So there I was the other morning, drinking coffee, listening to the radio and generally minding my own business when, on the radio, comes WFIU's "Speak your Mind" segment.

The segment, a kind of "letters to the editor" for the wireless, allows citizens a couple of minutes of airtime to vent on a topic of their choice. A lot of stations do it, including WFHB here, ton whose "Firehouse Feedback" I myself contribute a monthly caterwauling.

Anyways, the segment started with a bang, with the guest editorialist leading off with a confident and brash, "This is Kevin Sears."

Nothing wrong with that, a good lead to get the listener's attention and it got mine. London calling, time to pay attention.

He continued: "Are you fed up with the ideas of the sustainability movement? Are you weary of hearing the following words: conservation, peak oil, alternative energy and the word green? I sure am. Boy have they got it all wrong."

Ok, now I'm starting to like the guy. No minced words here, no liberal ambiguity. And a little populist appeal mixed in, "Are you fed up? Are you weary?" Hell yeah, and we're not gonna take it, anymore!

But, wait a minute. What are we fed up with? Oh, the word green, alternative energy, and some other stuff. Wait a minute...

The bigger belt as a cure for obesity

Sears continued, embracing full-on the ideology of gluttony. Not a sin, now a sinecure. "Now brace yourself," he warned. "Here's how I see it," he opined (Bill O'Reilly, your rhetoric's got no game compared to this!). "We require more and more energy. Not less and less."

Wow, I hadn't heard a declaration of entitlement like that since, well, I don't know when.

"Sustainability will only produce, in the end, a penniless, powerless, nation. "continued Sears. Another damning critique and a warning: living within your means, means living in peril. The implication? Unsustainable societies have been history's victors. Don't believe it? Just ask the Mayans, the Vikings, heck, stop an Anasazi on the street.

What do you mean you can't find any? Stop being lazy.

Fact: the island nation of Cuba is using the same amount of energy that it used 10 years ago.

And now the money-shot. Sustainability = Cuba. Sustainability is Communism, said Sears:

"Cuba's leaders follow the philosophy of the sustainability movement. Cubans use energy by appointment and, to be sure, very efficiently. No new cars, scarcely any cars. No travel or vacations. Saving gas though. No computers, no Internet, no MySpace. Conserving electricity there.

"No agricultural chemicals. Little fertilizer. Food rationing in elementary schools. Preserving natural gas then. But, best of all, their carbon footprint is less than it was 10 years ago and therefore qualifying for the sustainability hall of fame.

But what about standards of living? Dropping since the 1990s. Just getting by before, now just poor. Cuba: a place people risk their lives to escape from.

"Reduce energy, increase poverty. Abundant energy is the answer, not conservation. Sustainability? Time to turn out the lights."

Saving makes you poorer

There we have it, in a nutshell. Swap an incandescent for a florescent, buy a Prius instead of a Hummer, and before you know it, you're eating dirt and shivering in the dark.

Sears' fundamental mistake is confusing the mandated with the willing. Sustainability isn't about voluntary indigence, it's about avoiding forced destitution.

Cubans aren't living lives of penury because they want to (I'm not even sure they're living such at all, but that's for a different column). They're living the lives Sears imagines because they have no other choice. When the Soviet Union collapsed, and Cuba's oil supply collapsed with it, what, exactly, were they supposed to do? Hell, it's not even as if they can sell their one indigenous export, sugar, for hard cash because we won't buy it from them.

If you want to hold up Cuba as an example of something, hold it up as an example of what happens when you don't plan ahead for the future. Sears' dialectic assumes there's plenty of energy to be had, for Cuba and the rest of the world, if we only accept the fact that it's there, and waiting for us.

The reality isn't as sanguine. Just as the USSR cut off oil shipments to Cuba in the early 90s, the world is beginning to cut off, or at least reduce, shipments to, well, the world. There's that "peak oil" phrase that so enervated Sears.

A sense of entitlement can be a dangerous thing when what one believes one is entitled to suddenly stops coming. Sustainability suggests a more prudent, cautious approach to the future. Less borrowing in a credit crisis, more in steady, reliable, dividends.

We can keep shoveling coal for our runaway train. If we want a picture of how that's gonna come out, we need look no further than Sears' Cuba. I don't know about you, but I'd rather pull the throttle a little and enjoy the trip.

Gregory Travis can be reached at .