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Kansas bill would have banned spending public money on 'sustainable development'

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Man vs nature bridge building tree stock 1024
Man vs nature bridge building tree stock 1024

In the midst of increasingly dire predictions about climate change and debates over the future of fossil fuels, local Kansas lawmakers have attempted to explicitly ban funding the mere concept of sustainability. Bloomberg has unearthed a February bill from Kansas' House Committee on Energy and Environment that would outlaw using public funds to promote, support, or plan for "sustainable development." What do they mean by that? The bill says it's aimed at "a mode of human 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."

The bill is using a standard definition of sustainability — and one that's espoused by the UN, a frequent target of American ire. But its bluntness makes it clear that this isn't just about avoiding unintended consequences from environmentalism: it's taking aim at the essential idea of preserving natural resources for future generations. The one thing it doesn't apply to is conservationism, or attempts to preserve specific sites from destruction; presumably, future Kansans will experience the nature-filled past in special preserves while surviving on resources mined from asteroids.

"Sustainable development and its association with a range of activities is something that needs to be scrutinized."

The Committee on Energy and Environment is headed by Dennis Hedke, a consulting geophysicist who The Topeka Capital-Journal says has worked for dozens of regional oil and gas companies. Hedke has said he brought the bill on behalf of several constituents, but he's suggested in an interview with Bloomberg that it's more a preventative measure than a real response to anything: "we don’t have laws in Kansas right now that relate to sustainable development." It's also meant to raise a debate about the practices. "The idea of sustainable development and its association with a range of activities is something that needs to be scrutinized in the public domain."

State legislatures are no stranger to bizarre or extreme proposals, and Hedke's bill hadn't been heard by the time Kansas' most recent legislative session ended, though it may be revived in the future. As such, it's unlikely citizens will see a ban on sustainability any time soon. But even as plenty of politicians dispute the idea that human activity is causing climate change or that environmental preservation is a good thing, it's unusual to see such opposition spelled out so plainly.