by Wendell Cox , Ronald Utt, Ph.D. and Brett Schaefer
Agenda 21, a voluntary plan adopted at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, unabashedly calls on governments to intervene and regulate nearly every potential impact that human activity could have on the environment. However, Agenda 21 is non-binding; it depends on governments for implementation.
If opponents focus excessively on Agenda 21, it is much more likely that homegrown smart-growth policies that undermine the quality of life, personal choice, and property rights in American communities will be implemented by local, state, and federal authorities at the behest of environmental groups and other vested interests.
Preventing American implementation of Agenda 21 should therefore be viewed as only one part of a broader effort to convince U.S. government officials to repeal destructive smart-growth programs and prevent the enactment of new ones.
Radical environmentalists, local business groups, and the ever-present Not in My Backyard crowd have been trying for decades to reshape American communities to conform to their preferred “smart growth” policies. These advocates work to impose land use regulations that would force Americans into denser living arrangements, curtail freedom of choice in housing, discriminate against lower-income Americans, and compel people to pay more for their houses and give up their cars in favor of subways, trolleys, buses, and bicycles.
These efforts—often described as “New Urbanism,” “sustainable development,” or “open land preservation”—have long been resisted by some members of the community due to their negative impact on economic growth, competitiveness, and the nation’s standard of living. As Heritage has documented, communities implementing smart-growth policies have significantly higher home prices, which precludes moderate-income households from homeownership. In turn, these high home prices have forced buyers to take on excessive levels of mortgage debt, which has contributed to the default and foreclosure problems that have led to the current recession. Indeed, the foreclosure problem is at its worst in states with the strictest land use constraints: Florida, California, Arizona, and Nevada…