New Study Looks at How the Agenda 21 Conspiracy Is Poisoning Public Discussion About Sustainability

Windmills scattered across green fields

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There is a movement going in in the United States to ban Agenda 21, a 1992 UN report that promotes sustainability. Agenda 21 isn't a law, it isn't binding, and is actually rather full of good ideas. But somehow it as become a conspiracy theory that just won't go away.

The Conspiracy

Tom DeWeese, a key Agender, summarizes his view of Agenda 21:

The entire picture is of an elaborate maze of deceit, meant to obscure the real intentions and, before most may learn otherwise, to ensnare the vast majority of people into a life of cramped, stack and pack housing, mandated public transportation use, serious restrictions on personal food, water, and energy use, and indoctrination of the youth into a socialistic and fascistic outlook on life generally.

Just about everything we write about on TreeHugger, just about everything that relates to sustainability, is considered to be part of that plot, from bike lanes to green building to historic preservation to sustainable farming to alternative energy.

The SPLC's Report

Now the Southern Poverty Law Center has issued a new report, Agenda 21: The UN, Sustainability and Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory, that looks at how the John Birch Society and other activists are pushing agenda 21, how politicians and planners who support Agenda 21 are being pushed out, how good long term planning goals are being scrapped.

In communities like Carroll County, Md., politicians have been voted out of office for supporting local plans. In Baldwin County, Ala., all nine members of the planning and zoning commission quit in disgust after the County Commission killed their smart-growth plan “on a pretext so devoid of relevance and merit as, in our opinion, to elicit only ridicule,” they wrote.
Prominent politicians like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have contributed to such outcomes as they denounce the plan that Cruz has claimed would “abolish” golf courses and paved roads.
“It is time to call out Agenda 21conspiracy theories and the people spreading them,” [report author] Beirich said. “There is too much at stake to stand idly by as these baseless fears incapacitate the ability of state and local governments to address actual issues. This is the real danger surrounding Agenda 21.”

The report introduces the players in the conspiracy, many of whom have graced our pages such as Tom DeWeese of the American Policy Center Rosa Koire of Democrats against Agenda 21 and the Post Sustainability Institute and of course, Glenn Beck.

The authors note that the success of this movement is troubling. enormous number of politicians, commentators, activists, conspiracy theorists and others have swallowed the story of the anti-Agenda 21 zealots, making any kind of rational discussion of the environment and related issues extremely difficult. And that is the basic problem. Dealing with the serious problems that confront our nation and our planet becomes incredibly difficult when the public discussion is poisoned with groundless conspiracy theories.