News Treehugger Voices Agenda 21: The United Nations Threat to Control Our Lightbulbs, Our Lifestyles and Our Lives By Lloyd Alter Design Editor University of Toronto Lloyd Alter is Design Editor for Treehugger and teaches Sustainable Design at Ryerson University in Toronto. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Lloyd Alter Published August 05, 2011 Updated October 11, 2018 10:31AM EDT Wysiati / Getty Images Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices I disagreed with TreeHugger Brian the other day, about what is driving the Tea Party madness in Washington. He said money; I said ideology. Here's why. In my spare time, I am active in the Heritage Preservation movement; I think old buildings and communities are more than relics from the past, they are templates for the future. For the last year I have been trying to determine the cause of a remarkable rise in the belief that property rights are sacrosanct, even in Canada where they were consipicuously left out of the constitution and have not ever really existed. Where heritage preservation used to be derided by many as conservative and reactionary, a bunch of old whiners trying to stop change, now it is suddenly socialist. The more I read, the more I kept coming up against a new term: Agenda 21. And it underpins the ideological opposition to everything from streetcars to planning to lightbulbs to climate change. The actual Agenda 21 document from the United Nations started goes back to Rio in1992 and is pretty innocuous, given that nobody really pays much attention to these things, and they are not exactly the law of the land. It includes goals such as: Reduce adverse effects on the atmosphere from the energy sector by promoting policies or programmes, as appropriate, to increase the contribution of environmentally sound and cost-effective energy systems, particularly new and renewable ones, through less polluting and more efficient energy production, transmission, distribution and use. Develop and promote, as appropriate, cost-effective, more efficient, less polluting and safer transport systems, particularly integrated rural and urban mass transit, as well as environmentally sound road networks, taking into account the needs for sustainable social, economic and development priorities, particularly in developing countries. But as Tim Murphy of Mother Jones recently posted in First They Came for the Lightbulbs, in the mind of a Michele Bachmann it becomes the intellectual basis for her war on lightbulb legislation. Interview with Tom DeWeese at CPAC 2011 on Vimeo. One of the main mouthpieces of the Agenda 21 conspiracy is Tom DeWeese, President of the American Policy Center. In fact I think he is the American Policy Center. He explains Agenda 21 in One Easy Lesson, concentrating on Sustainable Development, and writes about how it is a growing movement: Awareness of Agenda 21 and Sustainable Development is racing across the nation as citizens in community after community are learning what their city planners are actually up to. He then proceeds to explain how just about everything this TreeHugger believes in is part of a plot. What is Sustainable Development? According to its authors, the objective of sustainable development is to integrate economic, social and environmental policies in order to achieve reduced consumption, social equity, and the preservation and restoration of biodiversity. Sustainablists insist that every societal decision be based on environmental impact, focusing on three components; global land use, global education, and global population control and reduction. Social Equity (Social injustice) Social justice is described as the right and opportunity of all people "to benefit equally from the resources afforded us by society and the environment." Redistribution of wealth. Private property is a social injustice since not everyone can build wealth from it. National sovereignty is a social injustice. All part of Agenda 21 policy. In fact, it seems that just about everything we write about on TreeHugger is an Agenda 21 plot. Local Sustainable Development policies Smart Growth, Wildlands Project, Resilient Cities, Regional Visioning Projects, STAR Sustainable Communities, Green jobs, Green Building Codes, "Going Green," Alternative Energy, Local Visioning, facilitators, regional planning, historic preservation, conservation easements, development rights, sustainable farming, comprehensive planning, growth management. Well that certainly defines my agenda, the stuff I care about. Anything "green" or energy saving is evil, part of the agenda of control. Another writer attacks what I would call responsible planning, urban design and energy use: 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. And why do people like me go on about the suburbs and the role of the automobile in our society? I have to repeat the whole very long paragraph. This may sound like an overreach, but consider that Agenda 21 defines what we Americans know as the "single family residence" - which is to say, the middle class suburb with tract homes, soccer moms driving mini-vans, and consumption of energy restricted only by the wallets of the homeowners themselves - as most definitely "unsustainable." It defines our "fixation" with the automobile - and hence the mobile freedom that comes along with it - as a "danger" to the Earth, due to the fact that they emit carbon and require the use of long stretches of asphalt roads and concrete highways. It defines our American standard of energy use - even though, on the whole, we recycle exponentially more than we did only a few decades ago - as similarly "unsustainable." Essentially, Agenda 21 envisions local communities all across our nation adopting "comprehensive community plans" that have as their real, though unstated, purpose the elimination of the very middle class quality of life, that has been the bedrock of our national independence and personal freedoms. In place of the suburb, it wants Soviet-style high density housing; changes in zoning laws that increasingly make it impossible to maintain single family residences (let alone build new ones); mandated use of public transportation (thus positioning the high density housing near railroad or bus depots and excluding from those "human residential zones" most roadways and parking installations); and severe limitations on private food, water, and energy consumption, in return for enormously high taxes that will fund "cradle to grave" care by the nanny government. Or, as one website summarized it, It all means locking away land, resources, higher prices, sacrifice and shortages and is based on the age old socialist scheme of redistribution of wealth. From an ideologue's point of view, Agenda 21 is a beautiful thing, the Theory of Everything. It ties it all together into one neat package, making climate change, light bulbs, transit, smart growth, fuel economy, everything a plot. I became concerned about it because it makes our work as historic preservationists more difficult, since we are now seen as socialist elitists trying take away property rights and stop economic growth, distributing the pleasure of admiring an old building among the many in the face of the right of the owner to do what he wants. But it is much more than my historic preservation or Michele's light bulbs. It is a spreading conspiracy theory that is becoming the underlying ideology of the crazy right and that has serious legs. It is no joke.