AAPG 2002 Hits 'A Home Run'
Big Crowds Boost Annual Meeting
convention that celebrated the profession's golden days even while
eyeing future exploration possibilities ended up being the largest
AAPG annual meeting in nearly two decades.
Final attendance figures for the AAPG annual meeting
at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston totaled 7,665,
making it the largest association gathering since the 1985 meeting
in New Orleans.
"I felt AAPG 2002 was a home run," general chairman
Jeff Lund said, even before the final figures were released.
Lund, in praising the hundreds of people who were
involved in planning, organizing and managing the meeting, said
that "all delivered beyond my expectations.
"Our opening session went well ... and we immediately
saw registration headed to the hoped-for 7,000-plus target," he
said, "and that our fears of disappointing attendance due to the
recession, low oil prices in the fall and '9-11' or possible new
terrorist threats were going to be overcome."
The Houston attendance figures marked only the fourth
time since the 1985 meeting in New Orleans (9,276) that an AAPG
annual meeting drew more than 7,000 people. During that same period,
annual meetings in Houston attracted 7,645 (1988) and 6,811 attendees
The large numbers made for considerable optimism
during the meeting, despite current global conditions that could
have been described as unstable at best, and volatile in the extreme.
Several technical sessions dealt with exploration
opportunities in remote global regions -- in one case, an entire
session on exploration in and from outer space -- and the exhibition
hall was packed with its usual array of eye-popping technology and
The total number of commercial and educational booths
sold in the exhibit hall hit 836, including 65 booths in the International
In fact, even though Texans attending the meeting
represented 59 percent of the total attendance (3,955), the meeting
had a sizable international flavor. Non-U.S. attendees totaled 17
percent of the final number. Non-U.S. locales with the largest numbers
of attendees were:
- Canada -- 199.
- England -- 171.
- France -- 76.
- Brazil -- 64.
- Norway -- 54.
- Saudi Arabia -- 42.
- Venezuela -- 40.
- Australia -- 35.
- Netherlands -- 33.
- (tie) Mexico, Nigeria -- 30 each.
The meeting's theme was "Our Heritage -- Key to Global
Discovery," and Lund said a personal highlight for him was "getting
to know Mike (Michel T.) Halbouty, who inspired our heritage theme."
Indeed, Halbouty, one of the profession's storied
oilfinders, had a high profile in Houston, giving a technical talk,
speaking at the DPA luncheon and receiving the American Geological
Institute's Legendary Geoscientist Award at the All-Convention luncheon.
"Having Mike participate ... made me realize we succeeded
in making our theme come alive," Lund said, "and we connected to
the many students and young geologists who attended."
Among the meeting's other highlights was the Presidential
Address, presented by Robbie Gries during the opening session, which
challenged the ethics and morality of geologists with a question:
"Are we ethical wimps," she asked, "or just prudent?"
Gries, in expanding on points made in her column
in the April EXPLORER, said that "most AAPG members really are good
people," but that she agreed with Dennis Moberg, professor at Santa
Clara University (Calif.), that "a significant number of unethical
acts in business are likely the result of foibles and failings ...
rather than selfishness and greed.
"Our moral lapses are usually not because of what
one does, but for what we fail to bother to do," she said. "Scripts
(cognitive shortcuts that take the place of careful thinking), distractions
and our natural tendency to exclude those unfamiliar to us cloud
our best thinking and interfere with the expression of our best
Gries spoke of ethics from two perspectives: As professionals
needing to do their best, and as victims of those who do not.
"We each must be guided by high standards of business
ethics, personal honor and professional conduct," Gries said.
"If you have been in this business very long and
have not been the victim of someone's dishonest behavior, then you
are likely the exception and not the rule," she said. "And it is
much worse when the perpetrator is a member, bound by the same code
of ethics that we all are."
Gries, in giving an example of how a business associate
treated her in an unethical manner, questioned her own choice at
that time in not demanding action against the perpetrator.
"Because I didn't, and others did not cause him to
be accountable for his poor ethics, he was allowed to continue in
this misbehavior," Gries said, "and who knows how many other good
companies and geologists were burned?
"He was also allowed to set poor standards for his
employees, and many of them adopted these unethical standards,"
she added, "many that are AAPG members today."
Gries said AAPG members already have a standard in
place: the Code of Ethics, which applies to a geologist's dealing
with clients, the association and with each other -- and gives a
format for holding members up to the standard.
"Now, let's look at our history on this issue," she
said. "AAPG has not brought any ethical charges against a member
in the last 10 years. We have had about five or six charges filed
in 10 years, which represents about .0002 percent of our membership.
"Either we are an exceptionally ethical group," she
said, "or we are just not bothering with initiating a grievance."
Even in recognizing the huge cost of time and money
in pursuing legal actions that enforcement of the Code brings, Gries
said the situation begs a question: Will we enforce our thoughtful
and deliberate Code of Ethics, or not?
"If not, then let's remove the Code from our bylaws,"
she said, "recognizing that we are not, as individuals or as an
organization, going to spend the time, money and emotional energy
policing ethics -- recognizing that perhaps we are just being prudent
in a very litigious world.
"Or, if we decide to keep it, then let's practice
it, let's teach it, let's enforce it.
"Are we ethical wimps," she closed, "or are we prudent?