Fearing U.N.’s ‘Agenda 21’ down in Charleston

Paranoia strikes deep in the heartland. And also on the coast. I rode on an elevator with Matt Kennell of City Center Partnership this morning, and he was marveling at the credulity of those in Charleston who believe that “smart growth” is some sort of U.N. plot to undermine the American Way.

Here’s what he was referring to:

Where builders and planners see combining high-density housing, retail and offices as the wave of the future, residents from Mount Pleasant to James Island see problems – crowded schools, lack of parking and an end to small-town lifestyles.

Now, they also have complaints that high-density residential developments, bicycle lanes, mass transit and “sustainable” or “smart” growth are part of a 22-year-old United Nations plot to undermine the American way of life.

“It’s all a part of this Agenda 21,” said Mount Pleasant native Cindy Anderson, referring to the Coleman Boulevard Plan. “They will push us all into these urban centers – that’s the plan.”

Bill Eubanks, the creative director of Urban Edge Studio at Seamon, Whiteside & Associates, who authored Mount Pleasant’s Coleman Boulevard master plan, said he’s heard concerns about Agenda 21, a 351-page document outlining ideas to address poverty, housing and environmental problems, including climate change.

“I have looked into the Agenda 21 conspiracy theory claims and not only do I think they are unfounded, I think they are absolutely ludicrous,” he said. “Worse than that, buying into this ridiculous fear-mongering can stand in the way of both sustainability and smart growth – something our communities really need.”…

Apparently, “Agenda 21” is to development what “Common Core” is to education standards — some sort of dog-whistle thing that only the conspiracy-sensitive can hear.

Those who fear this supposed agenda say it could lead to people getting out of their cars and riding mass transit. Which, of course, sounds awesome. I don’t know whether the U.N. has a plan for that, but I do. Alas, I don’t think any of us will live to see it where we live…

2 thoughts on “Fearing U.N.’s ‘Agenda 21’ down in Charleston

  1. Mark Stewart

    Given the lack of Low Country terra firma, I would think that Charlestonians would implicitly understand that the area has developed as a dense metropolis for 300 years. The other option is to pave the vast interior pine forests up to I-95 like Orlando or Houston. Mt Pleasant and James Island may shrink, but the odds of them growing in any sort of accommodating way are very long.

    Under that perspective, smart growth looks like a continuation of old, conservative habits of land stewardship. This idea that a sanitized low density and accessible suburbia is reserved for “ME” is anything but conservative. Pining for a kind of empty suburbia which could only exist for a period of two-three decades is a senseless act of magical thinking.

  2. Karen Pearson

    The current slanting of news stories, not to mention outright lies that are presented as facts by various news sources feeds the paranoia. Add to that political polarization–one side is un-American , anti-family, and trying to force a new ‘world order’ upon redblooded Americans, while the other side is simply the Anti-Christ–and you’ve got a culture where people are willing to believe almost anything. If we continue to allow this foolishness it will utterly paralyze our government and ultimately destroy our country.

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