Category Archive 'Sustainability'

13 Jun 2011

Timely Advice from the Californian Cato

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Victor Davis Hanson is in exceptionally good form today.

We should not listen to journalists, politicians, or academics who lecture about overpopulation, looming environmental catastrophe, or general unsustainability — if they live in a house over 2,500 square feet and fly more than once a month. Unfortunately that covers most of our alarmists. Otherwise these megaphones simply are medieval grandees seeking indulgences and penances through loud lectures against what they enjoy in the flesh. …

It is wise to navigate through the news and elite wisdom through two landmarks: anything that Barack Obama says will be airbrushed, improved, or modified to fit facts post facto; anything Sarah Palin says or does will be contextualized in Neanderthal terms. Teams of Post and Times volunteers now sort through Sarah Palin’s email; not a reporter in the world is curious about what Barack Obama once said about Rashid Khalidi or the Columbia University GPA that won him entrance to Harvard Law School. Accept that asymmetry and almost everything not only makes sense about these two cultural guideposts, but can, by extension, explain the 1860-like division in American itself. …

Go to Europe and see the left-wing desired future for America: dense urban apartment living by design rather than by necessity; one smart car; no backyard or third bedroom; dependence on mass transit; political graffiti everywhere demanding more union benefits or social entitlements; entourages of horn-blaring, police-escorted technocrats racing through the streets on the hour; gated inherited homes of an aristocratic technocracy on the Mediterranean coast, Rhine, Danube, etc., exempt from much socialist and environmental law; $10 a gallon gas; sky-high power bills; racial segregation coupled with elite praise of illegal immigration and diversity; and unexamined groupthink on green issues, entitlements, and the culpability of the U.S. Drink it all in and you have the liberal agenda for an America to be.

Read the whole thing.

05 Oct 2010

The New Flavor of Campus Cant: Sustainability

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Peter Wood, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, describes how a new kind of totalitarian stupidity is taking over America’s colleges. But the good news is it’s displacing the older equivalent stupidity: racial cant. In other words: Ebola isn’t all bad; it’s killing off the Plague bacillus.

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. This month hundreds of colleges will mark the eighth annual Campus Sustainability Day, with activities to include a Webcast offering “social-change strategies and tools” to help campuses lower carbon emissions. …

Diversity and sustainability are the two most characteristic ideas of the modern academy. Diversity asks us to focus on group identity and personal affiliation, and it puts race at the center of the discussion. Sustainability asks us to focus on humanity’s use of natural resources, and it puts climate at the center of discussion. Outwardly, diversity and sustainability belong to separate narratives. They deal with different topics and might, in principle, have no more friction between them than typically exists between English departments and physics labs. Or between polar bears and tropical fish. But in fact, diversity and sustainability have a complicated, decades-old rivalry.

They vie, in effect, for the same conceptual space and the same passions. Both are about repairing the world; both invite exuberant commitment; both are moralistic; and most of all, both are encompassing ideas that crowd out other encompassing ideas. They also compete for the same financial resources.

Diversity and sustainability are also both second-wave movements. Diversity is second-wave affirmative action; sustainability is second-wave environmentalism. …

One index of the rise of sustainability at the expense of diversity is the size of the institutional memberships of their professional groups. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education now lists as members 800 colleges and universities in the United States. The National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, by contrast, has about 150 member institutions.

Diversity is a story of a once-fresh ideology that swept through higher education in a spirit of triumph but that quickly seems to be losing its status as the sexiest ideology on campus. Diversiphiles would like to keep the adrenaline flowing, but it is hard. 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’. …

I view this changing of the ideological guard with wariness. Diversity was pretty bad; sustainability may be even worse. Both movements subtract from the better purposes of higher education. Diversity authorizes double standards in admissions and hiring, breeds a campus culture of hypocrisy, mismatches students to educational opportunities, fosters ethnic resentments, elevates group identity over individual achievement, and trivializes the curriculum. Of course, those punishments were something that had to be accepted in the spirit of atoning for the original sin of racism.

But for its part, sustainability has the logic of a stampede. We all must run in the same direction for fear of some rumored and largely invisible threat. The real threat is the stampede itself. Sustainability numbers among its advocates some scrupulous scientists and quite a few sober facilities managers who simply want to trim utility bills. But in the main, sustainability is the triumph of hypothesis over evidence. Its scientific grounding is mostly a matter of models and extrapolations and appeals to authority. Evoking imminent and planet-destroying catastrophe, sustainatopians call for radical changes in economic arrangements and social patterns. Higher education is summoned to set aside whatever it is doing to help make this revolution in production, distribution, and consumption a reality. …

The diversity movement has always been rife with contradictions. Seeking to promote racial equality, it evolved into a system that perpetuates inequalities. But whatever else it is, the diversity movement thirsts to be part of mainstream America. Its ultimate goal is to make diversity a principle of the same standing as freedom and equality in our national life. The sustainability movement, by contrast, has no such affection for the larger culture or loyalty to the American experiment. It dismisses the comforts of American life, including our political freedom, as unworthy extravagance. Sustainability summons us to a supposedly higher good. Personal security, national prosperity, and individual freedom may just have to go as we press on to our low-impact, carbon-free new order. In this sense, it goes beyond promising to redeem us from social iniquity to redeeming us from human nature itself.

Many campus adherents to sustainability may eventually tire of its puritanical preachiness and its unfulfilled prophecies, but for the moment, sustainability has cachet. Diversity, meanwhile, has aged into a static bureaucracy, and diversicrats increasingly spend their energy polishing the spoons. …

In the end, I suspect that a quarter-century or so of hugging identity politics close and trying to feel perpetual shame about the nation’s racial past just proved too dreary. Sustainability may be based on a grimmer view of life in general, but it offers relief from that ever-expanding story of group oppression that had eventually become all that diversity had to offer. In an odd way, sustainability is liberating.

Hat tip to Matthias Storme.


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