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Ideological Paranoia

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Legislators in Arkansas, Kansas, and Louisiana are seeking to pass bills condemning a United Nations non-binding action plan that would have all countries collaborate to protect the environment and eradicate poverty.

Lawmakers in these states seem to fear that the blueprint -- known as Agenda 21 -- is merely the opening salvo to strip us of our national sovereignty and place us under the sway of a world government operating out of the United Nations.

Agenda 21 will be at the center of discussion during the international environmental Summit in Rio de Janeiro this June. And the second of Agenda's 27 basic principles would seem to ease the state legislators' concerns of some grand conspiracy. It unequivocally supports the sovereignty of individual countries, provided that in the exercise of their powers, they are not destroying the environment of other nations.

What else in Agenda 21 is bugging the lawmakers (as well as the Republican National Committee and the ultra conservative John Birch Society, which have expressed similar reservations about the action plan)?

Agenda 21 urges that development equitably meet the needs of present and future generations. It asserts that environmental protection is integral to economic development. Rich countries are identified as having greater responsibility in the international effort to preserve the earth's ecosystem because they have more resources and are the world's biggest polluters. All countries should (not must) curb unsustainable patterns of consumption and help developing nations update their technology.

Many of Agenda 21's recommendations are already incorporated into our federal law or are fixtures of our national policy. They include the public's right to access information in government records, a requirement to prepare environmental impact statements associated with development, and regulations banning all forms of discrimination. The Agenda's advocacy for free trade and an admonition against engaging in environmental warfare fall within our general policy orbit.

To quash any lingering doubts about respect for individual states' sovereignty, language in Agenda 21 invokes the UN Charter, which opposes outside intervention in the internal affairs of any nation unless a threat is posed to the independent existence of other countries.

Yet these assurances have made no headway with insular anti-Agenda 21 proponents. They cling to their ideologically driven paranoid fears of environmental extremism and social engineering. It is lost on them that international cooperation is no menace to free enterprise and private property rights but in this instance is synonymous with elemental common decency and good sense.

Technology, trans-boundary environmental hazards, and a finite amount of raw materials essential for continued modern industrial progress have shrunk the world. The result: an interdependency among nations that is the only sure path to global stability and prosperity.

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