Tag Archives: energy

When Sustainability Goes Too Far

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(Picture: UC Chico’s 2011 Sustainability Report)

California State University at Chico takes sustainability seriously. Yahoo listed it last year as one of the top five ‘green’ colleges in America. The university has made creating “environmentally literate citizens” an official strategic priority, and it has elaborated its general education program to include a “sustainability studies” track. Leaders of this campus movement have made it clear that they seek “sustainability across the curriculum,” with all lines of academic inquiry leading to sustainability. But there are problems with all this.

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What’s Going on Behind the Curtain? Climategate 2.0 and Scientific Integrity

Cross-posted from National Association of Scholars.

Climategate, both 1 and 2, are textbook cases of gross
lapses in professional ethics and scientific malfeasance.  To understand
why, one must first understand what science is and how it is supposed to
operate. Science is the noble pursuit of knowledge through observation, testing
and experimentation.  Scientists attempt to explain, describe and/or
predict the implications of phenomena through the use of the scientific
method.

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Global Warming: The Campus Non-Debate

I do not want us to shut down economic drive to support false science, and on the other hand, I do not want to leave behind a scorched earth.  …. Let’s get the science right!  A better debate and research is needed by honest and believable scientists who study climate professionally.

Richard Lindzen, Professor of Meteorology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Is the earth in a global warming phase?  If it is, how severe is this trend? Is the warming primarily a product of natural causes or do man-made factors play a dominant role?  If man-made factors are important, is the main culprit the carbon dioxide (CO2) produced from the burning of fossil fuels or are other factors more salient?  What is the evidence for and against the anthropogenic and CO2 theories of global warming? If we really are in a period of sustained global warming, will this trend prove a net benefit or a net loss to human welfare?  Who would benefit and who would be harmed by an increase in atmospheric CO2, the greater plant growth this facilitates, and a general increase in global temperatures? If the burning of fossil fuels is a major contributor to global warming, and if such warming harms many more people than it helps, is the radical curtailment of fossil-fuel dependence a politically and economically feasible response to the problem?  Is it feasible not only in the developed world but in developing regions like India, China, Indonesia, and Brazil?  If the radical curtailment of CO2 emissions cannot be obtained on a worldwide scale either for political or economic reasons, and if global warming proves to be the serious threat to human welfare that some contend, are there economically and scientifically feasible geo-engineering alternatives that could stop the warming or cool the planet down?  What might some of these geo-engineering alternatives be and how could they be implemented?

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Sustainability—Splurging with Your Tax Dollars

Within days of the GOP sweep that marked the Nov. 2 election, the Chronicle of Higher Education’s “Buildings and Grounds” blog featured an entry whose headline wondered: “What Future for College Sustainability Programs?” Such worrying might seem strange because in fact “sustainability”—the green mania that has inspired institutions of higher learning across the country to add environmental coordinators to their administrative staffs, hold dorm contests for who can take the shortest shower, and switch to compostable knives and forks in the dining halls—is a bigger phenomenon than ever. In November alone, the very month of the election, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education added 21 new members to its roster of hundreds of institutions ranging from Harvard to the remotest of community colleges.
What all the worrying is about, of course, isn’t the future of sustainability as a campus fad. It’s the future of sustainability as a fountainhead of government dollars to pay for the solar panels and “green living” residential experiments that many college administrators would like to see adorning their ivy halls. Also dollars to pay for the “green jobs” training programs at community colleges that prepare workers for the wind-farm industry, itself the object of massive government subsidies. A Chronicle blogger, Xarissa Holdaway, managing editor of the National Wildlife Foundation’s ClimateEdu newsletter, lamented that “[a]lmost all the Republican candidates [voted into Congress on Nov. 2] were indifferent or hostile to climate-change science.” She added, “For colleges, the shift may mean a halt to, or a least a slowing of, sustainability projects, particularly those paid for by state and federal funds.”
What Holdaway and others seem to fear most is a Republican-led cutoff of appropriations under the Higher Education Sustainability Act (HESA), a 2008 law that authorizes $50 million in federal grants to help out colleges with such endeavors as “green building,” “green purchasing, transportation, and related initiatives,” establishing “sustainability literacy as a requirement for degree programs,” and integrating “sustainability in all programs of instruction.” Higher-education associations are also eligible for federal in order to do such things as conducting “faculty and administrator trainings” and creating “analytical tools to assess institutional progress.” More than 220 colleges, universities, higher-education associations, NGOs, and corporations pushed hard for the law to pass.

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Even More Sustainability

A couple of weeks ago Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, wrote a serious, humorous, penetrating assessment of the rise of “sustainability” as the new ideology de riguer on college campuses. (The article is also available here, but read it on the Chronicle site if you can — the comments there are worth the price of admission — and it was cogently discussed here by Mark Bauerlein.) 

“Recently,” Wood began,

I came across a photograph of students at an event gathered around a cake that bore the iced command, “Celebrate Sustainability!” Clearly the candle had been passed. For more than a generation, cakes at campus events have tutored students to “Celebrate Diversity!” Something has changed—besides the frosting.

The pursuit of diversity on campuses remains a highly visible priority, but it is being subtly demoted by enthusiasm for sustainability. As an ideology, diversity is running out of steam, while sustainability is on fire….

“Diversity” is still alive and well at the University of Virginia, but now it does seem to be playing second fiddle to sustainability. As an example of the new fervor, for example, on October 20, “in observance of today’s national Campus Sustainability Day,” the Community Outreach and Communications Subcommittee of the President’s Committee on Sustainability (one of whose tasks is to educate the university on “sustainable thinking”) made available on its sustainability website a new pledge that it invited all members of the university to sign. The text:

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From Diversity to Sustainability

In the October 3rd issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education is a broad comparison of diversity and sustainability “ideologies.” In it, Peter Wood offers several general remarks about the terms (or notions, attitudes, commitments . . . what is the right word for these hazy but potent “-ities” that bear so many psycho-political undertones and moral imperatives?). I’m not concerned about colleges trying to push recycling and reduce energy usage—on this score, conservatives have made a tactical mistake in letting the Left seize the environmentalist mantle—but I am concerned about the way in which such measures have acquired a coercive pull and might displace attention from core educational aims.
First of all, Wood notes, one has displaced the other. Diversity is no longer the cutting-edge term it once was. As he says, “Freshmen now arrive on campus already having sucked on multicultural milkshakes from kindergarten to senior prom. Diversity for them is just the same ol’ same ol’.” Whether you revere diversity or not, the point is correct. Diversity is standard fare, and for universities to push it as if it were a higher breakthrough only strikes the students as puffery.
Second, he casts diversity and sustainability as “second-wave movements.” Diversity came out of affirmative action, sustainability out of environmentalism. Wood rightly identifies one reason why diversity prospered, that is, that it revised the negatives of reverse discrimination into the positives of better educational outcomes. Likewise, sustainability turned from the pollutions of the past to the cleanliness and efficiencies of the future.

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Sustainability—More Cash and a Softer Side

With great fanfare Columbia University recently announced that starting this fall it will offer an undergraduate major in the new interdisciplinary field of “sustainable development.” That makes Columbia the first Ivy League school to offer such a major, which sounds as though it ought to be a practical mix of hard science, “green” technology, and tough-minded economics joining forces to combat Third World poverty without polluting or deforesting the Third World in the process. In fact, however, undergraduate sustainability majors on many campuses tend to be light on science but heavy on ideology. The reigning ideologies can range from doomsday scenarios of out-of-control global warming and plummeting agricultural yields to, as is likely to be the case at Columbia, the controversial and expensive foreign aid-based economic theories of Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia’s Earth Institute, the sponsor of the university’s new sustainable-development major.

College majors in sustainability are all the rage these days—as well they might be, since the federal government (thanks to Congress’s passage of the Higher Education Sustainability Act in 2008) now makes grants available to institutions of higher learning “to integrate sustainability curricula in all programs of instruction, particularly in business, architecture, technology, manufacturing, engineering, and science programs.” Brand-new majors in sustainability have popped up on more than two dozen college campuses during the last few years. The schools now offering the major include small private liberal arts colleges and the public Arizona State University, which operates a School of Sustainability, and Appalachian State University in North Carolina, which offers four different sustainable-development majors plus a minor. In the fall of 2009 Johns Hopkins University began offering both a major and a minor in “global environmental change and sustainability” whose course offerings are somewhat similar to those proposed for Columbia.

Money is also pouring into sustainable-development programs at the graduate level. The MacArthur Foundation just announced that it has made grants totaling $5.6 million to ten universities worldwide to establish new two-year master’s-degree programs in “development practice” at 10 universities in eight different countries. The grants are part of a $16 million investment by MacArthur for “the creation of new Master’s programs in sustainable development practice,” as MacArthur’s press release states. MacArthur hopes to see the recipient universities—now totaling 20—churn out as many as 400 graduates by 2013.

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Tell Me Again—Why Is He at Princeton?

Van Jones, the Oakland, Calif.-based radical activist and author who was forced to resign his post as the Obama administration’s “green jobs czar” in September after it was revealed that he had signed a “truther” petition in 2004 calling for an investigation of President George W. Bush’s supposed collusion in the massacres of Sept. 11, 2001, now has a new post: on the faculty of Princeton University.
Jones will be a visiting fellow at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public International Affairs for the 2010-2011 academic year, where he will be teaching a graduate seminar on environmental politics—quite a coup for someone who put his name onto a “9/11 Truth Statement” that aired zany government cover-up conspiracy theories worthy of the UFO festival in Roswell, N.M,–if not of a Michael Moore movie. The statement declared that the Bush administration “may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war,” and included such queries as: “Why did the Secret Service allow Bush to complete his elementary school visit [on 9/11], apparently unconcerned about his safety or that of the schoolchildren?” “Why haven’t authorities in the U.S. and abroad published the results of multiple investigations into trading that strongly suggested foreknowledge of specific details of the 9/11 attacks, resulting in tens of millions of dollars of traceable gains?”
Jones’s fringe-left career, which began with his arrest in one of the riots over the 1992 acquittal of four Los Angeles police officers for beating Rodney King (the riots left 53 people dead and wreaked more than $1 billion in property damage after six days of looting, arson, and assaults) has led critics to blast Princeton for welcoming onto its faculty someone almost as “nutty” (in the words of an editorial in Investor’s Business Daily) as Ward Churchill, the former University of Colorado ethnic studies professor (since fired for plagiarizing from other scholars) who famously called the 9/11 victims “little Eichmanns.” Jones once boasted that the Rodney King riots had made a “communist” out of him. He says he has since repudiated his youthful Marxism—but not enough to prevent him from issuing a thundering call, in a speech given just two weeks before he started his White House job last March, for forced redistribution of capitalist profits to minorities and Native Americans: “Give them the wealth!…No justice on stolen land!”

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College Green? Bah Humbug.

The term “College Green” has a whole new meaning these days. No longer does it refer to the tree-lined verdant lawn at the heart of the classic college campus. It now reflects an environmental faddishness sweeping academia with a fervor exceeding even that for deconstructionism or take-back-the-night events.
The big buzzword on campus is “sustainability.” Virtually every self-respecting institution of higher learning has an office of campus sustainability. What sustainability means, however, is often somewhat vague. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill pledges to advance “the triple bottom line of ecological integrity, economic prosperity and social equity.” Michigan State promotes “a sustainable community that provides for the social and economic needs of its current and future members without compromising the health of our biosphere.” Brandeis hits closest to home. Its sustainability initiative aims “to reduce the university’s environmental impact.”
The top-tier schools are all in on the act. Harvard’s Green Campus Initiative has more than 20 full-time employees and claims to save the university $6 million a year. Yale’s sustainability initiative commits the school to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions 10 percent below what they were in 1990 by the year 2020. Stanford, which gets high marks from green groups for its efforts, offers several sustainability groups for students, along with an organic garden for the campus community. Even the lousiest schools are greening. At Portland State University in Oregon, an athletic field is laid with artificial turf made from ground-up sneakers, and one of its buildings boasts the biggest “ecoroof” in the city.

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The Worst Campus Codeword

The academic left is fond of buzzwords that sound harmless but function in a highly ideological way. Many schools of education and social work require students to have a good “disposition.” In practice this means that conservatives need not apply, as highly publicized attempts to penalize right-wing students at Brooklyn College and Washington State University revealed. “Social justice” is an even more useful codeword. Who can oppose it? But some schools made the mistake of spelling out that it means advocacy for causes of the left, including support for gay marriage and adoption, also opposition to “institutional racism,” heterosexism, classism and ableism. Students at Teachers College, Columbia, are required to acknowledge that belief in “merit, social mobility and individual responsibility” often produce and perpetuate social inequalities. Even in its mildest form “social justice” puts schools in a position of judging the acceptability of students’ political and social opinions.

Now the left is organizing around its most powerful codeword yet: sustainability. Dozens of universities now have sustainability programs. Arizona State is bulking up its curriculum and seems to be emerging as the strongest sustainability campus. UCLA has a housing floor devoted to sustainability. The American College Personnel Association (ACPA) has a sustainability task force and has joined eight other education associations to form a sustainability consortium. Pushed by the cultural left, UNESCO has declared the United Nation’s Decade of Education for Sustainable Development 2005-2014, featuring the now ubiquitous symbol of the sustainability movement – three overlapping circles representing environmental, economic and social reform (i.e., ecology is only a third of what the movement is about).

Only recently have the goals and institutionalization of the movement become clear. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability is Higher Education (AASHE) says it “defines sustainability is an inclusive way, encompassing human and ecological health, social justice, secure livelihoods and a better world for all generations.” When the residential life program at the University of Delaware – possibly the most appalling indoctrination program ever to appear on an American campus – was presented, Res Life director Kathleen Kerr packaged it as a sustainability program. Since suspended, possibly only temporarily, the program discussed mandatory sessions for students as “treatments” and insisted that whites acknowledge their role as racists. It also required students to achieve certain competencies including “students will recognize that systemic oppression exists in our society.” At a conference, Kerr explained “the social justice aspects of sustainability education,” referring to “environmental racism,” “domestic partnerships” and “gender equity.”

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