SUMMARY: Tea Party Critiques of Sustainable Development

Tea Party activists are raising serious concerns about community-based planning efforts promoting sustainable development, smart growth, green infrastructure, comprehensive planning, sustainable agriculture, local foods, and related outcomes.  The issues being debated are significant, and bear upon not just how our communities should develop over time, but also concern core values about democracy, governance, and capitalism.

The purpose of this blog is to assemble and examine key assertions made in Tea Party literature about topics related to sustainable development.  My sense is that considerable misinterpretation exists and the resulting confusion deflects attention away from deeper issues deserving serious and open public debate.

The following table is several pages long and full of references leading to source material for those looking to dig deeper.  A  series of related essays describe various dimensions of the controversy.  A narrative summary of some of the main concerns is posted.

Tea Party Concerns and Assertions An Examination of History and Documentation Reveals…
Tea Party Concern: Sustainable Developmentis a strategy to limit American power, restrict consumer spending, limit property rights, redistribute wealth, and control reproductive rights.


Rebuttal:Sustainable Development refers to a diverse array of strategies with the shared goal of developing human prosperity, health, and well-being in ways that can be sustained over time (rather than pursuing a development trajectory that is not sustainable).  Often these strategies explicitly address both the grey and green infrastructure on which human communities and economies depend.

Tea Party Concern: Agenda 21is a United Nations led effort to promote a one-world government, limit the US Constitution, and eliminate citizen control over local issues.

Rebuttal: Agenda 21 is a United Nations led effort that advocates local control.  It was crafted in 1992 with the purpose of reconfiguring 20th Century economic development and environmental protection strategies for 21stCentury conditions and political realities. It emphasizes local decision making and local solutions to local problems.  It was, in part, an attempt to address legitimate concerns expressed by poorer nations and communities that one-size-fits-all solutions to environmental problems were impractical, inequitable, and needed to promote economic development.

Tea Party Concern: Agenda 21 consolidates power in the hands of unelected bureaucrats and plannerswho have a liberal bias/agenda.

Rebuttal:One of the political realities to which Agenda 21 responded was the realization that rational, scientific planning by experts had serious limits.  Agenda 21 advocates, instead, a more open, transactive planning strategy that actually gives more power to local stakeholders, including economic development interests.

  • Agenda 21: Section III. Strengthening the Role of Major Groups Chapter 23. Preamble
Tea Party Concern: ICLEIis a front organization for the United Nations to promote Agenda 21.

Rebuttal:ICLEI helps local communities build capacity to respond to local issues.

  • International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives- Local Governments for Sustainability. Mission Statement.
Tea Party Concern: “The seeds for Agenda 21 were planted back in 1987 when the writings of Gro Harlem Brundtland(a woman who was first Vice-President of the Socialist International) caught the eye of the UN.  Dr. Brundtland wrote a report for the UN called, ‘Our Common Future’ eventually got into the business of environmentalism as a tool to control all the people of the world and establish a global government. The growth of ICLEI and the framework being put in place by supporters of Agenda 21 appear to be bringing Dr. Brundtland’s ideas closer to reality”

Rebuttal:Brundtland—a physician, former Director of the World Health Organization, and three-term Prime Minister of Norway—chaired a UN chartered but independent commission composed of foreign ministers, finance and planning officials, policymakers in agriculture, science, and technology from countries that spanned north-south and east-west divides. Many of the Commissioners were cabinet ministers and senior economists in their own nations.  The commission and many staffers worked for three years, soliciting input at public meetings around the world, to author an exhaustive report, which was reviewed and approved by the entire UN assembly.

Tea Party Concern: The Precautionary Principle(see Principle 15 of Agenda 21) violates the US Constitution because it asserts that people are guilty until proven innocent.

Rebuttal:In this era of rapid technological advancement, the Precautionary Principle calls for prudence rather than haste.  People and organizations benefiting from widespread adoption of their innovations are asked to take reasonable measures to ensure that their innovations do not cause, unbeknownst to the user, more harm than good, either to people directly, or to them indirectly through harm to the environment.

  • van den Belt, H, 2003. Debating the Precautionary Principle: “Guilty until Proven Innocent” or “Innocent until Proven Guilty”? Plant Physiology, July 2003, Vol. 132, pp. 1122–1126,
  • John S. Applegate, The Taming of the Precautionary Principle, 27 Wm. & Mary Envtl. L. & Pol’y Rev. 13 (2002),
  • Stevens, M. 2002. The Precautionary Principle in the International Arena. Sustainable Development Law and Policy, 2(2) 13-15.
Tea Party Concern: Community-based planning efforts are cumbersome and inefficient. They get mired in attempts to balance the advice of experts and conflicting opinions and values. This planning-based approach to decision making will ruin capitalism and destroy marketsbecause it ignores the entrepreneurship, individualism, competition, and independent actions that advance American businesses.

Rebuttal:Planning is not a bad thing.  Successful businesses plan.  They devote enormous energies deciding where to invest, what markets to develop, what products to manufacture, and how to respond to changing conditions.  Experts offer conflicting advice and someone or some committee makes the best possible decision.  If businesses fail to plan or plan poorly, they go bankrupt and cease to exist.  Planning and capitalism are complementary.

  • Drucker, Peter. 1980: Managing in Turbulent Times
Tea Party Concern: Sustainable Development is inefficient. Prosperity will suffer because the allocation of talent, resources, goods and services will not be subject to the tests of competition in a free market. Rebuttal: Sustainable development is about making wise investmentsin our infrastructure that spans generations—i.e., land use allocations, transportation network, energy supplies, and water and waste systems.  It takes a long-term view, rather than a quarterly financial reporting view. It may advocate against investments that cut costs and make profits in the short term, if those investments produce outcomes that impose health impacts and tax burdens that add costs in the long term.

Tea Party Concern: Sustainable Development ignores market signalsbecause decisions are based on a planning process that strives for consensus rather than price signals that reward competition and efficiency.

Rebuttal: Sustainable Development planning attempts to account for externalitiesignored by market price signals.  Externalities are recognized by economists as market failures that justify government intervention.  Examples include children made sick by mercury released when coal is burned to power our lights, floods and famine resulting from greenhouse gas emissions, natural water filtration capacity degraded by poorly designed roads and roofs, fisheries collapse by overfishing, and aquifer depletion by over extraction for irrigating agriculture.

  • Arnold, R. 2009. Economics. 9th Edition. Cengage.
  • Coal Costs US $Billion Annually in “Hidden” Costs. Annals of the New York Academy of SciencesE360 summary

Sustainability-related markets failures are common because “Much of the world’s environmental capital… consists of common-property resources rather than privately held assets; in part because of free-rider problems, private firms and individuals have little incentive, absent requirements imposed by government, to invest in maintaining or growing capital of this kind.”

Tea Party Concern: Sustainable Development is an attempt to disguise socialist wealth distributionpolices.

Rebuttal: Sustainable Development seeks fair distribution of benefits and costs.  Economic development projects are unfair if they distribute benefits to individual property owners but distribute costs to others through tax burdens and health risks.  Sustainable Development attempts to allocate the costs of development to those who enjoy the benefits, or it redirect development if developers are unwilling to assume the costs.Sprawling suburban development, for example, benefits property owners fortunate to be near public roads and utilities but increases costs of storm water management to those down stream, requires tax revenue for more police and schools, increases traffic congestion that lengthens commutes of neighbors, all of which increases energy consumption that necessitates a larger military and increased risks of climate change.Building houses in flood prone areas is another example inequitable distribution of costs and benefits because the homeowners that benefit from living near water require the rest of us to pay for the levees, federal flood insurance, and emergency assistance that protect their lives and investments.

Tea Party Concern: Smart growth restricts property rightsbecause it restricts people outside designated growth areas from developing their property to the same extend as people inside growth areas.  People with property outside the designated growth boundary are being robbed of opportunity to generate wealth.

Rebuttal: When growth areas are designated, some current owners can be disadvantaged. But future owners will negotiate a purchase price with full knowledge of the property’s development potential; thus the injury ceases once the property is sold.  A goal of smart growth is to insure the benefits to the community resulting from decisions that take development opportunities from property owners far outweigh the costs these land owners incur. Efforts at compensation for taking of property rights have been made, but states such as Oregon have found full compensation too expensive with current tax revenues.Property owners must accept that much of the development “value” results from public investment in transportation, energy, water, schools, and other infrastructure.  Most of a property’s development potential does not come from the land itself, but from its location relative to investment of public infrastructure.  Because of budget limitations, public infrastructure cannot be built near everyone’s property.  Therefore not all property owners will benefit equally from public investment.  Smart growth and comprehensive planning are efforts to make decisions about infrastructure location more transparent, participatory, and rational.Property rights have evolved throughout US history in response to the changing social-economic-environmental context in which the republic operates, despite Tea Party rhetoric suggesting they are fixed, inalienable and God-given rights.

  • Richard Epstein, R. 1985. Takings Private Property and the Power of Eminent Domain, Harvard Press.


  • Freyfogle, E. 2003. The Land We Share: Private Property Rights and the Common Good. Island.
Tea Party Concern: Sustainable Development discourages automobile use.


Rebuttal:Sustainable development seeks to limit traffic congestion, minimize time wasted commuting, reduce energy consumption, and efficiently use tax dollars to build a transportation infrastructure.   These goals can sometimes be best achieved by means other than building more roads for single occupancy vehicles.

Tea Party Concern: Sustainable Development limits housing choice, increases crowding, and forces people to live in “hobbit houses”

Rebuttal:Concentrating new development where infrastructure already exists or can be least expensively constructed does increase the density of people per acre.  But this development pattern also increases access to amenities, shopping, and family.  It also attracts an innovative, entrepreneurial workforce that is mobile and in search of quality of life.   These “new urbanism” and “mixed use” developments held their value during the recent real-estate downturn, which may reflect changing consumer preferences.

Tea Party Concern: Sustainable agriculture and local food policies redistribute income, increase taxation and regulation, and take away freedom and property rights.  “American citizens would be stripped of their wealth and property…  When this happened in Russia under Stalin, eleven million people who were seen as resisting socialism were intentionally starved to death.  Food (or lack there of) can become the ultimate weapon, the ultimate control.”

  • Alliance for Citizen Rights. 2011. Sustainable Agriculture. As Tony the Tiger Says, It Sure Sounds ‘G-RR-EAT!!’
Rebuttal:Sustainable agriculture is a strategy to promote national security and local food security by insuring a reliable and safe supply of foods to complement long, international supply chains that increasingly dominate our food system and may be vulnerable to energy price spikes and global social unrest.

Local food polices are motivated in part by still-debated claims that food miles contribute to climate change and degradation of finite natural resources.

But local food systems are also part of concerted efforts to promote local economies, recirculate local dollars through local economies, and increase revenues for farmers and local merchants so they can better compete with global, industrial agriculture.

Tea Party Concern: Sustainable Development restricts freedom and liberty.  Big government, and particular government regulation, is problematic because it can restrict personal freedoms and liberties.

Rebuttal: The US Declaration of Independence captures the core American ideology with the oft-quoted assertion that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are inalienable rights.  But this assertion never meant people were free to do things that harmed others.  Environmental regulations and Sustainable Development attempt to reduce these harms and protect lives and opportunities to pursue happiness.     Freedoms come with obligations.  Freedomcannot occur without collective governance.

  • Starr 2007. Freedom’s Power.
Tea Party Concern: Environmental problems such as climate change, energy shortages, hazardous pollutants, and biodiversity decline are overstated. Most of these concerns reflect the aesthetic preferences of people who value nature more than humans. The issues certainly are not serious enough to justify dramatic changes such as limiting property rights, redistributing wealth, controlling population growth, and redirecting economic growth. Rebuttal:“Ecosystems and the biodiversity they embody constitute “environmental capital” on which society depends in multifaceted ways. The “ecosystem services” in support of human well-being that flow from this capital include formation of soil and renewal of its fertility, management of flows of fresh water, maintenance of the composition of the atmosphere, pollination of flowers and crops, control of the distribution and abundance of pests and pathogens, production of fish and game in unmanaged and lightly managed ecosystems, aesthetic and recreational values from pristine landscapes, maintenance of the “genetic library” of global biodiversity as a source of future insights and innovations benefitting humankind, and important contributions to keeping climatic conditions in the range to which human society and current ecosystems are adapted. ““It has been increasingly well documented over the course of the last few decades, however, that bio­diversity and other important components of the environmental capital producing these services are being progressively degraded by human activities. It is becoming clearer, as well, that the degradation of this capital has already reduced or rendered less reliable some of the associated services, with sig­nificant adverse impacts on society. These impacts include: damaging floods arising from deforested watersheds and heavier precipitation events; increasing costs of fresh water supply (higher pumping costs from declining water tables, increased treatment costs because of pollution and declining efficacy of natural purification); dramatic expansion of annual areas burned and property destroyed in wildfires; increases in the frequency and destructiveness of forest-pest outbreaks; disappearance or diminution of economically valuable freshwater fish populations in waters affected by acidification, other pollution, and warming; increased destruction from storms and tsunamis because buffering mangroves have been destroyed by coastal development; the pole-ward spread of tropical diseases; and the peaking and decline of the global ocean fish catch despite increased fishing effort. ““The root causes of the degradation of environmental capital and the associated diminution of ecosystem services are to be found in the combined pressures of population growth, rising affluence, and frequent reliance on environmentally disruptive technologies to meet the associated material demands, with the damages frequently compounded by bad management—attributable partly, in turn, to widespread under-appreciation of the importance of environmental capital for human well-being and to the absence of the value of its services from the economic balance sheets of producers and consumers. The proxi­mate causes of the degradation include: widespread conversion of natural ecosystems to high-intensity human uses; exploitation, beyond sustainable yield, of commercially valuable wild plants and animals; introduction of invasive organisms that crowd out or otherwise kill off indigenous ones; emissions and spillovers of ecologically harmful substances from industry and agriculture; and, most recently, the growing impacts of global climate change resulting from heat-trapping gases and particles added to the atmosphere by human activities.”

About admin

Hull is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability
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23 Responses to SUMMARY: Tea Party Critiques of Sustainable Development

  1. Thanks for this summary, Bruce, and the work in clarification you’ve taken the time to do. Will you explore in future posts the core values that Tea Party activists and the “liberal elite” may share? My limited experience in these conversations is that emotion overrides reasonable civil discourse, with personal attacks based on un-verified assumptions finally being launched by both sides. Nobody gains insight or understanding and we’re deeper into the “hole” of divisiveness that both sides seem to lament but spend no energy filling in …

  2. There is a major flaw in your table. Like the rhetoric of any abuser, the rhetoric of sustainable development needs to be swept aside while a review of the actions it produces is made. It’s not what you say, but what you do that matters.

    UN Agenda 21/Sustainable Development advocates for a major overhaul of the land use and planning system of the United States. Buzz words like ‘capacity building, visioning, smart anything, mandatory volunteering, and consensus’ are used to mask the illusion of community buy-in for these myriad programs.

    If you’re an academic you need to get out into the community and see that the visioning meetings are weighted with ‘shills’ for whatever plan was agreed to before the ‘community’ entered the room. Restrictions on land use, farming, water use, energy use, and social management have been launched nationwide through a tremendous blitz of federally and non-governmentally funded and administered programs.

    It’s obvious that you put a lot of thought into your table. I have news for you: this is not a ‘tea party’ objection. Small businesses, farmers, property owners, and all citizens are shocked when they attend meetings and see how regulations are steamrolled without their consent. If the government agency anticipates opposition they’ll postpone the meeting or seed it with employees. If these plans were so great they wouldn’t have to be pushed through by stealth and deception.

    And the charge that we’re ‘afraid of change’ or ‘greedy’ or ‘not committed to community’ are part of the smear that is used to discount and ignore the truth. Communitarianism is the new law of the 21st century. It states that the rights of the individual come below the rights of the community. In this case the global community. Excuse me for raising the constitution–I am a liberal Democrat and I am still supporting the constitution–but the constitution enumerates and protects the rights of the individual. The so-called rights of the community are not enumerated and can change at any time. We are not advocating anarchy. Taking the support of the rights of the individual as stated in the US Constitution to that point is part of the smear on those of us who are fighting UN Agenda 21. Laws are necessary. Land use rules are necessary.

    But UN Agenda 21/Sustainable Development is a plan to move people out of the rural areas and into dense vertical sprawl in the city centers. Driven by developers, planners and bond brokers through redevelopment agencies, AG21 incrementally shifts the population into cities. How?

    Redevelopment funds high density development in city centers. This money comes from property taxes and regional metropolitan transportation agencies. General funds are starved for dollars to pave roads and bring services out to rural and suburban areas. Land use restrictions on water and farming practices break farmers and ranchers. Private land trusts stand waiting with bail out money to pay conservation easements which last for a single generation, then that land is taken out of production.

    I could go on but I invite you to read our websites. I am a forensic commercial real estate appraiser specializing in eminent domain valuation and am an expert in land use. Through nearly 30 years of analyzing property for state transportation projects I recognized that a planning revolution was underway by the mid-1990’s. UN Agenda 21 was signed onto by George H.W. Bush in 1992 and Bill Clinton instituted it in the US in 1993 with the President’s Council on Sustainable Development. ‘Growing Smart: A Legislative Guidebook’ was funded by PCSD and by 2002 was in every planning department and university in the nation. The ‘new consensus’ concept also comes out of a PCSD publication and dictates how to neutralize opposition.

    You might think this is a good thing. But, as George Bush Jr. said, ‘I like the idea of a dictatorship as long as I’m the dictator.’ You might like this now but I suggest you stop trashing the tea party people who are asking vital questions. Those of us on the left have to take the wool out of our eyes and look past the rhetoric. Whether you drink tea or coffee is irrelevant.

    Rosa Koire, ASA
    Executive Director
    Post Sustainability Institute

  3. admin says:

    Your concerns about sustainable development are pretty typical of Tea Party critiques—UN-driven, anti-local control, forced relocation of the population into urban squalor, anti-capitalism, a process that is filled with deception if not conspiratorial, etc. I find these concerns to be misrepresentations of the efforts being criticized, so the table points readers to links describing those programs and alternative interpretations.

    What saddens me most about your type of response is that it critiques sustainable development without offering an alternative. It just ignores that as many as 150 million MORE people will live in the US in by 2050—that is a 50% increase. Where should we put them? What infrastructure should we develop for them so they thrive? How should we go about it? It also ignores evidence that resource scarcities and climate change might already by imposing some limits to some types of growth. What if there are limits? What if exceeding them causes social unrest and suffering? How much risk are you willing to take that these limits don’t exist? Why not act with a degree of prudence just in case your beliefs about unlimited and unrestricted growth don’t pan out? Tell us what strategies you advocate. Then you would be adding constructively to the debate. Just saying “no” doesn’t help.

    I think I do see areas where we agree. You seem to be arguing for greater citizen participation in local land use planning efforts. I agree. These efforts have been going on for decades, long before the UN framed Agenda 21. They are nothing nothing new. The process is open. Most people chose to ignore them because they take so much time and because it is tedious work. But I agree with you, the outcomes will be improved if more people participate, as long as participation is constructive.

  4. We are not a tea party group. That seems difficult for you to grasp.
    The ‘new consensus’ as described in the publication by the President’s Council on Sustainable Development called Sustainable America: A New Consensus, is the neutralization of opposition.
    What part of that don’t you get?
    This is the illusion of community participation. Your opinion is invited but the outcome has been determined before you walk in the room. That is the Delphi technique.
    Have you read our websites? Are you out in your community attending these meetings? I don’t think so.
    Your concern that we don’t have anywhere to ‘put’ all of the millions who are heading our way is misguided. Don’t you understand that there are two words in smart growth, and growth is the main one? Growth. Development of vertical sprawl. Glutting the city center with thousands of units of condos and apartments. Demolishing what is already there (and taking it to a landfill) and then ‘redeveloping’ it using your property tax dollars—to build small units with little private space crowded into tight areas.
    Look, if there was a demand for this you wouldn’t need to change the general plans of every city in the US to require it. And you wouldn’t have to subsidize it with property tax dollars and 30-45 year bonds.
    Are you familiar with the Hegelian Dialectic? A problem has been created and now a solution is being posited that would never have been considered previously. Communitarian law recognizes the ‘rights of the community’ as being superior to those of the individual, so those nebulous, undefined rights are then dominant. You accuse me of not having a ‘solution for your problem’ when your solution is to create more construction (benefitting a very powerful construction lobby paid with our property tax dollars) and overburden the centers of our cities. New sewer and water trunklines must be constructed, new streets, new site improvements—don’t you see that this is a scam?
    I am a land use and property valuation expert. This post is far too short to share all of this information with you, but there is a full analysis on my website, Democrats Against UN Agenda 21 dot com. I challenge you to read it. Green rhetoric is a waste of time if you don’t have the information that deconstructs it. There is an estimated $5 trillion in private money poised to offer green energy loans. The green movement is driven by money and power and is not the answer the environmental issues as they are perceived.
    Referring to this as a tea party thing is ridiculous and foolish. Even if I were in the tea party it wouldn’t change the truth of our research. Read it.

    Rosa Koire, ASA
    Executive Director
    Post Sustainability Institute

  5. admin says:

    Your organization may not be affiliated with the “Tea Party,” but your critiques of sustainable development seem to parallel the critiques found on self-professed Tea Party websites, including, what I argue above, is a gross mischaracterization of Agenda 21.

    Again you raise concerns without offering solutions. Your critique of communitarianism, for example, ring hollow. How do your propose we as a community make decisions and resolve conflicts that affect us? I assume you are not arguing against democracy, but you do seem to be arguing against process. If you don’t like the current process that leads to land use planning decisions in your community, then suggest alternatives. These processes do need improvement and your constructive involvement would be appreciated. Suggesting that we stop making land use decisions is not a constructive suggestion.

    Your critique of communitarianism is particularly troubling to me because it suggests communities don’t come with both rights and obligations. The US, for example, is a community defined by shared access to its resources, rights, and privileges, such as the right to shout from our respective soapboxes, as we are doing now. But with membership comes responsibilities. We must agree to rules and norms of the community. If not, we get punished or expelled. The United States, like every community, struggles to find the right balance between individual rights and community conformance. Sustainability advocates and Tea Partiers would agree, I hope, that the US should err on the side of protecting individual rights. However, when some individual actions threaten the community, as sustainable development advocates believe is currently the case, then the community must act to control those actions.

    To critique sustainable development with the argument that it privileges the community over individual rights makes no sense. All communities do that; otherwise you don’t have a community, you have anarchy. The more important question about sustainable development is how grave are the proposed threats to our community, and how to respond in ways that best respect the individual liberties and rights we value.

  6. John Marler says:

    Amazing how you discredit any dissenting voice without facts, only AG21 “fact sheet” discredited wordsmithing. When the various patriot groups present their case, it is USING AG21 documents and then showing that each and every projection of ICLEI or AG21 is harmful to liberty and to freedoms of the citizens of America.

    I am certain that your response will be as I have had in debates with similar “apologist” that want to rely on “feelings” and propaganda wording without substantantiating with proof OTHER than UN or AG21 or ICLEI documents.

    I assure you, the loss of the whole social and economic values and priciples that made the US the country unequaled in history will be at the hands of your people and will be resisted to the death by the people who see your failures to be truthful as what Lenin called “useful idiots” and history will repeat and you may succeed in your efforts, but look at who the tyrants always sent tot he firing squads FIRST! Look at Hitler, Stalin. Mao. Pol Pot, Idi Amin and all the others ALL did this same process of eliminating those who, like you, defend the acts.


  7. LibertyJane says:

    admin, to what sustainable development organizations do you belong? What drives your interest in this issue? Would you be willing to let us know your identity? If not, why not?
    I appreciate the links you have provided. You are helping to make the Tea Party case against sustainable development. I especially agree with this quote from another of your posts (“Values and Assumptions Embedded in Sustainable Development”): “I can find no evidence from my many, many conversations with advocates of sustainable development that they are socialist, communists, Marxist, or as some misguided critics claim, Nazis. They do advocate state ownership and management [of] all property.

  8. Niki Raapana says:

    Admin said, in response to Rosa,

    “Your critique of communitarianism, for example, ring hollow. How do your propose we as a community make decisions and resolve conflicts that affect us?”

    I would recommend full disclosure of the proposed changes, free and open public debates over the new legal “balancing,” and then sending the changes before the American voters. This obscure new community ideology replaces the constitutional purpose for government in the United states, which is “to protect and maintain individual rights.” There are legal avenues for amending the U.S. constitution, and sorry Admin, you sure sound like you know UN regulatory governance, but maybe you need to study U.S. government before you insist American opponents of the emerging global communitarian system come up with a better solution to this Hegelian problem, or accuse all your opponents of being Tea Partiers.

    Small groups of communitarians revising our laws in small meetings is not legal here. In case you aren’t aware of the actual laws that govern this people’s government, any proposed amendment to our constitutional legal system requires passage in 3/4 of the elected state legislatures. Changing our system from a government established to protect and maintain individual rights into a global system that protects and maintains communitarian rights and requires new communitarian responsibilities requires our explicit (and fully informed) permission.

    Admin went on to tell Rosa, “To critique sustainable development with the argument that it privileges the community over individual rights makes no sense.”

    What part of this argument don’t you understand?

    Perhaps this quote partially explains your confusion:

    “Property rights have evolved throughout US history in response to the changing social-economic-environmental context in which the republic operates, despite Tea Party rhetoric suggesting they are fixed, inalienable and God-given rights.”

    Admin, did you skip U.S. Government 101 in grade school, high school and college? The U.S. Constitution and all 50 state constitutions are fixed law. Our entire legal structure is established under those documents, and our founders were certain those rights come directly from our Creator, naturally. They can never be infringed upon by “do gooders” with foreign ideologies and religious beliefs, regardless how specious their pretexts. On the other hand, Imperial British, Monarchist, and Marxist based theories, including the big communitarian plan for saving the world’s poor, Mother Earth and all future generations, such as Agenda 21, absolutely depends on forcing Americans into unnatural dialectically driven conflicts that further UN solutions .

    Our entire legal system is based upon the right to property. That’s not Tea Party rhetoric, that’s the system every responsible American respects and participates in. If you think Americans need to adopt a new system, then the only legal way to present this new ideology is to go through the proper legal channels. Anything else is treason.

    Niki Raapana, co-founder
    Anti Communitarian League

  9. LibertyJane says:

    Ah, I should have checked out your “About” section. I apologize. I see you are very involved in the sustainable development movement, and teaching it to our college forestry students. I am interested in maintaining private forest land that I own, with no help from you. What do you teach your students about my private property rights?

  10. Once again, Bruce, you obfuscate. Somehow you have conflated the idea of individual rights and liberties with anarchy—because this serves your ‘argument.’ As I said, laws are necessary, and zoning is desirable in order to separate uses that are incompatible.

    Now contrast that with your assertion that changing land use without the property owner’s knowledge or input is all right because, you say:
    ‘ When growth areas are designated, some current owners can be disadvantaged. But future owners will negotiate a purchase price with full knowledge of the property’s development potential; thus the injury ceases once the property is sold. A goal of smart growth is to insure the benefits to the community resulting from decisions that take development opportunities from property owners far outweigh the costs these land owners incur. Efforts at compensation for taking of property rights have been made, but states such as Oregon have found full compensation too expensive with current tax revenues.’

    Let’s distill that down, shall we? ‘Only the current property owner will be damaged and we don’t have the money to pay him/her, so it’s ok.’ Let’s use that ‘logic’ on you, Bruce. How about if we say that your PhD requirements have now changed and we’re going to take your doctorate away from you. Not to worry though, because those who are still working on their PhD’s will know about the new requirements and can adjust without damage. How does that sound?

    Every totalitarian state needs it’s apologists or it’s champions, I suppose. You simplistically reduce these issues to veiled accusations that I don’t think that citizenship carries with it responsibilities–clearly indicating that you have not read my sites. Your precautionary principle argument covers a multitude of plans that all seem to support restrictions on civil liberties. Change your ‘smart growth’ posts to ‘homeland security’ and you’ll be able to justify house arrest because someone may commit a crime in the future.

    And that 50% increase in population, Bruce? How many kids do you have? Any? Where are all of those children coming from? That huge increase in population? By 2050 the baby boomers will be dead. Sounds like the population boom is a fantasy designed to support the complete redesign of our hardscape and legal framework. Why are you so committed to that, Bruce? Why aren’t you asking the hard questions? Do you have grants that are dependent on Sustainable Development?

    Rosa Koire, ASA
    Executive Director
    Post Sustainability Institute

  11. admin says:

    Hi Rosa, I guess we are on a first name basis now. Cool! I think we found several other issues where we might be in agreement. Perhaps we can build on that.

    You said “zoning is desirable in order to separate uses that are incompatible”. I pretty much agree, although I’m not particularly keen on zoning per see because I think it is a tool that may have past its prime and better land use planning tools exist. But at least we agree that some community-based (i.e., government led) decision making process (i.e., land use planning) must be put in place to resolve conflicts such as those that arise from “uses that are incompatible.” However, it is not just conflicts among neighbors that must be resolved. Communities must also resolve conflicts among landowners and the community’s best interest.

    I think we also agree on the need for a participatory process. I did not say, as you assert I did, that “changing land use without the property owner’s knowledge or input is all right.” I am sorry if I gave you that impression. What I was trying to say is that local land use planning processes exist as a means to negotiate competing claims, that these processes existed long before Agenda 21, that these processes are usually ignored by most citizens because they are tedious and technical, and that these processes would benefit from greater participation.

    I think we also agree that land use planning decisions can disadvantage some property owners. That is why I specifically called attention to it in my blog. These are the sorts of difficult decisions a community must make, must make only as a last resort, and must make only after careful deliberation. Growth boundaries are just one example, so are road widening efforts, pollution regulations, sewer lines, parks, etc. All of these decisions differentially affect the property development opportunities of landowners: some benefit, some lose. The land use planning process is admittedly imperfect, but it reflects the best and sincere efforts of communities to make these decisions in ways that protect and improve the public good and attempt to balance (sorry, I know you don’t like the “b” word) that against individual property rights and liberties. Both of us respect and cherish property rights and individual liberties and want any process that restricts them to be cautious and deliberative.

    You make two points on which we disagree:
    1) You assert “the population boom is a fantasy”. This and other of your critiques of my “precautionary principle arguments” suggest that we do differ on whether we believe there exist serious challenges that warrant dramatic actions such as restricting property rights. I tend to trust the credibility of the US Census projections, which I link to in that post (and repeat here: ). Perhaps I also worry more than you about the nonlinearity of ecological systems, world fisheries collapses, water shortages, soil erosion, pollution toxicity, and numerous other very well documented trends.

    2) You also will be pleased to learn that I have studied your website, and actually did so before I started this line of blogs.

  12. admin says:

    Dear: Niki Raapana
    You still have not told me how a community, where you live for instance, should resolve conflicts over property rights among neighbors or decide where to invest its limited resources in new roads, sewer lines, utilities, etc. You state that you “recommend full disclosure of the proposed changes, free and open public debates over the new legal ‘balancing,’ and then sending the changes before the American voters.” I’m with you on the full disclosure and open public debated about anything that ends up making tradeoffs among my community members’ liberties. That process describes, to me, the role of land use planning by local governments—an admittedly imperfect system, but one that works and would work better if more of us get involved. But I don’t want an amendment of the US Constitution, as you seem to suggest, to resolve where and how my local community should obtain and protect its water supply.

    Every local government action that decides where a road goes, what the speed limit on that road should be, how to celebrate the 4th of July, how much to pay teachers, and so on places restrictions on individuals. To be a member of a community means to live by its rules. To live in a democracy means we have a say in those rules. That is why I said “To critique sustainable development with the argument that it privileges the community over individual rights makes no sense.” Every community must act in ways that restrict individual rights. With membership comes responsibilities. Perhaps I should have said “balance’ instead of ‘privilege’. I’ll give you that. Like you, I want my communities to err on the side of protecting individual rights and only restrict them as a last resort and after careful and open deliberation.

  13. admin says:

    Dear Liberty Jane: Thanks for the careful reading. I hope it is obvious that I had a typo. The sentence should read “They do NOT advocate state ownership and management of all property.”

  14. Niki Raapana says:


    When my Seattle Neighborhood Association wrote the new enforcement Matrix for Rebuilding a Livable Community in 1999, 35 self-appointed government agents, professional facilitators (Sustainable Seattle), federal COPS, “concerned citizens and stakeholders” validated it. They then bodly claimed their vision was what the “community wants.” I did a survey of a few blocks in Roosevelt neighborhood in 2000, and found not one resident who knew anything about the new plan. When I attempted to participate in the new participatory democracy proceedings, my voice was silenced… because I asked for evidence of their Authority of Law to overrule established law and quietly implement plans that violate the U.S. 4th and 5th Amendments and Article One, Section One, of the Washington State Constitution.

    The Anchorage 2020 Comprehensive Bowl Plan was written by 500 “concerned citizens and stakeholders” in 2001. Almost an exact copy of the Seattle plans, it too claims their LA21 vision for a sustainable Anchorage is what the “community wants.” I did a survey in South Anchorage in 2005 for our book, “2020: Our Common Destiny,” asking residents about their knowledge and support for their 2020 vision. I found one lady who knew what I was talking about, and she was one of the 500 who worked on the plan. She refused to discuss it with me and asked me to leave her shop.

    Communitarian Law was adopted in every city, town and rural area without the knowledge or consent of the American people. The communitarian community system of justice replaces the former system of justice in the USA without going through the proper legal proceedures for changing the U.S. justice system. That this new system has ALREADY established itself globally and has reams of case law to support it is easily verifiable in numerous official documents, such as “A communitarian green space between market and political rhetoric about environmental law” presented by the Government of Sri Lanka:

    Proponents of SD, like you, always claim that the legal system in the United States is not adequate to decide issues relating to local resources and devlopment, so it must be “balanced” against the new community rights ideology. Proponents of SD also claim that they have the right to decide for everyone else residing in the local community. They always say they care more and assume a more “moral” position. These unelected change agents always claim they represent the community, but they never seem to have an answer when I ask where their right to rule the rest of the community comes from. The fact that the rest of the people who live in the planning areas know nothing about the plans is of no importance to the people who claim to be the community.

    In my 12 years of studying this La21 advancement I have never seen ONE public debate about the new law or the new requirements for global citizenship. As Bill Clinton keeps saying, we’re simply all more communitarian now. Do you agree with him?

    There is one aspect to SD that the Tea Partiers you cite above rarely to never mention in any of their published exposes and reports, and that is the new system of LAW. The very fact that the American people are finding out about this whole SD/LA21 agenda from the far right angle is a clear sign to me that’s it’s being set up as a controlled debate. The only reason the word communitarianism was introduced on this page at all is because Rosa, a “Democrat”, includes it in her presentations. (Berit Kjos has also written extensively about communitarian legal theology at her website.)

    You say you don’t want to change the system of law, yet you promote a globalist communitarian ideology that was quietly slipped into local law around the globe without ANY public debate. Communitarianism is elitist RULE by self-appointed communitarian councils and committees. It is incompatible with any constitutional form of government that cannot be changed by a few self-appointed concerned citizens. Balancing Rights & Responsibilities is Communitarian legal theology:

    Would you please clarify for me exactly what ideology you think SD promotes? I don’t want to hear another answer about all the issues that have to be “resolved.” I want to know why you think replacing the system we hold, without public awareness, is okay.

    You’ve very adeptly sidestepped the bottom line in your response to me. Under what authority do you assume the power to change the justice system of a sovereign nation?

    Niki Raapana
    Anti Communitarian League

  15. admin says:

    Dear Niki Raapana,
    What type of government do I want? Isn’t that what we are debating? If I have to put it in a few words it will get really abstract, but here goes: I want the sort of constitutional republic we have in the US, with a strong bent towards a representative and deliberative democracy rather than oligarchy (that is, I prefer the power center be vested in middleclass values and concerns rather than in the values and concerns of wealthy property owners and I prefer deliberation and participation to complement the once-a-year ballot box vote). I also believe in the nested hierarchy of federal, state, and local government authority, as we must resolve issues that are best addressed at different spatial and temporal scales. These answers cover important generalities, I suppose, but they do not get into specifics of the thorny issue before us: land use planning.

    Land use decisions must be reached through an open, deliberative, and cautious approach. The issues are complex so there is a critical role for experts to help us foresee potential consequences of potential decisions. The issues are also multi-scalar, so there are important roles for local, state, and national level decisions. What infrastructure to build or businesses to promote are probably best decided locally, to reflect first hand knowledge and local political will, but also must occur ith an eye to the region, to leverage other investments and trends. Designating urban zones for infrastructure investment and growth, in contrast, may require more regional coordination, because they don’t work well when one locality implements them and a neighboring locality does not. Major changes to ideas like property rights (I’m not talking about resolving local conflicts among neighbors) are at the other extreme and probably should be decided at the national level. Property rights not only protect liberties, but provide stability that nurtures innovation and investment (one is less likely to invest in something if they are unsure if they can own and benefit from their investment). Therefore changes should be made with a great deal of caution and infrequently.

    What values do I advocate? I’m trying to be reflective and honest in these blogs.(see ).

    Apparently decisions at your local level in Seattle did not go as you wanted. I understand your frustration. It happens to me too. My community makes decisions I don’t agree with. But I continue to work within the bounds of those decisions and strive to participate in and influence subsequent decisions. That is the beauty, and the frustration, of our system of governance. The danger is when we get too frustrated to participate, which is why I respect and appreciate your participation in this debate.

  16. Niki Raapana says:


    You still have not answered my question about the authority of law that supports the necessary balancing argument used in all sustainable development law. You say, “Therefore changes should be made with a great deal of caution and infrequently.” What does that mean to you, exactly? Does it mean no changes shall be made unless they are made within the constitutional parameters for legitimate government here?

    I’m operating under the assumption that the law of these United States is written, fixed contractual law that can only be changed with the consent of the governed. If you have information that this is no longer the case, please share that with us now.

    You seem like a friendly enough guy, but do not assume anything about my experience in Seattle. Our story about that time is well documented in 3 civil lawsuits, numerous articles, a book, and has been read and heard around the world for over a decade… saying it didn’t go as I “wanted” makes you appear ignorant, and some might say quite arrogant too. Let’s not assume anything, shall we? Let’s stick to a discussion of observable facts and exclude both our imaginations and beliefs.

    I don’t know where you’re from, but I’m an American. I need evidence and facts to debate. My primary concern with SD is the LAW. If this debate is based only in 19th century metaphysics and environmental dialectical reasoning, and can therefore never be resolved or finished, what’s the point of having a debate at all?

    My position is that global SD law does NOT overrule U.S. law, and that promoting it is sedition against the people who live here. Your rebuttal is …what?

    I have a fresh idea. How about you just answer a simple yes, no, or maybe question, one that was on our ACL website from 2004 to 2010:

    Should we eliminate the U.S. Constitution in favor of Communitarian Values?

    Niki Raapana
    Anti Communitarian League

  17. admin says:

    I’ll support the US Constitution. Yes, I also like the logic of communitarians such as Alasdair MacIntyer, but I suspect you do not, so I will quote Locke: “For when any number of men have, by consent of every individual , made a community, they have thereby made that community one body, with power to act as one body…every one is bound by that consent to be concluded by the majority.” (Locke Second Treatise of Government 1690 (96)). Bottom line, though, I’ll support democracy, and its attention to affected interests so that people affected by decisions get to influence those decisions.

  18. Marie Jayne says:

    I’m just rather stunned by your santization of Gro Brundtland. She’s a Marxist, as was her father.
    She is the person who define SD using Article 18 of the 1977 USSR ‘constitution’.
    She is also the person who introduced ‘multiculturalism’ in order to dilute sovereign nations’ identities by denying them that which makes ‘x’ country ‘x’. The EU is the grand experiment in dissolving national identity and we see how well that is not working.
    Sustainable Development is just the new word for Communism and nothing you say will get around that fact.
    I am an individual and forever sovereign. The ‘group hug’ ‘what’s best for the community’ propaganda is repulsive. Keep the government off my land and out of my life. Liberty, in the sense of freedom from government control, is what our Founders professed and the system of government they created was to ensure our liberty. You wish to change that for some grand scheme devised by the UN, which, by the way, was designed and created by confirmed communits. Nothing good ever came out of the UN, and nothing good ever will.
    I am not as learned as Rosa Koire or Niki Raapana, so I am truly thankful that they responded to this propagana blog and have the chance to look into their admirable work.

  19. admin says:

    Brundtland is many things, a medical doctor, a former (three time!) prime minister of Norway, Director of World Health Organization, and recipient of a Thomas Jefferson Foundation medal. She has a distinguished record of serving humanity, a long list of specific and notable accomplishments, and years of promoting collaboration around the world among people trying to create a thriving and sustainable future. No sanitizing needed. She deserves more than name calling. Look into the specifics.

  20. Ward La Valley says:

    I’ve read through all the stuff here, and while I can’t claim to be an expert on it all, like some here, I’m for democracy, and I think the point of a democracy is to keep the government flexible in balancing the rights of the individual with the rights of the community.

    The rights of the community clearly prevail in some matters, like laws against stealing, murder, rape, etc. The issue is land use, and whether the community has any right to impose standards on it. Most folks soon admit that it does. Where I live, recently some folks wanted to put in a shooting range, and it was not clear whether it was a permitted use, so there was a hearing on it. The people FOR the shooting range said it was their natural property rights to do what they wanted on their land. The neighbors, who were AGAINST the shooting range, said it was their natural property rights to enjoy their property without the noise and fear of getting shot they said the gun range created. There were other infrastructure issues as well, as I recall.

    Some people brought up this Agenda 21 deal, but in the end what some UN bureaucrat said in Brazil 40 years ago didn’t have a damn thing to do with the issue of what to do with the gun range. The people involved agree on one thing, though, and that was there needed to be better planning in place so there could be places to put gun ranges that don’t bother the neighbors. Call it sustainable, call it green with polka dots, we don’t care, we just want land use planning that can let us put in gun ranges and keep the neighbors happy and I think we want to make sure that the water and the roads are kept up too. We have a problem with that. Some people think we need open space to keep the tourists coming and the cattle grazing, but one man’s open space is another man’s future housing development, so we have to figure out how to deal with this.

    Finally, here on this website I read where people complain that the UN Agenda 21 involves subverting democracy because sometimes so few people are involved in the planning process. That’s funny, because here where I live the people are very involved, endless numbers of open meetings, comments, etc. etc. in our General Plan update, and the vast majority want good land use planning. (i.e. no gun ranges next door)

    But anyway, now the Agenda 21 folks here are saying that the US isn’t actually a democracy, complaining about the tyranny of the majority, etc. etc. You just can’t make some people happy I guess.

    Best to all,

  21. David Harley says:

    Rosa Koire is quite right to say that her various groups are not Tea Party organs. They aren’t very forthcoming about themselves, so one must judge the groups by whom they praise and with whom they associate. Most of them make the Tea Party look sane, centrist and balanced.

    There is a Tea Partyish group, TAG, and a crank or two. But we find off-the-wall conspiracy theorists, Holocaust deniers, anti-semites, WorldNetDaily, Minuteman, and so on.

    It may be that these are the only people who agree with Ms Koire on enough points to make for dialogue or airtime. It is strange that there is no one who could be described as being “to the left” of Newt Gingrich, and even he might well be regarded as suspiciously “communitarian”. This is the label applied by Ms Koire to Comcast, Google, the UN, geneticists, airport security, the Nazis, environmentalists, transport planners, and almost anyone else. Every Democratic and Republican politician is probably included, because they are all part of the UN’s dreaded One World plot. It is unclear how many of the Founding Fathers would pass muster, if she knew much about them.

  22. Nemo from Erehwon says:

    Thanks for taking the time to do this. I had not heard of UNA21 until earlier today, and have been quickly Googling for sources that talk bout it. I appreciate that you are up front about your point of view, and that, usefully and unusually, you provide links to those supporting your position and supporting the opposition. Sincere thanks for this.

    I would quibble that trying to label this a “Tea Party” issue is not strictly accurate. True, some of the folks who are concerned about this are surely Tea Party members, but some are surely not — certainly I see a difference between the issues as addressed by the Tea Party and as addressed by Alex Jones, who seems to be one of the most worried about UNA21.

    That aside, this is a useful and instructive website, and has greatly aided my building an understanding of what UNA21 is, and why some people are concerned about it, and why others are supportive, or don’t see it as relevant to local planning initiatives. Many thanks.

  23. Boris Butlich says:

    Wow, deep discussion. However, it seems to me that we are dealing here with two completely divergent world views – socialism (or one of its derivations) and capitalistic democracy (actually a capitalistic republic). There are irreconcilable differences between these two views, which cannot be resolved even by very well informed, intelligent dialog. So, the bottom line is this – the USA IS a capitalistic republic. The USA is NOT a socialist nation. That is a fact our nation was founded on. While some government intervention into our private lives may be necessary, government is the enemy and is to be avoided/minimized. That also is a fact our nation was founded on. Those who wish for the USA to be different that it IS are free to move to a country that fits their world view. But, stop pushing to change the nation the rest of us love just as it is, and thus ruin it. Enough said.

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