Tom DeWeese has built a career on conspiratorial warnings about Agenda 21, a completely voluntary United Nations set of principles for sustainable resource management. Where others see sensible environmental guidelines, DeWeese finds sinister land-grabbing socialist UN initiatives that threaten national sovereignty, private property rights and freedom, not to mention turning our children into one-world government zombies.
In His Own Words
“You've heard the term 'social justice.' It's being used everywhere today. First of all, 'social justice' was coined by Karl Marx, and to me, that says all I need to know about what social justice is. … According to sustainable development literature, it is a social injustice for a country to have borders because, they say, it stops the natural migration of people. Second, it is a social injustice to own private property. Why? Because some people … build wealth from ownership of private property, and others do not.”
—Interview with As Maine Goes, 2009
“Sustainable Development is code for a policy designed to transform human society, essentially eliminating individual life decisions and replacing them with top-down, one-size-fits-all government control. In steady fashion, the agenda for this new policy, designed at the international level, is put into place piece by piece with a new government council here, and new regulation there, each designed to appear as a ‘local’ development program. Like the proverbial frog in the slowly boiling pot, many Americans fail to notice the rise in government heat.”
—American Policy Center column, April 2013
“[Farmworkers advocate Cesar] Chavez was hailed a hero to the oppressed poor. Streets and schools all over the state of California are named after him. Children wear tee shirts with his name and image emblazoned across the front. And now, Chavez is to be forced again into the nation’s reconstructed memory through a major motion picture about his life that calls him an American hero. Labeling Cesar Chavez an American hero is akin to labeling Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky as Russian heroes.”
—American Policy Center column, January 2014
Tom DeWeese spends months on the lecture circuit each year, warning of an imminent danger to liberty and freedom — sustainable resource management. His principal target is Agenda 21, a set of voluntary “smart growth” principles signed by then-President George H.W. Bush and 177 other world leaders at a 1992 United Nations conference. In reality, he claims, Agenda 21 is really “international forces … turning [American] communities into little soviets.”
On the surface, Agenda 21 might seem an innocuous target. It is a completely non-binding guide for dealing with overpopulation, pollution, poverty and resource depletion. But it has been a deep — and lucrative — topic for DeWeese as he rails against threats to American national sovereignty. He has used it to build a career opposing alternative fuel sources, immigrants, climate change science, environmental regulation, affordable health care and education reform, among other things.
Obsessed with the impact of environmental policy on property rights and freedom, DeWeese charges that “sustainabilists” are conspiring to destroy America through creeping socialism. Ultimately, he says, the goal of Agenda 21 and the UN is to force the United States and other countries into a tyrannical, one-world government in which bicycle paths and wildlife refuges will be vastly more important than human beings. What is more, he says, our children are being used to hasten this future, through U.S. Department of Education-funded UN programs that turn them into little one-world government zombies.
“It sounds so friendly. So meaningful. So urgent,” DeWeese wrote in a 2009 report. “But the devastation to our liberty and way of life is the same as if Lenin ordered it.” The plan, he adds, is a “complete agenda of control” that has been “wrapped in a green blanket, scaring us with horror stories about the destruction of the environment — and so we are now throwing our liberties on the bonfire like a good old fashioned book burning — all in the name of protecting the planet.”
The effects of this fearmongering by DeWeese and like-minded conspiracy theorists have been far-reaching. Not only have some counties passed resolutions opposing Agenda 21 (along with state legislatures in Kansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Virginia), but the Republican National Committee (RNC) in January 2012 passed one as well, decrying Agenda 21 as a “destructive and insidious scheme” meant to impose “socialist/communist redistribution of wealth.” The RNC recommended that the resolution be adopted as part of the Republican platform at its August 2012 convention (in fact, a much watered down version of the resolution became part of the GOP presidential platform). In addition, Alabama passed a law aimed at outlawing any effects of the plan, and one chamber of the legislatures in Arizona, Missouri and Oklahoma have passed similar needless statutes.
Born and raised in Newark, Ohio, DeWeese graduated from Ohio State University with a journalism degree in 1971. According to his biography, he has been the editor of two newspapers, a candidate for the Ohio legislature, and a campaign manager/field worker in a couple of congressional races. He moved to Washington, D.C., in 1982, working as a fundraiser and PR man for legislative policy organizations. In 1985, he launched The DeWeese Company, a direct marketing and publishing company, which today is the newsletter arm of his principal concern, the American Policy Center.
Founded by DeWeese in 1988, the American Policy Center (APC) is a privately funded 501(c)(4) tax-exempt nonprofit with two broad goals: to promote free enterprise and to limit government restrictions of commerce and individuals. It advocates an unregulated trickle-down approach, flogging the notion that free market checks and balances and private property ownership will create wealth, employment, goods and services, and even protect the environment.
DeWeese has managed to spread his propaganda into Tea Party groups and various conspiracy theorists of the antigovernment “Patriot” movement, from the John Birch Society and Texans for Accountable Government to off-the-rails media personalities such as Glenn Beck and Alex Jones. The APC website offers a variety of anti-Agenda 21 fact sheets, petitions and handouts for citizen activists, including documents intended for presentation to local public officials.
DeWeese works closely with the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity group, speaking at many of its regional meetings as an expert on Agenda 21. A DeWeese appearance at the Kansas Americans for Prosperity chapter in 2012 was described like this: “Tom DeWeese, President of the American Policy Center, will explain the U.N.’s Agenda 21 initiative, and help you translate the vague terminology associated with Agenda 21. (Think ‘community visioning,’ ‘sustainable development,’ ‘livable communities,’ etc.).”
A quick scan of DeWeese’s APC columns gives a sense of his worldview, carrying such menacing headlines as “Is the U.S. Being Colonized by Red China?”; “The Alamo: Hallowed American Ground or UN Captive?”; “Sustainable Development: The Evil Facing America”; “The Growing Threat of Smart Meters”; “Sustainability Marxism”; and “Private Property Ownership is the Only Way to Eradicate Poverty.”
In fact, just about any effort to address critical social and environmental issues facing society, particularly on a global scale, is smeared by DeWeese with the same broad brush: It represents the onset of tyranny and the loss of personal rights.
In an April 2014 column entitled “The Principles of Freedom vs. Agenda 21,” he elaborated: “The basic principles of freedom are consistent with man’s nature and that’s why they work. When the principles of freedom are recognized and adhered to, there is prosperity, justice and happiness. When the principles have been ignored or rejected, men have suffered poverty, stagnation and political tyranny.”
Therefore, he concludes, climate change is a lie intended to bolster environmental restrictions; immigration protects Third World environments by transferring people to our regulated society; alternative energy research tilts the U.S. into “the socialist, sustainable global noose”; education reform is a “sustainabilist” conspiracy to indoctrinate children; and health care reform ushers in death panels staffed by faceless bureaucrats.
Despite overwhelming consensus among scientists to the contrary, DeWeese claims that the idea of climate change “has been so discredited in the true scientific community that proponents have become almost silly in their continued attempts to push it.” The reason they do, he says, is that “Agenda 21 policy is built on the premise that man is destroying the Earth. Climate Change is their ‘Proof.’ To eliminate that premise is to remove all credibility and purpose for their entire agenda. They are willing to go to any length, even lies, to keep the climate change foot on our throats.”
Environmentalists support immigration, DeWeese says, because “[t]hey argue that the US has a greater ability to control them [immigrants] and protect the environment than if we left them in third world countries. … That’s because the Greens have already strangled our nation and our industry with massive environmental regulations.”
And he argues that the real goal of Agenda 21 is to destroy the free market system. He claims that the UN, congressional representatives, the media, and Hollywood types have issued “statement after statement” deriding the free market as evil, corrupt and a tool of the rich to hold down the poor. “Now suddenly, they are worried about the poor – if it leads to their ability to raid our bank accounts,” he adds. “So, are they really worried about protecting the environment — or honoring the tactics of Jesse James? Redistribution of wealth is behind every policy that comes out of the UN, and now the Obama Administration as well.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, DeWeese continues, is an “attack dog” with the goal of shutting down entire industries like coal, along with making it difficult to operate a manufacturing business in the U.S., let alone start a new one. On top of that, he says, green policies are “vigorously” blocking fracking, oil drilling, coal mining and other traditional energy acquisition methods, while wasting billions of dollars on alternative energy sources such as wind and solar.
But here is his bottom line: “What is the motivation to put such shackles on the US economic engine? The excuse is that energy use drives up CO2 emissions and accelerates global warming – the excuse necessary to ‘harmonize’ the US into the socialist, sustainable global noose.”
Federal educational reform programs, such as Goals 2000, School-to-Work and Outcome Based Education are thinly disguised “behavior-modification programs, according to DeWeese: “To reform a nation that has been created on the ideals of limited government, free enterprise and individual liberty into one that unquestioningly accepts government top down control — will take time,” he says. “They must wait out those of us who were educated in the old system, we who were taught that we were born with our rights and that government’s job is to protect those rights. The sustainable system says government will grant us our rights. To enforce such a radical turn around of our society requires that the children be indoctrinated to accept it.”
Health care reform is yet another dangerous erosion of national sovereignty, DeWeese says. “Sustainable medicine makes decisions through visioning councils (usually bureaucrats with little or no medical knowledge) assigned the power to determine what shall be done or not done to each body in its ‘group’ in its ‘native habitat.’ Sustainable medicine experts do not refer to citizens in sovereign nations, but to ‘humans’ in their ‘settlements.’ ”
Serving on the APC board of directors are Bonner Cohen, who, according to Sourcewatch, once ran “EPA Watch,” a Philip Morris-funded newsletter that accused the EPA of "everything from destroying the U.S. economy to trying to stop people from taking showers," and John Meredith, son of civil rights hero James Meredith. The center’s board of advisors includes Alan Caruba, the APC’s communications director and an adjunct policy analyst at the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, a similar organization. Caruba also blogs for Tea Party Nation, the only Tea Party group listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Another member of that board is Sam Rohrer, a former Pennsylvania state legislator.