Agenda 21… Are America’s city planners in on the United Nations plot to enslave us, and force us onto bicycles?

There’s only one thing people on the far right hate more than the United Nations, and that’s the United Nations setting international guidelines for sustainable development. I learned this a few days ago, while listening to a special episode of Glenn Beck’s radio program about a secret UN initiative to deal with the looming threats of global climate change and overpopulation. One after another, people were calling in and literally screaming about the nefarious presence of bike lanes in their communities, and how we’ve started down a part that will invariably lead to urban concentration camps. Bike lanes, and traffic circles, it would seem, are harbingers of a unified world government intent not only on rationing our use of oil, but crushing individual liberty. The wheels, according to Beck, were set in motion decades ago, when, on June 13, 1992, at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Earth Summit), 178 governments voted to adopt the program called Agenda 21.

The threat is so great, according to Beck, that he’s written a book about it, just in time for the holiday shopping season. The book, entitled Agenda 21, shows us what life will be like in a post-Agenda 21 world, says Beck.

Here’s a clip from the dust jacket:

“I was just a baby when we were relocated and I don’t remember much. Everybody has that black hole at the beginning of their life. That time you can’t remember. Your first step. Your first taste of table food. My real memories begin in our assigned living area in Compound 14.”

Just a generation ago, this place was called America. Now, after the worldwide implementation of a UN-led program called Agenda 21, it’s simply known as “the Republic.” There is no President. No Congress. No Supreme Court. No freedom.

There are only the Authorities.

Citizens have two primary goals in the new Republic: to create clean energy and to create new human life. Those who cannot do either are of no use to society. This bleak and barren existence is all that eighteen-year-old Emmeline has ever known. She dutifully walks her energy board daily and accepts all male pairings assigned to her by the Authorities. Like most citizens, she keeps her head down and her eyes closed.

Until the day they come for her mother.

“You save what you think you’re going to lose.”

Woken up to the harsh reality of her life and her family’s future inside the Republic, Emmeline begins to search for the truth. Why are all citizens confined to ubiquitous concrete living spaces? Why are Compounds guarded by Gatekeepers who track all movements? Why are food, water and energy rationed so strictly? And, most important, why are babies taken from their mothers at birth? As Emmeline begins to understand the true objectives of Agenda 21 she realizes that she is up against far more than she ever thought. With the Authorities closing in, and nowhere to run, Emmeline embarks on an audacious plan to save her family and expose the Republic — but is she already too late?

Beck, of course, didn’t really write the book. According to an editor who had worked on the project some time ago, it was written by a nurse named Harriet Parke, who was inspired by Beck’s entreaty to his Fox viewers to “do your own research” on Agenda 21. Here, by way of background, is how this editor describes the UN document from which the book takes its name, to the readers of

…If you’re not an urban planner, here’s a crash course on the novel’s eponymous United Nations Agenda 21. It’s a 40-chapter behemoth written in 1993. It lays out non-binding guidelines for promoting economic growth, environmental protection and social equality. Basically, it is a recipe for living within our means today, so that we do not pass along to our children a degraded economy, environment and society. It addresses topics as various as toxic waste, biotechnology, conservation and green transportation, all with the goal of helping poor countries develop economies — in large part, by encouraging wealthy countries to dial back in sensible ways on their consumption of resources.

Today, city and regional planners support the concepts that underpin Agenda 21, because they translate the big picture to local efforts to save people time and money. In other words, think globally, act regionally. After all, the planning profession is about supporting a community’s efforts to collaboratively make the best of change — such as whether your community is growing or shrinking, or becoming more rural, suburban or urban. Change is inevitable: Brookings reports that “our population exceeded 300 million in 2006, and we are on track to hit 350 million in the next 15 years.” And that “America will probably be older, more diverse, more urban — and less equal” than we are today.

Planners help communities find common-sense, constructive ways of using limited resources wisely. It looks for ways to make transportation inexpensive, keep energy plentiful, and help towns and cities avoid the kind of bad economic decisions that lead to eyesores like, say, a half-deserted strip mall anchored to an abandoned Wal-Mart. Thanks to zoning, for instance, which was created in the 1920s to protect property values, no one can come in and inappropriately construct a landfill or a steel mill next to your house.

Glenn Beck and fellow pundits hate Agenda 21, however, because they interpret a few lines from chapter four out of context. Their scare tactic is to say it’s the narrow end of a wedge that will insert global UN authority over American towns and cities, allow the government to confiscate private land, reallocate resources by force, and evict people from their single-family homes. Never mind that the law of the land begins with the United States Constitution and that our relationship with the UN can hardly be described as lockstep. Moreover, the United States has no land use laws at the federal level, whatsoever. All land use decision-making authority in the United States lies with the states, who delegate authority to local governments. Relatively speaking, the United States has some of the strictest protections for private property in the world.

Agenda 21 is simply a non-binding, unenforceable menu of guidelines that exists to help any town or city that signs on to it. But when removed from all sensible context and cast forward into a dystopian future, Agenda 21 becomes the novel “Agenda 21,” which tells the story of a post-American settlement where people are forced to ride bikes and walk on treadmills to generate electricity, told whom to marry, raised in communal kibbutz-like nurseries, and forced to swear allegiance to a scary green one-world socialist entity…

Unfortunately, though, some people are taking the “threat” of Agenda 21 very seriously, as evidenced by the fact that, during this last summer’s Republican National Convention, the Republican Party adopted a resolution opposing Agenda 21, adding the following line to their official platform: “We strongly reject the U.N. Agenda 21 as erosive of American sovereignty.” Furthermore, several state and local governments have considered or passed legislation opposing Agenda 21.(Alabama became the first state to prohibit government participation in Agenda 21, and Arizona just recently rejected a similar bill.) And, irate Tea Party activists, waving copies of the Agenda 21 guidelines, are not only making the lives of city planners in America miserable, but also derailing significant projects. The following comes from a report earlier this year in the New York Times.

Across the country, activists with ties to the Tea Party are railing against all sorts of local and state efforts to control sprawl and conserve energy. They brand government action for things like expanding public transportation routes and preserving open space as part of a United Nations-led conspiracy to deny property rights and herd citizens toward cities.

They are showing up at planning meetings to denounce bike lanes on public streets and smart meters on home appliances — efforts they equate to a big-government blueprint against individual rights.

“Down the road, this data will be used against you,” warned one speaker at a recent Roanoke County, Va., Board of Supervisors meeting who turned out with dozens of people opposed to the county’s paying $1,200 in dues to a nonprofit that consults on sustainability issues.

Local officials say they would dismiss such notions except that the growing and often heated protests are having an effect.

In Maine, the Tea Party-backed Republican governor canceled a project to ease congestion along the Route 1 corridor after protesters complained it was part of the United Nations plot. Similar opposition helped doom a high-speed train line in Florida. And more than a dozen cities, towns and counties, under new pressure, have cut off financing for a program that offers expertise on how to measure and cut carbon emissions…

And, thanks to our friends at, who recently attended a four-hour briefing session for Georgia’s Republican State Senators, we now have some insight as to how this particular conspiracy theory is making its way though our state legislatures. Following is hidden camera video, shot on October 11, of a four-hour Agenda 21 information session for Georgia legislators called by Chip Rogers, the Republican Majority Leader of the Georgia State Senate, and Treasurer of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). During the session, Rogers shared what he’s uncovered about Agenda 21 with his fellow State Senators. (The invitation to the event promised that the presentation would explain: “How pleasant sounding names are fostering a Socialist plan to change the way we live, eat, learn, and communicate to ‘save the earth.'”) I particularly like the part, at about 23 minutes into the presentation, when we hear conservative operative Field Searcy relate to the Senators how Obama is using a mind-control technique known as “Delphi” to trick the American people into accepting this UN-orchestrated coup, which will ultimately see all of us forcefully relocated to cities. (It should be noted that Rogers was just two votes short of getting anti-Agenda 21 legislation approved by the Senate last session.)

Agenda 21 Full Video from Bryan Long on Vimeo.

And, did you catch that Majority Leader Rogers is the Treasurer of the ALEC Board of Directors? (He’s also their Georgia State Chairman, and winner of ALEC’s State Chair of the Year Award.) I find that connection really interesting, given ALEC’s well-established role as the lead entity pushing the extreme legislative agenda of corporate America. As one doubts that the very intelligent individuals behind ALEC truly believe that President Obama is attempting to enslave us, and hand our country over to the United Nations, I can’t help but think that they’re involved in the pushing of this conspiracy theory for other reasons… most notably, to stop environmental legislation that would negatively impact the bottom lines of America’s largest and most powerful corporations. This, in other words, has nothing to do with the threat of creeping Socialism, and everything to do with a desire on the part of America’s CEOs to operate outside of the law. This is about keeping cap-and-trade from being implemented, and keeping our coal-powered factories belching black smoke into the atmosphere.

And, on that note, I give you the ad for Glenn Beck’s book. Be sure to watch until the end. Otherwise, you won’t learn about how, in the future, we burn old people alive for energy.

note: I should add that I think this subject matter should be fair game for fiction writers. Dystopian novels, when done well, as in the case of 1984 and the Handmaid’s Tale, can be incredibly powerful. And, as we find ourselves, right now, at a time in history when natural resources are dwindling, population is rising, and our climate seems intent on wiping humanity from the face of the planet, I think we need to begin exploring, through fiction, and all other means available to us, how our countries might choose to intervene in hopes of salvaging what can be salvaged. It’s certainly plausible, I think, that we could find ourselves in a situation, for instance, where people are incentivized to give up their cars, move into urban centers, and use mass transportation. (Personally, I’d like to think that we could figure out how to make cheap, efficient solar power ubiquitous before resorting to the burning of our elderly, but I suppose it’s an alternative worth considering.) No, what I object to isn’t the book, but the fear mongering being done by certain people on the right who have a vested interest in the status quo. I have a problem with ALEC taking up the Agenda 21 conspiracy theory as a way to drive terrified and poorly-informed individuals into the offices of their elected officials, demanding that we not, for instance, legislate the emissions of coal plants, because it’s all part of Barack Obama’s evil Socialist plot to overthrow our great and powerful country. And, it pisses me off that Glenn Beck is building an empire on this nonsense, peddling fear between ads for gold coins, local gun shops, and so-called “survival seeds.” So, it’s not the book that I object to – it’s the completely disingenuous propaganda campaign surrounding it.

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  1. Edward
    Posted November 26, 2012 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    Glenn Beck has also said that Obama, after leaving the White House, will become Secretary General of the United Nations. He might actually be right about that, though.

  2. Erika
    Posted November 26, 2012 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    I was just catching up on some This American Life last night and I heard this story about pre-school:

    Basically, kids are better off getting pre-school than not, but Republicans apparently believe that pre-school is just another facet of “The Nanny State” which will allow the government to raise your children instead of mom and dad. Nevermind the long-term good that early childhood education has been shown to produce. It’s mind-boggling.

    The NRA is guilty of the these tactics as well. Conspiratorial and manipulative. I am saddened by the fact that these characters have used their brand of entertainment to terrify the poor idiots among us. L. Ron Hubbard and Jim Jones couldn’t have done it better themselves, if they had had the kind of media exposure that these people get.

  3. Brainless
    Posted November 26, 2012 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Glenn Beck raped three girls before he died. Glenn Beck. Dead rapist. Glenn Beck. Dead rapist. Glenn Beck. Dead rapist.

  4. Glen S.
    Posted November 26, 2012 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    If there is any worldwide “conspiracy,” it is the decades-long pursuit by multinational corporations to enact sweeping “free trade,” and global tariff regulations that allow them to trade resources (including labor) across borders, without respect to national (or local) labor, environmental or human-rights standards.

    What better way to keep the peasants distracted from the very real impact falling wages, vanishing job security, environmental degradation, etc., than to conjure an “Agenda 21” bogeyman, complete with blue-helmeted UN troops and black helicopters?

  5. John Galt
    Posted November 26, 2012 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Obama wants to have massive abortion complexes fueled by the bodies of elderly Christians. That’s his endgame, people!

  6. Mr. Y
    Posted November 26, 2012 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Who want to have some fun? I say we make up some “Agenda 21” letterhead and send notes out to everyone in the Township, telling them that, within the next 24 months, they’ll be expected to move into the City of Ypsilanti.

  7. Knox
    Posted November 26, 2012 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Can any local city planners chime in and let us know to what extent they’re being challenged by people referencing this 20 year old UN document?

  8. Posted November 26, 2012 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    It won’t be long before the Glenn Becks will marginalize themselves into a thimble. Their brains already fit with room left over.

  9. Posted November 26, 2012 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately, there are crazy people, even right around here. Check the comments section of this totally harmless article about a just-for-fun event to encourage people to bike/walk/bus in the wintertime – well, FUN unless it’s A CONSPIRACY!

  10. Bob Krzewinski
    Posted November 26, 2012 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Ummm, I am REALLY confused. Isn’t the new world takeover supposed to put microchips in all of us? Becks video still shows people “under control” with numbers on their foreheads.

  11. Posted November 26, 2012 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    @knox —

    In my work around metro Detroit, I think I’ve heard one person mention anything about the UN / Agenda 21 in the past year. It wasn’t core to that person’s concerns, just tossed in, so it seemed like it was just convenient ammunition to add to a pre-existing complaint. It only takes one, though — this single person came to four meetings on the same topic and managed to control about 50% of the airtime in those meetings either by talking or through other people’s responses.

    I understand explicit Agenda 21 references to be slightly more common up north, but really most of the discussion of it that I’ve seen/heard has come from professional planning circles, about anticipating and addressing this line of attack. (The short version being essentially, “Do a better job of explaining why a proposal is on the table, and what the local interests driving it are.”)

  12. KKT
    Posted November 26, 2012 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    One of Chip Rogers’ slides from the above presentation can be found here.

    It compares Stalin, Mao and Obama.

  13. Thom Elliott
    Posted November 26, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    I personally can’t wait for soviet-style US, I would love to be the prosecuter for show trials, what fun it would be to round up libertarians and Tea Party activists, have a hilariously unjust trial (not unlike many African Americans undergo now), then send them away to die in chain-gang forced labor. Just imagine Rush Limbaugh having a stroke while purposlessly moving rocks from one pile to another, with people looking on and doing nothing, then stealing his ragged boots off his bloated corpse. It would be a utopia, no more Macy’s or Starbucks, 100% employment at the re-education centers, gulags, and elderly burning complexes. I can just see it now, Glenn Beck hanging from his feet in some town square to rot as an example, this is how we liberals deal with you godfearing patriots, with deranged school children throwing rocks at his carcass. Ah, what a beautiful dream.

  14. Mr. X
    Posted November 26, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    I don’t need to read a word of what they’ve written to know they’re crazy. I can tell by their website design.

  15. Georgia
    Posted November 26, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Rogers, as a result of this, has dropped his bid for a third term as majority leader. He’s also said that the does not share Searcy’s belief that Obama is using mind control.

    Here are the details:

  16. Elliot Simms
    Posted November 26, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Beck has other video ads for the book. This one is called “Imperfect Babies”, and it’s about how Obama and the UN want to kill the weak and defenseless.

  17. Posted November 26, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Oh my God, brain cells died as I watched that trailer. And I don’t have many to spare….

  18. Posted November 26, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    As someone just pointed out to me, it would be kind of ironic for conservatives to be upset about this in Michigan, given the fact that we’ve been living through the emergency manager era, in which democratically elected officials have been replaced with political appointees empowered to sell public assets, terminate contracts at will, etc, and that didn’t concern anyone on the right.

  19. Nancy
    Posted November 28, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    What other stupid thing will Glenn Beck and his fellow conspiracy theorists try to make up? Don’t they know that some poor souls actually believe this stuff? Why don’t they use their gray matter to help come up with real solutions to some of the problems that plague this country, instead of creating more problems? Sheesh!

  20. Meta
    Posted December 5, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    A wonderful illustration of how far the Republican party has devolved.

    The failure of the Senate on Tuesday to ratify a U.N. treaty aimed at creating equal opportunity for disabled people around the world says a lot about the modern evolution of the Republican Party.

    It was Republican votes – 38 of them – that derailed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which needed a two-thirds supermajority for ratification. Only seven Republicans voted for the treaty and not a single Democrat voted against it. This came despite the presence of a GOP luminary, former Senate Majority Bob Dole, now 89 and frail, who was wheeled into the chamber in a last-minute effort to rally support.

    Dole’s passion stems from his own disabled status (a World War II injury shattered his right arm, which hasn’t been functional since) and from the leading role he played in what remains the enduring civil rights achievement for the disabled in this country: the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.

    The ADA extended protections included under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the more than 40 million disabled Americans. Employers were banned from discriminating against mentally or physically handicapped applicants who could perform the “essential” functions of a job and required to make “reasonable” efforts to make their workspaces friendly to those with disabilities. There was also a public accommodations provision.

    All that the U.N. treaty that was voted down on Tuesday aims to do is to internationalize the ADA – to set it as the global standard for how the disabled should be treated by society…….

    The arguments against the treaty mainly revolved the U.N.-phobia that’s common on the far right, with warnings about fading sovereignty and encroaching world government.

    But if anything, this underscores how far out of the mainstream the GOP has moved over the last 20 years. While the ADA has proven to be a rousing success, it was at least possible for conservatives in 1990 to raise non-paranoid concerns about it, mainly relating to the burdens it would place on businesses and the potential for a lawsuit bonanza. In fact, these types of concerns were raised as the law was debated, and some changes were made in response to them – which explains why most of the conservative senators of 1990 were ultimately willing to go along with the law.

    By contrast, the U.N. treaty raises none of the concerns about business and lawsuits that the ADA did; it simply seeks to hold up existing U.S. law as a model for the world. And yet the vast majority of Republicans in the U.S. Senate sided with the arguments of the paranoid far right and voted against it anyway. This doesn’t mean that every Republican senator who voted against the treaty actually believes these arguments. For all we know, Lindsey Graham (for instance) was treating the vote as a chance to shore up his standing with the right in advance of a potential 2014 primary fight. But that’s still telling: In the GOP of 2012, the “safe” vote is against something as noncontroversial as an international treaty based on American law and championed by a Republican icon from another era.

    Read more:

  21. Tom D.
    Posted December 6, 2012 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    @Thom Elliott: History has shown that the first to be shot will be the ones that helped the communists take over…

  22. Meta
    Posted January 28, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    People in Georgia just figure out that Chip Rogers is making $150,000 a year as an employee of Georgia Public Broadcasting, and they aren’t happy.

    Georgia residents have begun canceling their donations to Georgia Public Broadcasting after a recent report revealed that a former Republican state senator — who believes the United Nations is planning to turn the U.S. into a communist dictatorship using mind control — is receiving a salary of $150,000 to run part of the network.

    GPB announced last month that then-State Sen. Chip Rogers (R) would be heading a new initiative to tell the story of Georgia businesses on public radio, but it wasn’t until the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that his salary would be higher than Gov. Nathan Deal’s (R) that employees and Georgia residents began to express outrage.

    Read more:

  23. Eel
    Posted January 28, 2013 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Wait a second….. He believes there’s Communist mind-control conspiracy to take over American and HE WORKS FOR PBS?

  24. the oakleys
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    The paranoid right has moved on from Agenda 21 for the time being. The conspiracy theory that’s all the rage today is Common Core.

  25. Letrova
    Posted April 22, 2013 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

    The irony is that one of these days Beck will actually be right about something and no one will listen.

  26. John Galt
    Posted June 8, 2018 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    While it may be true that some people will suffer as a result of Trump’s awesome trade war, a some of us may lose children in wars with our previous allies, at least we now know what the air of true freedom smells like. (It’s got some soot in it, but that’s OK.) And we no longer have to worry about Agenda 21.

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