Testimony by Pete Didisheim, NRCM Senior Director of Advocacy
Senator Valentino, Representative Priest and members of the Judiciary Committee. My name is Pete Didisheim, I am the Advocacy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and I appreciate this opportunity to testify in opposition to LD 220.
This bill would prohibit the State or any political division of the State from adopting or implementing policies originating in or traceable to the United Nations Agenda 21âwhich is a non-binding, voluntary list of ideas for how nations of the world can promote sustainable economic development and help alleviate poverty.
Agenda 21 was developed at the United Nation’s Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and was adopted by 178 governments, including the United States under President George H.W. Bush. The 300-page document is not a treaty. It is not a legally binding document. It provides no authority to any entity to limit anyone’s rights, and it has no bearing on local or state land-use decisions in the United States or any other country. It is basically a laundry list of concepts related to sustainable economic developmentâwhich generally is considered to mean meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
It’s worth repeating that Agenda 21 is voluntary and nonbinding, because the bill before you today implies something much more ominous. One can find websites describing Agenda 21 as a global conspiracy aimed at controlling all human activities and essentially destroying life and our country as we know it. Glenn Beck has written a book of fiction titled Agenda 21 that paints the dark future in which Agenda 21 destroys America. Here’s an excerpt from Beck’s book:
Just a generation ago, this place was called America. Now, after the worldwide implementation of a UN-led program called Agenda 21, it’s simply known as “the Republic.” There is no president. No Congress. No Supreme Court. No freedom.
Glenn Beck’s book is fiction, and so, too, are the connections that some of the advocates of LD 220 are suggesting between the United Nations and Agenda 21 and the efforts of local land trusts, town planning boards, and state policies here in Maine. They are fiction. If LD 220 moves forward, then why not also pass legislation banning any connection between the State of Maine and George Orwell’s 1984, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451âother works of fiction that describe alarming future worlds?
But LD 220 is not simply a bill that should be dismissed because it seems to be based on a fictional foundation; rather, it should receive a unanimous Ought Not to Pass from this Committee because it is a direct attack on constructive efforts by Maine citizens to protect the character of their communities and it is an assault on concepts of sustainable development and alleviating poverty that warrant attention.
Some supporters of LD 220 attack land trusts and everything they have done to conserve land in Maine, suggesting a traceable connection to Agenda 21. Really? Are we really to believe that there is a connection between the United Nations and Maine’s land trusts, that are working to conserve working farms, public access to beaches, snowmobile and hiking trails, and other outdoor recreation sites? I don’t think so.
In my home town, the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust helped preserve Crystal Spring Farm from being converted into residential subdivisions and the farm now is one of the community’s most valuable assets. Instead of additional cul-de-sacs and driveways we have a working farm within walking distance of town, and a summer farmer’s market where more than 2,000 people on a mid-summer Saturday purchasing local products and produce. Maine’s land trusts pursue projects like these in communities across Maine, with huge public support, and it has nothing to do with Agenda 21 or the United Nations. Quite the contrary, these projects have everything to do with Maine people taking actions that benefit Maine communities and the places we call home.
LD 220 also should be rejected because Agenda 21 promotes important ideas that deserve the attention of policymakers. Within its long list of concepts, Agenda 21 encourages dialogue about reducing global poverty, providing access by the poor to fresh water and sanitation, improving the rights of women in developing countries, encouraging sustainable land use practices, reducing threats from cross-boundary air pollution, curbing the disposal of radioactive waste in the world’s oceans, and encouraging international scientific cooperation on environmental research.
These are the sorts of topics and ideas that 178 nations endorsed in 1992 as being worthy for consideration, as voluntary, nonbinding, and yet important concepts.
Passing a law in Maine that repudiates this list of ideas would be a mistake.
Suggesting that the United Nations is reaching into Maine’s communities to implement these ideas also would be a mistake.
For these reasons, we urge a unanimous Ought Not to Pass on LD 220.