Sustainability is a Waste: 10 Reasons to Oppose the Sustainability Movement on Your Campus

Peter Wood

  1. Sustainability is deceptive.
    Sustainability is not just about practicing good stewardship of the environment. It is also a tool to advance progressive politics and ideology. The sustainability movement is a way for people with a hugely unpopular political program to get into positions of influence so that they can advance their cause despite lack of public support.[1] On many campuses sustainability is marketed to students as saving energy and improving the environment, but turns out to involve projects that have nothing to do with the environment. 
     
  2. Sustainability is coercive.
    Sustainability advocates assume that no one can legitimately disagree with their message. They therefore have no qualms about imposing their politics on students, faculty, and staff. If someone does disagree, they attack that person’s motives and ignore his actual points.[2]
     
  3. Sustainability is closed-minded.
    Sustainability advocates put their hands over their ears and refuse to listen to people who point out contrary facts or who have different arguments. Sustainability in this sense is an ideology: it shuts out or explains away whatever doesn’t fit with its premises.[3]
     
  4. Sustainability is a pseudo-religion.
    Some sustainability advocates tip over the edge of ideology into apocalyptic religion, complete with end-of-the-world scenarios, calls to repent, a new eco-morality, and worship of the Earth.[4] This is a religion that misappropriates the ideas of “ethics,” ‘justice,” “social mandate,” and “the right thing” to shame people into compliance.
     
  5. Sustainability distorts higher education.
    Sustainability advocates don’t want to just add sustainability to the curriculum; they want to make it “thefoundation of all learning and practice in higher education.”[5]  How exactly does sustainability help you learn calculus, read Homer, or score well on the LSAT?  College is also about preparing for adult responsibilities. How does making sustainability the foundation of higher education prepare you for those aspects of life not encompassed by recycling, green grocery bags, and compact fluorescent light bulbs?
     
  6. Sustainability shrinks freedom.
    Sustainability advocates don’t like free markets or personal liberty. They believe markets ignore long-term costs and people typically make bad choices. Instead of liberty, sustainability advocates praise “social justice” and “equitable distribution of resources” as the foundation of a sustainable society. [6] These terms may sound nice but they point to governmental control over everyday life. Ultimately, the sustainability movement is about taking away your right to think and act for yourself. 
     
  7. Sustainability tries to program you.
    The proponents of sustainability aim to have “all students engaged as effective change agents in our sustainability challenges.”[7] This is another way of narrowing your education. Can’t students simply be students? What if your goal is to learn something about the world before attempting to change it? 
  8. Sustainability is anti-rational.
    Some sustainability advocates—we call them sustainatopians—want to instill in students an emotional way of knowing the world that is “separate from the rational.”[8] Many of them believe the industrial revolution was a mistake and would like to move beyond reason and science in favor of a combination of intuition and empathy. That runs counter to the basic purpose of higher education.
     
  9. Sustainability bypasses the faculty.
    Historically, college teachers have made the key decisions about what they teach. The sustainability movement on campus, however, took off when college administrators decided to push it. So far, 650 college presidents have signed a commitment to combat global warming and infuse sustainability into the curriculum.[9]
     
  10. Sustainability is wasteful.
    Sustainability advocates pride themselves on taking the long view and minimizing waste. In fact the movement has a long history of extravagant and false predictions about natural resources, environmental perils, and the consequences of human actions.[10]  These predictions have resulted in vastly wasteful expenditures and diversions of human time and talent. Convincing college students to squander their opportunity for a real education is only the most recent example. 

To learn how you can oppose the sustainability movement on your campus, visit the National Association of Scholars website at www.nas.org for articles about sustainability and for suggestions on how to respond to sustainability on your campus.


[1] The University of Delaware conducted a “citizenship” residence life program in the name of sustainability. The program was shut down in 2008 when it was found to be an experiment in ideological indoctrination. Res life administrators had used sustainability as a seemingly innocent name for its highly politicized programming. Adam.Kissel, “How the Dorms are Politicized: The Case of the University of Delaware.” http://www.nas.org/polInitiatives.cfm?doctype_code=Initiative&doc_id=499&Keyword_Desc=How%20Many%20Delawares

[2] See Eoin O’Carroll, “Are Climate Change Deniers Like Creationists?” The Christian Science Monitor. August 28, 2009. http://features.csmonitor.com/environment/2009/08/28/are-climate-change-deniers-like-creationists/

[3] See David P. Barash, “We Are All Madoffs.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. August 31, 2009. http://chronicle.com/article/We-Are-All-Madoffs/48182/?sid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en

[4] Eco-morality tallies “impact points” (bad) such as having children and weighs them against “action points” (good) such as planting trees. See Donald W. Lotter. Earthscore: Your Personal Environmental Audit & Guide. Lafayette, CA: Jack Howell. 1993. Earthscore is required reading for students in Environmental Literacy (ENVL 105) at CSU-Chico. See http://www.nas.org/polArticles.cfm?doctype_code=Article&doc_id=827.

[5] From the Second Nature mission statement: http://www.secondnature.org/.

[6] Ithaca College, “What is Sustainability?” http://www.ithaca.edu/sustainability/files/What_Is_Sustainability.pdf.

[7] Kathleen Gardner, Kathleen G. Kerr, and Jeanne S. Steffes. Living-Learning Conference. October 15-17, 2006. Syracuse, NY. “Integrating Sustainability into a Learning Community” http://www.myacpa.org/task-force/sustainability/docs/LLC_Sustainability_ppt100906.1.ppt#278,22,Goal:.

[8] Peggy F. Barlett, “Reason and Reenchantment in Cultural Change: Sustainability in Higher Education,” Current Anthropology. See http://www.nas.org/polArticles.cfm?doctype_code=Article&doc_id=519.

[9] Those 650 presidents have signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment created by the advocacy group Second Nature and supported by several other groups. Other college administrators are creating sustainability programs in the residence life, student activities, and buildings and grounds.

[10] For an earlier iteration of sustaina-hysteria see Paul Ehrlich, The Population Bomb. New York: Ballatine/ Sierra Books. 1968. Ehrlich famously lost a bet with the economist Julian L. Simon over the future prices of five commodities chosen by Ehrlich (copper, chromium, nickel, tin, and tungsten.) Ehrlich, believing that earth was running out of resources, bet that prices would rise from 1980 to 1990. He lost decisively. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon-Ehrlich_wager

Photo: Number 10 by yoppy / CC BY (edited)

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