A Vortex 2 rotating supercell severe thunderstorm near Dodge City, Kansas. Photographer: Ryan McGinnis
By Tom Randall Apr 9, 2013 6:10 AM MT
Kansas, I love your sense of humor.
It seems like every time the Sunflower State pops up in my news feed, it’s for something like this: House Bill No. 2366, a proposed law that would make it illegal to use “public funds to promote or implement sustainable development.”
Kansas, the place where I spent my formative years skipping school to go fishing in farm ponds, is populated with thoughtful stewards of the nation’s breadbasket. It also has a habit of turning reason on its head. The state famously dropped evolution from its educational curriculum in 1999, along with the age of the Earth and the history of the universe, for good measure.
Now the state’s “Committee on Energy and Environment” is proposing a law that would prohibit spending on anything that won’t set Kansas on a course to self-destruction. House Bill No. 2366 would ban all state and municipal funds for anything related to “sustainable development,” which it defines as: “development in which resource use aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for generations to come."
If this definition sounds familiar, that’s because it was lifted verbatim from what’s commonly referred to as the Brundtland Report, one of the seminal documents in the modern practice of sustainability. The Brundtland Report was the product of a four-year commission set up by United Nations member countries that were increasingly concerned that the world’s resources were being squandered and its environment spoiled.
Read the full text of House Bill No. 2366 here.
No, really, you have to read this.
The idea behind sustainable development is that the economic incentives in places like China, India, Brazil, Nigeria — even Kansas — fail to account for the long-term impacts of pollution and the loss of shared resources. The result? About 4.6 million people die each year just from air pollution, the ocean’s edible fish are being harvested to extinction and record droughts exacerbated by climate change are ravishing crops in places like … Kansas.
OK, Kansas is the eighth biggest oil-and-gas producing state in the U.S., and fossil fuels will remain a big part of the economy for decades to come. Ask Dennis Hedke. He’s the geophysicist who does contract work for oil and gas companies and is chairman of the committee that wants to ban sustainability in Kansas.
Hedke said in a phone interview that he brought the bill to the committee on behalf of a group of “maybe a dozen” people who approached him about it. “The idea of sustainable development and its association with a range of activities is something that needs to be scrutinized in the public domain,” he said. Hedke declined to comment on what sorts of activities he was referring to and wouldn’t disclose who was involved in the group that brought him the bill.
I miss living in Kansas. I miss the symphonies of cicadas, the barbeque, the big skies and the kindness of strangers. But most of all I miss the government and anti-government officials, who possess a wit so subtle they can convince anyone — perhaps even themselves — that they think it’s a good idea to ignore the impact of their actions for generations to come.
It’s a common misperception that sustainability is only about making sacrifices. When done right, sustainability, by definition, actually makes money