The Foreign Service Journal - October 2016
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Pollution and Politics



Shawn Dorman is the editor of

The Foreign Service Journal.

air, we dare to take a look at the U.S.

presidential election. The


has a

tradition in presidential election years

of turning the lens on ourselves, asking

foreign journalists to share views of the

contest from their home countries.

We have so far managed to do that

within the confines of our role as the

flagship publication of the American

Foreign Service Association, which is

committed to remaining nonpartisan.

Members of the Foreign Service

swear an oath to defend the Consti-

tution. They take pride in faithfully

serving the national interest, regardless

of which party wins the White House.

And they take the

Hatch Act


as well.

This election has tested AFSA’s

resolve to remain above politics and

raised questions about where the lines

are and should be. Our discussion starts

with the Speaking Out, “Safeguarding a Nonpartisan Foreign Service” by FSO

Matthew Tompkins, who argues for a

baseline standard of political discretion

and suggests a conversation on how

much, if any, political participation is

appropriate for the professional Foreign


Then we offer views on the U.S.

election from three journalists and one

retired FSO writing from the perspec-

his month’s cover story looks

at air pollution as a fact of life

for members of the Foreign

Service. Southeast Asian

“haze” (aka smoke from land-clearing

peat fires in Indonesia); vehicle and

industrial emissions choking cities

across India and China; smoke from

wood- and coal-burning from Sarajevo

to Gaborone—all contribute to a global

problem experienced locally.

Worldwide availablity doesn’t make

exceptions, at least not yet, based on

air quality. In “The Air We Breathe: Liv- ing with Air Pollution,” environmental

psychologist and urban health expert

Nicole Schaefer-McDaniel, also an

FS family member, gives a lesson on

what we need to know—from the risks

involved and where to look for informa-

tion to suggestions for coping.

If you’ve been in the Foreign Service

for more than one assignment, chances

are you have an air pollution story. I

found Deborah Lynn’s “Breathless in Jakarta—A Cautionary Tale” particula


compelling, as I’d had my own bout

with air pollution challenges while serv-

ing there in the late 1990s (whooping

cough, smoky flights).

In her story, Lynn describes her

painful journey through Jakarta pollu-

tion to pneumonia to

the difficult decision

to curtail from a great


Moving on from

air pollution to hot

tives of four countries:

Brazil, Austria, India



In another turn of the lens on our-

selves, this month’s

Local Lens


from Des Moines, Iowa.

In Features, Ambassador (ret.) Lan-

non Walker shares the story of his diplo- matic travels around Africa in 1980 with

Muhammad Ali, heavyweight champion

and diplomat extraordinaire. And FSO

and AFSA dissent winner Amelia Shaw

is back with a story about the problem

of undocumented American children

in Mexico, “An Invisible Tide: Undocu- mented U.S. Kids in Mexico.”

In closing, I’d like to share very good

news from the


. We are about

to become the proud stewards of a

complete digital archive of

The Foreign

Service Journal


For at least a decade,


staff and

the Editorial Board have advocated for

a fully accessible online archive of the

entire library of 90-plus years of the


. Hurray to the current Govern-

ing Board for giving the green light to go


Keep an eye out for news on the

completion of the project and the shar-

ing of access to this amazing cache of

primary-source material on U.S. diplo-



Worldwide availablity doesn’t make exceptions,

at least not yet, based on air quality.