I still haven’t stopped chuckling at the cheekiness of the Wall Street Journal editorial page running an article on “sustainable capitalism” this morning from Al Gore and one of his investment buddies, David Blood. I’m sure Mr. Gore and Mr. Blood (Really? Gore and Blood?) think they have scored a coup, and that dozens of WSJ readers will swoon before their magisterial quotations and invocations of all the soothing buzz phrases of our time, like “long-term thinking,” and especially “sustainability.” More likely the Journal accepted the piece because they knew it was the only way they could sneak outright absurdist satire on to their pages.
Without going into a long exegesis here, the term “sustainability” is without rigorous definition, and therefore practical application beyond a few easy examples like timber harvesting. Believe me, I’ve tried to make some sense of the idea, but came to the conclusion that like the word “holistic,” whenever you hear someone say “sustainability,” it is generally safe to assume they have ceased employing any critical reasoning. Even the UN has admitted, in an official report, that “The concept of sustainable development does not yet provide decision-makers with the kind of detailed and integrated prescriptions that they need to make day to day policy decisions.” And environmental scientist Timothy O’Riordan, a rather prominent fellow in environmental science circles at one time, warned way back in 1988 that “It may only be a matter of time before the metaphor of sustainability becomes so confused as to be meaningless, certainly as a device to straddle the ideological conflicts that pervade contemporary environmentalism.” But it’s still the go-to phrase for Gore and the like.
You almost feel sorry for them at this point.