BY MICHAEL RICONDA
New City – The John Birch Society hosted a public information and brainstorming session on January 31 to get word out on the United Nations’ Agenda 21, a plan which they claim would drastically curtail individual property rights in the United States and abroad.
Regional field director Harold Shurtleff explained that Agenda 21 was a plan created under the guise of sustainability, but once local and regional governments opt in, they are required to re-structure town planning and consumption to meet United Nations standards while ignoring local concerns, ultimately eroding property rights to a point of central, UN control.
“It all sounds great, but private property is involved, businesses are affected, and it will ultimately change what towns and cities look like,” Shurtleff said.
In particular, Shurtleff took aim at the International Council for Local Environment Initiatives (ICLEI), an organization which aims to implement Agenda 21 on a grassroots level by providing voluntary, local members with means to implement green initiatives. According to critics, ICLEI is the core of Agenda 21’s operations.
Shurtleff’s presentation pointed to ICLEI-supported local entities which he said could be identified by their use of seemingly innocuous buzzwords such as “sustainability,” “multi-family housing,” “green,” and “permit bank.”
Agenda 21 has been described by critics as a conspiracy theory, though Shurtleff repeatedly insisted that such charges ignore the fact that ICLEI has already had lasting impacts upon planning at local and state levels, up to the point that dozens of communities have begun to opt out of participation and push the group out of their towns.
“Back in ’92, the John Birch Society was one of the first and one of the few organizations talking about this,” Shurtleff explained. “People would come to the meetings and say, ‘Gee, we thought you were crazy, and now you’re proving it by talking about this Agenda 21.’ But now it’s in your front your, and now it’s not so crazy because you see it everywhere.”
As an example, Shurtleff explained the case of Rockland, Maine. According to him, the town had an ICLEI-bolstered “permit bank” which bought up large numbers of fishing permits to preserve environmental integrity by retaining rather than re-selling permits to fishermen.
In reaction to the perceived threat of ICLEI-related activities, Shurtleff explained that local level organizing was often the most important front for pushing back ICLEI-supported measures and emphasized the importance of local chapters of anti-ICLEI groups.
Suggestions to bring people together in opposition to Agenda 21 included not only public information campaigns and John Birch Society events, but also activism through other groups, pressing media and elected officials to address the issue, use of social media such as Meetup and Facebook to inform and organize, and researching local activities to pinpoint possible ICLEI-supported development programs.
A constant theme in Agenda 21 awareness campaigns was galvanizing the public and getting them excited about a cause which has a direct impact upon their lives.
“If you’re involved with a group with a lot of nothing going on, change that,” Shurtleff encouraged. “People want to do things, and it’s our job to get them to do things. Important things.”