sustainability

Sustainability indoctrination invades our colleges

According to the National Association of Scholars (NAS) “‘Sustainability’ is a key idea on college campuses in the United States and the rest of the Western world. To many, sustainability is just a new name for environmentalism. But the word has come to mean something much larger: an ideology that demands new limits on economic, political, and intellectual freedom as the price that must be paid to ensure the welfare of future generations.”

NAS has just released a study critical of the “sustainability” movement in our colleges. The report is titled “Sustainability – Higher Education’s New Fundamentalism.” This 260-page report may be downloaded as a whole or by chapter from http://www.nas.org/projects/sustainability_report.

Before getting to the NAS report, here is some background on “sustainability” taken from an article on my WryHeat blog:

“Sustainable development” and “sustainability” have become mantras of environmentalists, the UN, federal, state, and local governments, and even some corporations that strive to be politically correct. The City of Tucson has an Office of Conservation and Sustainable Development. Perusal of that site shows that City bureaucrats and administrators have swallowed carbon-dioxide flavored Kool-Aid and sing Kumbaya to each other.

Sustainable development (aka Agenda 21) has its origins in a United Nations program. Henry Lamb of Sovereignty International traces its history in an article in Canada Free Press:

Agenda 21 was developed over a period of time, traceable from the 1972 U.N. Conference on the Environment, which identified “environmental protection” as the world’s greatest problem, and gave the world the U.N. Environmental Programme, followed almost immediately by Nixon’s Executive Order that created the EPA.

Then came the 1976 U.N. Conference on Human Settlements, signed by the U.S., which proclaimed that “Public control of land use is…indispensable.” The next major step was the creation of the U.N. World Commission on Environment and Development in 1983, chaired by Gro Harlem Brundtland. The commission issued its final report in 1987, called Our Common Future. This document produced the concept and defined the term “Sustainable Development” to be: “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

This rather ambiguous definition was spelled out in great detail in a 40-chapter, 300-page document titled Agenda 21, signed and adopted by 179 nations in 1992 at the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro.

A document from that 1976 UN conference states: “Land…cannot be treated as an ordinary asset, controlled by individuals and subject to the pressures and inefficiencies of the market. Private land ownership is also a principal instrument of accumulation and concentration of wealth and therefore contributes to social injustice…”

To repeat the definition: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

On the surface, that sounds all warm and fuzzy, perhaps even prudent. But below the surface we find impracticality and an assault on private property rights and liberty.

Sustainable development invariably involves giving some central authority control over the economy. The former Soviet Union is a good example of how badly that works.

The reason central planning doesn’t work is that we cannot know what the needs of future generations will be. The concept of sustainable development is actually one of arrogance.

The NAS report excerpts:

“This report is the first in-depth critical study of the sustainability movement in higher education. The movement, of course, extends well beyond the college campus. It affects party politics, government bureaucracy, the energy industry, Hollywood, schools, and consumers. But the college campus is where the movement gets its voice of authority, and where it molds the views and commands the attention of young people.”

“We also examine the financial costs to colleges and universities in their efforts to achieve some of the movement’s goals. Often the movement presents its program as saving these institutions money. But we have found that American colleges and universities currently spend more than $3.4 billion per year pursuing their dreams of ‘sustainability’ at a time when college tuitions are soaring and 7.5 percent of recent college graduates are unemployed and another 46 percent underemployed. In addition to the direct costs of the movement, we examine the growing demands by sustainability advocates that colleges and universities divest their holdings in carbon-based energy companies without regard to forgone income or growth in their endowments. What makes ‘sustainability’ so important that institutions facing financial

distress are willing to prioritize spending on it? In this report, we examine that question.”

“To the unwary, ‘sustainability’ is the newer name for environmentalism. But the goals of the sustainability movement are different. They go far beyond ensuring clean air and water and protecting vulnerable plants and animals. As an ideology, sustainability takes aim at economic and political liberty. Sustainability pictures economic liberty as a combination of strip mining, industrial waste, and rampant pollution. It pictures political liberty as people voting to enjoy the present, heedless of what it will cost future generations. Sustainability’s alternative to economic liberty is a regime of far-reaching regulation that controls virtually every aspect of energy, industry, personal consumption, waste, food, and transportation. Sustainability’s alternative to political liberty is control vested in agencies and panels run by experts insulated from elections or other expressions of popular will.”

How pervasive is the “sustainability” movement? NAS reports:

“There are upwards of 50 professional bodies to serve the intellectual and career interests of sustainability experts. There are 1,438 sustainability-focused academic programs at 475 campuses in 65 states and provinces to credential those experts.”

“Hundreds of millions of dollars in private philanthropy have been channeled into sustainability research. Government agencies, too, have poured billions into academic research aligned with the sustainability movement’s agenda. The EPA alone has spent more than $333 million in the last 15 years sponsoring sustainability fellowships, predominantly for college and university professors, in addition to another $60 million in sustainability research grants. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration records show more than $3 billion in grants for climate science research since 1998 (more than $89 million in 2014), while the National Institutes of Health has granted in the last four years alone $28 million for research on climate change and another $580 million on ‘Climate-Related Exposures and Conditions.’ The National Science Foundation records show more than $1.7 billion since 1998 in sustainability research grants. The National Endowment for the Arts invested $2 million over the same period. The disparity in date ranges available in government grant databases makes direct comparisons difficult. But these numbers indicate an average of $465 million in federal funding for sustainability and climate change research each year—though in recent years government funding for climate research has increased substantially.”

Could you think of some better use for those funds, time, and energy?

The NAS report concludes with 10 recommendations in the form of advice to colleges and universities to uphold with greater vigor their traditional standards.

See also:

Capitalism is not a zero sum game

Climate and Communism

Environmental Sophistry

The Collectivist Mind

How NEPA crushes productivity

Beware of Sustainable Development

“Sustainable development” and “sustainability” have become mantras of environmentalists, the UN, federal, state, and local governments, and even some corporations that strive to be politically correct. The City of Tucson has an Office of Conservation and Sustainable Development. Perusal of that site shows that City bureaucrats and administrators have swallowed carbon-dioxide flavored Kool-Aid and sing Kumbaya to each other.

Sustainable development (aka Agenda 21) has its origins in a United Nations program.  Henry Lamb of Sovereignty International traces its history in an article in Canada Free Press:

Agenda 21 was developed over a period of time, traceable from the 1972 U.N. Conference on the Environment, which identified “environmental protection” as the world’s greatest problem, and gave the world the U.N. Environmental Programme, followed almost immediately by Nixon’s Executive Order that created the EPA.

Then came the 1976 U.N. Conference on Human Settlements, signed by the U.S., which proclaimed that “Public control of land use is…indispensable.” The next major step was the creation of the U.N. World Commission on Environment and Development in 1983, chaired by Gro Harlem Brundtland. The commission issued its final report in 1987, called Our Common Future. This document produced the concept and defined the term “Sustainable Development” to be: “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

This rather ambiguous definition was spelled out in great detail in a 40-chapter, 300-page document titled Agenda 21, signed and adopted by 179 nations in 1992 at the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro.

A document from that 1976 UN conference states: “Land…cannot be treated as an ordinary asset, controlled by individuals and subject to the pressures and inefficiencies of the market. Private land ownership is also a principal instrument of accumulation and concentration of wealth and therefore contributes to social injustice…”

From “Our Common Future” we find this definition: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

On the surface, that sounds all warm and fuzzy, perhaps even prudent.  But below the surface we find impracticality and an assault on private property rights and liberty.

Sustainable development invariably involves giving some central authority control over the economy.  The former Soviet Union is a good example of how badly that works.

The reason central planning doesn’t work is that we cannot know what the needs of future generations will be.  The concept of sustainable development is actually one of arrogance. How is your crystal ball working?

For instance, a sustainable development planner in the 1890s would seek to control whale oil for heating, rock salt for food preservation, and draft horses for transportation and agriculture. Fifty years ago, who would have considered the role rare earth minerals play in our current electronic age? Under the illogic of sustainable development, no generation has the right to use or draw-down the natural resource base given that a future generation has a claim on those resources, and the generation after that has a claim and so on, i.e., no resource rights exist for any generation.

Under sustainable development we have developed unsustainable, uneconomic “green” energy that would not exist without being heavily subsidized by a government that thinks it knows better.

Just a few years ago myopic academics were worried about “peak oil”, the imagined end to a resource upon which our civilization depends.  Then came shale oil and natural gas discoveries.

As a political philosophy, sustainable development will not accomplish “fairness” in seeing that everyone will get a fair piece of the pie, because under government control of resources, the pie will become much smaller.

On a resource conservation basis, sustainable development is a “glass-half-empty” philosophy. Only by maximizing knowledge, technology and wealth today, will we insure that the needs of tomorrow are met.   Ultimately sustainable development is itself unsustainable and anathema to a free society.

Tucson’s Water Action Plan, Fuzzy Sustainable Development

The City of Tucson and Pima County are collaborating on a region water plan. It’s about time. But you should read the reports: government concepts of priorities might not be the same as those held by property owners and businesses.

Over the past several years, local governments have been devising a plan to maintain and ensure water supply for the future. A “Phase 1” report deals with an inventory of water resources and an assessment of infrastructure. A “Phase 2” report “establishes a framework for sustainable water resources planning including 19 goals and 56 recommendations within four interconnected elements: Water Supply, Demand Management, Comprehensive Integrated Planning, and Respect for Environment.”

The new Action Plan describes a range of activities with time lines to implement the goals and

recommendations in the Phase 2 Report. The City wants your comments.

From my reading of the plan, the City is placing great emphasis on making the Santa Cruz River pretty. That will include riparian restoration projects, a new bureaucracy to propose such projects, and bond elections to buy up land. The report uses fuzzy phrases such as “smart growth” and “sustainable development.” Concerning sustainability, the report admits, ” Our work during Phase I documented how elusive the concept is in practice.”

The Action Plan cites four principles for managing water:

Principle 1: Water is an essential part of life for humans and the environment. Delivery of water and wastewater must maximize both quantity and quality.

Principle 2: The environment must be considered a user, not simply a provider, of water resources.

Principle 3: Policies affecting water and wastewater must be open to wide public discussion in a completely transparent process.

Principle 4: Water is an economically-valued resource and must be managed with due consideration to its economic value.

Your comments are needed to help the City go from concepts to practice.

For some additional background, please read my posts: Water Supply and Demand in Tucson, and How Much Water is There.

Water Supply and Demand in Tucson

With a growing population and predictions of drought, will there be enough water in Tucson in the future? In this essay I review the supply and demand. The numbers are taken mainly from the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) website and from “Water in the Tucson Area: Seeking Sustainability” a 1999 report published by the Water Resources Research Center at the University of Arizona (WRRC). This review is confined to the Tucson Active Management Area (TAMA), an area of 3,866 square miles, which includes the Tucson Basin and the Avra/Altar Valleys – the areas from which we pump our water. CAP is the Central Arizona Project which imports water from the Colorado River. Most of the numbers refer to acre-feet (AF) of water. One acre-foot is 325,851 gallons.

The Demand

 In 1999, total usage in the Tucson Active Management Area was 323,000 AF according to WRRC. Municipal usage was 154,000 AF which included 17,000 AF used by golf courses (35% was effluent from the sewer plants), and 20,000 AF used by “turf” facilities such as parks, schools, cemeteries (33% was effluent). Agriculture used 132,000 AF (of which 20,000 AF came from imported CAP water). Mines used 39,207 AF, sand and gravel operations used 5,167 AF and “other” industrial use totaled 4,026 AF. Sewer treatment plants produced 70,000 AF per year and are projected to produce 115,000 AF by 2025. Currently 84% of effluent discharge is released into the Santa Cruz river channel where it infiltrates into a shallow aquifer. (Alert readers might notice that these official figures from 1999 add up to more than 323,000 AF, so some categories must have been counted twice.)

By 2003, total usage increased to about 350,525 AF. This is projected to rise to 396,000 AF by 2025 assuming increased municipal and industrial demand, and decreased agricultural use. Natural recharge provides only about 60,000 AF per year. In 2003, municipal usage totaled 185,199 AF. Municipal use includes all domestic and small business consumption. Industries used 47,430 AF; agriculture used 102,959 AF; Indians used 14,196; all others used 3,705 according to WRRC.

This total usage is about 169 gallons per day per capita, with residential use pegged at 110 gallons per day per capita, a figure that has remained constant for many years. In contrast, the Phoenix area uses 238 gallons per day per capita, but gets 73% of its water from “renewable” resources such as rivers, CAP, and effluent.

 The Supply

 In 2003, groundwater supplied 256,233 AF, CAP supplied 64,554 AF, use of effluent supplied 11,360 AF. The rest was due to incidental and natural recharge.

Tucson gets most of its water by mining groundwater stored in aquifers down to 1200 feet deep in the Tucson and Avra Valley basins. This is mainly fossil water deposited during the wet Pleistocene glacial periods. However, there is even more water in deeper aquifers, but as depth increases, water quality decreases, and water becomes briny with salts and toxic metals.

The center parts of Basin and Range valleys such as the Tucson Basin, are filled with porous sediments. The volume of these sediments is typically, 30 miles long, 5 miles wide, 1 mile thick — 150 cubic miles. The upper part of the aquifer consists of young water from the glacial epochs which is fresh, while deeper parts of the basin contain progressively older and saltier waters. The majority of water in the deeper parts of the Tucson basin contains high amounts of dissolved salt, gypsum, boron and lithium; difficult and expensive to treat into drinking water and expensive to pump.

 The 1999 WRRC report states that, “In 1940, when Tucson began to increase its groundwater pumping, these aquifers held approximately 70 million AF of groundwater at depths less than 1,200 feet below the surface.” This resource is equivalent to all the water in Lake Mead and Lake Powell combined. Since 1940, 10% of this groundwater has been withdrawn. Simple arithmetic implies at that rate, the remaining groundwater supply shallower than 1200 feet could last about 150- to 200 years. This time will be extended by increasing use of CAP water and effluent.

Pursuant to the 1980 Groundwater Management Code, Arizona was divided into five Active Management Areas to receive water from the Colorado River. The Tucson Active Management Area is allocated about 314,000 AF per year. Tucson area entities are to receive 215,000 AF of which the City of Tucson is allocated 138,920 AF per year. The statutory goal is to reduce dependence on groundwater and to make water usage “sustainable” by 2025. Tucson is currently using only a small portion of the allotment and political pressure is mounting to use it, or lose it. The recharge project in Avra Valley will eventually use all of our allotment. There are some problems associated with depending entirely on the anticipated CAP supply. The original allotments were meted out during years of abnormally high flow in the Colorado River so that these allotments amount to 150% to 200% of normal flow. There is also the danger that if the Biodiversity Treaty were ever ratified, then endangered species in the Colorado River delta and the Gulf of California would have precedence for much more water than they are currently receiving. The Treaty would supercede state laws.

The Avra Valley recharge project, called the Clearwater Renewable Resource Facility (CRRF), is a political compromise. It would be more efficient to use CAP water directly, but in 1992, when Tucson Water tried that, the improperly treated water gave many customers discolored, evil-smelling water as it dissolved the encrustation built up in the water delivery pipes and in home plumbing. Due to the damage, Tucson Water was sued and stopped delivery in 1994.

Conclusion

It seems that we have an adequate groundwater supply for about 200 years and our CAP allocation, if it materializes, will, alone, cover most of our projected needs. However, it isn’t quite that simple because having the water in the ground is quite different from getting enough of it into the distribution system at a reasonable cost and without causing dangerous subsidence. Current peak summer water demand in Tucson is greater than maximum well pumping capacity of 143 million gallons per day. The shortage is currently made up from small storage facilities filled by wells during non-peak periods and from summer monsoon rains. This seasonal shortfall is why Tucson Water promotes its “Beat the Peak” program. The question is: how shall we continue to meet this demand and at what price.

In more recent years Tucson Water seems to have gotten its act together. Their “Water Plan: 2000-2050http://www.tucsonaz.gov/water/docs/waterplan.pdf) seems to be on the right track to provide water for the long run. However, if we are to continue to “Beat the Peak” we must have more water available on a daily basis. Imagine what will happen to property values if the city cannot deliver sufficient water. Depending solely on recharge will not solve the delivery-rate problem. We need more wells (outside the Central Well Field) and perhaps some reservoirs or underground storage. And, there should be a plan to use properly treated CAP water directly in emergencies.

A recent WRRC report estimates that water resources in TAMA could support a population of 2.3 million people if proper conservation measures are used. However, those conservation measures must be sensible for there are already some unintended consequences. For instance, current city code requires new housing to have low-flow toilets. Harvesting gray water is also encouraged. But, according to the people at the sewer treatment plants, neighborhoods using these conservation methods do not send enough water through the system to properly flush the solids to the sewer plant.

And, we will eventually need to recycle the sewer effluent that currently goes down the Santa Cruz. Despite the “yuck factor” this is a growing resource and if treated properly can be merged with other sources of drinking water.

References:

Arizona Department of Water Resources: http://www.azwater.gov/azdwr/

Water Resources Research Center : http://ag.arizona.edu/azwater/