Freedom 21 offers alternative to 'sustainable development', Agenda 21


At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, the United Nations put forward a comprehensive plan for so-called "sustainable development," entitled "Agenda 21," that is designed to be a roadmap for the world for the 21st Century. In response to this and other attempts to advance command-and-control measures in the United States, and the international community, the Freedom 21 campaign was established to promote freedom as the guiding principle for the 21st Century.

Over the past two years, a committee of public policy experts from a diverse group of think tanks and public interest organizations brought together the first draft of Freedom 21's alternative to the U.N.'s "Agenda 21" program. This draft alternative was publicly released to coincide with the U.N. World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa in August, 2002. It can be read in its entirety at

Freedom 21's first draft opens with a broad discussion concerning principles of governance, comparing and contrasting the philosophies of John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. It argues that Locke's emphasis on individual rights, which was a cornerstone of the founding of the United States of America, is far superior to that of Rousseau's emphasis on the "general will," and that Locke's philosophy has led to unparalleled prosperity, freedom and environmental protection. It further discusses how environmental policy in the United States, and at the international level, is closely following Rousseau's model of command-and-control governance, and undermining the very foundation of freedom in the U.S. and abroad.

The document then discusses five broad areas of human and environmental concern: namely, 1) population and poverty issues; 2) land issues and property rights; 3) air and water issues; 4) chemicals and management of waste; and 5) energy and food. Each section offers a factual overview of the particular issues, followed by specific principles and policy recommendations.

Among the key principles:

· Global Warming is poorly understood, and human factors are likely to play an insignificant role. Contrary to assertions by the United Nations and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, it is unlikely that global warming is caused by man, but represents a recovery from the Little Ice Age in the 1700s.

· Population growth does not necessitate depleted resources, and there are currently no shortages of food, raw materials or energy. Nor is there anything to prevent increased production, other than government-imposed restrictions.

· High population densities do not cause poverty. There is no correlation between population density and poverty.

· A vibrant, free market economy, not big government programs, reduces poverty. Hernando de Soto, in his book The Mystery of Capital, identifies the true pillar of wealth; property rights, fully transferable and secured by a legal system free of corruption and over-regulation.

· The biggest obstacles to greater [crop] yields in the developing nations are poverty, war, corruption, restrictive societies that stifle creativity and initiative, and an absence of private property rights, and legal institutions that enable and encourage entrepreneurship. Yet Agenda 21 proposes a controlled society, exactly the opposite of what is needed
· Government agencies tend to lump real and potential chemical hazards into one group. Not all hazards contain the same risk under all circumstances.

· There is more than adequate space for solid waste disposal. The problem is political, not physical, and centers on legitimate NIMBY concerns.

· Economically available, known supplies of oil and gas keep increasing faster than oil is being used. In 1939, and again in 1951, only a 13 year supply of oil was known to exist. Today, the known supply would last for 40 years. At prices greater than $40 a barrel there could be a 5,000 year supply.

· Current land use solutions contained in various international treaties and United Nations goals are often based on incorrect biological principles, and will threaten, rather than help species and ecosystem heath. This is because they depend upon a central command and control system of protection and management which is diametrically opposed to time-proven application of private property rights.

· Sustainable development practices calling for vast tracts of wilderness and a reduction in human activity are usually not necessary, and can actually be harmful and counterproductive. There is little basis for creating vast tracts of interconnecting wilderness, as most current sustainable development practices recommend. Biodiversity and habitat health can be optimized using existing scientifically proven management practices.

· Almost all air and water pollution results from the Tragedy of the Commons. Common ownership of resources, such as the air or water, provides no incentives to care for them.
· Emotional reactions to perceived toxic chemical threats can invoke the Law of Unintended Consequences. Applying an environmental "solution" without first determining its consequences can create cataclysmic problems that are much worse than the original problem the solution is supposed to resolve.


This Freedom 21 Alternative to Agenda 21 provides not only a basis for challenging policy recommendations confronting local, state and federal government, it also provides valid reasons for assuring that the principles of freedom are the foundation of, and incorporated into every policy adopted at every level of government.


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