Scholars Critique Campus "Sustainability" Movement, Propose Alternatives

Princeton, NJ (April 21, 2011)—Just in time for Earth Day, the National Association of Scholars has issued a penetrating critique of the campus sustainability movement.

The critique, “Fixing Sustainability and Sustaining Liberal Education,” hits the movement for misappropriating the idea of environmental stewardship. It argues that campus activists are using green rhetoric to disguise illiberal motives.

NAS president Peter Wood said, “Sustainability sounds like a call for recycling and clean drinking water.   But its proponents are much more ambitious. For them, a sustainable society is one that replaces the market economy with top-down regulation. They present students a frightening story in which the earth is on the brink of disaster and immediate action is needed. This is a tactic aimed at silencing critics, shutting down debate, and mobilizing students who never get the opportunity to hear opposing views.”

Wood explained, “By preempting rational discussion and replacing it with scare stories, many sustainability advocates thwart the real purposes of a college education. We hope our critique will force a genuine debate.”

The statement presents nine ways in which the campus sustainability movement distorts higher education. The NAS argues, for example, that the sustainability movement is blind to the history of technological progress and pushes an ideology of maximum conservation even in situations where innovation might offer better answers. The report also faults many college administrators for discouraging open-minded inquiry in favor of slogans, apocalyptic visions, and psychological manipulation.

Wood added, “NAS is issuing this statement after a three-year nationwide study of the sustainability movement. We support good stewardship of natural resources but we are alarmed that this movement has been hijacked by those who are far more interested in attacking the principles of personal freedom, market economics, and free inquiry. We offer a series of recommendations for how sustainability can play a more constructive role in higher education.”

The National Association of Scholars advocates for higher education reform. To learn more about NAS, visit

CONTACTPeter Wood, President, NAS: 609-683-7878

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