It isn’t exactly the midnight ride of Paul Revere, but clearly something is up.
Since September, the John Birch Society has sponsored or co-sponsored lectures on the dangers of Agenda 21 in Manahawkin, Somers Point, Williamstown, Pompton Plains, and Toms River, N.J.; in Bozeman, Great Falls, Kalispell, and Missoula, Mont.; in Indianapolis, Ind.; in Albany and Queens, N.Y.; in Deland, Jacksonville and Gainesville, Fla.; in Mobile, Ala.; and in Shelton and Westport, Conn.
The Westport, Conn., lecture was delivered last week by Regional Field Director Hal Shurtlef in the fortuitously named McManus Meeting Room of the Westport Public Library (John F. McManus, of course, being the longtime president of the John Birch Society. The businessman James R. McManus, the library benefactor that the room is really named after, lives in Westport).
For all the seeming urgency, Agenda 21, it turns out, is old news; it dates back to 1992 and the Earth Summit in Rio. Signed by 178 world leaders, including President George H.W. Bush, the thousand-plus page document, “binding upon all living things on the planet,” is the United Nations’ program on “sustainable development.” Depending on whether you believe the UN or the John Birch Society, it’s either a much-needed strategic plan to scale down the use of fossil fuels and other natural resources to levels that meet “the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” – or a Trojan horse that will give the UN complete control over every aspect of American life.
Flashing slides of Karl Marx and Alger Hiss, the accused Communist spy who helped draft the UN Charter, Shurtlef painted a lurid picture. Agenda 21 explicitly calls for “a profound reorientation of all human society, unlike anything the world has ever experienced,” he said. Its goal, he falsely claimed, is the de-population of rural regions. Foreign bureaucrats, Shurtlef added absurdly, will mandate family size here in the United States, imposing forced abortions as they do in Communist China.
If UN environmentalists have their way, he went on, the expansive American way of life, in which everyone can aspire to the dream of owning a house with a big yard and two cars in the driveway, will be replaced by one in which increasing numbers of us are crammed into urban and suburban “pack ‘em and stack ‘em” apartment complexes, and forced to use mass transportation and live according to a “communitarian” ethos. Already, Edison’s great invention, the incandescent light bulb, has been banned. Thanks to Agenda 21, Americans are being forced to purchase expensive, compact fluorescent lightbulbs that are manufactured in Communist China. (It’s true that most incandescent bulbs are being gradually phased out in a number of industrialized countries in favor of bulbs using far less energy. In the U.S., the standard 100-watt bulb will no longer be made after Jan. 1.)
What is “communitarianism?” To quote from the pamphlet Agenda 21 and You, one of the many pieces of literature that was available for sale at the lecture, individually and in bulk, communitarianism is “not too dissimilar from communism, which is founded on the premise of the dictatorship of the proletariat or working class.” It is founded on the belief of the dictatorship or supremacy of the community. As a result of this supremacy, the individual is subservient to needs of the “greater good” of society. Examples of communitarian societies include Belarus, Burma, the People’s Republic of China, North Korea and Venezuela.
According to the JBS, the UN has been coordinating its on-the-ground efforts through something known as the ICLEI – the International Council on Local Environmental Initiatives. Under its auspices, more than 1,000 cities and municipalities around the world, including hundreds in the U.S., have received grants (bribes, really) to enact the UN’s stealth agenda.
The JBS puts a scary new spin on the catch phrase “think globally, act locally”: “These initiatives that have been enacted ostensibly to save the environment, invariably destroy economic vitality, erode property rights, undermine liberty and constitutional government, impose soviet-style rule through ‘stakeholder councils,’ subvert local control –and usually devastate the natural environment to boot … ’sustainable development’ is a despot’s dream-come-true: an emerging all-purpose, open-ended, ‘enabling act’ granting global central planners carte blanche to claim it means whatever they want it to mean.”
“Patriots, Tea Partiers, and John Birchers hate pollution,” Shurtlef assured his Westport audience. “But we know that the free market and local governments can preserve the environment better than bureaucrats can.”
Since the collapse of the Iron Curtain, right-wing isolationist groups like the John Birch Society have been in search of a new bogeyman. With varying degrees of success, they’ve pointed their fingers at LGBT people, at feminists, at Muslims, and at Saul Alinsky-inspired community organizers. With Agenda 21 and anti-environmentalism, they seem to believe they’ve finally hit just the right note. “Get the U.S. out of the United Nations” and “Get the UN out of the U.S.” have been JBS rallying cries since its inception in the 1950s. And climate change denial has become a credo of right-wing faith.
By imputing sinister associations to buzzwords like “sustainability” and “smart growth,” and by encouraging Americans to project their economic anxieties onto the green movement, the JBS is hoping to make environmentalism into a scarier prospect than environmental degradation.