The University of Maine student newspaper since 1875
Wednesday, Oct. 7, 3:46 p.m.
Columnists | Opinion

Columnist: Sustainable living mutates into monstrous Agenda 21 for RNC members

I know there is a spectrum of thought in any political grouping.

I could be considered a Democrat in most respects, but I don’t take too much at face value.

There are many “liberal” policies I don’t think will work; I don’t hate business but I don’t particularly trust it, either; and on I think we’re all in this together. The common good matters.

I try to give other views a fair shake and check the facts so as not to get stuck in an ideological echo chamber. To me there aren’t many absolutes in politics that give one group a monopoly on the truth or good ideas. With that in mind, I approached those who haven’t taken a sip of the sustainability Kool-Aid, and explored what they thought about the idea.

It seems — according to the Internet — that everything from Smart Growth, Wildlands Project, Resilient Cities, Regional Visioning Projects and other “Green” or “Alternative” projects are really the tentacles of a United Nations monster called Agenda 21 that wants to eat your soul and slap your babies. Since all of these are things I had considered unarguably good, I was intrigued.

According to a copy of an unpublished document circulating the Web, the Republican National Committee unanimously passed a resolution exposing the evils of Agenda 21 at their winter meeting this month.

I tried to read the reasoning with an open mind, but it seemed a bit paranoid and unsubstantiated. The resolution claims Agenda 21 is being pushed covertly into towns around the country and will destroy our way of life by taking our cars, our homes and our farms. I tried to understand it, but I just couldn’t.

Did it occur to anyone on the RNC that maybe towns across the nation have dabbled in sustainable development because the idea makes sense for better lives and stronger communities?

I won’t try to defend every project that slaps a sustainability sticker on itself. I know we aren’t close to figuring it all out, but why not take into account the quality of the place we live in and try to keep it stable? Why would we not embrace local businesses that are more likely to buy, hire and stay local?

Alternative transportation means more choices, not less, and better placement of parking means safer and friendlier streets for Americans. Sustainable development is not about saving bunnies — it is entirely centered on the people and trying to make sure our way of life will survive and improve no matter what the future holds.

Agenda 21 is a nonbinding action plan for sustainable development created at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and has been signed by 177 governments, as well as former U.S. presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. It isn’t perfect, but what document that is trying to solve most of the world’s problems could be?

What I don’t see coming from these commentators is any sense that perhaps there is a problem, and it would be good to keep things as they are or better them. No sense that perhaps oil will get more expensive and biking might be a nice option for some people. They don’t seem to acknowledge that towns have less money and may have less money from here on out.

I don’t think sustainable development means you can’t live outside of town with a big car and whatever else you want. I think it just means government is not going to subsidize that choice, or that external factors might make the choice more expensive regardless.

Either the conservative commentators I read don’t agree there are major problems in our communities and environment, or they simply enjoy stirring up fear without offering any alternative or constructive criticism.

The resolution rests much of its argument on a fear of social justice — socialism (hiss) — which I’ll agree, sometimes I have my problems with. But to say that every American shouldn’t have the chance to succeed and to ignore all of the historical and cultural values leading to such success is blind.

Social justice is not something to be scared of. Be cautious, yes — no need to give away the farm — but know that the values put down in our Constitution are good ones that will protect us.

I want a life free of health problems caused by pollution and full of soul-filling nature; I want the liberty to be free of the financial chains that come with paying too much for electricity and oil; and I want to pursue happiness in a community filled with happy people who have all of their basic needs met.

I don’t think, in the greatest country in the world, it is dangerous or communist to demand the best life possible for me, my children and my children’s children.


Mackenzie Rawcliffe is a graduate student studying international affairs and public administration. She is the production manager for The Maine Campus.