Is sustainability sustainable?

sus-tain-a-ble  adj. 1. Capable of being sustained.

It’s a simple English word with a clear meaning, but as with other words it has been euphemistically co-opted by evangelical activists to help convert students and gullible others to the religion of environmentalism.

And on American college campuses it seems to be embraced with enthusiasm.

The obvious question we should ask is: What is being sustained? Some pragmatic followers would answer: Energy efficiency. But does this imply that our current energy system is unsustainable? Radical activists will answer: Yes. They go further to demand that consumers change their lifestyles, and, ironically, spend more on less efficient energy sources.

Of course they are wrong assuming that our traditional energy sources are unsustainable. American businessmen and engineers in the energy industry have developed highly efficient extraction, delivery and operational systems for our abundant natural resources: oil, coal and gas. Users find these resources efficient and affordable. We are all more healthy, comfortable and richer because of this remarkable technical achievement.

So, there is something unsaid and hidden behind the push for “sustainability.” Beyond some silly activities at our universities (see my blog Link below) there lurks a sinister and dangerous aspect to this movement.

Jesse Saffron, in a Pope Center for Higher Education article (Link below), describes sustainability as a “pernicious brand of environmentalism.” He calls it “a totalitarian philosophy that seeks to curtail personal and economic freedom.” I agree. Centralized control over all aspects of life is vigorously pursued on college campuses, such as North Carolina State University.

Mr. Saffron reports how NC State students are being insidiously indoctrinated with progressivism. Administrators and faculty are at work “infusing sustainability into academic curricula across the campus.”

A Sustainability Council weasels in “common threads” of other social justice schemes, such as environmental justice, diversity, inclusion, affordability and access, and “living wage compensation.”

Saffron believes the biggest problem with this activism is the “blanket acceptance of sustainability as an objectively virtuous ideology that is beyond scrutiny”—a dangerous idea, especially at our academic institutions.

Saffron cites a recent report by the National Association of Scholars titled, “Sustainability: Higher Education’s New Fundamentalism.” This study reveals campus activists across the country “shutting down debate on important issues such as climate change,” and politicizing liberal arts courses.

Let’s hope that this is just another freakish fad—that sustainability isn’t sustainable.

Totalitarians, however, continue their expanding march through our university campuses, distorting the minds of our young people; leaving States with good reasons to cut back on funding progressive projects and legislate to bring administrators back to the fundamental academic mission–or get rid of them.


About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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