Ever hear of Agenda 21?
It’s likely you haven’t, unless you’re the type to look for conspiracies behind every grassy knoll or you listen to conservative radio, internet or TV or you attended a recent meeting of the Mesquite Tea Party (MTP).
Rick Crain, MTP chairman, held a meeting June 11 at the Highland Estates Hotel at which he showed a video featuring Dr. Michael Coffman, an out-spoken advocate for private property rights, a global warming critic and opponent of Agenda 21.
This was the day before the primary election and candidate Barbara Cegavske was there. She was running for the GOP nomination to represent the Republican Party in the District 4 race this November. But Danny Tarkanian edged her out on June 12, so her trip to Mesquite didn’t help her poll numbers enough.
Assemblyman Crescent Hardy (R-District 20) also was there.
But Cegavske and Hardy were there to promote their own agendas and not oppose Agenda 21, although they might. I wasn’t there so I couldn’t ask their opinions.
But my reporter David Vogel was there. I needed to cover the city council that day so I asked Vogel if he could attend.
He asked what it’s all about. I didn’t want to tell him. I thought it would be more enlightening for him to discover himself.
You see Agenda 21 is one of those things that gets as lot of people pretty worked up.
It’s sort of the ugly half-sister of the climate-change debate, which many people think is ugly enough on its own.
Although both climate change and Agenda 21 have their beginnings in the minds of concerned scientists and environmentalists, they found fertile soil to grow at the United Nations in the late 1980s.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, (that’s the panel advising nations about the effects, causes and possible remedies for a warming climate) came into being in 1988, established by two United Nations organizations, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
But UNEP’s concern for Planet Earth goes well beyond a degree or two rise in average temperature. UNEP also is concerned about more direct problems: pollution, over-population, poverty, war and the earth’s overall environmental degradation.
The year following the creation of the IPCC, the United Nations General Assembly called for a global meeting to seek strategies to halt and reverse the effects of degradation of the worldwide environment.
The resulting three-year effort gave rise to a word that has become somewhat of a battle cry among the world’s militant environmentalists: “sustainability.” And that’s what Agenda 21 is all about -- the agenda humans must follow in the 21st Century to sustain the earth’s ecosystems.
According to a press summary issued by the United Nations in August 1992, Agenda 21 is, “a comprehensive programme of action to be implemented from now and into the twenty-first century by Governments, development agencies, United Nations organizations and independent sector groups in every area where human (economic) activity affects the environment.”
Agenda 21 claims that humankind has reached a defining point in its history. Up to now, according to the document, our governmental policies have caused the earth’s ecosystem to deteriorate because of the poverty, hunger, sickness and worldwide illiteracy they have created.
But it’s possible to change course, the document’s authors say: “We can improve the living standards of those who are in need. We can better manage and protect the ecosystem and bring about a more prosperous future for us all.”
"No nation can achieve this on its own," Maurice Strong, Secretary-General of the 1992 Conference, says in the Agenda 21 preamble. "(But) together we can in a global partnership for sustainable development."
Of course the devil always hangs out in those details, and promoters of Agenda 21 have had a devil of a time selling their view of a world united together in peace, with no poverty, no over-population, with all future development geared not to damage the environment in any way – a world where nationalism no longer gets in the way of people understanding we’re fellow travelers on this single rock floating in space.
You can see the problems lurking in that hopeful view. How do you make such sweeping changes in the world without depriving countries and people of their individual rights? How do you fairly distribute the wealth?
That was the concern discussed at the Mesquite Tea Party and in Coffman’s video. Vogel didn’t hear any explanation about Agenda 21 from the perspective of its supporters, but there’re reams of material on the Internet.
Vogel reported that Coffman said he believes that there exists a conspiracy in our society to erode those institutions that support the status quo, such as the family and the concept of private property.
Consumerism and most of what we call the modern lifestyle is not sustainable, according to the Agenda 21 concept, and must be changed or abolished.
Coffman’s not alone in his concerns, real or not. Internet TV personality Glen Beck has preached against Agenda 21 the past few yeas, saying the terms “sustainable development” or “smart growth” actually are code words for centralized control over all human beings on the planet.
The John Birch Society, never one to miss a left-leaning conspiracy, has written a resolution supported by the Republican National Committee (RNC) opposing Agenda 21, calling it "a comprehensive plan of extreme environmentalism, social engineering and global political control."
Coffman told his video audience that too much power has slipped from the control of the states to the federal government, allowing it to incorporate aspects of Agenda 21 into national policy and override state and individual rights.
Its tentacles reach down to the local level with “smart growth.” Called government-sponsored social engineering, it’s being used for subsidized development in some small communities, although there doesn’t seem to be much indication of it here. And there’s little finding available for it since the 2008 crash. But the subsidies could return with an economic recovery.
“Smart growth,” according to Coffman, seeks establish high-density housing within high-income areas. Structures may be retail on the ground floor and have residential use on the upper floors. It’s purpose, according to Coffman, is to dilute the conservative voting patterns in upper-income areas, with lower-income households dependent upon government subsidies.
Other concerns about Agenda 21 policies include that farmers would also lose their rights to subdivide their land.
People are to be contained in these high-density population centers and not allowed to set a foot in wild areas. Greenbelt areas are to be established around these residential districts and no growth allowed in them.
Highways and privately owned automobiles are to be phased out and replaced by public transportation.
Agenda 21 also calls for population control as a means to stave off poverty, famine, disease and over-crowding.
The program promises a better world, much like that in many science-fiction fantasies. But to do that, all governments from the national to the state and provincial on down to the counties, cities and towns must sign up for the Agenda 21 principals.
There’s far more to Agenda 21 and the arguments of its opponents; more than I’ll go into. If you’re interested, you might resort to an Internet search engine with key words like: “Agenda 21,” “Sustainable Development”, “Smart Growth” or “Dr. Michael Coffman.”
Or you might just wait a while. The concerns about Agenda 21 – deserved or not -- are growing. Tea party organizations nationwide, not just in Mesquite, are actively opposing any local efforts to adopt any statutes, ordinances or zoning changes that have even the slightest resemblance to Agenda 21 recommendations.
And since a fundamental part of Agenda 21 would be for worldwide regulations to take precedence over the U.S. Constitution and its protections for our individual rights, we should maybe forgive the Tea Party for getting a bit shrill at times.