The problem with Agenda 21

The following post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations:

A recent op-ed in The Salt Lake Tribune calls on the Utah Senate to oppose a resolution critical of a United Nations program called “Agenda 21.” This program was adopted over 20 years ago at a U.N. Conference on Environment and Development. The stated focus of Agenda 21 is the promotion of economic growth, quality of life, energy conservation, poverty reduction and environmental protection – each good causes in their own right.

The problem with Agenda 21 is that its lofty goals conflict and compete with even loftier concepts of American freedom, not the least of which is private property rights.

The author of the Tribune op-ed wonders why the Republican and overwhelmingly Mormon Utah Legislature would oppose a plan approved by the first President Bush and modeled after the city planning theories of Mormon greats Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.

In addition, the author writes,

Is the Utah Legislature suggesting that we don’t need land-use planning based on quality-growth objectives such as those advocated by the Governor’s Quality Growth Commission?…

Brigham Young repeatedly warned against the wasteful exploitation of natural resources: “Keep your valley pure, keep your towns as pure as you possibly can, keep your hearts pure. … It is not our privilege to waste the Lord’s substance.”

One of the big problems with Agenda 21 is the United Nations itself. I realize there are progressive minds who are true believers in the U.N. Clearly there is some benefit when nations communicate with each other. But Agenda 21, like so many other intrusive ideas emanating from the U.N., is not communicating. It’s legislating. As with the brouhaha over the Common Core education initiative, my central objection is that these are not Utah ideas despite histrionic romanticizing by supporters of these ideas.

Utahns will say what’s good for Utah. While we certainly can and should learn from every reasonable source of knowledge, there is something inherently unappealing for many of us about joining in some global movement that may not completely reflect Utah values.

When Agenda 21 speaks of economic growth, what does that mean to the United Nations? What about energy conservation and poverty reduction? My guess is that the United Nations has a very different understanding about those terms than we do here in Utah. I can tell you with some certitude that the United Nations couldn’t care less about our constitutional forms of government, federalism, subsidiarity or even how any of their plans affect real live Utahns.

The Senate joint resolution opposing Agenda 21 is certainly a “message” bill – but every bill at the Legislature is a message bill (some just have more teeth in them than others). And the message of this bill is quite clear: the state Legislature is opposed to extreme government planning that hurts jobs and the economy, especially government planning as devised by the United Nations.

My second objection to critics of this resolution is how they invoke Mormon authorities, especially dead ones, when it’s convenient for them to do so. This Tribune contributor, as I repeated, invokes the great name of Brigham Young, using the Mormon leader’s words about reasonable planning to support modern planning that is often unreasonable. Of course, Brigham Young wanted planned communities – he lived in a theocracy wherein planning was part of a greater cause. There’s no way that supporters of Agenda 21 believe in that greater cause championed by a Mormon prophet. Brigham Young also said “keep your hearts pure.” I think that’s where the United Nation’s Agenda 21 and Utah’s interests part company.

For Sutherland Institute, I’m Paul Mero. Thanks for listening.

This entry was posted in Legislature and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.