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Agenda 21 is right now an important issue that is being passionately debated in many state legislatures around the country, but it's mostly been ignored by our national leaders and the press. It is being ignored because it is an insane conspiracy theory. According to the United Nations,  Agenda 21 refers to a "comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations System, Governments, and Major Groups in every area in which human impacts on the environment." It came about from the signing of a non-binding resolution in 1992 called "Rio Declaration on Environment and Development." It makes your standard calls for sustainable growth -- energy conservation and all that. "Principle 1: Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature." 

But to some conservatives, all that do-gooder speak is actually just a cover for something much more sinister: the creation of a new one world government. As this pamphlet puts it [PDF], "Sustainable Development documents call for the abolishment of private property and the freedom that private property supports. If individual members of our society do nothing, the continuing loss of liberty will result in increasing social confusion and discord, rising resource shortages, financial decay and a dimming future for us and our posterity.The looming battle of ideas should be recognized as a classic – and perhaps ultimate – battle between Liberty and Tyranny."

If you follow the Agenda 21 conspiracy (which can also be known as "Sustainable Development"), 20 years ago, these guys got together in Rio and put into motion a nefarious plot to enact centralized rule across the planet, quashing individual liberty, and outlawing self-rule. If it doesn't sound terrifying, it does at least sound complicated. And that's where this bizarre conspiracy theory gets truly bizarre. See, this confederacy of ruthless world leaders are not taking over the world by internationalizing finance or communications. No, you have to look much, much closer to home. See, the path to tyranny appears to run through banal local legislation. Here are just a few of examples of Agenda 21 that freedom lovers are fighting.

  • In Georgia, some state lawmakers see Agenda 21 in a 1-cent state sales tax to fund build a new highway and bike lanes in metro Atlanta. "That's Agenda 21 101," said former Cobb County commission chairman Bill Bryne in an interview with Atlantic Journal-Constitution writer Jim Galloway. How can he tell? Well, take a closer look at those bike lanes. "Bicycles and pedestrian traffic as an alternative form of transportation to the automobile. That’s Agenda 21."
  • In North Carolina, congressional candidates want to defund a planning commission in the western part of the state because of its alleged ties to sustainability. The mayor of Charlotte, who's running for governor, tweeted his support for a resolution against Agenda 21 earlier this month, despite promoting "smart growth" in 2004. The Local Food Advisory Council has the word "sustainable" in its mission, and this week a Republican congressman is trying to have it removed so it won't "lull the public into complacency." 
  • The Alabama state legislature unanimously passed a bill last month forbidding any policy "originating in or traceable to Agenda 21."  
  • In May, a reader of the Montain Democrat noticed Agenda 21 at work in the construction of a roundabout in Placerville. Roundabouts are also suspected of being the products of a sustainability agenda in El Dorado County, California.

  • Last week in Tennessee, residents of Sevier County accused a group called Our Smokies, Our Future, which appears to be an activist group for standard liberal stuff like better water quality and more affordable housing, of being an agent of Agenda 21.
  • In Arizona in April, Republican legislators sponsored a bill that would spike any environmental initiative funded by the government, like a $25 million project to increase energy efficiency in Phoenix.
  • A sharp-eyed reader of the Napa Valley Register noticed the hand of Agenda 21 in a Napa Valley city council plan to build several thousand housing units along Soscal Gateway June 9. "For those who think that their city council and Napa County supervisors control Napa’s manifest destiny, think again," wrote Mark Gasster. "The extremely high-density housing required by ABAG is the direct result of the United Nations Agenda 21."

  • The Times-Standard, a northern California newspaper, printed an op-ed alleging that the County General Plan was based on Agenda 21, and planners of using a mind-control technique to dupe the masses. Quoting a book called Behind the Green Mask: U.N. Agenda 21, the op-ed says:

"Developed by the Rand Corporation as a Cold War mind control technique, (the Delphi technique) is used to channel a group of people to accept a point of view that is imposed on them while convincing them that it was their idea. In the 1970s and '80s, it was used to convince land owners of the merits of accepting General Plan maps... This is most often done in public meetings, called 'visioning meetings,' put on by your city or county to get your opinion on Your Town 2020 or 2035... The meetings are advertised as an opportunity for you to give your input to an exciting new plan for the redesign of your city center for the future... Delphi is used in... places where the organizers want to give the appearance that they have listened to community opinion and incorporated it into their plan."

To understand how insane the Agenda 21 conspiracy theory is, you have to look at the company it keeps. Here is a video about how fluoridated water and aspartame -- the sweetener in Diet Coke -- are part of a global conspiracy to wipe more than 5 billion people off the face of the planet.

And yet, despite being far deeper in tin-foil-hat territory that birther conspiracy theories, plenty of respectable Republican officials have embraced it. Iowa Gov. Terry Brandstad came out against Agenda 21. Newt Gingrich repeatedly talked about it during the Republican presidential primary, saying in a debate, "I would explicitly repudiate what Obama has done on Agenda 21 as the kind of interference from the United Nations." (Gingrich was also accused of backing Agenda 21.) The Republican National Committee condemned it. And it's actually affecting public policy. At the Washington Monthly, Ed Kilgore explains that the one-cent sales tax in Georgia was pushed by the Republican governor and many state Republican leaders as a way to deal with Atlanta's horrible traffic. Metro Atlanta stretches across 10 counties, so it would make sense for them to coordinate to reduce traffic jams. But lawmakers put the tax on the ballot, instead of passing a bill, and now there's a good chance it will fail, as so many local candidates are campaigning against One World Government. Because if you fear your local government being replaced by an international cabal of European bureaucrats, the first thing you should probably do is take it out on your local government.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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