A lawmaker in Kansas who is also a contractor for 30 oil and gas companies wants to ban sustainability itself. Yes, Rep. Dennis Hedke (R) wants to ban, as the bill he's proposing defines it, any "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."
In other words, Hedke literally wants to outlaw the act of planning ahead for future generations. According to Webster's, 'sustainable' is defined as "a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged." Hedke wants to make it legal only to deplete and permanently damage our resources. Hedke wants to ban the act of building stuff that won't break, or that will consume a reasonable amount of resources.
This may be the most insane law I've ever seen, and I've seen a few: I've seen lawmakers in North Carolina try to outlaw observing sea level rise. I've seen Midwestern Republicans try to ban regulations on 'farm dust' that never existed in the first place. But I've never seen anyone literally, and in their own words, try to outlaw planning for the future. This is absolute lunacy.
So what gives? How could a modern day politician even consider saying something like that in public without realizing he'll sound like an absolute ass? Well, because the word "sustainable"--despite what it actually means--has been flagged by a particularly batty subset of American conservatives as the gateway into one of the most mainstream conspiracy theories of our time.
A considerable number of Republicans, libertarians, and Tea Partiers believe the United Nations is attempting to usher in a new world order, and that elites in the United States government are quietly playing along. They believe that one of the vehicles for U.N. takeover is a benign document written in the 90s called Agenda 21. We explained the conspiracy theory in depth here, but the gist is that illuminati-esque overlords (or lizard men, who knows?) are using code language like "sustainable development" to trick the masses into relinquishing their freedom.
The problem is, as nutty as it sounds, a whole lot of elected Republican officials actually believe this. Agenda 21 gets brought up at town halls, at campaign events, and beyond. It was officially codified into the GOP charter the 2012 Republican National Convention. And "sustainable development" is its centerpiece.
In reality, of course, "sustainable development" just means insulating windows and using more recycled materials. Think bike lanes, more energy efficiency. But to a certain group of particularly pliable paranoid people—and to the oil and gas execs who oppose lower pollution standards and who have enough cash to rile up the masses—it might as well be the return of communism. As for Hedke, he's heading off charges that his bill is a conflict of interest, because he works for so many unsustainable fossil fuel companies.
But that's not the crux of the matter—it's that we've finally reached the point where a lawmaker can actually stand up and unabashedly propose a new law that demands we discard any concern about the future and not be laughed out of town.