Sustainability is the latest buzzword when it comes to advocating for responsible environmental stewardship. And why not? Its proper implementation can have positive results. But sustainability has become a new religion for the Left and its church is the college campus, where converts -- the future leaders of America -- have twisted the concept into a catch-all for social justice activism bent on transforming socioeconomic and political foundations.
"Sustainability, it turns out, is the new battle cry in an old war," states Katherine Kersten in a commentary for Minneapolis's Star Tribune. She means that although what is familiar in the cause is age-old environmentalism, it has been rebranded and redefined to include a broader spectrum of social justice issues like gender neutrality, transgenderism, and addressing white privilege and police brutality.
In other words, the campus sustainability movement’s mission is to transform our fundamental social, economic and political institutions, and to do so by manipulating, cajoling and browbeating a generation of college students into accepting the movement’s worldview and cultural norms.
Kersten points to a new report by the National Association of Scholars (NAS) who have been studying what it calls "higher education's new fundamentalism" -- sustainability as viewed through the "ideological lens" of students. NAS has observed the 475 colleges in the U.S. and Canada that now offer well over 1,000 degrees in sustainability and the myriad of elective courses. Kersten notes, "Cornell University offers more than 400, ranging from 'The Ethics of Eating' ('defend' or change your eating habits) to 'Magnifying Small Spaces Studio,' where students learn to make do living in tiny spaces."
Students are often "encouraged" (read, pressured) to change their lifestyles -- shorter showers, eating meat-free, using human powered transportation -- by what the report calls "paid student eco-reps" who preach the gospel of sustainability. It's so prevalent on the University of Virginia campus that students and employees must take this oath: “I pledge to consider the social, economic and environmental impacts of my habits and to explore ways to foster a sustainable environment during my time here at U.Va. and beyond.”
At the Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota, students can earn prizes while they engage and learn about sustainability. The school even earns a special rating from a national sustainability organization, Kersten says, because it provides gender neutral housing for transgender students and single-race housing for blacks and other ethnic groups. Kersten also notes that during the Ferguson riots, the university's Sustainability Studies office posted online resources to help "white folk" show support against police brutality.
Kersten describes the movement as one of a “salute-and-shut-up” mind-set. Any dissent on ideologies, like questioning man-made climate change, "is harshly suppressed" and is considered heresy. Its leaders are authoritarian, she says, pining for "state control over people and resources" and pushing for wealth distribution to minorities. The NAS report states that the so-called Church of Sustainability simply considers these factors as “the price that must be paid now to ensure the welfare of future generations."
And Kersten believes that there is good reason that young minds are attracted to such a movement:
Its appeal springs, in large measure, from its quasi-religious nature and message. In our increasingly secular age, a focus on transcendent meaning has largely vanished from campus. Sustainability can fill the resulting vacuum by offering young people a sense of purpose and meaning.
The Church of Sustainability derives many of its major themes from Judeo-Christianity. It teaches that the Earth — once a pristine Eden — is now fallen and polluted because of human sinfulness, and that an apocalyptic Judgment Day looms unless mankind repents. Absolution and salvation are possible if humans heed the enlightened saints and prophets who warn us of impending doom.
As the NAS study observes, students feel a moral duty to save the Earth and the simple act of recycling a plastic cup amounts in their mind to a "noble sacrifice rewarded with laurels."
But Kersten finds the irony rich within the sustainability movement, given the fact that the rising cost of a university education is making it nearly impossible for graduates to sustain their own futures, much less the Earth's, as they embark on life with a massive amount of student loan debt.
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