at greatest risk. 

Detail from an interactive map at Corredor Bioceanico, a website promoting the project.
The Gran Chaco is being traversed by road, rail, and river. 


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