Climate

Texas Bill Bans Sustainability Program, Based On A Glenn Beck Conspiracy Theory

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Two Texas lawmakers have proposed a pair of bills that would prevent the state from funding programs which attempt to implement the ideas of Agenda 21, a non-binding and voluntary United Nations plan for sustainable development signed by the United States and 178 other governments in 1992.

According to the Texas Tribune, the bills proposed by Republican state lawmakers Rep. Molly White and Sen. Bob Hall would prohibit funds from states, counties, and public universities from going to organizations “accredited by the United Nations to implement a policy that originated in the Agenda 21 plan.” The Agenda 21 plan — signed by President George H. W. Bush — includes recommendations to conserve public lands, rein in air pollution, build more sustainable cities, combat poverty, and strengthen the voices of women, indigenous groups, and farmers.

Because all those recommendations come in the form of a voluntary and non-binding resolution, they might seem pretty harmless. But according to a growing group of mostly conservative and Tea Party-affiliated people across the country, Agenda 21 is just the opposite. To this growing group, Agenda 21 represents a “dangerous threat to American sovereignty” dictated by the United Nations — an attempt to get Americans to lock away usable land that could be developed and compact people into cramped cities. This idea was popularized by Glenn Beck, who wrote a book about the plan in 2012.

Beck’s idea that Agenda 21 is a far-reaching conspiracy for a “one-world order” under the United Nations seems to be catching on. The second result when you search the term on Google is “Agenda 21 conspiracy.” Littered in the results are articles claiming the U.N. is attempting to “seize” the United States by rounding up rural populations and sticking them in “beehive-like” apartments in big cities. One website calls it a plan to “control all land, all water, all minerals, all plants, all animals, all construction, all means of production, all energy, all education, all information, and all human beings in the world.” The Daily Beast has a very comprehensive look at the conspiracy-ridden opposition to Agenda 21 here.

In Texas, one of the groups that is consulting with the U.N. is the nonprofit Save the Children, which the Tribune says “consults regularly with the U.N. and promotes the health of children.” Promoting the health of children is part of the Agenda 21 program, so the Tribune noted that it’s unclear if the state or its universities will be able to give any funding to the organization. When asked by the Tribune whether the state could fund Save the Children, White said “[t]hey can use federal funds to operate.”

The Tribune also noted that the bill is unclear as to whether the state, cities, or public universities would be allowed to give grants to nonprofits for programs that “strengthen the role of business and industry” or protect freshwater resources, since both of those things are recommended Agenda 21. The lawmakers did not return the Tribune’s requests for comment on those matters.

Either way, if the bill goes through, it wouldn’t be the first time a state has advanced legislation to stop Agenda 21. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), at least three states have considered laws to halt the voluntary and non-binding U.N. program. Among nation Republicans, the idea is even more mainstream — in 2012, the Republican National Committee adopted a resolution deeming Agenda 21 to be a plan of “extreme environmentalism, social engineering, and global political control” which would be “accomplished by socialist/communist redistribution of wealth.”