On the 25th anniversary of the Moon landing, the Washington Post published a startling poll: about 20 million Americans believed the landing was a government hoax. About the same time, crop circles stomped in England’s wheat fields and activity at Nevada’s Area 51 gave rise to new conspiracy theories. Then came 9/11 and still-potent theories -- fueled by the likes of Ed Asner and Charlie Sheen -- that the attacks were an inside job.
Now a new conspiracy theory is upon us. To hear some people speak at local government meetings, at tea party gatherings and on talk radio, the United Nations is out to control the world -- not with armies and dictators, but with zoning laws, bus routes and bike lanes. The plan is called Agenda 21.
Agenda 21 dates from the 1991 world climate conference in Rio. If you look up that document, you’ll find it says, for example, that governments should be encouraged to talk to each other about sustainable development, land and water conservation, managed growth, forest preservation and pollution controls.
The preamble says that paying greater attention to the integration of environment and development concerns “will lead to the fulfillment of basic needs, improved living standards for all, better protected and managed ecosystems, and a safer, more prosperous future.”
“No nation can achieve this on its own; but together we can -- in a global partnership for sustainable development.”
Agenda 21 is a dot-connector’s dream. The web is full of alarmist pages about its sinister goals. A paragraph or two are fished from some obscure paper that mentions Agenda 21 along with a suggestion about fuel efficiency standards or the advantage of renting over home ownership. The paper might have been written 20 years ago and read by fewer than 10 people before its pdf version was ferreted out and turned into an Agenda 21 smoking gun.
The paragraphs are dressed up in the authority of an impending law that will abolish private property -- the prelude to action at every level of government, federal, state and local.
It sounds nutty, and it is, but “concerned citizens” are appearing before local government boards to warn that freedom as we know it is approaching extinction.
A Flagler County commissioner who champions sustainable farms is now branded an “Agenda 21 conspirator” who supposedly wants to substitute collective farming for land ownership. Another champions “smart growth,” two words that make her an enemy of the state in the eyes of Agenda 21 foes, who seem to think public transportation and walkable shopping districts will come at the expense of sprawl and the God-given right to gas-guzzle.
Like all United Nations documents, Agenda 21 is dull, idealistic and pretty much useless. It has no authority whatsoever — not on sovereign governments, certainly not on state and local governments.
The first George Bush signed the document in 1991 as a non-binding set of principles he duly forgot and that has gone nowhere since. Because if there’s one sure way to doom any global effort, it’s to put the United Nations’ imprint on it.
That’s too bad. Agenda 21 is a timely blueprint for sane development, if only its critics read it and governments took it seriously. Unfortunately for Agenda 21, the only thing about to take over local governments is the weird, nutty sounds of conspiracy theorists once again gone wild.
Pierre Tristam is editor and publisher of FlaglerLive.com, a non-profit news service based in Palm Coast, Fl.
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