Spring skiing in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah is one of my favorite recreations. I usually take my family each spring break and join Tom Chidsey (convention chair for our 2003 annual meeting in Salt Lake City) and his family for a little R&R.
In past years, Tom and I would have to stop and wait for our kids to catch up. Now if we stop to take a rest our kids fly past us and head for the bottom of the hill.
This year, late on the first day, a storm came in and we had some rough conditions. My son, Ian, fell in front of me, and while I was watching him I fell pretty hard and it knocked the air out of me. It was the first time I had the experience of looking up to see several concerned talking-heads asking me if I was “OK?!” (Most already had their cell phones out.)
I couldn’t speak so all I could do was groan and wave. Tom skied down and told everyone not to worry -- I think he said that I was from Oklahoma, and that explained everything.
The experience made me think about risk and how we sometime find ourselves suddenly in complicated conditions. AAPG is experiencing a set of complicated business conditions and we are constantly evaluating the risk of operations.
When considering risk it is important to understand that the difference between the Winter Olympics and the Summer Olympics is that one is “slippery.” In other words, usually you can be assured that an Olympic swimmer will come close to their best time once they hit the water; in the Winter Olympics, even the best Olympian can slip and fall at the end.
U.S. snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis found that out the hard way in the recent winter games when she had the gold medal assured, but decided to take the risk and add one extra flip at the end of her run. Now she wears silver; not that there’s anything wrong with that!
In the past century, surrounding basic business conditions for our Association were sound and “not so slippery.” Now, due to dynamic world events and litigious trends we see major changes -- especially in areas of insurance, safety, security, legality and world politics. All of these are intertwined and increasingly complicated.
For example, AAPG is one of the world leaders in developing and promoting field trips. In the past we had a blanket insurance policy that covered all of our field trips. No problem -- we talked to our insurance agent once a year and that was that.
Now we are required to present each field trip to the underwriter for evaluation and coverage. The result is several new layers of bureaucracy with required procedures.
Safety is another important issue on which we spend an increasing amount of time, especially for field trips. Thanks to ExxonMobil, which donated their field safety manual, we now have available to the geoscience community a comprehensive field trip safety guide, portions of which ultimately will be applied to our field seminars. AAPG has published the guide in hardbound, and we are distributing it to all AAPG Regions and Sections and making it available for all affiliated societies and student chapters.
Certainly, safety and attention to insurance procedures are good for participants, but it does increase the cost of doing business. I assure you that we are doing everything possible to make our field trips safe and secure with not overly complicated legal procedures. AAPG is dedicated to being a leader in providing good field trips worldwide.
Security is another area of increasing attention by AAPG staff and consultants. All possible scenarios must be considered for any major event. Since 9/11, security costs have doubled at most events.
Also, each year there are a multitude of legal considerations. I am often asked why we cannot take some action and, in many cases, it is because, as a U.S. 501(c)(6) non-profit corporation, we have strict U.S. laws and tax guidelines that we must follow.
Sarbanes-Oxley procedures will be required for most U.S. non-profit corporations in the near future, and we already are preparing for that event -- one more layer of complexity.
As we grow internationally there are a multitude of new legal obligations. As we de-centralize and open offices around the world there are tax implications and local rules and procedures that we must understand and follow.
Finally, legal issues and world politics often clash. As a scientific society we often say that “geology has no borders.” Recently, however, we were restricted from publishing articles from a U.S. sanctioned country, because much of the data in the article came from the national oil company of that government.
Why am I writing about these complexities? I’m not complaining (well, maybe a little). As a member, I find it’s always good to let other members know how we spend some of their dues and “why” there is overhead. We also want to assure you that we are doing everything possible to take care of business.
When Tom and I stopped to catch our breath on the mountain, we laughed and said the good news is that we are the oldest guys on the mountain (at 250 pounds, I also can be one of the fastest guys down the mountain).
The good news for AAPG in this new business climate is that we are vibrant and still have great opportunities for growth and development worldwide.