Wednesday, March 21, 2012

[Peninsula-Patriots] FW: Agenda 21-Richmond Times Dispatch-DP re-print...





This was re-printed in the DP on Monday March 18. Elena

DeWitt, Dorothy can you post this on the Pen-Pats list please?


Agenda 21: plot or paranoia?

By: Rex Springston | Times-Dispatch

When the agents of totalitarianism come to crush you, they will do it not with tanks and guns but with electric meters and bike paths.

And your plight, according to that view, will be the work of a United Nations plot for world domination called Agenda 21.

Tea party members and others concerned about Agenda 21 are increasingly popping up at local government meetings to rail against proposals they see as part of the plot.

Among the measures they have tied to Agenda 21: growth plans for Chesterfield and Mathews counties; concerns about rising sea levels along the Middle Peninsula; the Chesapeake Bay cleanup; open-land protections; modern electric meters in homes; and things such as bike paths that are labeled "smart growth" or "sustainable development."

"It is a methodology that has been devised to promote control over resources, the environment and ultimately, people," said Andrew Maggard, a Mathews retiree and avid battler against Agenda 21.

In addition to tea party activists, those opposing Agenda 21 include the John Birch Society, GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich and the Republican National Committee.

Professional planners and others who have looked into Agenda 21 say the alleged plot is a nonsensical conspiracy theory stemming from long-held fears that the U.N. is bent on ruling the planet under a world government.

"The fact that local governments believe in things like smart growth, livable communities and planning for climate change … doesn't mean that local governments are part of a nefarious U.N. plot to take over land-use decisions," said Noah M. Sachs, a University of Richmond law professor and environmental expert.

Agenda 21 — the term means an agenda for the 21st century — is a nonbinding set of U.N. guidelines for protecting the environment, Sachs said. It was ratified in 1992 by more than 170 governments, including the U.S. during the first Bush administration.

"Agenda 21 has been a dead letter for 20 years," Sachs said. "Its recommendations have not been implemented by most governments, and the U.S. has largely ignored it."

Those trying to end Agenda 21 — sometimes called "Agenders" — say the federal government pushes the U.N. plan to the local level. Then local officials impose it, often unwittingly, on citizens through measures such as the protection of open lands — a move some see as forcing people into dense "human settlement zones" where bikes are preferred over cars.

For more than a decade, few people mentioned Agenda 21. But with the rise of tea parties over the past few years, the issue has arisen with a vengeance.

Donna Holt, director of the Virginia Campaign for Liberty, a tea party group, said she and other Agenders helped defeat Chesterfield's proposed comprehensive growth plan.

Language in the plan about land and energy conservation, among other things, represented "a blueprint of what I had read coming out of Agenda 21," Holt said.

Another of the Agenders' concerns is "smart meters" in homes — computerized devices that can be read from remote locations. Smart meters "are, by definition, surveillance devices," says a posting on the website Virginians Against UN Agenda 21.

At Dominion Virginia Power, which is just beginning to test smart meters, customers' privacy is a "top priority," said spokesman David Botkins. "I haven't even heard of Agenda 21."

Virginia's Middle Peninsula is a hotbed of Agenda 21 activism, said Lewis L. Lawrence, acting executive director of the region's planning district commission.

Some people see references to zoning, comprehensive plans, conservation easements, bike paths, sustainability or smart growth and immediately assert that Agenda 21 is the force behind them, Lawrence said.

"It makes it really hard to have meaningful discussions about what you want to do with your community when 95 percent of the professional language is off-limits because of the supposed nexus to Agenda 21."

Lawrence, whose family goes back to the early 1800s in Gloucester, said he has been accused of being "brainwashed" and "a dupe for the U.N."

Agenders couldn't defeat the Mathews comprehensive plan, but they helped remove what they considered some worrisome references like "sustainable development," said Maggard, the retiree.

Concerns about the environment are affecting property rights and imposing "a draconian form of control over the people," Maggard said. "I cite Agenda 21 as the principal method used to achieve that control."

Much of the Agenders' wrath has been directed toward an Oakland, Calif., group with the unwieldy name ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability. A membership group of local governments, it provides advice on issues such as energy conservation.

Agenders say ICLEI is a conduit through which the U.N. plan moves to local governments. Both Don Knapp, a spokesman for the group, and Holt, the tea party activist, say Agenders were instrumental in getting Albemarle County, James City County and Abingdon to cut their ties to ICLEI.

"It takes very little scrutiny to see that (the U.N. plot) is complete fiction and paranoia," Knapp said. "It's based on fear. People seem to just keep piling more and more things onto this conspiracy theory, and it's absurd."

Some Agenders claim Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli as an ally. Cuccinelli said through a spokesman that he was aware of Agenda 21, adding: "I am concerned about anti-free-market land-use policies that do more harm than good."

Tucker Martin, a spokesman for Gov. Bob McDonnell, said, "Our work is done in coordination with federal and local entities, not the United Nations." McDonnell is committed to protecting property rights, Martin added.

In a January resolution, the Republican National Committee criticized the "destructive and insidious nature" of Agenda 21. And Gingrich says in a YouTube video that the United Nations, through Agenda 21, is "seeking to create an extra-constitutional control over us."

Holt, the activist, predicted more battles over Agenda 21. "I don't see it going away." (804) 649-6453

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