As I write this, two environmental colleagues are on opposite sides of the globe, both in what amount to war zones. They have armed bodyguards. Months back, one had to evacuate a hotel, stepping over broken glass and blood, after a terrorist attack blew out the front of the lobby. The other slept with sandbags in the room staked on the wall facing outside. A female colleague of his was murdered by terrorists.
Protecting Yourself While Protecting the Environment
Most environmental professionals never face such extreme threats. But as globalization continues to advance rapidly, more environmental practitioners will find themselves traveling to parts of the world with very different cultural and political profiles. Even traveling to “safe” cities in the United States can pose dangers. This column offers real-world, school-of-hardknocks lessons from professionals who have traveled the world on missions to protect the environment and health of others. The issue of personal safety is increasingly important to environmental professionals, especially as companies expand into new regions in search of markets and resources. Many of the areas richest in critical resources— and most in need of environmental protection— also happen to be among the most dangerous places on earth. Safety when traveling is a subject about which too many of us are complacent. Some environmental professionals have a naïve tendency to think they will be safe because they are “good guys.” But doing good does not insulate anyone from harm—be it from terrorists, muggers, or even exotic diseases and taxi accidents.
With that thought in mind, I offer some practical tips for American environmental professionals who find themselves traveling to dangerous parts of the world.
Richard MacLean is president of Competitive Environment, a management consulting firm in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the executive director of the Center for Environmental Innovation, a university-based nonprofit research organization.