Sustainability News 05-05-10

Ashley Thorne

NAS is following closely the rise of the current megatrend on college campuses: the sustainability movement. We have examined the key documents and philosophies driving the movement, as well as the groups outside academia which have made "sustainability" a matter of competition between colleges and universities. Our finding is that "sustainability" is an ideology that includes legitimate environmental concerns but largely is used to advance an anti-intellectual mindset and a collection of social and political agendas. In keeping tabs on the latest developments in campus sustainability, we regularly provide readers with a sampling of sustainability-and-higher-education news stories.

In sustainability news this week are 'green' graduation garb, Unity College's newly enlisted energy monitor, the 'new era' of sustainability, and a political science professor's debunking of the organic food myth.

  1. Sustainability: The Latest Indoctrination, Star-Tribune
    Katherine Kersten quotes NAS’s Glenn Ricketts on how sustainability is a movement that seeks to encompass as many left-wing doctrines as possible. 
  1. American Colleges are Going Green, Voice of America
    “Not long ago, even top college students would likely have had trouble defining sustainability.  Now, a lot of them are specializing in it.” 
  1. College Graduation to Go Green with Eco-Friendly Caps and Gowns, Christian Science Monitor
    When Rachel Rohatgi dons her black gown Monday to graduate from California Western School of Law, she’ll be reusing the equivalent of about two dozen plastic bottles. Aside from it being “really cool” to have a gown that helps the environment, she says, the fabric is literally cooler than her “heavy and itchy” undergraduate gown. 
  1. Unity Serious About Energy Use, Kennebec Journal
    Unity College enlists a sustainability fellow to monitor energy use on campus.  
  1. UF College of Design, Construction and Planning Graduates First Sustainability and the Built Environment Students, University of Florida News
    “Perhaps the greatest impact that graduates of this program can have is to educate others on the importance on sustainability and the small things that everyone can do to help make a difference in the world.” 
  1. UNT Students Vote for Sustainability Fee, Denton Record-Chronicle
    UNT joins about 100 higher education institutions nationwide either implementing or voting on sustainability fees. 
  1. Attention Whole Foods Shoppers, Foreign Policy magazine
    A political science professor at Wellesley College explains why the organic-local-and-slow food fad is making the world's hungry hungrier and isn't better for us. 
  1. State Attorney-General Demands Ex-Professor’s Files from University of Virginia, Washington Post
    Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II has requested that the University of Virginia release documents from former professor Michael Mann (implicated in Climategate emails) to determine whether he defrauded taxpayers as he sought grants for global warming research. 
  1. Sustainability Across the Curriculum, Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching
    Panelists at a colloquium on integrating sustainability “across the curriculum” discussed the rationale for doing so. Highlights: 

Noting that university administrators have sometimes been reluctant to embrace sustainability out of a resistance to its perceived faddishness, Barkenbus argued that we are witnessing a more enduring shift in cultural values. The sustainability movement, he argued, is in the “Kittyhawk” stage of its development; we are in the first years of a new era.  


The other model understands sustainability as a core educational value, one that ought to find its way into courses “across” the disciplines.  This model has the potential to truly transform the university.  

- Jack Barkenbus, Associate Director of the Climate Change Research Network and researcher at the Vanderbilt Institute for Energy and Environment, began the conversation.  In addition to his work at Vanderbilt 

We cannot, she asserted, allow ourselves to become “satisfied with recycling bins.”  In thinking about sustainability, we must turn a critical lens towards our social infrastructure - focusing on the built environment as much as the non-human natural world.  Emphasizing the social justice dimensions of sustainability, Tichi argued that the courses we design should pay particular attention to complex issues such as food security and prison reform.  What does it mean, for example, to talk about the concept of sustainability with regard to prisons?  Are prisons something that we want to sustain as a society?  

- Cecelia Tichi, Professor of English 

  1. UC Berkeley Launches New Master’s Program in Sustainability, Joining Global Campus Network, UC Berkeley News
    UC Berkeley has received an $800,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation for a new master’s program in sustainability.

Agriculture professor David Zilberman: “Berkeley is already a leading center of education and research on development and the environment, and always has been a ‘world’ university with concern and emphasis on global issues, the future of humanity, the future of the planet, issues of justice and sustainability.”  

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