Politicized sustainability threatens planet and people


It seems nearly everyone wants to advance sustainability principles. The problem is, no one really knows what they are. Real sustainability means responsible conservation and stewardship of natural resources. The public relations variety is mostly image-enhancing fluff. Politicized sustainability – the version that’s all the rage on college campuses and among government regulators – insists that we may meet the needs of current generations only to the extent that doing so “will not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”

The problem with this infinitely malleable definition is that it requires us to predict both unpredictable future technologies and their raw material demands. Even worse, we are supposed to protect those future needs even if it means ignoring or compromising the undeniable needs of current generations – including the needs and welfare of the most impoverished, politically powerless people on Earth today. That’s why this irrational, unworkable, environmentally destructive idea deserves to land in history’s trash bin.

Politicized sustainability threatens planet and people

It drives anti-fossil fuel agendas and threatens wildlife, jobs, and human health and welfare

Guest essay by Paul Driessen

Sustainability (sustainable development) is one of the hottest trends on college campuses, in the news media, in corporate boardrooms and with regulators. There are three different versions.

Real Sustainability involves thoughtful, caring, responsible, economical stewardship and conservation of land, water, energy, metallic, forest, wildlife and other natural resources. Responsible businesses, families and communities practice this kind of sustainability every day: polluting less, recycling where it makes sense, and using less energy, water and raw materials to manufacture the products we need.

Public Relations Sustainability mostly involves meaningless, superficial, unverifiable, image-enhancing assertions that a company is devoted to renewable fuels, corporate responsibility, environmental justice, reducing its carbon footprint – or sustainability. Its primary goal is garnering favorable press or appeasing radical environmental groups.

Politicized Sustainability is the untenable, even dangerous variety. It relies on ideological assertions and theoretical models as an alternative to actual outside-our-windows reality and evidence. Like “dangerous manmade climate change,” its real purpose is gaining greater agitator and government control over people’s energy use, lives, livelihoods, liberties and living standards. It reflects an abysmal understanding of basic energy, economic, resource extraction, manufacturing and human rights realities.

The most common definition is that “we may meet the needs of current generations” only to the extent that doing so “will not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”

Among other alleged human wrongdoing doing, Political Sustainability thus reflects the assertion that we are rapidly depleting finite resources. Therefore, we must reduce our current needs and wants in order to save those resources for future generations. At first blush, it sounds logical, and even ethical.

However, under sustainability precepts, we are supposed to predict future technologies – and ensure that today’s resource demands will not compromise the completely unpredictable energy and raw material requirements that those completely unpredictable future technologies will introduce. We are supposed to safeguard the assumed needs of future generations, even if it means ignoring or compromising the undeniable needs of current generations – including the needs, aspirations, health and welfare of the most impoverished, malnourished, disease-ravaged, energy-deprived, politically powerless people on Earth.

For thousands of years, mankind advanced at a snail’s pace. Then, as the modern fossil-fuel industrial era found its footing, progress picked up rapidly, until the speed of change became almost exponential. How today is anyone supposed to predict what might be in store ten, fifty or a hundred years from now?

Moreover, as we moved from flint to copper, to bronze, iron, steel and beyond, we didn’t do so because mankind had exhausted Earth’s supplies of flint, copper, tin and so forth. We did it because we innovated. We invented something better, moreefficient, more practical. Each advance required different materials.

Who today can foresee what future technologies we will have … and what raw materials those future technologies will require? How we are supposed to ensure that future families can meet their needs, if we cannot possibly know what those needs willbe?

Why then would we even think of empowering activists and governments to regulate today’s activities – based on wholly unpredictable future technologies, lifestyles, needs and resource demands? Why would we ignore or compromise the pressing needs of current generations, to meet those totally unpredictable future needs?

“Resource depletion” claims also fail to account for new technologies that increase energy and mineral reserves, reduce their costs – or decrease the need for certain raw materials: copper, for instance, because lightweight fiber optic cables made from silica (one of Earth’s most abundant minerals) can carry thousands of times more information than a huge bundle of copper wires that weigh 800 times more.

In 1887, when Wisconsin’s Hearthstone House became the world’s first home lit by hydroelectric power, no one could foresee how electricity would come to dominate, enhance and safeguard our lives in the myriad ways it does today. No one could envision the many ways we generate electricity today.

120 years later, no one predicted tiny cellular phones with superb digital cameras and more computing and networking power than a big 1990 desktop computer. No one expected that we would need so much cadmium, lithium, rare earth metals and other raw materials to manufacture thousands of wind turbines.

No one anticipated that new 4-D seismic, deepwater drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies would find and produce so much oil and natural gas that today we still have at least a century’s worth of these vital energy resources – which “experts” had just told us we would run out of in only a few more years.

And yet, we are still supposed to predict the future 50 or 100 years from now, safeguard the assumed needs of future generations, and ignore the clear needs of current generations. We are also supposed to presume that today’s essential natural resources have to last forever. In reality, they only have to last long enough for our creative intellects to discover real, actually workable replacements: new deposits, production techniques, raw material substitutes or technologies.

Of course, all of this is irrelevant to Politicized Sustainability dogma. That doctrine focuses on ridding the world of fossil fuels, regardless of any social, economic, environmental or human costs of doing so. And regardless of whether supposed alternatives really are eco-friendly and sustainable.

For example, mandated U.S. ethanol quotas eat up 40% of this nation’s corn, grown on over 36 million acres of cropland, to replace 10% of America’s gasoline. Corn ethanol also requires billions of gallons of water, and vast quantities of pesticides, fertilizers, tractor fuel and natural gas … to produce energy that drives up food prices, damages small engines, gets one-third fewer miles per gallon than gasoline – and during its entire production and use cycle emits just as much carbon dioxide as gasoline.

Imagine replacing 100% of US gasoline with corn ethanol. How would that in any way be sustainable?

Mandated, subsidized wind energy requires millions of acres for turbines and ultra-long transmission lines … and billions of tons of concrete, steel, copper, rare earth metals and fiberglass. The turbines’ subsonic noise and light flicker create chronic health problems for susceptible people living near them, and kill millions of birds and bats annually – to produce expensive, intermittent, unreliable electricity that must be backed up by dozens of fossil fuel generators or billions of (nonexistent) land- and resource-intensive battery arrays.

Meanwhile, American and Canadian companies are cutting down thousands of acres of forests and turning millions of trees into wood pellets that they truck to coastal ports and transport on oil-fueled cargo ships to England. There the pellets are hauled by truck and burned in place of coal, to generate electricity … so that England can meet its renewable fuel targets. How is this sustainable – or “climate friendly”?

Why not just build the fossil fuel power plants … mine for coal and frack for natural gas to fuel them – or build more nuclear power plants – and forget about the ethanol, wind turbines, wood pellets and other pseudo-renewable, pseudo-sustainable false alternatives … until something truly better comes along?

Meanwhile, more than 1.2 billion people still do not have electricity. Another 2 billion have electrical power only sporadically and unpredictably. Hundreds of millions get horribly sick, and five million die every year from lung and intestinal diseases that are due to breathing smoke from open fires … and not having refrigeration, clean water and safe, bacteria-free food.

As Steven Lyazi has noted, these people simply want to take their rightful, God-given places among Earth’s healthy and prosperous people. Instead, they’re being told “that wouldn’t be sustainable.” They’re being told they must be content with a few wind turbines near their villages and little solar panels on their huts – to charge cell phones, pump a little water, power a few light bulbs and operate tiny refrigerators.

Politicized Sustainability is irrational, unjust, inhumane, eco-imperialistic and environmentally destructive. It is especially harmful to the world’s poor. It’s time to rethink and overhaul this insanity.

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org), and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death and other books on public policy.


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The Reverend Badger.

I would like to sustain the ability to eat at least as much meat as I do now.
And no crickets (however finely ground).


Between 1977 and 2001, the amount of material required to meet all needs of Americans fell from 1.18 trillion pounds to 1.08 trillion pounds, even though the country’s population increased by 55 million people. Al Gore similarly noted in 1999 that since 1949, while the economy tripled, the weight of goods produced did not change. link

We are doing more with less and we are recycling like crazy. I remember, but can’t easily find, the statistic that most of the copper ever mined is still in use.
The surest way to slide back to a time when we were less efficient is to bork the economy with stupid ‘green’ initiatives.
We are living in what is close to an earthly paradise. Progress is good. Full speed ahead and damn the Marxists.

michael hart

The very concept of “sustainability”, as it is commonly employed, is the problem Nothing, absolutely nothing, is “sustainable”. The sun WILL explode. It is not sustainable.
The only important question is how long can something be sustained before we find something better. Humans, mostly, have moved on from cutting down trees for our energy source before it became ‘unsustainable’. Fossil fuels meant we don’t need trees for energy.
We can move on from fossil fuels because we already know nuclear is the answer. This moves the ‘sustainability’ horizon from hundreds of years out to millions or even billions of years.
The sustainability issue is a dead duck, there are just people who haven’t accepted it yet.

Gunga Din

I thought “Soylent ” was sustainable?

Gunga Din

Of course, that was supposed to be “Soylent Green'”.
But, in doing a search to see I’d spelled “soylent” right, I got this. 😎
(I suspect the owner is a lot younger than I am an never saw the movie.8-)


I checked the website.
Oh My Gawd!
That reminds me:
Oatmeal cookies are made with real oatmeal.
Sugar cookies are made with real sugar.
Chocolate chip cookies are made with real Chocolate chips.
Girl Scout cookies are made with real …….
Oh Noooo.


Gunga Din: The owner apparently chose the name as an attention grabber. It grabbed mine and I’m running away as fast as I can from the product. I don’t know if that was his intent or not….
It’s like the drug Soma. No matter what, I can’t convince myself it’s a good idea.


I also checked the website.
1 – they use a lot of plastic packaging !
2 – the blond girl looks like one of the The Children of Midwich

the 1973 Soylent Green film story was set in New York in the year 2022,…not long to go (:-))


Sustainable? Sure, but in the movie, there were 40 million people living in the walled city of New York alone. No telling how may millions more were walled up in Los Angeles and San Francisco. And the farms, as Heston’s character said, were like fortresses – you couldn’t get anywhere near them.
Sustainability in “Soylent Green” (movie) meant cannibalism.
“an abysmal understanding” – I think that would be more correct if it were “an abysmal MISunderstanding”.


The sustainability of the whole planet and all life on the planet DEPENDS TOTALLY ON ATMOSPHERIC CO2 at levels commensurate to plant growth.
That means 400+ppm aCO2, preferable a lot more.

Gunga Din

So … we must stop using fossil fuels now so that future generations won’t be allowed to use them then?
Maybe I missed something, but it sure sounds like the political authority (power) they seek to stop/regulate the use of fossil fuels NOW has little or nothing to do with the THEN of future generations.


We are saving nuclear power for future generations. We have decided we won’t deplete the worlds stores of
2H (deuterium) or 3H (tritium). Probably because we can’t.
But, at least we’re thinking for the good of future generations. [sarc]


The idea is that we make something expensive now because it’s gonna get expensive in the future anyway.

The Original Mike M

“The idea is that we make something expensive now because it’s gonna get expensive in the future anyway.”
Who is “we” and who gets the “extra” money from the artificially increased price?
If it’s going to get expensive in the future anyway what is the reason for imposing economic hardship on poor people now?

Gunga Din

Those who get the “extra” money.

james whelan

Excellent essay. ‘Who could envision’? well the sort of world our eco fascist friends would lead us to is not too dissimilar to EM Forster’s world in ‘The machine stops’, written in 1909. Conformity, control, passive, population reduction. And just like the system they would design, the power runs out.
Very rich and powerful people want to create a new feudal world and they see and encourage the ‘replacement religion’ of Gaia worship as the opium of the masses. They also see the the internet etc as the means of control rather than the original dream of independence.
‘Climate Change’ has to be seen in this context. The science is rubbish, but they know this, proving it will only work if enough people can be influenced to reject its attraction as a religious substitute.

Tom Halla

What Driessen calls politicized sustainability is quasi-religious. Conservation is advanced as an end in itself, and engineering considerations rarely enter into the movements proposals. I sometimes think that the popularity of wind and solar is due to their impracticality to sustain a technological civilization, that there is a degree of nihilism involved.
Like most mass movements, the true believers are a small minority, with a much larger group of hangers-on.


and so is his essay quasi religious:
:”these people simply want to take their rightful, God-given places among Earth’s healthy and prosperous people. ”
someone is a self appointed spokesman for everybody he never met and he will inform you of the divine intentions of a supernatural entity? puhleeze…
“Politicized Sustainability is irrational, unjust, inhumane, eco-imperialistic and environmentally destructive. It is especially harmful to the world’s poor”
this is fatuous babble the equal of any other – and the use of the logical fallacy ‘cuz po folk’ not only fails to compell, but marks the perp as a hamfisted wannabe demagogue.
hey activists- all of you in all your guises: idgaf and i’m fed to the gills with the exhortations. stfu and go fix it if you really care – stop zorting like you’re paycheck depends on it. oh, it does, eh? well, then- that’s all there is to that.

someone is a self appointed spokesman for everybody he never met and he will inform you of the divine intentions of a supernatural entity? puhleeze…

Yeah, it’s not like Vatican was involved. Oh wait…


“these people simply want to take their rightful, God-given places among Earth’s healthy and prosperous people. ”
someone is a self appointed spokesman for everybody he never met and he will inform you of the divine intentions of a .supernatural entity?”
You left out “As Steven Lyazi has noted, ”. Mr. Lyazi is a student and day laborer in Uganda, speaking for himself (and probably for people he knows very well.)
Your second point is just silly. Do you disagree that “Politicized Sustainability is irrational, unjust, inhumane, eco-imperialistic and environmentally destructive. It is especially harmful to the world’s poor”? Do you believe it’s rational, just, and humane for rich countries to tell developing countries how much power they need and how they can produce it? Paul seems to be saying that they should decide for themselves, and you equate that with do-gooders tying their hands.
Just curious, was it the word “God” that set you off. I’ve noticed that it completely unhinges some commenters here. Maybe we should ban its use – after all, it doesn’t fit with the scientific consensus.


Sorry, “Just curious” was supposed to start a new paragraph. I know that really bothers some people, too.


the third paragraph makes my point very clear but here you are zorting more cuz you can’t stop.
this exhort and extort game is just such a favorite in the age of ‘brother’s keepers’ who can’t mind their own business. why don’t you start a support group with a 12 step program or something? you can be your first customer.
[The mods wonder if the requisite zorting should be done before, or after, one exhorts and extorts? .mod]


thwart the zort!


Not much of a point – Driessen is an activist for saying activists should stay out of these people’s business and he’s a ham fisted demagogue for pointing out the activists are hurting the very people they pretend to help.
I think you missed the point of the article, but you got to throw around some ad homs, you got to rail against a statement taken out of context, and you got to use the words zort, exhort, and extort in several comments. Nice work!


Mark. as a member of the crowd, you are digging the show.
the audience is supposed to be entertained – that’s why you watch – so you have direction; so you have purpose; so you can enjoy the feelings and express reactions that nobody much cares about 5 minutes later.
now alleman left and do-si-do, grab your partner and round yu go.
ha- didn’t say ‘simon says’! start from scratch!
follow the rules, you silly person
try again – next time, better luck
cuz really idgaf.
even tho you so love to zort, it’s about as welcome as a genital wart.
don’t give me tourettes, now, when you barely rate schwa.

I predict that we are at or very near “peak technology.” Why do I think that? Because it becomes more obvious with each passing day that we as humankind have slammed ourselves collectively up against the wall of our own profound and boundless ignorance and stupidity.


In the modern world, we are rich enough to permit people to take extended vacations from reality.
200 years ago, a person either quickly figured out how the world actually worked, or they became a burden on their families. A burden that most families simply couldn’t afford.


The world is rapidly progressing to micro-aggression burnout..most of us are already there
..this might not turn out the way they they think it will


In the mid-60s, I earned a BSA merit badge known as “Soil and Water Conservation.” The methods learned and practiced to earn that merit badge would make today’s EPA look like a bunch of ignorant, nagging, and dogmatic dilettantes.
The article ends with, “Politicized Sustainability is irrational, unjust, inhumane, eco-imperialistic and environmentally destructive.” I think this is too narrow. I offer instead, “Any resource-consuming activity that is politicized is irrational, unjust, inhumane, imperialistic, and destructive.”


Nowadays that merit badge is likely looked upon as ‘racist.’


Isn’t there a 4th, similar but distinct from 3 – Out-and-out phony-sustainability lying from fraudulent oxygen thieves whose only agenda is to get a vote from the young, the dim-witted, and the other voters with low information assimilation skills ?

Jim Barker

“Who today can foresee what future technologies we will have … and what raw materials those future technologies will require? How we are supposed to ensure that future families can meet their needs, if we cannot possibly know what those needs will be?”
At the rate we are discovering uses for the different forms of carbon (diamond, graphite, fullerenes) in electronics, catalysts, filters and in one, two and three dimensional shapes, the future may praise elevated CO2 levels.


Politicized sustainability means the definition of ‘sustainable’ could change at the drop of a tax. And (middle-class / poor) people will constantly be caught on the wrong side of the definition.

R. Shearer

Government debts and their required taxation are unsustainable.


and so is an economy based on activism.
wait till you have a whole generation of snowflakes expecting to be paid for importuning and exhorting you all day.
you ain’t seen global spamming yet!

Current government SPENDING, even disregarding the debts and the cost of debt service is unsupportable. Borrowing from the future (not repayable) is essential for keeping “the swamp” alive and thriving and for making the politicians able to “fake it”.
The governmental system that we have is unsustainable…..But what next? Elifino. Pathos, maybe.


Diversity, as in racial and cultural diversity, is not definable except for the conscious exclusion of whites.
Biological Diversity cannot be defined as ecosystems are constantly changing, being dynamic systems with immigration and emigration all the time.
Sustainability cannot be defined, as described above.
Social justice is equally vague as it means almost anything they want, including, of course, anything against normal behavior and values. Rational thought is counter to social justice and, for that matter, feminism.
So much noise and bother about vague things is exactly what the touchy-feely libtards want, as they want to create a herd mentality based on fear and what makes them feel good.

Joe - the non climate scientist

A good example is the EPA mandating a reduction in VOC’s in oil base paints in 1993 – Reduce VOC’s in order to reduce ground level ozone
The results:
A) oil base paint hardness and adhesion is reduce so you have to paint more frequently, – Overall increase in VOC’s and more solid and liquid waste.
B) increase in overall VOC’s since a 20% reduction in voc’s per gallon translated into 50% more freqeunt painting


I have a better one relative to paint. Back in the 1980s a reporter friend called me, at the time I was working on mercury in marine fish. We discussed his subject and I then asked what he had been up to. He said painting the inside of his house. He then asked how most of the paint were saying they stop fungus and did I know what the active ingredient was. Well I didn’t know said I get back to him. I checked that night at the local Home Depot. Turns out the active ingredient was mercury. Remember this was indoor paint. I called my friend. He saw a story in it and started by calling the EPA. Even though in our state at the time EPA was raising heck about how we were all going to become “mad hatters” from eating seafood and coal fire plants, they claimed they didn’t have a clue that the paints had mercury in them. A month later and you couldn’t find indoor paint. After my friend’s first initial call EPA would no longer accept his phone calls. EPA was failing to enforce several of their own rules. Their push on mercury was to be a backdoor into stopping coal fired plants if CAGW didn’t work.

Tom Halla

Edwin, I was a painting contractor back then, and the account in the trade was that someone painted the interior of their house with paint listed as exterior only, and became sick, and testing found mercury compound toxicity. Furthermore, when the remainder of that batch was tested, it had some ridiculously large (10X recommended ?) amount of the mercury based fungicide.Nevertheless, the EPA banned the fungicide in paint.
Which was why for a few years, exterior paint had a bad mildew problem, until something else was developed.

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Beijing

Good article Paul D
This is incorrect:
“Hundreds of millions get horribly sick, and five million die every year from lung and intestinal diseases that are due to breathing smoke from open fires..”
This is a misquote. Five million (4.2 actually) are presumed to have died prematurely due to statistically attributed contributing factors experienced by those who died before the age of 86.
Those who died after the age of 86 are excluded from the calculation because they died post-maturely, and even though they were exposed to exactly the same smoke and PM2.5 profile, their smoke is not awarded life-lengthening properties, only life shortening is allowed by definition.
No one claims that such statistically attributed shares of more than fifty contributing causes tracked by the Global Burden of Disease process, actually kills any particular person. There is no data separating, for example, cooking fire smoke from smoking smoke from garbage burning smoke from vehicle smoke. The reason is simple: virtually no data, just assumptions.
The life-shortening impact of those very things you mention are contributing factors which so far, are impossible to attribute on an individual basis: inoculations, diet, education, housing, gender, age, age at exposure, ambient air pollution, access to health facilities, access to other fuels, housing condition to name a few.
The WHO has one article in which they misquote another of their own papers, in which the “4.2m premature deaths” occurs. All other citations are in error. No one can show you five deaths from PM2.5 cooking fire smoke. If we could, we would be much more successful raising money to address the problem from donors who know what they are talking about. It is still possible to extract funds from those who don’t because ‘deaths’ is much more convincing than ‘premature deaths’ and perhaps they don’t read (understand?) the literature.
Contact me if you want to delve deeper. You can help us focus on the real problems in a scientific manner.

Sandy In Limousin

Smoke and insects, when I was a lad in Scotland in the 1960s smoking was regarded as a deterrent for midges. There was no scientific proof but there did seem to be some effect.
So living in a smokey dwelling may give you a chance of avoiding an early death through Malaria, Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever, Japanese Encephalitis, West Nile Virus, Filariasis and that is just mosquito born diseases. I don’t suppose there is any research which gives any hint on this possible positive from a smokey environment.

Denying the blessings of clean water, 24/7 electrical power, modern powered transportation and clean natural gas/propane cooking stoves to the poor of entire nations and continents is anti-human, unethical, cruel and inexcusable.
To do so in the name of “sustainability” is an oxymoron.

Kip, when American citizens are denied the blessings of clean water, 24/7 electrical power, powered transportation and fuel for cooking, it’s OK…really….. (SNIPPED) MOD

C. Paul Pierett ==> Your comment is off-topic. Two-party politics is not the topic of the essay you are responding to. The topic of this essay is sustainability. Sniping, making sly or petty verbal attacks. at other commenters, the essay authors, or the President of the United States violates WUWT Comment Policy.
Would welcome any comments that are civil, constructive, and on-topic.


don’t give no lip to the kip!
kicked that guy right off his hobby horse.
felt good, man.


Talk about false equivalency. Puerto Rico is suffering a temporary lack of power due to a natural disaster. Congress has allocated billions of dollars to rebuild. At the same time, the warmists are doing everything they can to make sure many poor countries stay in perpetual energy poverty.

Nice posting. Utilizing any resource provides costs and benefits. It seems some times that the environmental movement serves primarily to highlight the flaws of current technology and approaches and propose alternative solutions where the benefits are over played and the costs are unexamined/ignored.


“Politicized Sustainability is the untenable, even dangerous variety”
Yup that will be the UN Agenda21 program. See my blog at https://thedemiseofchristchurch.com/2013/03/13/are-we-experiencing-a-communist-infiltration-sponsored-by-the-united-nations/
The UN has infiltrated your government, your local governments, school curriculums and God only know what else.
This is worse than AGW and a lot more subtle.
My city is full of it. Try searching your city/county or state websites and google “agenda21” Or “ICLEI”


Sustainability and climate change are part of the U.N.global agenda.


Correct, Barbara.

Ms. Merkel, however, sounded a somewhat bleaker note. “The whole discussion about climate was very difficult, not to say unsatisfactory,” she said. “There’s a situation where it’s six, if you count the European Union, seven, against one.”
“This is not just any old agreement, but it is a central agreement for shaping globalization,” she said. “There are no signs of whether the U.S. will stay in the Paris accords or not.”



I’ve only seen two things that were unsustainable, socialism and whale oil. Ironically, whale oil being the all-natural, organic, free-range, non-gmo, carbon neutral and renewable substance that it is, fits the definition of sustainable.


Yeah, but the whale ranches were real hard to maintain. Round-ups were difficult. 😉


yipee kay yay glub glub

The sustainable development imperative is particularly incoherent and even cruel when applied to the job of fighting poverty.


“Sustainability” means we should try new things. If they don’t work, the ideologues are okay with it. If they do work, the ideologues will discover the new things are just as bad as the old things. For them, it’s win-win — the whole point is being able to work up a good harangue.

sustainability = maintaining prosperity and nothing else.
Now, in this respect, it is far easier to live a sustainable life while in deep poverty. See New-Guinea plains and Amazon jungle where people lived sustainable for thousands of years in deep poverty, total stagnation and low life expectency. So fear is realistic that to accomplish a sustainable society the level of prosperity will be lowered as a fast way to success. We do not live in a sustainable way so we are “doomed” to innovation. So far this way of living was very succesfull. A similar thing happened in education: the goal was to increase social equality by education and this mission was accomplished by lowering the demands so more people could get university degrees.


“Sustainability” – a word used by people who do not understand the laws of thermodynamics.

Leo Smith

Yep. The universe is.,, in the limit , unsustainable.
We are riding the entropy wave down to heat death,

“Sustainability” policies seem endothermic, chronically consuming more energy than giving back in return.


If only they knew the difference between heat and temperature…


If only they knew the difference between reality and fantasy.


When TIME magazine was still publishing in print, it would bring out a prediction issue for the decade ahead. It’s accuracy rate was about 0.5 out of 100 predictions. Not once did the writers of those forecasting article predict the expansion of electronic communications, which we call the “internet”, at all. Not once, not even in the 2000 issue. I used to keep those so that I could check on their rate of accuracy, which was abysmal.
Then there were the panic-attack TV movies about running out of oil and the complete collapse of civilization, which also hasn’t happened. I think all those Dystopia movie series like Hunger Games and Divergent and Blade Runner come out of the current mindset that we’re DOOMED! DOOMED! I tell ya! And we now have an oil/gas glut.
There was probably the same Doomsday stuff going on during those episode of the Plague sweeping through Europe until it ran out of victims. And the same mindset ruled the World through the Papacy of Rome.
So what are we left with now? Immature adults who don’t know where their food comes from, don’t understand the logistics required to produce adequate food supplies and clean water for billions of people, and who can’t take their eyes off themselves for more than 30 seconds. I’m not sure, but I think they’re all in for a rude awakening, because when my generation and the one after me are gone, they will still be helpless infants, all crowded together in cities that are unable to support them without outside resources.
The rise of walled cities and heavily guarded farms, as in ‘Soylent Green’, won’t surprise me at all. Let’s hope it doesn’t turn down that path.

Moderately Cross of East Anglia

Sara – you are quite right that similar things were going on in the Middle Ages but with one important difference. When Europe was being ravaged by the plague many people were led on long penitent marches by religiously devout activists who,convinced that God was angry and had sent the plague, persuaded themselves and their followers to scourge and whip themselves till their backs and bodies were a bloody mess. No doubt this did their immune systems no end of good but it caertainly didn’t have any great effect on the plague. On the other hand it is fair comment to point out that the whipping themselves into a frenzy took place in town and city centers where there was a bigger audience. You can only feel sorry for these people who had no understanding of the terrible disease destroying their society.
But the important difference – the leaders of the Flagellents were right in there with their huge bands, being whipped with their followers. Today’s leaders of our modern green Flagellents, the Hollywood grandstanders , the politicos like Al Gore, the financiers and turbine executives plundering the public purse, they have no intention of living the miserable existence they intend for the masses. When I see Clooney or Di Caprio or Gore or Attenborough start giving up their private jets and comforts and living their words I’ll start respecting them.
Until then, I have more regard for poor and misled Medieval peasants despairing at the state of their world and trying all that they knew in the face of a real crisis.

Paul Penrose

Reminds me of the Carl Sagan quote: “We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.”


When my students would try to be “sustainable” I’d tell them to quit screwing around and become Amish. The Amish are the nearest thing to actual, honest sustainability in today’s world. Knock of the silly, pointless greenie nonsense.


I agree, but I don’t think any of them would last past the end of the first week with the Amish.


“Sustainable” means “follow my ideology.” From man’s perspective it really means “how long will it support human life”. The intent isn’t to save anything but control the masses.

Bill Treuren

the word gives it away “sustainable” Meaning causing little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to continue for a long time.
So it asks two questions do we have a lot of the stuff now and reasonably can we see more that we can find or use and is it reasonable to think in the time we have while using that stuff we will find a better or preferable alternative.
Witness stone in the stone age, whales for oil lamps, and likely coal within a generation.
not some cloaked watermelon story of green on the outside and red on the inside.

China will lead the way with nuclear.


I do not see how the definition of “real sustainability” has any notion of sustainability in it. Only the
“politicised” definition i.e. meeting our current needs in a way that doesn’t stop future generations from
meeting theirs”, seems to agree with the common sense notion of sustainability. Something is sustainable if it can go on for the foreseeable future. The excellent book “sustainability with the hot air” gives as a working definition that an energy source is sustainable if it can last for 1000 years. This at least gives a definition
that can be used. The notion of “real sustainability” presented above does not allow anyone to decide whether or not something is sustainable – or alternatively it could be used to say that everything is sustainable.
The rest of Paul’s essay seems like an excuse in wishful thinking — i.e. we can do what we like today
because someone at some point in the future will discover a magical wand that will make everything better.
That is not sustability it is just sticking your head in the sand.

an energy source is sustainable if it can last for 1000 years.

Interesting definition. Although I prefer nuclear energy, the ancient Romans used coal for heating already in 753 BC–476 AD. So that’s good then.


The whole idea is to pick a number that makes your particular delusion work and run with it.


It makes sense to let the future worry about the future’s problems while we worry about ours.
The idea that the future will have no more options than we do today is about as dumb a idea as man has ever come up with.

Paul Penrose

One lifetime – mine – that’s all I have to worry about. Everybody else before me did the same, and all that follow me will as well, if they are smart. All this endless hand-wringing about the future is just stupid.

“Sustainability” is still appropriate in the context of the built environment, but even there, the subject has been degraded by the “Unsustainables” eg the ones who are simply able to throw vast amounts of money into their projects for the purpose of virtue signalling. This is why I used to promote the concept of “sustainability for the rest of us” eg it has to be applicable to all of us, not just the <1%. I can still get clients to do things that make sense, but I avoid using the word sustainable.

Max S

A good article in principle…yet even you miss the boat on sustainability. Your article is critical but lacks insight; accurate on facts but fails to fully understand those facts; and thus lacks the wisdom to address the problems. I applaud the sentiments but not the critical thinking.


Sustainability ? . the catch cry of the Greens in New Zealand .Most of them don’t know what this means .Our farming systems in New Zealand are pasture based and the climate is mild enough to not have to house livestock in most regions during winter .If any of you have traveled through New Zealand you would have seen the steep green hills that we farm .Meat and wool and some dairy production off land far to steep to cultivate or use for anything else except forestry .Very little fossil fuel is used until the animals go to market and our farmers are some of the most efficient in the world. The Green party are calling for an emissions trading scheme to tax farmers for methane emissions from farmed livestock and the money would be passed on to foresters as carbon credits .At this time I am not aware that any country is taxing their farmers for methane emissions from livestock and a tax would be a direct cost on farming and cannot be passed on as 90 % of our produce is exported to the world .It is claimed that our country of 4.6 million people feed 45 million people in other countries .The Greens are anti farming and they don’t realize where their food comes from .They have no idea how it gets to the supermarket .

Leo Smith

Conservatism is true sustainability. I do what my granddad did, because it got me here.


You may be doing what he did, but I doubt you are doing it in the same way.

The sustainability crisis of the end of the 19th century was horse manure. The projections seem to be realised in some capitals nowadays, figuratively speaking of course.

current sustainability practises are the recipee for stagnation. We have to admit that we don’t know the future. Progress is improving the presence. Our ancesters also never knew the future when they digged peat , coal and pumped oil and gas. Religion always took care of these “existential fears” by declaring that 1. men work for the Glory of the Lord but 2. the future was in God’s hand. Translated for atheists: we do our very best , have faith in human ingenuity but are by no way responsible in the long term. Secularisation however crushed this convenient firewall against existential fears. The moral compass switched from the church to the environmental organisations with exploit human fears with geat success.

What an absolute load of BS this article is – basically, it’s saying ‘let’s keep the status quo in terms of burning fossil fuels so that the present generation can continue to preserve their comfortable lifestyle – at the expense of future generations.’
Writers like this should be confined to the dinosaur pile. The only viable power source – other than renewables – is nucleur. Put more of this into the equation and you can start to phase out fossil fuels that pump millions of CO2 particles into the atmosphere every year.
This is the way forwards my fossil fuel-loving advocates: https://mankindsdegradationofplanetearth.com/green-power-and-technological-innovation-2/

I have never met a fossil fuel loving advocate that was also anti nuclear. On the other hand, it is rare that I meet an anti CO2 person who is pro nuclear. My conclusion is that ‘green’ advocates in general are afraid of any complexity of thought, and that is why they like wind and solar.
With the exception of Ted Cruz and some other Republicans, most politicians align themselves with the simple minded folks, and we truly have a dumbed down society.


google ‘pro nuclear greens’ and you will find a whole heap of them…

I Came I Saw I Left

I would not call myself anti-nuclear, but I am very definitely not pro-nuclear, unless a FAIL-SAFE technology can be developed. Then I would be very much for it. And I am very much pro-fossil fuel. Civilization has ridden to the point is at on that wave, and nothing at this point can replace it.


A whole heap does not prove that they are not rare.


Even without fail-safe, whatever that means too you. Nuclear is still very, very, safe.

I Came I Saw I Left

Examples of not fail-safe are Chernobyl and Fukushima. In other words, meltdowns that occurred because of man’s stupidity (e.g., Chernobyl – carelessness; Fukushima – .greed). Man will always act stupidly (eventually), so that needs to be removed from the equation.

Anthropogenic fears seem to trigger a positive feedback loop. Searching “or build more nuclear power plants” might help you out of the vicious circle.


“This is supposed to be a rational objective website.”
So why are you posting your emotional, alarmist, scientifically illiterate bedwetter drivel on it, Watermelon boy?
The Guardian is way over there on the Left.



The author talks about people in developing countries still cooking over open fires and fossil fuels being the solution to providing them with electricity.
Completely wrong and showing a lack of understanding of his subject. This is the solution being implemented on the ground:

What makes you believe Rwamagana district in Rwanda represents the situation in Africa, let alone the world?

It’s a very good representative start I would say and disproves this author’s claims


If he’s wrong in one place, that proves he’s wrong everywhere.
Is that really the logic you want to stick with?

I Came I Saw I Left

Why do you want to limit Africans to cooking only when the sun shines? Is that what you want for yourself?


This is a good start, but it hardly disproves the author’s point. The BBC article mentions replacing a few candles with lights, but I doubt these systems are replacing the open fires for cooking.
Bboxx’s own website makes it clear that the limited reach and unreliability of the grid combined with low energy needs make Rwanda the low hanging fruit for this market. Customers in hotter and colder regions would need considerably more power, as would customers wanting refrigerators or cooking appliances.


From Wikipedia:
“Rwanda has a temperate tropical highland climate, with lower temperatures than are typical for equatorial countries because of its high elevation.[128] Kigali, in the centre of the country, has a typical daily temperature range between 12 and 27 °C (54 and 81 °F), with little variation through the year.”
So you think a partial solution in Rwanda is going to solve the energy needs throughout the developing world? You’re the one that is “Completely wrong and showing a lack of understanding of his subject.”
Very few places enjoy the benefits of high altitude equatorial sunshine and a temperate climate (pretty well ideal for solar power.)
Somebody help me out here. What’s the cross sectional equivalent of ‘linear thinking in a cyclical world’? Homogeneous thinking in a heterogeneous world just doesn’t have the same ring to it.


I have been in a THIRD would country,the Philippines where they often cooked over fires,even while they have electricity for lights.
They lack electrical power production,where black outs are common outside of Manila,the natives at Camiguin Island have a lot brownouts in parts of the island,where you can see it coming when the few lights in the area starts going up and down in brightness,then plop to nothing after 15-30 seconds.

Gunga Din

I was going to do a few blockquotes of what Ivan said and others’ responses, but decided that he’s provided enough virtual solar BS solutions to cook enough dung-fueled meals for everyone on the planet.

This is supposed to be a rational objective website. I suggest you keep emotional verging on ranting ones like this to yourself.

John Bell

Well then let us all sit in the dark and shiver, so that future generations can…sit in the dark and shiver.

Nope my children will be enjoying my nice warm brightly lit house from my solar panels and wind turbine and may be hole in the ground heating system. Fossil fuels are going to take a long time to phase out and I don’t think they will ever be phased out completely but will remain part of the energy mix but at a lower proportion than today.


You really are delusional, aren’t you.


If you are relying on wind and solar, sitting in the dark shivering will be your lot, more often than not.


1) Why would we ever want to stop pumping CO2 into the atmosphere? It’s making the world a much better place.
2) We’ve got enough fossil fuels to last somewhere between 500 and 1000 years, probably more.
3) Considering how technology has advanced during the last 100 years, I’m not going to hazard any guesses as to what technologies will be available 500 or 1000 years in the future so I’m not going to sit around and worry about what they are going to be needing.


In reply to Ivankinsman .This is not BS
What you and the Greens fail to realize that wind and solar electricity cannot deliver the base load that powers our civilization as it has developed to this point in time .If the greens want civilization to advance they have to embrace nuclear power as there is enough uranium to power the world for 5000 years .If you want to go back to the early 20th century that I was brought up in that’s OK but are you and the greens ready .
I remember electricity coming to our part of New Zealand in 1948 and a refrigerator and washing machine arriving .How do you think my parents managed before this .Where do you think the power comes from to even manufacture these things that save so much time and food .It sure beats taking food down to the creek to keep it cool. as my mother had to do in the summer .And lighting a fire under a copper to wash the clothes in
The greens live in fantasy land .Many countries do not grow enough food to feed their population therefore it has to be transported around the world and that is not going to change any time soon
.The majority of the green supporters in New Zealand live in the cities and if they had to perform heavy manual labour and work long hours that farmers still do they might change their stance.
They have a cost life and little idea how their food gets to the supermarket.


They have a cosy life

So true! RE is a dead end road, promising dramatic loss of prosperity. Windfarms and solar panels only may be produced thanks to fossil fuels.


Ivan, as usual you didn’t properly address the article you called B.S.
You didn’t address the varied impacts of sustainability at all,nor this part in the article,
“For thousands of years, mankind advanced at a snail’s pace. Then, as the modern fossil-fuel industrial era found its footing, progress picked up rapidly, until the speed of change became almost exponential. How today is anyone supposed to predict what might be in store ten, fifty or a hundred years from now?
Moreover, as we moved from flint to copper, to bronze, iron, steel and beyond, we didn’t do so because mankind had exhausted Earth’s supplies of flint, copper, tin and so forth. We did it because we innovated. We invented something better, moreefficient, more practical. Each advance required different materials.
Who today can foresee what future technologies we will have … and what raw materials those future technologies will require? How we are supposed to ensure that future families can meet their needs, if we cannot possibly know what those needs willbe?
Why then would we even think of empowering activists and governments to regulate today’s activities – based on wholly unpredictable future technologies, lifestyles, needs and resource demands? Why would we ignore or compromise the pressing needs of current generations, to meet those totally unpredictable future needs?”
You ignored all that to push your silly sustainability babble.

Preston Petty

Right on Ivan! 🙂

Thank you Paul Driessen – an excellent essay.
Regards, Allan

“It is the obligation of responsible, competent professionals to blow-the-whistle on this (global warming) sc@m, and to encourage the availability of cheap, reliable, abundant energy systems for humanity. This is especially true for the elderly and the poor worldwide, and for the struggling peoples of the developing world.”

Sustainability is a socialist plan for the world.
Below is the link to the report that started it all, “Our Common Future” released in 1987. There are over two hundred mentions of the word “sustainable” in it:
The chairman of this report was Gro Harlem Brundtland. She is a vice president in SocialistInternational.org:
So where does this “sustainable” movement come from? From what I’ve found, the Rockefeller Foundation. You can see this in their 1983 Rockefeller Brothers Fund Annual Report (and 85, and 86 reports):
From their 1983 report:
“A grantee must also be engaged in work that fits generally within the Fund’s new program: Global Interdependence, with specific emphasis on sustainable resources management or on security.”
pg 16
“As a logical extension of its work, the Institute will prepare an annual report measuring progress, or lack thereof, in the creation of a sustainable global society.”
pg 25
Rockefeller money helped support this report.
Another interesting tidbit: Anybody ever hear of the “Three E’s” of sustainability: economy, ecology, and equity”?
Did if come from the 1986 Rockefeller Brothers Report?
“To encourage more efficient and renewable use of natural, human, and man-made resources, in an approach that blends social, economic, and ecological concerns.”
pg 13

Opps, meant to write “Rockefeller money helped support the “Our Common Future” report.