Lawrence alumnus lectures on sustainability movement

Rose Nelson

On Friday, Oct. 5, Paul Driessen ’70 discussed his beliefs regarding the changing role of sustainability in society since his own days at Lawrence in a lecture titled “Sustainable Development…or Unsustainable Romanticism?”

Currently, Driessen is a senior fellow with the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow and Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise.  He began, “You can’t talk about sustainability without talking about politics, power and control.”

Driessen presented the development of the sustainability movement as a romanticized entity. He argued that if it were to continue in this direction, the movement would ironically become unsustainable.

Driessen emphasized the importance of focusing on the current generation. He said that this did not mean we had to completely disregard the future generation, but we had to focus on the current generation to ensure that the future generation knew how to take care of itself.

 Freshman Alyssa Gause said regarding the lecture, “Though I don’t entirely agree with Paul Driessen, his lecture about sustainability and the future did bring up some interesting points that I had not thought about before. It definitely made me stop to think for a bit.”

One of the primary discussion points of Driessen’s lecture was belief that the increased emphasis on certain sustainability laws have caused poor developing countries to be unable to live at the same level as they could in a world without sustainability restrictions. In his speech he stated, “I don’t want to see a cause that was begun with such good intentions be turned into a weapon against the poor.”

In his lecture he discussed the way that he believes DDT (Dichlorodiphenyl-trichloroethane)  was not the cause of weakening bird eggs,  and that it was in fact the result of a low-calcium diet.  DDT was a synthetic insecticide that was first used in the late 1940s. It has become widely regarded as potentially harmful to humans. Driessen disagrees with this, and cites many experiments that have failed to produce conclusive evidence that DDT is harmful to humans.

Another student attendee, freshman Kangkang Wang said, “I think the lecture showed a different perspective on environmental issues and I thought they were very interesting. I would like to  explore more about his ideas as well as others to help form my own views.”

Driessen received his Bachelor of Arts in geology and field ecology from Lawrence. He also attended the University of Denver College of Law, where he obtained his J.D., and received  accreditation in public relations from the Public Relations Society of America. Since then he has worked with the United Stated Senate, the Department of the Interior and an energy trade association.

Driessen is the author of “Eco-Imperialism : Green Power, Black Death.” He has written many articles and papers on energy, environmental policy, global climate change, corporate social responsibility and marine life, as well as given many speeches on these subjects.