Report Shows Sustainability Movement Hurts Higher Education

The National Association of Scholars (NAS) recently published a summary of a 260-page report on the ideology of sustainability that has overtaken U.S. colleges and universities.

Every U.S. state has at least one sustainability program on a college or university campus, with a total of 1,274 existing in the country, and only developed nations such as Australia, France, and the United States have sustainability programs, which is ironic because developed countries have largely addressed their environmental and public health problems while the world???s poorest countries face the biggest challenges. The sustainability movement???s influence reaches beyond the curriculum to student divestment protests, restricted campus access to bottled water, and eco-rep student representatives who promote sustainability to their campus communities.

NAS distinguishes between traditional environmentalism and sustainability, an ideology that links environmental concerns with hostility to free markets and a need for social justice. In this vein, the seminal U.N. Brundtland Report proclaimed, ???Development involves a progressive transformation of economy and society.???

The authors say sustainability???s left-leaning advocates use notions of patriarchy and Western colonialism to explain environmental abuse and that leftists propose to correct these wrongs through a progressive economy that is built on the interlocking values of sustainability, sexual liberation, and wealth redistribution.

The NAS report reveals institutions of higher education imposed the ideology of sustainability on students without the dialogue that has characterized universities for centuries. Students are ???nudged??? to accept anthropogenic climate change, fossil fuels as a force of evil, the panacea of a progressive economy that rescues the world from environment-destroying greed, and the prerogative to silence opposition through well-organized campus campaigns. Thus, universities are transformed from living laboratories to prisons of ideology.

Sustainability has another hefty cost: Colleges and universities spend $3.4 billion annually on sustainability, enough to fund 55,000 full-ride scholarships per year to the United States??? most expensive colleges or a $150 textbook stipend for each of the 21 million students attending U.S. colleges and universities. That money could also be diverted to fulfilling burgeoning student demand for computer science courses, which would help all college majors gain the basic programming skills increasingly required for entry-level jobs.

NAS concludes with 10 principles built on the pillars of intellectual freedom and proportionality that are intended to foster dialogue with sustainability proponents and ???create neutral ground??? on university campuses for the dangerous anthropogenic global warming debate. Among the most important principles are cutting the apocalyptic rhetoric often espoused by sustainability proponents, upholding environmental stewardship without politicizing the practice, and removing sustainability advocacy groups??? exemptions from campus rules and special access to institutional resources.

NAS??? message is clear: The sustainability movement???s stranglehold on higher education must be loosened. The report was released against the dark backdrop of college graduates struggling to adjust to an evolving job market and a ballooning student debt of $1.16 trillion. The true tragedy lies in the culpability of U.S. colleges and universities, which perpetuate student poverty by enacting dizzying tuition increases due to bumps in administrative salaries and building purchases.

The sustainability movement exacerbates the massive college tuition and student debt problems by further misallocating college funds from underinvested areas like student loan reduction and job preparation towards environmental initiatives that disproportionately benefit a fraction of the student body. The multi-pronged solution is deinstitutionalizing the ideology of sustainability, changing higher education???s focus from political debates to students??? financial burdens, and restoring the genuine dialogue that has been characterized of the university system for generations.

Danni Ondraskova ( is an editorial intern at The Heartland Institute, a student at Wellesley College, and the news editor for The Wellesley News.