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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Two Months Behind the Times, But In Case You Missed It

Glenn Beck has "authored" a dystopian novel titled "Agenda 21." Writing an Salon, the original, pre-Beck editor Sarah Cypher argues,
The novel “Agenda 21″ was inspired by Beck’s entreaty to his viewers to “do your own research.” Well, fine — if you read a single paragraph of a 40-chapter political tract, you can spin it all kinds of ways and call it “research.” Beck does as much on his show, and I worry that Beck’s many readers will get the wrong idea about the UN Agenda 21. In principle, it is an important part of city and regional planners’ work, which involves making sure that people can access things they need: food, education, doctors’ offices, stores. It’s about making sure those things are even there when you need them. It’s about helping people enjoy freedom and mobility, even if they are too poor or too old or too young to have a car. Or just don’t want one. It’s about the preservation of localness and sense of place instead of generic-ization, and about maintaining a familiar, comfortable way of life as our population expands from 300 million to over 400 million in my lifetime.
Climate Scientist Michael Mann reviewed the book for Popular Science, and makes the following conclusion:
Bad science is hardly the greatest sin in Agenda 21. The real problem is its transparent agenda to sow distrust and cynicism in good faith efforts to protect our environment. The great works of dystopian fiction yield lucid, cautionary tales of the potential dangers that may lurk in our future—be they nuclear holocaust, environmental catastrophe, or the subjugation by machine overlords—if we make imprudent choices in the present. The very worst of the genre, however, do the opposite; they obscure an actual looming threat (e.g. human-caused climate change) by instead drawing our attention away to a false, manufactured one. Nothing could be more dangerous or misguided than a screed like Agenda 21 that attempts to do just that.
In the relatively near future, I plan on exploring the social and economic roots of this increasingly mainstream conspiracy theory.

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for addressing this issue.

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  2. The article on Agenda 21 states that it: “…involves making sure that people can access things they need: food, education, doctors’ offices, stores…” This statement assumes that people, and presumably large number of people, have problems accessing basic services today. Where is the evidence for this? If this is about location and city and regional planners’ work the author is assuming that Agenda 21 is necessary because the powers planners presently have are insufficient. With over 50 years as both a student of and professional in planning, competent enough to be cited in the Congressional Record, I cannot find any reason to support the assertion of insufficient planning powers. Under existing law, high density development around transit stations is already standard throughout the United States.

    While the goal of increased freedom and mobility for non automobile owners is quite noble, Agenda 21 style planning proposes primarily high density, which most people don’t want, as the answer to inadequate transit. None of other operational characteristics of existing public transit are examined. For insight just compare the European socialist public sector business model, hardly a Glen Beck inspired idea, with the political deal making and social welfare subsidy operations of most American transit systems.

    Her statement that “It’s about the preservation of localness and sense of place instead of generic-ization…” reminded me of a trip to Amsterdam many years ago. I rode several of their rail lines from end to end. At many locations the station areas were public plazas with food stores, dry cleaners, child care centers, etc. I marveled at the convenience and simplicity. But after the 20th or so similar station areas I wanted to scream at the banality. Rarely do unique enterprises start in new and costly station areas or similar developments. Upon entering a business how long does it take to discern if it grew out of a person’s individual experience or was concocted by an MBA type? Does free expression or top down management best preserve “localness and a sense of place”? The General Plan’s town center concepts for Amador County do not preserve, but rather transform in keeping with Agenda 21 goals.

    At a recent California Air Resources Board meeting I attended the situation of transit was discussed only in terms of lack of funds. No consideration was given to any other factors. Many simple and cost effective changes are possible. One example is the Veterans Administration facility in the Rancho Cordova area. Their entrance way cannot accommodate standard transit buses. So patients, especially those disabled, have difficulties with access and use other means of transport. Caltrans Park & Rides lots are another example. Usually they don’t have bicycle racks and can’t accommodate transit buses, so collecting and distributing passengers between modes is precluded. Why do these situations persist under administrations in Sacramento and Washington that promote transit and fear greenhouse gases? I would suggest that these, and other parts of government, are individual fiefdoms existing mostly to increase their respective power. The solution is less government, not more government as intended by Agenda 21.

    Mark Bennett, Pine Grove

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