|NUMBER 305||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||JUNE 2011|
|Living Under the Green Thumb on Campus|
The sustainability movement was well planned and is supported and funded by some of the top leaders in the U.S. and the world. It began with college presidents giving sustainability a prominent place in campus culture, and eventually pressuring professors to incorporate the ideology into classrooms.
After attending the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, Senator John Kerry, his wife, and a few others created an organization called Second Nature. Second Nature's mission is "to accelerate movement toward a sustainable future by serving and supporting senior college and university leaders in making healthy, just, and sustainable living the foundation of all learning and practice in higher education."
Second Nature's agenda, already adopted by 270 college presidents, has been quite successful. Using a top-down approach, Second Nature supports organizations such as America's College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) who share their vision. One of ACUPCC's goals is "integrating sustainability into the curriculum and making it part of the educational experience."
Another organization, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), has set goals that include getting more than 50% of students to attend colleges which have signed the ACUPCC and to get 10% of courses to use a curriculum that will "enable students to synthesize an understanding of environmental, economic, and social forces of change and apply that understanding to real world problems."
The UN, still very much involved since the 1992 conference, created the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. Its goal is to "integrate the principles, values, and practices of sustainable development into all aspects of education and learning."
These organizations have been very effective in making the movement a part of the college pop culture by integrating sustainability into every aspect of the students' lives, just as they set out to do.
At the University of Delaware, for example, students in a meeting were asked to make changes in their lives to reduce environmental waste by 20%; others were required to advocate for sustainability several times a year. Students were made to attend private meetings in which their Resident Assistant would evaluate and report on the student's tolerance of other sexual preferences in an effort to promote "social sustainability."
The University of New Hampshire's chief sustainability officer, Tom Kelly, spoke at the Institute on Sustainability in 2009, focusing on "how we in higher education make our work fundamentally about sustainability." The University of New Hampshire (UNH) explained how this is possible. "Even just walking across a campus itself and noticing the diversity of people and the elements of the campus landscape can inform and influence students, faculty, and staff in subtle yet profound ways. Imagine the impact, then, when a college or university integrates sustainability throughout its core mission and identity.
Many colleges now offer degree programs in sustainability, even up to the Ph.D. level. Colleges such as Yale, Harvard, and Princeton have incorporated enough sustainability ideology into campus life to get A's on the College Sustainability Report Card.
At Dartmouth College, the goal is "to make environmental concerns a significant priority in our decision making, to lead in the implementation of environmentally sustainable practices, and to place Dartmouth at the forefront in the exploration of issues related to the preservation of a healthy biosphere." To fulfill this goal, students are encouraged not to use elevators, cars, dryers, or lunch trays.
The problem with the sustainability movement on college campuses is not that it encourages recycling or saving energy. Peter Wood, of the National Association of Scholars, wrote in "Critiquing Sustainability" that sustainability "is not so much a subject as an ideology. It mixes together psychological dispositions, beliefs, scientific premises, social activism, government funding, and campus bureaucracy into a heady brew."
The ideology of the sustainability movement is in opposition to many long-held beliefs of conservative Americans. For instance, college campuses were traditionally places of academic inquiry and discovery, not places to push an agenda on a captive audience. Although sustainability theoretically promotes tolerance, it leaves the college student little choice but to conform. As UNH states, "education in our time can, should, and must promote sustainability."
For sustainability to work, everyone must believe the same thing and get with the program. This is why colleges have largely bypassed academic inquiry into the scientific facts behind sustainability and moved directly into making it a part of students' everyday lives and way of thinking. Universities should be catalysts of invention, discovery, and technological progress, not centers of indoctrination.
The necessity for control of resources in the sustainability movement has led to anti-capitalistic leanings. Peter Wood explains that the movement "appropriated environmentalist rhetoric to push something akin to international socialism. It is, even in its mildest versions, allergic to free markets and has a strong attraction to international treaties and NGOs as the best means of advancing humanity toward the new sustainable Eden."
Sustainability relies on government control to fulfill its goals instead of on consumers to freely invent better ways of using available resources. With backing from the UN and a focus on a "whole world" approach to change, it seems that the only thing that is left unsustainable is an independent America.
One of the most disconcerting aspects of the sustainability movement is its quasi-religious character, focusing more on faith in the movement than scientific fact. Many people pushing the movement in colleges believe that our lives and the lives of future generations depend on sustainability.
Morality, then, is based on sacrificing time and convenience to sustain the earth. From UNH's perspective, "Sustainability presents the inescapable questions of 'what is the good life' and 'how do we organize society to sustain a good life now and for generations to come, for everyone?' People have been asking these questions for thousands of years and so sustainability is not a new concept. But when we talk about sustainability, most of the old, familiar rules no longer apply: this is the case not only for organizational boundaries, but for moral, ethical and intellectual boundaries as well."
College elites want to change the worldview of their students, ridding them of traditional values and instilling instead the values of sustainability in the environment, economy, and society. Almost anything they want to push can be hidden behind the mask of sustainability. Homosexuality, radical feminism, and racism fall in the social justice division; socialism and government control in the economic division; and, of course, a wide array of extreme conservation programs in the environmental division. Whatever it is, college students are eager to grab up the idea, not to be left behind in the cause of saving the world and bringing in Utopia.
www.secondnature.org, 5-25-11; www.presidentsclimatecommitment.org, 5-25-11; www.aashe.org, 5-25-11; www.unesco.org, 5-25-11