A thought-provoking analysis of the "diversity" and "sustainability" movements

You can count on Muck & Mystery to sniff out the good stuff, like Peter Wood's recent piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

I liked Gary's opening bit:
Two of the nastier [words] in the current lexicon are diversity and sustainability. I have argued for and against both of them depending on which definitions are used. They can both be used to mean just about everything.
Wood's whole piece is well done, but two parts stood out for me. First, his superb condensation of the argument against the "diversity movement":
Diversity authorizes double standards in admissions and hiring, breeds a campus culture of hypocrisy, mismatches students to educational opportunities, fosters ethnic resentments, elevates group identity over individual achievement, and trivializes the curriculum.
Next, Wood sums up his take on the "sustainability movement" in eight words:
sustainability is the triumph of hypothesis over evidence
Say what you will about his arguments, but the dude can write.

FWIW, one of the better discussions on sustainability that I've seen asks an excellent question: Can we afford sustainability?

The discussion starts with two useful definitions of sustainability. First Robert Mendelsohn's:
Economists have a very clear idea of what they mean by sustainability, but it's not always consistent with what you might see in the natural sciences. For an issue like pollution, a sustainable pollution control is one where the marginal cost of abatement is set equal to the marginal damage of pollution. It would be nice to get rid of all pollution, but it turns out it's very expensive to eliminate it entirely. So this idea of balancing the abatement costs against the damages is a critical way that economists would look at sustainability in trying to minimize the total cost to society.
Then Kevin Curtis's:
The definition of sustainable development has provided a big step forward. There are multiple definitions, but the version I like best is one that says economic growth, environmental protection, and social justice are all important — and sustainable development is about doing all three.
I like Curtis's three elements, but wish he had used a politically neutral term in place of "social justice."

Richard Kauffman had many good insights from a businessman's perspective including the problem of regulatory uncertainty.

Finally, there's this delicious bit, where Mendelsohn seems to leave Curtis speechless:
Mendelsohn: You can't just wait for everything to be perfectly clear. But some decisions have a lot more uncertainty around them than others. And I think climate change, with all the long-range implications to it, is probably one of the most uncertain things that I've seen. In the short run, it's pretty clear, but the long-run consequences of making different choices today isn't very clear at all.

Curtis: But the consequences seem to range between some negative impact to lots of negative impact.

Mendelsohn: No, I'd say they range from being beneficial to being very, very harmful. And that's a pretty big range.
[Emphasis added.]
I don't think I've ever heard a respected academic use the words "beneficial" and "climate change" in the same sentence. I don't think Curtis had either, as he had nothing to say in response.

I suspect that Mendelsohn is correct about the level of uncertainty and the huge range of possible outcomes. We just don't really know.

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