Agenda 21 is the non-binding 20 year old UN resolution promoting sustainable development. In the New York Times, Leslie Kaufman describes the platform language that was approved at the Republican Convention (previously covered in TreeHugger here):
This gives more exposure to the conspiracy theory that is used to stop everything from community planning to bike lanes. Kaufman writes:
“We strongly reject the U.N. Agenda 21 as erosive of American sovereignty, and we oppose any form of U.N. Global Tax.”
Most of those pushing the Agenda 21 theory have been largely on the margins of their own party. But the inclusion of language for Agenda 21 in the Republican Party platform could mark a turning point, said Tom Madrecki, a spokesman for Smart Growth America, an advocacy group that works to limit sprawl.
“Though the actual language of the platform does not say anything besides ‘we oppose Agenda 21,’ the fact that it’s in the platform gives credence to something that just shouldn’t get any,” he said.
He said he’s concerned that formalizing opposition to Agenda 21 will bring more disruption and will “continue halting beneficial conversations about community planning.”
More in the New York Times
In the Atlantic Cities, Llewellyn Hinkes-Jones writes a wonderful backgrounder on the roots of the Agenda 21 conspiracy theory, pinning it on the development industry.
In the case of the UN’s Agenda 21 and the anti-smart growth fervor it has spawned, the attention is largely coming from development and construction companies. Their ire is aimed more specifically against septic tank regulations, wetlands protections, and any other restrictions on new construction in rural areas…..
It’s only recently that the focus of the country's anti-environmentalism movement has turned to urban planning. It may seem absurd, but as long as these types of strategies help to protect oil, gas, coal, logging, mining, ranchers, land developers, and other natural resource industry groups from government restrictions and fines, then we'll continue to hear about the threats to private property ownership that this "global socialist conspiracy" represents.
Surprisingly, the local paper for the city hosting the Republican convention, the Tampa Bay Times, ran an interesting article by Peter Jamison, relevantly illustrated with JLo in a bathing suit.
Over the past 18 months, the idea that environmentally friendly building projects are the work of a hidden hand has found an enthusiastic audience among tea party activists suspicious of government regulation. They now frequently sponsor events to educate one another on what they regard as the dangers of local smart-growth projects….
Agenda 21 has become a talking point among tea party supporters speaking out against all manner of environmental initiatives— public transportation, carbon-reduction plans, wildlife protections — before state and local government agencies. Republican Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe is frustrated by what he sees as their obstructionist tendencies.
"They're trying to suggest that any attempt by a community to plan for its future is somehow un-American," he said. "It's just absolutely ridiculous."
On the pro-agender side, Alex Newman looks at all the articles about Agenda 21 and tries to put a good face on them. He notes that Jamison is wrong calling it a conspiracy theory:
Jamison’s report repeatedly referred to fears about Agenda 21 as a “conspiracy theory” despite the fact that the documents are posted on the UN’s website; therefore Agenda 21 is neither a conspiracy (secret by definition) nor a theory.
…which kind of misses the point. He also can't understand why everyone laughs at the Agender's panic about bike lanes, and goes on at least twice about the fact that "it's not about the bike lanes."
To understand the scope of such an agenda, consider that the UN considers carbon dioxide — a gas exhaled by human beings and required by plants — to be a “pollutant” in need of regulation. As the GOP resolution noted, the global body has also repeatedly referred to national sovereignty and private land ownership as social injustices. And that is why activists are up in arms — it has nothing to do with bike lanes.
I should point out that Agender activist Rosa Koire says that it is all about the bike lanes.
Bikes. What does that have to do with it? I like to ride my bike and so do you. So what? Bicycle advocacy groups are very powerful now. Advocacy. A fancy word for lobbying, influencing, and maybe strong-arming the public and politicians. What's the conection with bike groups? National groups … have training programs teaching their members how to pressure for redevelopment, and training candidates for office. It's not just about bike lanes, it's about remaking cities and rural areas to the 'sustainable model'. High density urban development without parking for cars is the goal. This means that whole towns need to be demolished and rebuilt in the image of sustainable development. Bike groups are being used as the 'shock troops' for this plan.
Be careful, the shock troops of Agenda 21 come in many guises.