In this morning's SF Chronicle, Scott Ostler writes about Stanford QB Andrew Luck's choice to take easy classes this semester as he focused on his Saturday games and his chance to win the Heisman Trophy. Here is the quote that caught my eye.
"Luck needs two more classes to graduate. He will skip the upcoming winter quarter to prep for an NFL career, then come back in the spring to pick up the classes.
Luck did dial it back a tad academically this past quarter, as he dealt with Heisman Trophy hoopla and Stanford football. But it's relative.A month ago he told me, "At this point you realize, 'I'm not going to take classes in school that are going to tax my time completely.' Which is not to say that I don't put the effort into the classes. But I'm not going to take the maximum amount of units, or a hard studio class for architecture."Luck said he took two art history classes and a course in urban sustainability, whatever that is. Easy courses?"I wouldn't call 'em easy," Luck said, uneasily, "but on the lighter workload side. I wouldn't want to disrespect the professors."You know how big-time football stars hate to disrespect their professors.Luck, due to some oversight, never received the College Superstar Athlete Manual. He attends classes, gets good grades (around a 3.5 GPA), rides his bicycle around campus and lived in the dorm his first three years."
So, Dr. Ostler --- you dare to mock "urban sustainability"? Allow me to offer you a short course on this subject.
You have a job at the SF Chronicle because there is a city called San Francisco. If there were no cities, you would be a farmer and would spend your days doing hard work just to make sure that your family has something to eat. You wouldn't have a tractor because such farming equipment is made in cities.Good luck using your hands and other primitive tools.
All over the world, billions of people are moving to cities and becoming richer because they are moving to cities. If everyone in India and China achieves the American Dream of earning a good wage and then buying a home and a car and consuming electricity, will we run out of oil and other natural resources? Will we unintentionally exacerbate the challenge of climate change because of the fossil fuels we use in powering our economy? Could we unintentionally kill off the golden goose because our cities are growing? These are some of the major themes of urban sustainability? You and Mr. Luck should pay more attention in class. This is an exciting field. If you would like to learn more, go to this webpage and start reading!
Now, maybe Stanford is to blame for not offering rigorous urban sustainability classes? I taught for one year at Stanford in 2003-2004 and was very happy with the students but I doubt that "urban sustainability" is taught by an economist. So, Mr. Luck's experience may be an example of why serious universities should be hiring more economists so that we can teach these classes. The rigorous tools of economics can be applied to many subjects that appear to be far removed from "supply and demand".
Dr. Ostler and Dr. Luck have both chosen to live in the San Francisco metropolitan area. It is well known to be a "Green City". Do they believe that this status was simply caused by god giving it good temperate climate and some topographical beauty? This is surely part of the equation but don't forget the human aspect. The area self selects liberal, educated, sophisticated people (think of Berkeley) and these folks vote for policies that further "green" the area.
This in a nutshell is "urban sustainability". When Andrew Luck is playing for the Colts in Indy, he may want to go back to his notes to think about how to make that city nicer. Don't simply blame the cold weather. Chicago is "green" these days. Why? Take a course in urban sustainability and stay awake this time!