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Resource November 13, 2013

Paul Salopek's Global Trek and the Broader Picture of the Pulitzer Center

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As Paul Salopek journeys around the world on foot, he will follow the migration pathways of our...

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Salopek, who is a National Geographic fellow, is a longtime journalist. But he became an explorer as a teenager. At 14, he climbed Mount Whitney in California and crossed the state’s Sierra Nevada mountains by himself. At 15, he walked the length of Death Valley. Image by Rebecca Hale/National Geographic.

In one of journalism's boldest (and longest) endeavors, Paul Salopek is trekking 21,000 miles across the globe in the path of our migrating ancestors. This seven-year walk, called "Out of Eden," will take him from Ethiopia to Patagonia, passing through more than 30 countries along the way.

Salopek will pass through the cultures and lives of people who rarely make the news to reveal the major stories of our time — from climate change to technological innovation, from mass migration to cultural survival, from water shortages to women's rights. Amidst the rush of information in the digital age, Salopek will document these stories through the slow pace of his footsteps.

With more than 350 reporting projects that address the issues touched on in the Walk, the Pulitzer Center is a deep resource for educators who would like to explore these issues in their classes. Below are some subject areas with specific reporting connections.


Although water accessibility and sanitation are especially pressing now, they've also been a constant battle throughout human history. Paul Salopek encountered this battle early in his journey when he learned just how heavy (and necessary) it is to lug water, at a whopping nine pounds per gallon, through the deserts of Saudi Arabia, and the unquenchable thirst that so many humans have to endure on a daily basis in hot desert regions.

His travels will continue to explore the issues surrounding water accessibility and sanitation, a topic that Pulitzer Center grantees have explored in-depth. Recent Pulitzer Center projects that connect to water issues include water rights in Nepal along the Koshi river, the paradox between Botswana's diamond and water resources, and the impact of gas extraction on water resources from Poland to Pennsylvania.

See more projects on water in our Downstream, Waiting for Water, and Ocean Health Gateways.


Another major theme of Salopek's travels will surround food and agriculture, as he explores in his post about Saudi fishermen and the decline of the fish population in recent years. A similar project by Erik Vance and Dominic Bracco II explored the Sea of Cortez, which was once lush, vast, and filled with fish. Now, tuna, red snapper and shark are all but gone.

Meanwhile Sharon Schmickle and local Tanzanian journalists explored the tension over food insecurity in Africa. Sharon's main article was published in The Washington Post and discusses the fight over whether or not to genetically modify crops in Africa. Local journalists wrote about women farmers, drought issues, and more. Their articles were published in the Des Moines Register.

See more projects on food insecurity in our Food Insecurity Gateway.


Paul will be trekking across all different parts of the globe, including areas where Pulitzer Center journalists have gone to report on climate change. For example, Justin Catanoso's reporting focused on climate change in the rainforest. While most climate change reporting focuses on cold weather climates, Catanoso wanted to focus on the tropics, as discussed in his National Geographic article, "Peru: We're Living in the Tropics." Catanoso produced a radio series on his work, featured on WFDD.

Meanwhile Sean Gallagher, another Pulitzer Center grantee, focused on Climate Change and Environmental Degradation on the Tibetan Plateau. His work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, National Georgraphic and The Guardian. The Pulitzer Center also made his work into a e-book, "Meltdown: China's Environmental Crisis" which you can buy today.

Yves Eudes traveled to multiple countries to report on the melting arctic. His work took him to Norway, Russia, Alaska and more. All articles were featured in Le Monde.

See more projects on climate change in our Heat of the Moment Gateway.


Paul may be tracing the first steps of humans, but the population has grown since then. The Pulitzer Center has a population gateway that focuses on the issue of rapid population growth. Ken Weiss looks directly at the impact rapid population growth around the globe in his project "Beyond 7 Billion." He believes contraception is the key to reducing child and maternal death. His work has been published in The Los Angeles Times.

Tom Hundley, the Pulitzer Center's senior editor, and Dan McCarey, the Pulitzer Center's Web Developer, created a project entitled "Roads Kill."More than 1.2 million are killed on the world's roads each year—and that number is increasing rapidly. If nothing is done to reverse this trend, the annual death toll is on course to triple by 2030. Journalists from the Pulitzer Center's extensive network have been reporting on traffic safety around the world; Yochi Dreazen from Mali, Tom Hundley from Jakarta, Lauren Bohn from Egypt. Paul Salopek discusses Tafheet or "drifting," which is an underground motorsport particular to the Middle East at the turn of the millennium, in his reporting.

See more projects on population in our Population Gateway.


While traveling, Paul Salopek will encounter many different types of cultures and beliefs. In Saudi Arabia, Salopek wrote about Eve's grave. Pulitzer Center grantee Tariq Mir's project "Kashmir: The Rise of Hard Faith" discusses faith and religion. His articles have been published in the Boston Review and Fountain Ink.


"I'll be traversing what is probably the greatest transformation in human consciousness since the invention of agriculture: the wiring of the world," explains Paul. "Today, about a third of humankind is interconnected through information technology, primarily via mobile devices, to the Web. By the time I plod onto a finish-line beach in Tierra del Fuego in 2020, that connectivity will be complete."

Pulitzer Center journalists have learned to use technology to their advantage. Two student fellows, Jennifer Gonzalez and Steven Matzker, both used their iPhones to shoot photographs while reporting on water rights in Nepal, but make the point that "it's what and how the photographer sees, not what the photographer uses.". Sharon Schmickle reports on the use of mobile phones in rural African villages. Technology is making wind energy more accessible for Brazil, as reported by Juan Forero.

Good journalism takes time. The Pulitzer Center invests in stories that take weeks, months, and sometimes years, to complete. While Salopek walks the earth, the Pulitzer Center is looking forward to connecting his reports, and those of our other journalists, to students and educators. As much ground as one man can cover in seven years - approximately 21,000 miles for Paul - there will always be more to learn and discover about the pressing issues of our time.


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