Phi Beta Cons

Tales of ‘Sustainability’

I spent two of the longest years of my life in the merry little environmentalist utopia of Ithaca, N.Y. How I vividly recall paying a fee for each bag of garbage I put on the roadside, the sickly sweet smell emanating from the vast pile of recyclable food packaging that had to be amassed week by week, and the shouts from a guard at a garbage dump when he saw an actual piece of cardboard through our clear, biodegradable garbage bag. I now flatly refuse to recycle anything. Take that, Ithaca!

So it comes as no surprise to learn that — of all places — Ithaca College is about to be the first university to have two buildings rated “platinum” by some environmental design organization. The college’s new, 58,000 square-foot, $22.5 million building (built no doubt completely without the use of fossil fuels, with steel hand-forged from hydrogen-burning mills and carried up the hills by donkey carts) has all kinds of bells and whistles, like rainwater cisterns to provide toilet water, a geothermal heating and cooling system, no paper towels in the bathrooms, and electricity generated entirely by “townies” pedaling stationary bikes in the basement.

Ahh, but there’s a catch (there’s always a catch) in this environmentalist utopia. The building can’t reach its full potential unless the residents collaborate. Among their many obligations, workers will have the following treat:

[The building engineer] explained that while the building has many thermostats throughout, they are assigned to two offices each, so people in the building will have to work with their thermostat “partner” to compromise on a comfortable temperature and agree on times to open the windows.

Imagine the possibilities. Given the high ratio of Gaia-worshipping environmental zealots concentrated in the greater Ithaca area, it is only a matter of time before some poor secretary is bludgeoned to death by a whole-grain baguette after she had the audacity to open a window on a hot August day.  

Somehow, I don’t see that arrangement as “sustainable.”

It will be intriguing, however, to see how much ideology can withstand the body’s daily desire for cool air in summer and heat in winter. My prediction: After the initial enthusiasm fades, only a few people will be willing to sacrifice so much as a few degrees of comfort to make, well, zero ultimate impact on the environment. So when enthusiasm fades, rules will follow. And that is, ultimately, what “sustainability” means.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Most Popular

PC Culture

Hate-Crime Hoaxes Reflect America’s Sickness

On January 29, tabloid news site TMZ broke the shocking story that Jussie Smollett, a gay black entertainer and progressive activist, had been viciously attacked in Chicago. Two racist white men had fractured his rib, poured bleach on him, and tied a noose around his neck. As they were leaving, they shouted ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Strange Paradoxes of Our Age

Modern prophets often say one thing and do another. Worse, they often advocate in the abstract as a way of justifying their doing the opposite in the concrete. The result is that contemporary culture abounds with the inexplicable — mostly because modern progressivism makes all sorts of race, class, and ... Read More
PC Culture

Fake Newspeople

This week, the story of the Jussie Smollett hoax gripped the national media. The story, for those who missed it, went something like this: The Empire actor, who is both black and gay, stated that on a freezing January night in Chicago, in the middle of the polar vortex, he went to a local Subway store to buy a ... Read More

Ilhan Omar’s Big Lie

In a viral exchange at a congressional hearing last week, the new congresswoman from Minnesota, Ilhan Omar, who is quickly establishing herself as the most reprehensible member of the House Democratic freshman class despite stiff competition, launched into Elliott Abrams. She accused the former Reagan official ... Read More

White Progressives Are Polarizing America

To understand how far left (and how quickly) the Democratic party has moved, let’s cycle back a very short 20 years. If 1998 Bill Clinton ran in the Democratic primary today, he’d be instantaneously labeled a far-right bigot. His support for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Defense of Marriage Act, ... Read More

One Last Grift for Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders, the antique Brooklyn socialist who represents Vermont in the Senate, is not quite ready to retire to his lakeside dacha and so once again is running for the presidential nomination of a party to which he does not belong with an agenda about which he cannot be quite entirely ... Read More
PC Culture

Merciless Sympathy

Jussie Smollett’s phony hate-crime story could have been taken apart in 24 hours, except for one thing: Nobody wanted to be the first to call bullsh**. Who will bell the cat? Not the police, and I don’t blame them. Smollett is a vocal critic of President Donald Trump who checks two protected-category ... Read More