Agenda 21: The new private property rights frontier

The United Nations is designed to make possible lasting freedom and independence for all its members.
— President Harry S. Truman

by Erick J. Aune, AICP, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Do your plans, policies and programs have a tendency to ignite organized resistance that conjures up the merits and political prose found in the Declaration of Independence? Organizations may find they trigger a fear of loss around core values, such as liberty, independence and security by championing notions of sustainability or smart growth. If so, it may be helpful to understand the resulting deep motivators of resistance behavior.

As practitioners and decision-makers, planners need to honor the deeply elicited values behind terms like sustainability and smart growth in order to develop greater citizen loyalty and organizational commitment. Based on shared core values, a new collective commitment may easily reinforce the desired long-range principles associated with sustainability while at the same time honor and respect those who will put forth every effort to resist them.

The actual Agenda 21 document, that originated in 1992, appeared to legitimize, for some, a long-standing deep desire to correlate the systematic erosion of private property rights with the end game of monolithic global governance. Global governance is characterized as being strategically planned and socially engineered with zealot like abidance on all levels, from the leaders of countries down to the local zoning official at city hall.

Protecting private property rights

Using Agenda 21 and the United Nations as a catalyst, disparate acts of local government regulatory influence such as density requirements, downtown redevelopment, and environmental land-set asides are now part of a collective conscious; a harmonious common threat that has birthed a battle against the darkest conspiracy of all, the eradication of our private property rights.

Kathleen Marquardt, author and blogger, captures the essence of global governance well with this statement:

“In simple terms Agenda 21/Sustainable Development is the end of civilization as we know it. It is the end of private property, the elevation of the collective over the individual. It is the redistribution of America’s wealth to the global elite, it is the end of the Great American Experiment and the Constitution.” (, Agenda 21: The End of Western Civilization Part 1, Jan. 21, 2012)

Why connect property rights and the end of civilization as we know it? First, consider the following statement found in the opinion of the Court as delivered by Mr. Justice Holmes regarding the 1922 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Pennsylvania Coal Company v. Mahon:

“The protection of private property in the Fifth Amendment presupposes that it is wanted for public use, but provides that it shall not be taken for such use without compensation. When this seemingly absolute protection is found to be qualified by the police power, the natural tendency of human nature is to extend the qualification more and more until at last private property disappears.” (Pennsylvania Coal Co. v. Mahon, 260 U.S. 393, 405 {1922})

If we support the tenet that an over expansion of police power is a “natural tendency of human nature,” then does human nature further need to justify any loss of property rights through the identification of a greater causality? In other words, a deeper need to specifically identify a culprit, the UN, the President, the Planner, bike lanes, the Comprehensive Plan? Quite frankly, any real or perceived loss of rights to a local government made up of peers and neighbors may be enough to raise individual ire. However, when that loss is attached to a very detailed and well-articulated plot for global governance, the itch of the primal brain’s need to connect the dots just received the long sought neurotic scratch.

The fear of the erosion of property rights may aptly be described as a deep personal loss that resonates with the values of liberty and independence where the desire for their protection stimulates both a primal and nationalistic need for security. Security: directly associated with desires and intentions and inherent rights deeply embedded within the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Add to that faith in democracy, separation of powers, limited government based on checks and balances, protection against unreasonable seizures, trial by jury, freedom of speech and assembly. Now, cross check values associated with your proposed policies and programs with the core values triggered by Agenda 21.


The “Post Sustainability Institute”( is an excellent example of a highly motivated, well-organized, and detailed effort to STOP the sustainability madness. On their website, the Institute defines post-sustainability as the condition of environmental, political, social, and economic systems after the imposition of Communitarianism. The term “Communitarian,” coined by John Goodwyn Barmby in 1841, champions communal lifestyles, emphasizing the community as a whole over individuals’ rights. Communitarianism aside, please step back and focus more intently on the key motivator in this statement, “after the imposition of.”

This is a brilliant statement pinning loss of liberty, independence and security squarely into the tyrannical heart of your sustainability plan. The Institute has a very poignant and engaging slogan: “Awareness is the First Step in the Resistance.” Consider Harriet Parke’s work of fiction with Glenn Beck, “Agenda 21,” where their end version of the global conspiracy is played out reminiscent of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. The effect of a visually compelling story with the assumption of intended and imposed ideologies is a fundamental historic and literary theme that calls for immediate action in the form of organized resistance.

Adding a Core Value Test

Citizens’ input provides ideas, insights, support, feedback, fears, concerns and visions for the future. Resulting policy statements and suggested regulatory reforms may strive to support those visions, but when the undercutting of liberty, independence, and security (national, personal or otherwise) is awakened, the opportunity exists to explore how each policy may otherwise support similar core values.

An excellent example is the Obama Administration’s Partnership for Sustainable Communities initiative, an interagency partnership between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This initiative supports projects via grant funding that lower household transportation costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, decrease traffic congestion, encourage healthy walking and bicycling, and spur development of new homes and amenities around transit stations.

Steps to support core values

Now to support citizens’ core values, planners should take the following steps:

  1. Step 1: Suspend your beliefs as they relate to the project/policy.
  2. Step 2: Suspend any notions of the end of civilization and black helicopter conspiracies.
  3. Step 3: Invoke empathetic understanding of underlying loss of core values (liberty, security, et cetera).
  4. Step 4: Taking a page out of Mr. Hans Blieker’s Institute for Participatory Management and Planning book, ask yourself how, if at all, the project/policy clearly aligns with the advancement or the diminishment of these values and does it intend to “solve a legitimate, real and perceived SERIOUS problem?”
  5. Step 5: Repeat the exercise with organizational decision makers in an open, organized, and systematic fashion.
  6. Step 6: Use results to reframe, rescript, and rebrand the project policy in a manner that honestly supports a sound reflection of its intent and purposes as it relates to core values. DO NOT do this in any superficial manner as those weakness can and will be used against you. Do be HONEST and have the courage to suggest changes where you may discover core values may be diminished.

Learning from the resistance

Agenda 21 and associated resistance may have a lot to teach us. This exercise may reveal foundational merits within your sustainability plans that strive to advance principles supporting security, independence and liberty for your community. Alternatively, the organization and community may decide that such policies may jeopardize such values and choose not to implement them. Regardless, the resistance will still be there, organized and unwavering. Then again, so will you.

Erick J. Aune, AICP, has over 18 years of community development experience in the Southwest. He currently serves Santa Fe County, NM as the Senior Transportation Planner.

Published in the December 2013/January 2014 Issue

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