By Henry Lamb
Four communities have rejected "Sustainability" since the first of the year. More will surely follow. To confront sustainability in your community you should learn everything you can about it.
More than 600 American communities have entered into agreements with ICLEI (International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives), an international non-government organization created by the United Nations. ICLEI-USA was formed in 1995. ICLEI is a tool of both the U.N. and the federal government, used to transform American cities into "Sustainable Communities."
What is, and is not, sustainable is defined in Agenda 21, a 40-chapter document adopted in 1992 by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. This document was translated into domestic policy through the President's Council on Sustainable Development, created in 1993. Originally, the program was promoted as implementing "Local Agenda 21," but soon ran into trouble.
J. Gary Lawrence, Director of the Center for Sustainable Communities at the University of Washington and Chief Planner in the City of Seattle, told a London audience that:
ICLEI took over where the PCSD left off, abandoning the LA21 brand, but delivering the same effect through comprehensive land use plans described as "smart growth" or "growth management." With grants from the federal government, the American Planning Association produced "Growing Smart: Legislative Guidebook," which provided model legislation which states could adopt.
This model legislation translated into law the recommendations in Agenda21 and those from the President's Council on Sustainable Development, when adopted by states and local communities.
Sustainable development is the translation of the recommendations set forth by the U.N. in Agenda 21, and by the PCSD into regulations enforced by local, state, and federal government.
Stated more succinctly, sustainable development is that framework of rules and regulations that limits the behavior of individuals, businesses, and organizations to those activities approved by government.
By joining forces with National League of Cities, the U.S. Green Building Council, and the Center for American Progress, ICLEI has created what it calls its "STAR Community Index," which it claims "…is a national, consensus-based framework for gauging the sustainability and livability of U.S. communities."
ICLEI's STAR is a device to measure just how "sustainable" a community might be. Stated more succinctly, STAR is a measurement of the degree of control a community has over its citizens.
Citizens in many communities have felt the chains of government tighten as they have watched their freedom evaporate. In this video, State Representative Joe Neal does an excellent job of explaining exactly how sustainable development affects his district in South Carolina. This booklet, "Sustainable Development or Sustainable Freedom," details how sustainable development has affected people in several communities.
People in the communities that have successfully rejected government-imposed sustainable development have learned that confrontation must be based on factual knowledge that directly affects the community and the elected officials. Confrontation, to be effective, must come from a group of local citizens, all of whom are knowledgeable and are willing to work.
Confrontation with local elected officials should always be polite and respectful, whether or not they deserve it. Opposition must be based on factual implications for the local community. This requires intimate understanding of the proposed (or existing) comprehensive land use plan. Questions that should be answered before confronting elected officials include: (1) Is the plan mandated by state law? (2) Why is the plan being considered? (3) Who is guiding the plan's development? (4) How and why was the person or agency guiding the plan chosen? (5) How will the plan be enforced? How much will implementation cost? (6) How will the funding be provided? These are just a few of the questions that should be answered by concerned citizens before confronting elected officials.
When confronting a city council or a county commission, it is rarely productive to even mention the U.N. It is far more productive to focus on the protection of private property rights and free markets in the development and implementation of any land use plan. It is difficult for advocates of sustainable development to oppose the protection of property rights and free markets. Once this principle is established as a value that must be protected for future generations, all specific recommendations can be measured against it.
To successfully confront and reject sustainable development in your community, read Agenda 21 and the PSCD's material. Then read the plan that is proposed for (or being implemented in) your community. Highlight every plan feature that is similar to a recommendation in either Agenda 21 or the PCSD recommendations. Make sure that the members of your local group know about and understand your findings. Then arrange for a presentation to your local elected officials to make them aware of your findings. Demonstrate precisely how each recommendation infringes private property rights, individual freedom, or free markets.
When this is done in a polite, professional manner, and elected officials know that a group of local voters are behind the initiative, ICLEI is likely to get the boot while their STAR falls from grace.