Hassinger: The awful, terrible, compelling thing about conspiracy theories is that the good ones always have a grain of truth in them -and so it is with Agenda 21. It is, in fact a real program created in the late 1980s and eventually formally adopted in 1992 by the United Nations, to promote some happy-hippy horsecrap about the need for “sustainable” development all over the world. (Why the United Nations, an organization chartered to “maintain international peace and security,” needs to concern itself with building practices in Decatur, Georgia is beyond me, but there it is.) But those who fear the insidious implementation of Agenda 21 threatens their property rights or their representative governments or the sacred tradition of American suburbs (dating back to 1947) really don’t have anything to fear. The UN never succeeds at anything! Ask the people of Rwanda about the Spring and Summer of 1994 if you don’t believe me. While bureaucrats at the UN were prattling on about using “sustainable development” to address “worsening of poverty, hunger, ill health and illiteracy, and the continuing deterioration of the ecosystems on which we depend for our well-being,” 800,000 or so Rwandans died because the UN was afraid to call genocide by its name.
But just because Agenda 21 is a bureaucratic circle-jerk propagated by the professional circle-jerkers at the UN, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. It just means it’s not happening quickly. “Sustainable development” has been around quite awhile -some say the term is actually derived from “sustained yield” -a goal for lumbermen since the middle ages- the idea that you take what you need and make sure you leave enough for future generations. Sounds pretty banal -unless you want something that’s not “sustainable,” like a third story on your house, or to clear-cut your back yard to put in a putting green. Then, you’re having to explain yourself to a County administrator, who’s got a degree in Urban Planning, and was taught by a professor who helped develop the sustainability standards at the UN Global conference in 2005. Those standards become requirements, the requirements become regulations and the regulations become laws. That’s how bureaucracy works -not like a flood, but a constant drip, drip, drip.
Turkheimer: Agenda 21 is a completely non-binding international framework for sustainability passed in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit. The framework, which sets out very loose aspirational goals for making communities more efficient and less carbon-intensive, was signed by then President George H.W. Bush and later upheld by Presidents Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush.
Since the framework was adopted, right-wing conspiracy theorists have pushed bizarre theories about Agenda 21 being a central tool for the United Nations to create a one-world government and take away the rights of local property owners. In recent years, elevated by the megaphone of extreme pundits like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, these conspiracies made their way into mainstream politics. Today, Agenda 21ers — many affiliated with the Tea Party and the John Birch Society — are peddling fears about Agenda 21 in order to stop basic efficiency and renewable energy programs on the state level.
The problem with conspiracy theories is that combined with slippery slope arguments, they make any attempts at compromise impossible. They make even discussion of sustainability, or honest debate about global warming, or the proper width of a sidewalk, all about communal farming and redistributing your patio to a Malaysian family. But you could have the discussion if it were just the slippery slope idea you were up against, but it isn’t. It’s the C-O-N-spiracy, which means that no argument that has any point even approximating a subject or position that is in Agenda 21 have any merit, because it’s all a jedi mind trick by people who went to Ivy League schools and who hate your half acre lot and your SUV and everything you are about. Because if people believe the other side’s arguments aren’t positions but just part of an immense plot, they become the enemy, not fellow citizens, and the become tools of an Agenda, rather than people. Because people you have to listen to, have to take what they think seriously. People whose opinions are just created by something else – a machine – are not.
George Bush’s ideas have no merit! Why? Because his cronies rigged voting machines to elect him. And if you believe that, then no argument in favor of Bush administration policy is effective because it is just a neo-con(spiracy).
“9/11 was an inside job!” Try telling those people otherwise.
The “Birther” movement didn’t end with the birth certificate, because conspiracy theories are unassailable by logic, reason, or evidence. So they have no room for the very basic ideas of what a Republic is: discussion among those who disagree to come to a mutually agreed upon solution.
Agenda 21 is sweet because it provides a Unified Theory of Extremism. It is an attack on private property by a supra-national group, the UN. It picks up on a long line of scary non-entities, (the Tri-Lateral Commission, the Bavarian Illuminati, NKOTB etc) to convince enough people that intellectual city dwellers and their ilk are out to steal their lawn, drip by drip, and no amount of reason, evidence, and logic can convince them otherwise. So, in 1992, some people got together and suggested it might be a good idea to encourage sustainable growth, efficient use of resources, and to try and preserve some forests, and that one drip, followed by nothing else, is the evidence that a flood is imminent?