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Written by William M. Briggs
The problem with global warming is that eventually it must meet reality. Either the globe is warming up at horrific rates as the models have promised, or it isn’t. And if it isn’t, then those still calling themselves “scientists,” and meaning it, must admit failure and move on.
Incidentally, the globe is not heating up as promised, and hasn’t been for decades. Stand by for scientists to admit it.
The good thing about global warming, while it lasted, was that it called for government to cure it; indeed, government was the only possible solution. And this was very welcome news for government, which is why it fought so hard to support those scientists and organizations that were sure they saw global warming lurking in every shadow.
Therein lies the true cause of the global warming movement: government-as-solution, a way to push and insist upon progressive ideals for the salvation of the planet.
But what happens now that global warming has met reality? Well, as said, it has to disappear. Sadly, its absence leaves nothing for government to cure.
Enter sustainability, a secular religion which is gaining converts faster than “outrage” spreads across the Internet. Rachelle Peterson and Peter Wood at the non-progressive National Association of Scholars call sustainability “Higher Education’s New Fundamentalism“, and have written a report describing this new form of paganism. Anybody interested in the future of the Western university should read it.
Global warming had a mortal weakness. It was testable. Sustainability does not suffer from the same fault. It need never meet reality. No matter what any individual or organization does, its activities can always be labeled “unsustainable.” This is because there is no definition of what sustainability is. It always means just what someone claiming to be more eco-holy than thou wants it to mean. True sustainability is a goal ever disappearing into the distance, one which can never be reached, but which must be pursued with ever increasing vigor — and funded by ever burgeoning taxes.
Like global warming, sustainability will “save” a planet which is in no danger of disappearing. It is, however, perceived as a Herculean task, one which only a government seeped in progressive ideology can undertake. So not only higher education, but government is embracing sustainability.
The interesting thing about sustainability, as Peterson and Woods point out, is that unlike the rest of the environmental movement, it did not start out as a grassroots effort. Instead, it was pushed from the start by John Kerry and Teresa Hinez, who at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 conceived of the group Second Nature, whose stated purpose is to “transform” higher education.
Second Nature created the Presidents’ Climate Commitment, a creed which is used by college presidents to tell to other college presidents how morally eco-pure they are. Of course, these officials also see that government is willing to pony up millions upon millions in grants to support sustainability causes, and no college president wants to miss his place at the trough.
At this writing, nearly 700 college and university presidents have committed their institutions to the path of sustainability. They pledge to make their schools “climate neutral,” a physical impossibility. They promise to bully students into participating in RecycleMania, a contest which tests students’ knowledge of which piece of trash goes into which colored bin. They also swear they will “attract new sources of funding.”
It isn’t only about the money. It’s about elites signaling their purity. This is why groups like the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education exist. These folks invented the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, a trademarked “transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.” Just like in kindergarten, different colored stars are awarded for better and worse performance.
College presidents are pushing for sustainability to be “integrated” across the curricula, and for the most part, as Peterson and Woods document, professors are complying. Cornell University, for one typical instance, has an “Ethics of Eating” course.
The NAS isn’t sitting still on their exposé. They’ve begun a series of conference calls for interested participants to learn what schools are doing next.
On the 16 April call, Peterson emphasized the lack of interest in global warming among college students. It was “a given, but not a primary motivator. They are all fired up about social justice, rolling back racism, promoting women,” essentially “equality” in all its forms. Sustainability is progressivism by another name.
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