Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics

Fears of Agenda 21 go mainstream in the Republican Party platform

Published Aug. 30, 2012

TAMPA — In a nation fond of its conspiracy theories, the belief that an international cabal is plotting to take over the United States by building bicycle paths manages to stand out.

That's the fear of dedicated activists who assert that proponents of green development projects are secretly colluding with the United Nations to create a tyrannical worldwide government, using as their blueprint a 1992 U.N. environmental accord called Agenda 21.

As outlandish as it might sound, the theory has led some groups to openly denounce Agenda 21 as a threat to American freedoms.

Among those groups: the Republican Party.

Fears about the nefarious nature of sustainable development officially reached the mainstream of American politics this week with the release of the 2012 Republican Party platform. "We strongly reject the U.N. Agenda 21 as erosive of American sovereignty," the 54-page platform states in a section on U.S. involvement in international treaties.

It's an inconspicuous line, but one indicative of the rightward drift of GOP ideology. Concerns about Agenda 21 were once exclusively the province of conspiracy-minded groups such as the John Birch Society, an organization perhaps best known for its founder's assertion that President Dwight Eisenhower was a "conscious, dedicated agent of the communist conspiracy."

Over the past 18 months, the idea that environmentally friendly building projects are the work of a hidden hand has found an enthusiastic audience among tea party activists suspicious of government regulation. They now frequently sponsor events to educate one another on what they regard as the dangers of local smart-growth projects.

"The tea party groups are very much involved in this. They're hosting a lot of speeches," said Larry Greenley, director of missions for the John Birch Society. "They see it as a threat to their way of life, and they choose to work on it."

U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz, a tea party-favored Republican from Texas, has agitated against Agenda 21, stating on his campaign website that it seeks to "abolish … golf courses, grazing pastures and paved roads."

In January, the Republican National Committee approved a resolution calling for a formal stance against Agenda 21 in the 2012 GOP platform and denouncing the U.N. accord as "a comprehensive plan of extreme environmentalism, social engineering, and global political control" that is being "covertly pushed into local communities."

Others have a hard time seeing what the fuss is about. Adopted by 178 governments — including the administration of Republican President George H.W. Bush — Agenda 21 lays out principles to encourage "continuous and constructive dialogue" among world leaders on such topics as climate change, low-impact development and renewable energy resources. It's nonbinding, so even the countries that got on board in 1992 are free to ignore it.

Suspicion about Agenda 21 is "a complete and utter absurdity," said Mark Potok, who tracks antigovernment groups and ideology for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

"There are people who believe that there is a secret weather machine underneath the city of Brussels that is being used as we speak to ruin the lives of American farmers. To me, fears about Agenda 21 are not much different," Potok said.

Agenda 21 has become a talking point among tea party supporters speaking out against all manner of environmental initiatives— public transportation, carbon-reduction plans, wildlife protections — before state and local government agencies. Republican Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe is frustrated by what he sees as their obstructionist tendencies.

"They're trying to suggest that any attempt by a community to plan for its future is somehow un-American," he said. "It's just absolutely ridiculous."

Sharpe added wryly, "If there's any attempt by the U.N. to impose its will on our community, we'll do our level best to fight it."

Sharpe said he is not overly concerned about the nod to anti-Agenda 21 activism in the platform, since it is unlikely to affect local development decisions. "You pick your fights," he said.

Peter Jamison can be reached at pjamison@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4157.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Courtney Wild, 30, was a victim of serial sexual offender Jeffrey Epstein beginning at the age of 14. Epstein paid Wild, and many other underage girls, to give him massages, often having them undress and perform sexual acts. Epstein also used the girls as recruiters, paying them to bring him other underage girls. Courtesy of Royal Caribbean
    Courtney Wild’s relentless quest for justice has led to a bipartisan push for sweeping reforms.
  2. Scott Israel, former Broward County Sheriff speaks during a news conference on Sept. 25, in Davie. A Florida Senate official is recommending that the sheriff, suspended over his handling of shootings at a Parkland high school and the Fort Lauderdale airport, should be reinstated. BRYNN ANDERSON  |  AP
    Naples lawyer Dudley Goodlette was threatened shortly after he made his recommendation last month.
  3. Rep. Jamie Grant, R- Tampa and Senator Jeff Brandes, R- St. Petersburg listen to Amendment 4 debate in the Florida Senate on Thursday. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times] SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    “I think some of the points of the judge were well-made," Sen. Jeff Brandes said.
  4. Tiffany Carr — shown during a 2004 visit to a Hollywood nail salon, where she spoke on domestic violence — did not respond this past week to requests from the Miami Herald to address her $761,560 annual salary. She is head of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence. [Bob Eighmie Miami Herald file photo]
    The Florida Department of Children and Families started a review of a domestic violence nonprofit’s finances last summer after it was reported that its CEO Tiffany Carr was paid $761,000. The state...
  5. Pinellas County teachers and their allies rallied at major intersections in 2012 to protest legislative proposals. [Jim Damaske, Times]
    Details are still scant, but the House’s tone was one of being fiscally cautious as they evaluate DeSantis’ pitch to raise base teacher pay.
  6. Igor Fruman - Lev Parnas Miami Herald
    Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman — now subpoenaed to turn over documents in the impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump — sought to invest in one of Florida’s state-issued cannabis licenses.
  7. Term-limited GOP Commissioner Sandy Murman is filed in the clerk’s race but may not run there. CHRIS URSO   |   Times
    At this point, William March writes, there are no declared Republican candidates for the open clerk of court and tax collector seats or the two open county commission seats.
  8. [SKIP O'ROURKE   | Times]
    It’s unclear if there will be any proposed changes to this method for measuring teachers’ impact on their students’ performance, despite complaints.
  9. Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for governor, announces his education proposals in front of Franklin Middle Magnet School in Tampa last month. He says he wants to reduce "bureaucratic waste and administrative inefficiency" in Florida schools. But many educators say their budgets are already cut to the bone. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
    DeSantis said Wednesday he will call for expanding state oversight of septic tanks, developing better oversight of wastewater and stormwater systems and requiring the state to track agricultural...
  10. In this Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, file photo, a woman using an electronic cigarette exhales in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File) TONY DEJAK  |  AP
    “We’re looking at it, we’re going to be thorough in our investigation, and we will hold accountable any companies that are intentionally targeting and misleading our youth regarding vaping products,”...
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement