Agenda 21 was an innocuous non-binding document produced in 1992 at the Rio UN conference, that promoted sustainable development, including the development 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." It also looked at transportation, promoting "as appropriate, cost-effective, more efficient, less polluting and safer transport systems, particularly integrated rural and urban mass transit."
However, according to some, was in fact a devious plan to take away America's freedoms, to get everyone out of cars and on to bikes, out of houses and into tiny urban apartments. Every bike lane, every speed bump, every streetcar was an example of Agenda 21 at work. A Massachusetts state representative interpreted Agenda 21 to mean something far more dire:
Two years ago I wrote that the Agenda 21 conspiracy is poisoning public discussion about sustainability
Private property must be abolished in order to build "stackable communities," where people are required to live on top of one another in mixed-use zones, within walking distance from schools and work, thereby eliminating the need for transportation other than bicycles, buses and light rail. This vision also requires that land in rural areas no longer be allowed to become buildable and be given back to its "intended wilderness."
Now Agenda 21 is dead, replaced by Agenda 2030. The human face of Agenda 21 who the theorists said was behind it all, Maurice Strong, died last month. But the AgEnders, the conspiracy theorists, still live and are still having a big impact. According to Alan Ehrenhalt of Governing, In the ideological war over urban planning, anti-transit conservatives are gaining funding and allies.
That debate has more or less quieted down. But the opponents of Agenda 21 haven’t gone away; they have merely spread out, into the politics of cities and counties planning for the future. They aren’t winning everywhere, but they have acquired access to funding and a collection of allies that makes it wise to pay attention to them. In many cases, they are avoiding some of their most incendiary rhetoric of a few years ago -- they are “shape-shifting,” in the words of Karen Trapenberg Frick, a scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, who has studied the movement. The campaign has become subtler in its approach. But it is making its presence felt almost everywhere public arguments are taking place over urban design and public transportation.
Ehrenhalt gives a couple of examples of the AgEnder's impact, notably in Atlanta, where a tax increase to pay for transit was rejected in 2012. But most notably, the AgEnders, with support from Americans for Prosperity, have killed a transit project in Nashville that was supported by the Mayor, the administration and the business community, with funding from the federal government.
Then Americans for Prosperity, recognizing that it couldn’t stop the streetcar at the city level, began working the state capitol. Tennessee’s Republican-controlled legislature had already passed a resolution denouncing Agenda 21 as “a comprehensive plan of extreme environmentalism, social engineering and global political control.” Persuading the same lawmakers that the Nashville streetcar was part of the global urbanist cabal didn’t prove very difficult. Both the Senate and House passed bills giving the legislature control over adoption of the system. That effectively made the Nashville project impossible to execute. The city had to tell the Obama administration that it wouldn’t be taking the money.
The Agenda 21 name may not always come up but the thesis is the same: Bike lanes, high density housing, transit, and yes, as is currently in the news, pushing everybody off federal land and turning it all into bird sanctuaries- all part of the plot to eliminate rural and suburban living. As Iowa senator Joni Ersnt noted before she was elected: "what I’ve seen, the implications that it has here is moving people off of their agricultural land and consolidating them into city sectors and then telling them, ‘You don’t have property rights anymore".
You don't have transit, either.