Sit back, take a deep breath and repeat after me: Agenda 21 will not eliminate golf courses or paved roads (let it be known that presidential hopeful Ted Cruz was responsible for this hysteria); it will not create a tyrannical government or threaten our sovereignty nor do anything else remotely similar to these things. What it does do is provide a set of guidelines for local communities to follow when implementing their development plans. For far too long there has been a campaign of misinformation, half-truths, distortions and outright lies perpetrated upon any plan set forth by the United Nations. The time has come to set the record straight. This must end here and now! I plan to counter these inaccuracies today. What is Agenda 21? Agenda 21 was adopted in 1992 at the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. President George H.W. Bush and 178 nations signed this document giving it life. Critics can rest easy because this document is non-binding, has no force of law or any enforcement mechanisms, imposes no penalties and receives no funding of note. What did happen at this conference was the emergence of sustainable development as a concept. Sustainable development actually had its origins in 1987 through the work of the Bruntland Commission, named after Gro Harlem Bruntland, former Norwegian prime minister. It is defined as: "development which meets the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". The preamble to Agenda 21 states: “Humanity stands at a defining moment in history. The world is confronted with worsening poverty, hunger, ill health, illiteracy, and the continuing deterioration of ecosystems on which we depend for our well-being. The disparities between rich and poor continue. The only way to assure ourselves of a safer, more prosperous future is to deal with environment and development issues together in a balanced manner.” Why is this plan important? Agenda 21 indicates there are three factors contributing to the changes we see in our environment: consumption, population growth and technology. It lays out steps communities can take to reduce inefficient consumption patterns and to develop in a more sustainable manner. The operative word here is balance: balancing our ability to grow sustainably while preserving our finite resources. This is why this plan is so important. It seeks to assist these communities, not hinder them as critics would have one believe. In addition, it is worth noting that many municipalities and cities across the world have mentioned that Agenda 21 has benefitted them greatly when conducting their urban planning. One of the criticisms is that the U.N. is bypassing governments to use the International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) in order to implement Agenda 21. This is another falsehood. ICLEI has no U.N. affiliation, and U.S. cities and towns’ participation in ICLEI is not coupled with any U.N. mandate. Southern Poverty Law Center Takes on the Critics The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Montgomery, Alabama, issued a report last April titled, “Agenda 21: The UN, Sustainability and Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory” which sought to counter the hyperbole spewed forth by the fringe elements of our society. The conspiracy theorists, led by The John Birch Society (Appleton, Wisconsin) and its compatriots, believe Agenda 21 is “the most dangerous threat to America’s sovereignty;” “…will make our nation a vassal of the UN” leading to “the destruction of lives, force rural areas’ population [to be] decimated,” and ultimately we will witness “90% of the population murdered.” Yes, this is the type of madness circulated by such groups; what is really amazing is people actually believe it! States Follow Conspiracy Theorists’ Lead A number of states have bought into the myths being espoused by many of the anti-U.N./anti-Agenda 21 organizations around the country. The State of Alabama, for one, has gone so far as passing a law which does not allow for any implementation of Agenda 21. States including Kansas, New Hampshire, Arizona, Tennessee, Missouri and Oklahoma are all onboard as being opposed to the Agenda 21 plan. Maine has legislation before its legislature seeking to ban Agenda 21. These are all overreactions by states who are simply following the lead of their constituents; yes, (surprise!) they are playing political football with a plan that seeks to assist local communities and states with matters pertaining to sustainable development, not hurt them.
What’s next? Where do we go from here? The time has come to set aside all of the fear-mongering from groups whose obvious “agenda” is to disrupt and distort anything worthwhile set forth by the U.N., including Agenda 21. It actually is a good time to sit back, take a deep breath and allow reasonably-minded individuals to make informed decisions with regard to the key points of Agenda 21. To date, all we have heard is a lot of rhetoric that serves no one well and it does all of us quite a disservice.