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Sustainable St. Louis

Posted By Henry Lamb On 02/15/1999 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

St. Louis is building momentum toward its 2004 celebration, the 100th

anniversary of the St. Louis World’s Fair. Former Sen. John C. Danforth,
who launched the campaign in 1996, says this is not a “single year,
one-shot celebration. What we are after is long-term, sustainable.” More
than 1,100 people have been recruited to participate in the multi-year
planning activities to transform St. Louis into a “sustainable”

Few, if any, know that their activities were envisioned more than a
ago in Gland, Switzerland. They have no idea that the procedures they
follow were prescribed and adopted in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. And
while Danforth said in 1997, “We started with no preconceived ideas, no
prefabricated agenda,” the idea was preconceived, the agenda was
predetermined, and the process was prefabricated. It is quite possible
that Mr. Danforth was, and perhaps still is, among the millions of
Americans who do not yet realize that our nation’s domestic policy is
being dominated by the international community.

The concept of Sustainable Development emerged from the 1987 U.N.
Commission on Environment and Development, chaired by Gro Harlem
Brundtland, former vice chairman of the World Socialist Party. For the
next five years, the concept was molded primarily by three major NGOs
(non-government organizations): the International Union for the
Conservation of Nature (IUCN); the World Wildlife Fund (WWF); and the
World Resources Institute (WRI). Membership of the IUCN consists of
more than 700 NGOs, such as the Sierra Club, and The Nature Conservancy,

agencies of national governments, such as the U.S. State Department and
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and more than 50 sovereign nations.
These three NGOs and their member organizations, met in regular
“Preparatory Committee” sessions, to translate the Sustainable
Development concept into a policy document called Agenda 21.

This massive 40-chapter “soft-law” (non-binding) document was adopted

by 179 nations meeting in Rio de Janeiro at the 1992 U.N. Conference on
Environment and Development, chaired by Maurice Strong, who was also a
member of the Brundtland Commission. Agenda 21 sets forth a series of
policy recommendations that affect virtually every aspect of human
life. Among those recommendations is one calling for the creation of
national commissions on Sustainable Development by each participating
nation. Then-Sen. Al Gore attended the Rio Conference, and strongly
advocated the adoption of the document.

Within months after the Clinton/Gore inauguration, Executive Order
12852 created the President’s Council on Sustainable Development
(PCSD). There has never been any congressional consideration of
Agenda 21, there is no legislative authority for or definition of
Sustainable Development. Nevertheless, Agenda 21 has become the basis
of domestic policy for the Clinton/Gore administration, and is being
implemented through the PCSD, and the administrative agencies of the
federal government.

One month after Danforth’s 1997 introduction of St.Louis 2004 in the
St. Louis Post Dispatch, Vice President Gore delivered a report to
the U.N.’s conference on Rio + 5, to evaluate five year’s progress
the implementation of Agenda 21. The theme of the report was
“Implementing Agenda 21′s Call” to transform society into Agenda 21′s
vision of how the world ought to be. The report details very specific
policy responses to Agenda 21′s call: the creation of the PCSD, and the
development of a “national sustainable development Action Plan.” The
Action Plan was released in 1996, the same year Danforth began
the St. Louis 2004 campaign. It is not a coincidence that Florida and
Pennsylvania launched their Commission on Sustainable Development at
about the same time, as did communities all across the nation.

The PCSD is comprised of Cabinet-level officials, executives from
NGOs, most of whom are also members of the IUCN. (Jay Hair, a member
of the PCSD and former president of the National Wildlife Federation,
served as president of the IUCN for three years). The Action Plan of
the PCSD, entitled “Sustainable America: A New Consensus,” sets forth
than 150 policy recommendations taken directly from Agenda 21. At the
11th meeting of the PCSD, where the action plan was presented to the
PCSD members prior to publication, then-Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown,

said his department had determined that they could implement 67 of the
recommendations “without further legislative authority.” Hazel O’Leary,
then-Secretary of the Department of Energy, and Carol Browner,
administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, echoed the need to

use “rule-making authority” to incorporate the PCSD’s recommendations
into policy to the maximum extent, and to work for legislative
authorization and funding to accomplish their goals. The environmental
organizations were challenged to use their state and chapter
organizations and memberships to promote the PCSD’s action plan in local


Whether or not they realize it, the 1100 volunteers who work on the
Louis 2004 campaign, and on similar campaigns in communities all across
America, are, in fact, working to implement the policy
recommendations of Agenda 21.

So what? Does not St. Louis, and other communities need
and transformation?

Perhaps, but those who are working to transform their communities
a right to know why they are involved in the exercise, and where Agenda
21 is taking them. There is a preconceived, predetermined end-game.
That end-game vision is published in several official documents of the
various agencies and institutions of the UN. The most comprehensive
vision of a “sustainable” future may be found in the Global Biodiversity

Assessment, published by the U.N. Environment Program; Our Global
Neighborhood, the report of the Commission on Global Governance; Caring
for the Earth, the Report of the Brundtland Commission and many other

To get a flavor of what St. Louis, and virtually all American cities
are supposed to look like in the future, examine the vision presented by

the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in a
document entitled Community Sustainability: Agendas for choice-making &
Action, prepared by Adnrew Euston, for the U.N.’s 1996 HABITAT II
Conference in Istanbul. A sample is excerpted here:

  • “In America, today’s community options favor cars rather than
    people. Looking ahead, for most communities transit, walking and bikes
    become people’s preferred choices. …” (page 10).

  • “… air quality/cooling: (urban forests, up-wind biomass planting,
    green belts, etc.); food production: (urban gardening, suburban edible
    landscaping, urban-rural truck farming and community-supported farming”)
    (page 21).

  • “Towards patterns of living and land use to be found in the more
    sustainable arrangements of many Western European countries. …” (page

  • “For this hopeful future we may envision an entirely fresh set of
    infrastructures that use fully automated, very light, elevated rail
    systems for daytime metro region travel and nighttime goods movement …
    we will see all settlements linked up by extensive bike, recreation and
    agro-forestry E-ways (environment-ways); use of remineralization from
    igneous and volcanic rock sources; we will be growing foods, dietary
    supplements and herbs that make over our unsustainable reliance upon
    foods and medicines that have adverse soil, environmental, or health
    side-effects; less and less land will go for animal husbandry and more
    for grains, tubers and legumes. Gradually, decent standards of equity
    will be in place for women, for children and for the disadvantaged; the
    peace-dividend will be forced upon us as the insane costs (of) military
    armament becomes challenged globally” (page 25).

  • This “hopeful future” is necessary because, according to HUD, “to
    go as we go and do as we do” (which to some may sound like individual
    freedom), is unsustainable.” The report says further, that “Modern
    society’s great challenge is that urbanization, including the resulting
    infrastructures, land use patterns and the consumption demands, is
    ecologically unsustainable as it stands” (page 6).

The HUD report, the PCSD Action Plan, as well as Agenda 21, are based

on the assumption that the status quo is “unsustainable,” and will
plunge the planet into ecological impoverishment. Therefore, societies,
nations, local communities and individuals must not be allowed to “go as
they go and do as they do.” Instead, individuals must undergo an
attitude adjustment that accepts centrally-designed and managed
communities, that conform to national policies handed down from the
international community.

The philosophy from which the “Sustainable Development” concept
has threatened world dominance on various occasions throughout the
century. In the past, domination was sought through force, and always
failed. A new implementation strategy has been devised — consensus.
Consensus is the process by which the appearance of public input is
gathered in order to lend credibility to predetermined public policies.

There has never been devised a more effective public policy
procedure than the American system of representative government, in
which the governed authorize through elections, the officials that
create public policy. Those officials are directly accountable to the
citizens who elect — or unelect — them. The PCSD’s “We Believe
Statement” number eight, says “We need a new collaborative decision
process that leads to better decisions; more rapid change; and more
sensible use of human, natural, and financial resources in achieving our

goals.” The consensus process is deliberately designed to by-pass
elected officials, avoid dissent, and implement preconceived and
predetermined policies.

Any policy recommendation contained in Agenda 21, or the PCSD’s
Plan, can be brought to any governing entity for consideration and
possible adoption. Free and open debate could modify or kill the
proposal. The proponents of a “sustainable future” are unwilling to
risk head-on debate, or the possibility of defeat. The consensus
process provides for the occasional expression of dissent. Dissent is
minimized by the selection of individuals known to support the
philosophy, or those who can be converted through the use of “incentives

and disincentives.” Typically, dissenters are marginalized, ridiculed,
discredited, and ignored, in that order. Typically, the leaders of the
consensus process are paid professionals and government employees who
can devote whatever time may be required to the process, while the
dissenters are most often private citizens who sacrifice work or home
time to participate. Sadly, the vast majority of the people who are
ultimately affected know nothing about the process until glowing press
reports pronounce what has already happened.

St. Louis 2004 may have begun as an honest, citizens’ effort to
improve St. Louis, with no intention of implementing Agenda 21. The
iron-clad test will be a comparison of the final policy recommendations
that come from St. Louis 2004, with the preconceived recommendations
adopted in Rio in 1992. There are already several indicators:

  • Agenda 21 recommends: “Adopting integrated approaches to
    sustainable development at the regional level, including transboundary
    areas…” (Chapter 8.5b)

  • The PCSD Action Plan says: “Sustainable community design calls for
    coordinated regional strategies,” and further recommends “Federal and
    state governments should encourage cooperation among communities by
    providing incentives for regional collaboration … on issues that
    transcend political jurisdictions” (Chapter 4, Action #2)

  • St. Louis 2004 embraces 12 counties, nearly 40 municipalities and
    communities. The project began with the creation of six “action teams”
    with about 150″ individuals invited to serve on each team. There were
    about 100 participants, according to Danforth. Their work has progressed
    to the point that the St. Louis region has been designated an
    “empowerment zone” by HUD, and given “up to $100 million” in
    incentives. Legislation has now been introduced in the State
    Legislature (HB 262) to create an “East-West Gateway Coordinating
    Council” consisting of appointed individuals to recommend policy
    formation relating to regional planning.” The composition of the
    council, as well as its mission, meets the recommendations set forth in
    Agenda 21, and the PCSD Action Plan. Moreover, the bill declares that
    “the immediate preservation of the public health, welfare, peace and
    safety,” is an “emergency,” which brings the bill into effect
    immediately upon passage.

Other recommendations, such as “limiting urban sprawl;” a regional
network of parks and open space interconnected by bike paths; ethnically
and economically integrated housing, managed by NGOs for public/private
partnership owners; ever-tightening restrictions on automobile use
through emissions standards and use-fees; “green-belts;” “brownfield”
revitalization; “green-seal” purchasing requirements; public/private day
care; curriculum modification to expand sensitivity to sustainability,
and “environmental justice;” enhanced NGO participation in
decision-making and management of “sustainable” activities, are but a
few of the hundreds of recommendations to look for in St. Louis 2004 –
all of which flow from Agenda 21.

The recommendations are not necessarily bad, simply because they
originate in the international community. Many communities can benefit
from “empowerment zone” financing, downtown revitalization, mass transit

systems, and infrastructure renewal. For more than 200 years, local
communities have not only been sustainable, many have prospered beyond
any that civilization has yet produced. America’s prosperity came, not
as the result of international recommendations, or government planning;
it came as the result of individual freedom to risk hardship, financial
calamity and even death, to invest in their own vision of the future.

The danger that shrouds the “Sustainable Development” paradigm, is
individual freedom is necessarily diminished. Communities can no longer
“go as they go and do as they do.” To be sustainable, individuals,
communities, and nations, must conform to preconceived behavior
patterns predetermined policies, prefabricated by a handful of
individuals who now sell the failed philosophies of the past, in the
brightly decorated package of “Sustainable Development.”

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental
Conservation Organization and chairman of Sovereignty

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