Agenda 21 Conspiracy Theory: Completely Absurd, Frighteningly Effective

When it comes to Agenda 21, you’ve got to at least give the the far-right credit for effective messaging.

A recent cover from Glenn Beck's magazine, The Blaze. Photo: Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

The Agenda 21 conspiracy theory was popularized by the great fearmonger and overpriced gold-salesman Glenn Beck. Inventing this scourge to American freedom really took some imagination — turning an obscure, decades-old UN environmental resolution into a global Green Menace, mobilizing Tea Party members to pack public meetings in Maine, Virginia, Tennessee, and elsewhere.

Richard Layman at Network blog Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space says that proponents of government-enforced sprawl and subsidized fossil-fuel consumption are remarkably organized around this issue, and they’re beating the Agenda 21 drum in almost every place across the country that’s getting serious about a more livable future:

Last week, someone sent a link from the Biloxi (MS) Sun-Herald to an e-list I’m on, a screed letter to the editor about how the Congress for the New Urbanism, which did a lot of charrette work in Biloxi after it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, is basically a plot to destroy individualism and the good life as we know it.

You can call it anti-CNU, it’s really just another shade of anti-planning or at least anti-anti-sprawl planning, therefore pro-automobile, pro-separated uses, pro tract housing, etc.

The anti-planning contingent doesn’t go off message either. If there is High Speed Rail activity, they organize and write against it.  If there are comprehensive planning initiatives, they organize against them, including op-eds and the specter of Agenda 21 (hundreds of news article hits on current anti-planning conservative organizing come up when you enter this in Google, or this blog entry from a “disgruntled Republican in Nashville” who calls traffic calming another example of Agenda 21).

This comes up locally, as the Washington Post reports in “Loudoun residents receive calls opposing Metro’s Silver Line,” that the Koch brothers funded rightwing group Americans for Prosperity, described by the Post as “advocates for lower taxes and smaller government,” has paid for anti-Silver Line robocalls to households in Loudoun County. From the article: “Loudoun cannot afford this bail-out to rail-station developers,’’ according to the script. “If the Loudoun County board opts out, the rail will still be built to Dulles Airport, and commuters will still be within five miles of Metro. Come tell the board of supervisors to opt out and save taxpayers billions of dollars.”

Also of note: The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit group that tracks hate groups and domestic terrorists, has been tracking the Agenda 21 movement, noting its ties to extremist groups.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington explains why legislation that will allow second, ancillary buildings in places zoned for single-family housing is meeting opposition. The Greater Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition announces that the City of Brotherly Love is considering complete streets legislation. And Streets.mn shares a study that attempts to measure the value of accessibility to destinations.