Ronaghan – The Paranoia about Agenda 21

Latest column from regular columnist Roy Ronaghan.

Paranoia is thriving among those residents of Grand Forks who see the installation of water meters as the start of a long-range plan to take control of private properties in the city. The people who hold this belief are convinced that the water meter installation is part of Agenda 21, a United Nations scheme to impose sustainability on unsuspecting citizens everywhere in the world. Water meters are seen as the beginning of complete control of the city by outside powers.

A statement that appeared in a letter to the editor of the Grand Forks Gazette sums up the thinking of the believers. “These proposed Grand Forks water meters are the thin edge of the wedge (locally) for globalist control of everyday people.”

Those who believe in the conspiracy are on the same bandwagon as Glenn Beck, a radio and television host with Fox News in the United States and the Koch Brothers, billionaires who have invested vast amounts of money in proselytizing the conspiracy.

What is Agenda 21 and when did it emerge on the world stage?

Agenda 21 is really not an agenda as one might imagine. In 1992 world leaders gathered in Rio de Janeiro at the first ever Conference on Sustainability and the Environment. Three documents had their beginnings at the conference: the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, the Statement of Principles for the Sustainable Management of Forests and Agenda 21. The leaders of 178 countries signed the documents including Canada. Brian Mulroney was prime minister at the time.

People with good memories will recall that Severn Cullis-Suzuki, a 12-year-old at the time, spoke at the conference. The Rio conference was big news at the time because it was the first time leaders from around the world had agreed that the environment should be protected and that long-term economic development could not be achieved without considering the principles of sustainability.

Agenda 21 was developed as a statement of common values accompanied by some ideas about how to express those values through public policy. It is not a treaty and it is not legally binding. The recommendations made in the document are not controversial and there is nothing in them to compel any governments anywhere to do anything.

The conspiracy theory surrounding Agenda 21 has been manufactured and if its implementation is a subtle movement to take over what we believe is ours where is the evidence of its impact over two decades? Perhaps those who have espoused the conspiracy theory locally might explain their paranoia.

Is the installation of water meters an attempt to interfere with every homeowner’s rights to use as much water as they want? Is it an insidious plot to force residents to conserve water?

What will be seen next as part of the city hall conspiracy? Will an upgrade of the wastewater system, the construction of new sidewalks or the resurfacing of streets be thought of as an extension of the Agenda 21 takeover?

Maude Barlow, chair of the Council of Canadians and author of a couple books on water and the way it is treated, believes we have a right to clean water, but not as much of it as we want keep lawns green or wash cars and driveways. Barlow would be appalled at the wrangling that has gone on over water meters. She would also be appalled at the lack of understanding of importance of the aquifer by a large segment of the city’s population.

City council and staff are to be commended for their plan to cover the costs of providing residents in all parts of the city with potable water for household uses. What residents will pay will cover the cost of providing the service-wells, pumps, pipes and treatment.  The installation of the meters should be seen as a stand-alone project and a component of good water stewardship.