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Climate change and conference realignment

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The big news in college football at the moment is that the old conference alignments are falling apart, as the most powerful conferences from a media rights perspective pick off the most desirable teams from weaker media entities:

As the Pac-12 faces the possibility of being picked apart by the Big Ten and Big 12 during the latest stretch of conference realignment, Washington State head football coach Jake Dickert spoke to reporters on Thursday to address the situation, calling the current state of the league “unthinkable.”

“The old question of, ‘How long would it take TV money to destroy college football?’ Maybe we’re here,” Dickert said. “To think, even remotely, five years ago the Pac-12 would be in this position, it’s unthinkable to think that we’re here today. And to think that local rivalries are at risk … to me, is unbelievable.”

Last month saw Colorado become the latest school to defect from the Pac-12, with the Buffaloes now set to return to the Big 12 next year. Their exit follows USC and UCLA opting to join the Big Ten in 2024 as well.

Meanwhile, the Big 12 is considering trying to add Arizona, Arizona State and Utah, while the Big Ten is believed to be targeting Oregon, Washington, Stanford and Cal.

What all this illustrates is that powerful institutions in American life are not even pretending to make even the most minimal changes that are demanded by any serious response to the climate crisis. Indeed, they are doing quite the opposite: the presidents and governing boards of these universities are voting to create collegiate sports alignments that will require hundreds of teams from dozens of sports — not just football — to collectively fly from one end of the country to the other hundreds if not thousands of times per year to compete against each other.

This is simply insane from a climate change amelioration standpoint, but this illustrates how a bunch of institutions that love to talk a big game about how they’re responding to the climate crisis are in fact completely uninterested in any kind of defensible response, if such a response is going to interfere in any way with revenue maximization in even the very short term.

As for the long term, JM Keynes’s aphorism covers that, and in fact is probably is all you need to understand our collective non-response to the biggest ecological crisis of our times.

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