This is my final contribution to the AAPG EXPLORER as president of the Energy Minerals Division and it has been an honor. As with many other division presidents, I feel safe in the assumption that I did not achieve as much as I had hoped but take solace in the fact that as least some forward progression was made.
It is in this that I would like to make my final contribution by addressing three EXPLORER articles in the last issue that reference issues that are of great concern to me: These are “The Birth of a Movement,” by Emily Smith Llinas, “Is There a Dark Side to ESG?” by David Brown, and “We Stand at a Fork in the Road,” by AAPG President Steven M. Goolsby.
These three articles could not have been published at a better time and I would like to thank these authors.
Effective guidelines need to be established for environmental, social and governance-based decisions. As reported by Brown, ESG critics see it as a tool companies can use as a smokescreen for a variety of applications. These include but are not limited to opaque methodologies and ratings under the guise of social responsibility. Brown mentions the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the shockwave this sent throughout global markets. The fallout from this is still seen in the reorientation of governments and on where they fall regarding not only the physical war, but also in implementation of ESG. There is a stark divide between those countries that are assuming the responsibilities for ESG and those that are not.
According to the general trends I’ve seen in mainstream media coverage, it should be apparent to the public that every energy source has some kind of negative impact. Additionally, the speed of the repercussions of any of them is directly proportionate to the speed with which they are adopted. As with any goal, there are metrics by which we can measure success and an itemized list of what we have to work with to aid in achieving that goal. For example, do we have the materials necessary to achieve the goal? What is the goal? Is it sufficient? What about the other countries on the planet? If other countries refuse to cooperate, is it an achievable goal? Can the different parties involved in the decision-making process discuss these questions with a clear mind?
Without question, we know how precious the Earth is, but in my broad-based look, I have to question – are we taking care of the rest of what we are trying to save?
This brings me to the second article I would like to mention, “The Birth of a Movement,” which discusses Colombia and its struggles to maintain balance in a land of contrasts. It highlights Regional Pedagogy, which is an initiative to educate rural and urban communities in understanding Earth processes. One of the more recent projects is mentioned where cooperation is fostered to educate regarding groundwater.
Some may see this as a potential flashpoint, considering the adversarial nature of the two groups who are now working together. This scenario could have gone in any direction and in the evaluation of energy development over 2022, there are a multitude of cases where it has. These include exploitation of any country for its resources. It is important to remember that ESG, when taken into a broad-based consideration, is not limited by borders. Without overquoting the article, the last few headings really summarize her discussion as deciding what is important and the democratization of knowledge.
The final article I would like to discuss is Goolsby’s President’s Column entitled, “We Stand at a Fork in the Road.” He discusses the current situation in which AAPG finds itself. This situation is not unlike other organizations or businesses moving forward and includes loss of membership or employees. The titular “fork in the road” is stated as being reminiscent of a decision between the easy road that leads to disaster and the other, less travelled, “assures the preservation of the earth.”
Reason Over Urgency
Within these three articles there remains a common thread. It is this thread that needs to be examined before we can find an adequate, if even possible, solution. This undercurrent of thought is that we must do something now in order to prevent catastrophe. To find out where to go, let’s see if we can first define the standard “5W 1H” project management requirement: the who, what, when, where, why and how:
- Who: Humans
- What: Ruined the Earth
- When: Industrial Revolution to the present
- Where: Cities
- Why: Increase life expectancy, supportable population, increased standard of living
- How: Harnessing petrochemicals
Is this the best, simplest way of defining what is happening? Have we adequately measured the adverse side-effects of our attempts to fix what has been done?
These topics have been the subject of contention for a long time. So, I will end this with a summation of the three articles once again. ESG works only if all those involved are willing to play, otherwise it only serves as a disadvantage to those who choose to employ them. Second, one can make a difference if they are willing to cast aside disagreements, regardless of previous indiscretions. Third, there might be a “fork in the road” and we might be forced to decide what path to take.
Let’s remember to “treat the patient as well as the disease” and ensure that “the cure is not worse than the disease.”