George Will, the conservative columnist for the Washington Post, has “outdone” himself recently with an “editorial” in which he goes after the activists trying to have their universities divest themselves of carbon-intensive industries.
It’s titled, “‘sustainability’ gone mad on college campuses”. Those are quote marks around the word sustainability. You can read it as George intended, with a heavy sigh and a dose of distaste and dismissal. Because that’s what he meant to do with those little marks – we’re quite sure of it.
We tend to stay away from politics, and will attempt to do so in this post, but what we would like to do is to take issue with the cavalier attitude that Will takes in terms of the science of climate change and the minimizing of fact-based, quantitative decision making, something we (I hope) treasure as project managers. If you are interested in a more political take on George Will and his tendency to get things wrong on climate change, visit this blog post.
Here’s Will’s post (click here) you may want to read it for context first. We recommend that you do.
Will is no dummy. He’s a Pulitzer Prize winner, after all. He makes some very good points about the effectiveness of the divestment effort. The Boston Globe also recently had a front-page story about Harvard and MIT and their issues with this divestment challenge. It’s not as clean (excuse the pun) an issue as it may seem.
Our point of contention with Will is around the disrespect he (and many of his ilk) have around science – and the propensity to accuse those who get behind the science of being nearly ‘religious’ zealots. This is a hugely ironic model, since it is religious extremism which held (and in some cases, still holds) that:
- the world is flat
- the sun and planets revolve around the Earth
- witches cause disease
- giant flying dragons eating the sun comprised the reason for eclipses
Luckily, in most cases, science prevailed and we worked from real and clear facts available to anyone willing to listen with an unbiased ear – and we determined that indeed, the Earth and planets revolve around the sun, that the world was in fact (nearly) spherical, that witches have almost no effect on disease, and that almost no dragons were involved in solar eclipses.
Infuriatingly, Will even puts the word sustainability in quotes, implying that it doesn’t exist. Sustainability for him is clearly a leftist, socialist plot. The concept of climate change, perhaps because some of the alarms were set by people like Al Gore, is distasteful and shady. I’m not going to discount what George says because he’s, well, he’s George.
But George. George, George, George. Remember: sustainability just means durability and the ability to withstand and last. It relates to the triple bottom line of ecological, social, and economic (yes – ECONOMIC) success in the long term. There is no way that it should be in quotes. The word “money” and “wealth” don’t appear in quotes in your columns, and neither should the word sustainability. In fact, true conservatives should be “all in” when it comes to the science and art of sustainability because the root word of conservative is “conserve”. And indeed one has only to look at Republican president Teddy Roosevelt for an example of someone who would cringe at the use of quotes around the word sustainability. Roosevelt’s legacy included 4 National Game Preserves, 5 National Parks, 7 Conservation Conferences, 18 National Monuments, 24 Reclamation Projects, 51 Federal Bird Reservations, and 150 National Forests.
Dear George. You do yourself and your readers a tremendous disservice when you berate and diminish science and a craving for facts. Project managers, in particular, who work in the uncertain area of projects (which, by definition, involve activities never before done) need to have facts and have to watch out for bias and need to base decisions on fact, need good science as a basis for their planning.
To us it was also interesting to explore the 1,300-plus (wow!) comments to this article.
Here are two extremes, from the loony to the sane (you decide which is which):
“Surely this is not some universal theme. When I got my engineering degree, many of my professors had been practicing engineers before becoming faculty. Now, after 45 years in business and industry, I teach project management in college, in Iowa, in my retirement. And yet, I believe in Climate Change. Why? Because as an engineer, I accept the power of scientific measurement and respect scientists that specialize in various fields of research such as energy, material science and, yes, even climatology.”
“More warmist hoaxsters and progressive nonsense among the Lib elitist at “top-tier” colleges and universities. Virtually all of them worshipers at the God-less altar of Gaia-ism. When will they ever learn? ”
Let’s go back to respecting science and those who convey facts to us for good decision making. Avoid the temptation to “diminish” “things” that are true and known by “putting quotes around them”. It’s “below you”, “George”.
Oh. By the way, if you want some facts on Climate Change, and you don’t “trust” “liberal” “universities” because of their “leanings”, you can go to the US Navy, which has assessed this in what we think is a fair and unbiased scientific way.
And enough already with the quotes, George. Keep it real.
Hey, I have an idea. You want to use quotes? Try this one, from Teddy Roosevelt:
“There can be no greater issue than that of conservation in this country.”
T. Roosevelt, August 6, 1912