How a sustainability initiative became fodder for right-wing conspiracy theories.
Did you know that the United Nations is in cahoots with local land-use planners all over the country to rob you and your neighbors of your God-given right to your gun, your land, your water, your food, and your liberty? Did you know that there is a UN document, titled Agenda 21, that sets out the plan and that Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich already has declared that, if he were to become president, he would cut funding for any activity related to that U.N directive? Glenn Beck knows all about it, naturally, and so does the Tea Party.
I watch NBC's Parks and Recreation and I take my dog along a walking path every day. But I knew nothing about Agenda 21 until I read Jonathan Thompson's jaw-dropping piece, "Anatomy of a Conspiracy Theory," in the current edition of High Country News, a publication that focuses upon stories about the West. That was Friday. By Saturday morning, by coincidence, my nascent exposure to the not-so-secret U.N plot was enhanced by The New York Times, which published a story titled "Activists Fight Green Project, Citing U.N Plot."
From the Times' story by Leslie Kaufman and Kate Zernike:
In Maine, the Tea Party-backed Republican governor canceled a project to ease congestion along the Route 1 corridor after protesters complained it was part of the United Nations plot. Similar opposition helped doom a high-speed train line in Florida. And more than a dozen cities, towns, and counties, under new pressure, have cut off financing for a program that offers expertise on how to measure and cut carbon emissions.
There is nothing new about local land use efforts being manipulated or sabotaged by politics -- that's been a part of the American scene since George Washington was a child. There isn't a city or town or county in this country that hasn't been afflicted at one time or another by bickering over zoning and development. What's new here is that the successful arguments being deployed against new, "sustainable" land uses are: 1) detached from the merits of the plans themselves, and 2) beyond the realm of mainstream political thought.