I have a handful of friends who have ended up involved in "sustainability" programs of one sort or another at universities. Most of them are from environmental or urban planning backgrounds. None of them are engineers.
I have been disturbed to see many of the foundational beliefs or passions of my youth so rudely twisted and grossly morphed into programs and policies which have little semblance to their origins. There is Anthropogenic Climate Change, formerly known as Global Warming, a poorly documented, ill-sourced, highly disputed source of pseudo science or advocacy science which emerged out of environmentalism. I still am strongly committed to intelligent conservation and environmental protection within the rule of law. There is much that has been accomplished to clean up the world and there remains much yet to be done. ACC has been a gross diversion of focus touted on the weakest of foundations to argue for essentially a Gramscian portfolio of statist and redistributional policies. It has very, very little to do with the environment and much to do with political posturing for preferred regulatory and confiscatory policies.
There is what would seem to be the relatively straight forward issue of freedom of speech. There isn't too much that is significantly complicated about this issue. But our universities are cracking down on thought crimes, our media pundits have difficulty speaking of any terrorist attack on speech without including the all critical "but" as in "I believe in free speech BUT . . .". And intellectuals butts they are. They are certainly not advocating for the free exchange of ideas. The ACLU used to defend Illinois Nazis and now they have difficulty mustering even the barest twitch of a protest over increasing efforts to suppress free speech.
Then there are the faddish policies that emerge out of the originally well intended but latterly twisted precepts. Recycling is far more a signal of good intent and more critically, a signal of self-goodness than it has anything to do with actually benefitting the planet and the environment. Most recycling programs are a massive waste of energy.
Alternate energy was the coming thing when I was a student hopping around campus in the late 1970s and it still can't pay its way without massive governmental subsidies very much awarded on a crony capitalist basis. Solyndra, anyone?
Leef covers the sustainability fad/fraud at universities. Again, the idea has been around since the 1970s and earlier and the general principle of waste not, want not is well established. Read Leef's article for the details of how this well intentioned idea has morphed into yet another crony capitalist commercial/academic complex of fraud and deceit. I am familiar with universities, who already are pricing themselves beyond the capacity of even middle class students to afford them, sinking millions of dollars into programs and ventures that have no prospect of return. This is simply a means of extracting money from students to invest in vanity projects.
I had a conversation with a friend several years ago. I don't recall the numbers but they were of this ilk.
Me: How much are you spending to rehabilitate that building to make it more sustainable?When more and more kids are priced out of an education, it is morally reprehensible, no matter how noble the intent, to be indulging in waste like this.
Friend: $10 million.
Me: Wow. How much energy are you going to save with the new refit?
Me: Hmm. Is your energy bill that high?
Friend: What do you mean?
Me: How much were you paying annually for energy before the rehab?
Friend: I don't know, something like $50,000 a year.
Me: So you spent $10 million to save $5,000?