Orang Utan versus Orang Tua
Having lived on the island of Borneo for a year, I have had the opportunity to see Orang Utans in the wild. Yes, the correct spelling is two separate words as opposed to one, and it translates as "People Jungle". I have on many occasions seen Orang Utans in zoos, and on one occasion in Singapore, had tea with one. But it is not until you see them at home in the rain forest that you can fully appreciate how magnificent these animals are – and how appropriate their name is. In the wild, you hear them before you see them, the sound of rustling leaves overhead and occasionally the snap of a broken branch. It is easy to find their nests or beds, a cluster of leaves and branches high in the trees that they used for one night. More often than not, that is as close as you get to seeing them. But on occasion, a falling branch will betray them and you will be able to see them moving through the trees. The babies are adorable and highly entertaining as they scramble through the trees to play and at the same time keep up with their mother. However, at least for me, it is the adult males who are most impressive. An adult male Orang Utan weighs over 200 lbs., yet can move through the canopy like a trapeze artist, and do so with such ease that even Tarzan would be envious.
The Orang UtanThe Orang Utan is a highly endangered species. Having seen them in the wild, I can say that it would be a shame if this magnificent animal were to disappear completely. Fortunately, Malaysia and Indonesia are both working hard to save the species.
The Orang Tua Another endangered species is the Orang Tua, which by virtue of my (prematurely) grey hair is one of the things I am called here. Orang Tua translates as People Old. Now do not get me wrong, old people are not an endangered species per say, but I believe that old explorationists are. I hope to convince you that like Oran Utans, Explorationists Old are also worth saving, not just for the good of the Association, but for the health of the petroleum industry.
If you look at the age distribution of the of the AAPG membership (see related article in this issue), which is a reasonable proxy for the age distribution of explorationists within the industry, you can see that we are aging. Over 30% of our members are over 55, an age where many Orang Tuas begin to consider retirement. But what would the impact be on the association, and on the industry, if they do retire?
The aging of the association’s membership poses two challenges to us Delegates. The first is the challenge of sustaining our membership; the second is to find ways for us Orang Tua to pass on our experience to the next generation.
The first challenge is an admittedly difficult one, and I am unable to offer a solution. We have tried numerous strategies including letter campaigns, telemarketing, and membership drives, all failing to result in an increase of members, although we have seemingly slowed the rate of loss.
The second challenge, to find ways to pass on our experience, may however, help us to solve the first challenge. If we can find ways to develop publications and courses that allow us Orang Tua to pass on our experiences, and if we can conduct workshops or fieldtrips that facilitate interaction between young and old, perhaps we can attract more young members and retain more old ones.
If we succeed in this second challenge, we will also positively impact the overall health of the petroleum industry. Over the last decade, improvements in seismic processing and seismic visualization have allowed fewer people to produce more, so the impact of the older explorationists retiring may at first seem minimal. And in fact, the impact would be minimal if there were more young explorationists coming into the industry, and if they were as capable as the older ones who are leaving it. Unfortunately, I do not think they are.
It is also more complicated than the fact that there is no substitute for experience. I am afraid that many of the younger explorationists have fallen victim to what I call the technology trap – that is the belief that whatever comes out of a box is good. I have heard some individuals claim that sand maps and net pay maps are obsolete now that we can image that with 3D. I have seen a map of seismic inversion data titled grain size distribution map, even though the author of the map seemed to know that the resolution of that inversion data set was 30 or so feet.
There seems to be a complete lack of understanding that a map, whether it is well-based, 2D-based, or 3D-based, is only as good as the interpreter who made it. And I have seen many 3D maps that are very poor quality, suffering from numerous miss-ties, incorrect correlations and interpretation of bad data as good. But, they look great, and because they look great, they tend to be accepted without question, after all, it is 3D. However, because many of the newer generation of explorationists have never hand-contoured a map, they do not know how to tell a good map from a bad one, or for that matter a good prospect from a bad one. And this is not good for the industry; indeed, this has in part contributed to the reason so many companies have had to recently revise their reserve estimates.
Another concern is that at least some of the younger explorationists in the industry today seem to consider the experience of us Orang Tua to be of no value. What a shame, because we have much to teach them. By the way, did I mention that the term Orang Tua is a compliment? Here in Malaysia, they respect the People Old and value their experience and judgment.