By Steven Yates *
[T]he [August-September 2004] World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, South Africa...may [have] be[en] the largest confab the United Nations has ever sponsored. WSSD commemorates the ten-year anniversary of the adoption of Agenda 21 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil back in 1992. [A]s WSSD...approached the American public [w]as  treated to a stready stream of new articles and so-called studies on how, if we do not change our ways and adopt "sustainable" behaviors and patterns of economic growth, environmental disaster (global warming, deforestation, extinction of species, etc.) is right around the corner.
...Agenda 21 is the bible of the sustainable development movement....The basic idea behind sustainable development was spelled out back in 1987 by the little-known Brundtland Commission. The Bruntland Commission definition: "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." This innocent sounding phrase came to carry with it the implication that there are too many people living and working in an environment of finite resources to permit "unsustainable" economic freedoms.
Behind the idea of sustainable development is the idea that we have a choice: adopt "voluntary" central planning (with the UN at the helm) to integrate economics and ecology within a globalist perspective or face ecological disaster a few decades down the pike.
...Once one cuts through the bureaucratese, it is clear that we are looking at something that is only possible (1) if implemented by large-scale interventions in every areas of the local economy and in people’s lives, involving a great deal of coordination and centralization, and (2) if funded by vast amounts of money from outside...
...Sustainable development decision making must be integrated in all policy areas and at all levels, and made central to all environmental, social and economic planning and law. To rectify current imbalances, international sustainable development law must be strengthened and integrated into all national, regional and global legal instruments.
How to finance this?
...The WSSD must:
- Initiate negotiations toward development of mechanisms to ensure financial markets contribute to sustainable development, such as the Tobin tax;
- Recognize controls on the movement of capital as a legitimate instrument to ensure sustainable development; and
- Agree [to?] Global rules governing publicly financed investment, eg, international financial institutions and export credit agencies to ensure it is tested against sustainable development criteria.
If this is not a call for an edifice of global law to be enforced by global government and financed by eventual global taxation, I cannot imagine what would count as such. The globalist bureaucrats prefer the term governance, of course.
Governance involves partnerships. Partnerships are how the encirclement of controls envelops businesses and business organizations, hundreds of which have sent representatives to WSSD.
Much sustainable-development writing has a flavor of localism about it, in the sense that its authors appear to want to involve local groups and average citizens, and encourage "voluntary" action. "Decisions should be made closest to those affected, wherever appropriate"..."It is our view that law and policy frameworks at higher levels of government should be better focused to enable local action. This requires a strengthening of local authorities and decision making structures."
Does this mean local sovereignty or micromanagement? The problem with the former is that the local people might not do what the globalists want, including ensuring "that human rights include the right to a favourable and healthy environment including social rights and equitable access to resources;…" There is no means of accomplishing this without control from the center...
...Sustainability-activists, UN bureaucrats and "developing world" politicians propose huge transfers of funds ranging from out-and-out government grants to private investments of resources and technology, under the assumption that this will reduce and eventually eliminate poverty. They demonstrate no grasp of where wealth comes from or why a program of massive redistribution of wealth will not work.
...Few Americans have any inkling of the degree to which this movement has insinuated its way into our lives – including at the local level. The changing vocabulary of city and community planning considered at the outset ought to provide a few clues; city newspapers endorse the plans and throw around such terms as if their meaning were straightforward. They generally do not mention the UN. There are thousands of documents on the Web that promote sustainable development or discuss its role in one community plan or another; one has to do a very focused Internet search to find the relative handful of sites that criticize the idea.
The emphasis on nurturing change-agents at the local level should be no more surprising than the omission of reference to the UN, if we think about it. Globalists want to encourage as many people as possible to "think globally and act locally," as the late-60s slogan went. They want to alter a community’s infrastructure to bring it into line with the global-government agenda without drawing attention to themselves or their involvement.
Thus in their instruction manuals (but not their press releases) we find local versions of Agenda 21 – called in Europe Local Agenda 21 (LA21) and a version aimed squarely at Americans called Communities 21.
...[T]he International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), a UN partner...bills itself as "the international environmental agency for local governments. Its mission is to build and serve a worldwide movement of local governments to achieve tangible improvements in global environmental and sustainable development conditions through cumulative local actions." The organization claims to promote "decentralized cooperation" between its members. But it is entirely beholden to Agenda 21, drawing its impetus from Agenda 21’s Chapter 28 which focuses on local initiatives.
...Versions of Communities 21 now reach from the change-agents all the way down into private households in many American cities and towns as the sustainability movement spreads. The change-agents’ aim is to bring entire communities into alignment with globalist goals, using whatever techniques of manipulation and behavior modification are necessary. ICLEI’s U.S. branch, based in Berkeley, Calif. (where else?), published a very detailed Local Government Handbook: essentially a guide for sustainability change...
...The sustainable development movement has generated its own brand of change-agent psychobabble, full of phraseology that sounds wonderful if you don’t read between the lines. There are linguistic products such as the following:
Achievement of sustainability goals requires the participation of the entire community. Effective public outreach and education programs must be developed to educate the community on the issues and to get them involved in the implementation of sustainability initiatives. Non-profits and community groups are potential collaborating partners, given that their organizational mission or activities may dovetail with that of the sustainability goals.
...There is no indication that sustainability development as a whole is the sort of thing that ought to be voted on. Indeed, the Communities 21 model would transfer authority from elected officials and autonomy from businesses as sustainability bureaucrats slowly assumed the reins of power and began implementing an agenda established thousands of miles away. Communities 21 calls for such things as listing all the community resources in a "sustainability inventory," articulating a "vision statement," developing goals, outlining actions and establishing timetables.
...There is one mention in the Handbook, at the beginning, of the UN’s role. What it says is in plain English:
One of the outcomes of the 1992 UNCED conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil was the document, Agenda 21, a blueprint for global sustainability. Mirroring Agenda 21’s mandate to national governments, Chapter 28 of the blueprint calls on all local authorities to develop plans for sustainability. The resulting international effort to organize municipalities around sustainability initiatives, spearheaded by ICLEI, is known as Local Agenda 21 (LA 21).
I ask again: is this or is this not a mandate of global control, something that could lead nowhere except to global government – otherwise known as the New World Order – in which the content of education, the availability of jobs, the use of natural resources, etc., would all be strictly monitored and controlled by sustainability bureaucrats. Moreover, the bureaucrats will have applied what is probably their most important learning experience of the past century, which is that really determined socialists can accomplish far more through infiltration, manipulation through distortion of language and behavior modification than they can through open displays of force. However, there can be no doubt that what cannot be accomplished through these methods leading to "voluntary" cooperation will be accomplished by legislative force. There is, again, plenty of fine print you might miss if you are not reading closely: "[A sustainable community] encourages environmental stewardship among businesses through regulatory incentives."
...The...aim of this agenda...is to lead millions of ordinary people to submit willingly to globalist micromanagement in the name of saving the environment from destruction at the hands of unplanned and therefore "unsustainable" actions on the part of free persons.
...In the end, however, the kinds of global wealth redistribution, central planning and population control being promoted at huge globalist confabs like WSSD are what will prove unsustainable in the long run. The meager handful of critics of WSSD (such as Joan Veon, Chuck Morse and Ilana Mercer) have observed a distinct communist streak running through the UN agenda – with environmental issues having replaced exploitation of workers as the primary weapon against "capitalism." This, too, should really be no surprise; socialists founded the UN back in the 1940s, after all. Yesterday we had reds; today we have greens. The lack of understanding of basic economic law that has undermined every attempt to "build socialism" remains. Genuine understanding of economic law would reveal why the "developed" world has succeeded and why the "developing" world continues to struggle with poverty and misery...
* Steven Yates has a PhD in philosophy and is a Margaret "Peg" Rowley Fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute.