County planning or Agenda 21 conspiracy?

Culver Enlarge photo


During the 2010 gubernatorial race in Colorado, candidate Dan Maes – a Republican and tea party advocate – criticized his opponent, then-Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, for promoting environmental initiatives and bicycling to reduce auto congestion. Such efforts, according to Maes, were “converting Denver into a United Nations community.”

More recently, some La Plata County residents have been caught up in a debate about the actions of the county’s Planning Commission: Were efforts to craft a comprehensive planning document based on sound principles that reflected local goals or was the project a veiled attempt to promote the United Nations Agenda 21, a document most residents hadn’t heard of?

According to critics, Agenda 21 furthers the goal of one-world government managed by the United Nations. Flabbergasted proponents of the plan counter-charged that a small cabal wanted to sabotage efforts to make county planning more inclusive and enlightened.

The one-world government concept coincides with the creation of the United Nations in 1945 after World War II. The United Nations had the lofty goal of, among other things, preventing another devastating global war.

United Nations skeptics saw a conspiracy afoot that would ultimately lead to world government. But, these voices were on the sidelines as supporters sought to make the U.N. more effective in a changing and dangerous world. There was an identifiable enemy in communism during the Cold War and the U.N. was generally on our side. However, in the 1960s, the John Birch Society argued a connection to communism.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s refocused anxiety from communism to the U.N. Critics were dismayed by President George H.W. Bush’s reference to the “New World Order” that could emerge in a post-Cold War era of international cooperation in his September 1990 speech to Congress. Televangelist Pat Robertson wrote The New World Order in 1991, a popular book that cast Wall Street, the Federal Reserve, the Trilateral Commission and Council on Foreign Relations as collectively pushing in the direction of a godless, one-world government.

Some popular television shows of the 1990s depicted the twin themes of the U.N. (with black helicopters poised to land in the states) and federal authoritarianism (FEMA prepared to put dissidents in relocation camps). There was a dramatic increase in private militias to fight the perceived imposition of world government, an effort presumably aided by elected officials.

Enter Agenda 21. The first President Bush signed Agenda 21 at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro.

In brief, this is a plan for sustainable development, a vision for the future for all countries with the goals of reducing poverty, encouraging smart agricultural techniques, cutting environmental pollution, making smarter transportation decisions and developing better education for children around the world. Agenda 21 has never been debated before or adopted by Congress.

To political commentator Glenn Beck and others, Agenda 21 and the notion of sustainable development was a means to centralize “control over all of human life on planet Earth.” However, beyond the humanitarian goals, they see a plan that leads to abolishment of private property, population control, confiscation of firearms and the outlawing of private ownership of cars, among other things.

For others, such as Tariq Banuri, director of the U.N.’s Division of Sustainable Development, Agenda 21 is a nonbinding treaty that simply sets forth an ideal for a better tomorrow for everyone; environmental concerns affect us all, regardless of where we live.

Several key questions arise in the evaluation of the likelihood of a conspiracy: Who is behind it, what evidence is there to support the charge, is there a logical reason to suspect a conspiracy? There is no influential organization today that advocates a one-world government. National identities are strong, sovereignty is a well-ingrained concept recognized by virtually all countries and one would have to seriously stretch the imagination to conceive of the U.N. as capable of managing the world when it cannot bring a semblance of stability to an impoverished country such as Somalia.

The U.N. is an organization where officials move in and out of office. It has no authority to enforce its decisions, no standing military of its own and no ability to raise money from members except by asking for them.

If there is a conspiracy, who is secretly behind a one-world government? The conspirators would have to include presidents from both parties, some of the economic elite, the media, and presumably some high ranking military officials. But why would they espouse a one-world government? How would they gain?

And, it helps to have some conclusive evidence to make a conspiracy ring true, perhaps a series of documents meant only for a select few to read. Agenda 21 is a long document but there’s scarcely a conspiratorial tone to it. Rather, the objectives outlined have been supported by a variety of national and international leaders and all aimed at minimizing future violence.

A number of prominent conservative columnists write for American newspapers. Why aren’t they all over this conspiracy instead of entertainers like Beck and Sean Hannity?

John Culver is a retired professor of political science. He lives in Durango. Reach him at