Reading Time: 9 minutes
Janesville resident Georgia Janisch brandished anti-Agenda 21 materials while addressing a city council meeting regarding the Green Tier program. She called Agenda 21 an attempt “to take us over from within without firing a shot.” Janesville Gazette photo by Bill Olmsted

Little-known UN Agenda 21 cast as threat to freedom

Al Hulick remembers, to the day, when Agenda 21 came into his world.

It was May 17, 2011, during an informational meeting on Janesville’s desire to join the Green Tier program offered by the state Department of Natural Resources. Some attendees reacted skeptically, handing out literature about Agenda 21, a non-binding pact to promote sustainable growth drafted by the United Nations in 1992.

“I had never heard of it,” recalls Hulick, a management analyst for the city. He assumed these fears about the Green Tier program, through which the DNR and the nonprofit land-use group 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin help communities pursue environmentally friendly practices, would fade over time. That didn’t happen.

Instead, Hulick said, opposition to the city’s participation in Green Tier has “grown at every meeting and become more vocal.” The Janesville City Council has twice delayed action on the program, due to the concerns raised by citizens, some from other counties.

Janesville management analyst Al Hulick thought fears about the Green Tier program would fade over time. That didn’t happen. Janesville Gazette photo by Bill Olmsted

These critics see Green Tier as a step on a slippery slope that could lead to the loss of liberty. At one public meeting, Georgia Janisch of Janesville called Agenda 21 a plan “to take us over from within without firing a shot.”

There are legitimate reasons to question programs like Green Tier, which involve public funds and may not always bring desired results. But painting it as part of plot to destroy private property rights, dictate personal behavior and impose one-world government is a harder sell.

“I don’t think the U.N. could organize an escape route out of a brown paper sack, let alone a giant global conspiracy to usurp the power of sovereign governments,” wrote Monona resident Sunny Schubert, columnist for the local Herald-Independent newspaper, after a Green Tier program there was attacked by anti-Agenda 21 activists.

But while it’s still often dismissed as a fringe cause, the anti-Agenda 21 movement, with close ties to the Tea Party, is gaining political traction nationally and in Wisconsin. The Republican Party of Wisconsin and some candidates for office here oppose Agenda 21, although battles against programs like Green Tier appear to be led by citizen activists.

Last fall the state Assembly, after hearing from Agenda 21 opponents, passed a bill to let communities opt out of Smart Growth, a state law governing comprehensive land-use plans. It died in the Senate but is expected to be resuscitated next year.

Opposition to Agenda 21 “has gone from being an amusement to a nuisance to something people should be aware of,” said Steve Hiniker, executive director of 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin. “It’s real. It’s having an effect.”

Agenda 21 draws national backlash

Opposition to Agenda 21, a 20-year-old United Nations agreement that seeks to promote sustainable development, is building across the nation. Manifestations include::

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich pledged his opposition to Agenda 21, calling it an attempt by the U.N. to exert “extra-constitutional control” over the U.S. while empowering entities committed to “taking control of your private property and turning it into a publicly controlled property.”

* Concerns about Agenda 21 prompted the Republican governor of Maine to torpedo a project to ease traffic congestion and factored into Florida’s decision to reject high-speed rail, the New York Times reported.

  • In May, Alabama’s legislature unanimously passed a bill banning any policy “originating in or traceable to” Agenda 21.
  • A bill to put Arizona on record against Agenda 21 passed the state Senate but stalled in the state House.
  • Resolutions against Agenda 21 have been passed by both the Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Wisconsin.
  • Opposition to Agenda 21 has led at least a dozen U.S. communities to sever ties with the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, a California-based nonprofit group that offers tools and advice for reducing carbon emissions. None of these was in Wisconsin, which has six ICLEI members: Madison, Fitchburg, Howard, Marshfield, Milwaukee and Oshkosh.

From the U.N. to Mayberry R.F.D.
Accusations that the United Nations represents a threat to national sovereignty and individual liberty are as old as, well, the U.N., chartered in 1945. What’s new is the extent to which this sentiment has taken hold as a grassroots movement, often to oppose environmental initiatives sought by public officials and citizens who have never heard of Agenda 21.

A dizzying array of books, websites, handouts and DVDs seek to expose the nefarious intent behind this pact, signed by President George H.W. Bush, including a plan to relocate humans into a few dense urban centers. Anti-Agenda 21 activists even inveigh against high-tech Smart Meters installed by utility companies, which they allege are surveillance devices.

The journey to this dystopian future, they argue, will occur in baby steps — a bike lane here, a program to encourage energy-efficient light bulbs there. Opponents believe Agenda 21 is driving every last smidgen of Earth-friendly policy: Renewable energy. Land-use planning. Resource conservation. Even recycling. Every green tag is a red flag.

“It’s so big and encompassing, it’s going on all around us,” says Marv Munyon of Watertown, a member of the Rock River Patriots. He says the Tea Party-affiliated group, based in Fort Atkinson, has distributed thousands of DVDs warning of the danger. “The public needs to wake up to what this is all about.”

But even Munyon concedes that, to the uninitiated, the claims made about Agenda 21 are “so far out that it seems Orwellian.” That doesn’t stop him from believing: “It’s so wild that I couldn’t make this stuff up.”

Munyon is not the only true believer. In January, the Republican National Committee approved a platform plank against Agenda 21, which it said was “being covertly pushed into local communities” as part of a “destructive and insidious” U.N. design. It will be taken up at the party’s national convention in August.

The Republican Party of Wisconsin passed a platform resolution condemning Agenda 21 at its May convention. It calls for action to “prevent or reverse the entrenchment” of the plan’s “extreme environmentalism, social engineering, and global political control.”

Mark Neumann, a GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, appeared in April at a Milwaukee-area event that dealt with Agenda 21 and was introduced by Munyon at a Rock River Patriot event in January. Campaign spokesman Joe Pileggi confirmed that Neumann opposes Agenda 21, but declined to elaborate. Ironically, Neumann has drawn fire from anti-Agenda 21 activists for accepting federal solar subsidies.

Former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann speaks at a Rock River Patriot event in January. He was introduced by group member Marv Munyon, seated at far right. Photo courtesy of the Daily Jefferson County Union.

In a statement to the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, U.N. spokesman Eduardo del Buey said accusations that Agenda 21 amounts to environmental extremism or poses a threat to private property and personal freedom “are false and have no basis in fact,” likening the blowback to the “climate change denial movement.”

On the contrary, del Buey argued that Agenda 21, which has served as a guide for thousands of cities and towns and even some nations, can bring “greater freedom, greater decision-making at the community level, and greater opportunities for prosperity.”

The war at home
Among those battling Agenda 21 in Wisconsin are the Rock River Patriots, Northwoods Patriots, and the Wisconsin 9/12 Project, inspired by a national group launched by conservative commentator Glenn Beck to discuss the Constitution and the principles upon which the nation was founded.

Related coverage

Movement leader came here to speak

In March, the Rock River Patriots hosted Tom DeWeese for a talk in Oconomowoc and an appearance in Madison. Read more in a new page.

Lawmakers want to turn back clock on Smart Growth

Republicans introduced a bill last fall that would have allowed communities to opt out of Smart Growth, the state law that sets rules for developing local land-use plans. Read more in a new page.

“There are definitely groups from all over the state who are involved in it,” said Kirsten Lombard, organizer of the Madison-based Wisconsin 9/12 Project. She testified against the Green Tier plan in Janesville and Monona, distributing a glossy handout alleging that “sustainability advocates … operate largely by stealth,” using intentional deceit to hide their true objectives.

“We all want a clean environment,” Lombard said in an interview. “But when that honest desire to have a clean environment is leveraged to take rights away from people, and money out of their pockets, that becomes a problem.”

Lombard said her group has 25 to 35 core members and is funded by “people throwing money into a can,” adding with a laugh, “We’re not funded by the Koch Brothers.”

In Wisconsin, the anti-Agenda 21 movement has found a friend in Henry Schienebeck, executive director of the Rhinelander-based Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association and chair of the Wisconsin Council on Forestry. He has publicly speculated that Agenda 21 drives federal regulators to “push their own agenda ahead of the citizens of America.”

Schienebeck’s group, which represents the forestry industry in Wisconsin and Michigan, brought in anti-Agenda 21 activist Michael Coffman as the keynote speaker at its meeting in April in Escanaba, Mich.

Such advocacy is having an impact.

Dennis Lawrence, executive director of the North Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, a public agency representing 10 counties, said citizens upset about Agenda 21 have delayed passage of comprehensive land-use plans, particularly in Oneida County. They hand out what he considers “disinformation” that vilifies land-use planning.

“It distracts from the whole planning effort,” Lawrence said. But it hasn’t brought planning to a halt because “eventually the decision makers realize there isn’t much to the argument.”

Matt Dallman, director of conservation for the nonprofit Nature Conservancy, said conservation efforts of all stripes are under growing attack from citizens concerned about Agenda 21. Some even dig through land-use plans in search of words like “corridors,” “connectivity” and “social justice,” to confirm their suspicions.

“It’s small but growing,” Dallman said of the anti-Agenda 21 movement. “It really does hinder progress in conservation.”

Brian Ohm, a UW-Madison professor of urban and regional planning, said anti-Agenda 21 activists are “unfocused on what they’re attacking, other than government in general.” But he thinks this can pose a big problem at the local level, where decisions on land-use and transportation policies are commonly made and where citizen input can have the most impact.

Even something as simple as switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs, Ohm said, can be seen as driven by Agenda 21 — when in fact such initiatives are usually sought by citizens and officials who know nothing of this U.N. plan and “are just trying to save money.”

Another focus of concern is the acquisition of public land. Munyon, of the Rock River Patriots, sees Agenda 21 in the recent conservation easement obtained by the state on more than 100 square miles of forest land in four northern counties. “It takes more land away and puts it into government control.”

Anti-Agenda 21 activists are now mobilizing against a proposal in Congress to establish the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway, a broad swath of land that traverses 15 counties, as a National Heritage Area. The bill was introduced in March by Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl, a Democrat, and Rep. Tom Petri, a Republican.

The Northwoods Patriots, based in Eagle River, calls the proposal “a 15-county land-grab.”

Not easy being green
The Green Tier program was created in 2004 with input from environmentalists as well as business groups including Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. Republican Gov. Scott Walker recently praised it for having “produced enhanced, voluntary collaboration with businesses to yield environmental and economic gains.”

Originally aimed at businesses that wanted to adopt greener practices, the program was expanded in December 2010 to include municipalities. The cities of Fitchburg, Middleton, Bayfield and Appleton and the village of Weston all signed on.

Last year, the program agreed to add five new communities, and Janesville expressed interest in becoming one of them. That sparked a full-fledged battle, waged by angry citizens and leaflets alleging “unelected, unaccountable representation.”

A large group turned out at a June 25 Janesville City Council meeting to voice opinions on the city joining a state Green Tier program. James Pardee of rural Janesville was among the opponents. Janesville Gazette photo by Bill Olmsted

At the Janesville City Council’s June 11 meeting, Robert Bellard of Beloit called Agenda 21 “a cancer upon the land formed by the U.N. with its tentacles reaching into every township and county designed to slowly squeeze this great republic into a pulp of dictated control.”

And Janesville resident Paul Lembrich told the council that signing the Green Tier agreement would “replace the current charter of the city of Janesville and permanently destroy its sovereignty, beyond recovery.”

Lembrich, a retired school custodian who wears an American flag on his sleeve, said in an interview that his beliefs are based on “basic common sense” and what he’s read about Agenda 21. He thinks what’s happening on this issue “all matches the Book of Revelations, lockstep by lockstep, very precisely.”

The council’s June 25 meeting drew about three dozen opponents of the Green Tier pact. Twenty people spoke against it, only three in favor.

Janesville resident Paul Lembrich warned the city council that the city’s sovereignty was at risk. Janesville Gazette photo by Bill Olmsted

Speakers dubbed Agenda 21 “socialism on steroids” and warned that joining the Green Tier program would “strip away every cherished American freedom.” One woman suggested that future council meetings could no longer begin with the Pledge of Allegiance, the current custom. The statement drew applause.

Another person said, “We don’t want to be on bicycles. We don’t want to be herded into centers like the U.N. wants.”

Hulick, the Janesville city staffer, sees such fears as baseless, noting that multiple additional laws would have to pass for these things to occur. But he doesn’t doubt the sincerity or passion of those raising these concerns.

“Those folks believe they’re doing the right thing,” Hulick said. “I respect their opinions.”

Initially, the city council delayed its vote to look into whether the city might not be able to withdraw from Green Tier, as alleged. Janesville City Attorney Wald Klimczyk concluded that the agreement could be easily severed. But at the June 25 meeting, additional concerns were raised over whether the city might face penalties for doing so.

Laurel Sukup, the DNR’s representative at this meeting, repeatedly offered assurances that the city would not be penalized for withdrawing from Green Tier. But the council requested further research. Hulick said the matter could be delayed for weeks or even months.

Meanwhile, on July 2, the city of Monona eclipsed Janesville to become the sixth Wisconsin community to join the Green Tier plan. Speakers from Janesville and elsewhere came to two meetings to oppose the plan. They included Sandy Bakk, a Republican candidate for state Assembly, who warned that joining Green Tier would mean “a loss of autonomy” for Monona.

But the program drew support from Monona Mayor Bob Miller and a half-dozen speakers. The council, after requiring that any Green Tier plans be submitted for its “review and approval,” passed the plan unanimously. Joked Ald. Chad Speight, “I am going to be very concerned if U.N. inspectors show up.”

One person who wishes he could believe that programs like Green Tier are benign, but can’t, is Paul Lembrich. The need to be a footsoldier in a global war for human liberty weighs heavily on the 77-year-old Janesville man.

“You have no idea how happy I would be if I was wrong about all of this stuff,” Lembrich said. “I would be the happiest person in the world.”

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Popular stories from Wisconsin Watch

Avatar photo

Bill Lueders was reporter, editor and Money and Politics Project director for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism from 2011 to 2015.

21 replies on “Green schemes make activists see red”

  1. For more info:

    Behind the Green Mask, by Rosa Koire, is the book Ms. Janisch is holding. Koire describes herself as a liberal democrat, pro-gay marriage, and director of the Post Sustainability Institute. She is also a professional certified General REal Estate Appraiser in CA who has retired to devote her time and talent to fighting Agenda 21 and its permutations. Her book is a real eye-opener to how the public is hoodwinked in meetings using the Delphi technique and how land grabs take place.

    There are also numerous videos on youtube. Agenda 21 for Public Officials is only 14 min. long.

    Wake up to this nemesis before our Republic is gone!

  2. The UN is using concern about the environment to implement agenda 21. It is a trojan horse. It is perfectly desirable to be diligent about maintaining clean water and clean air, but that is not what this is about. All of the non-governmental agencies have been enlisted to take land away from the people in schemes like land conservation easements and historical preservation. Think about it! Every single city and rural area in the United States has historical significance to somebody. Should the government take all land use away from Americans and preserve everything? For what? And for whom?
    People in local government and the media need only do a little research to find the facts of the matter.
    The areas already “rewilded” in the West are fire hazards. The people are better stewards of the land than any government or non-governmental entity. This is a shameless attack on property rights in this country and must be stopped in each locality.

  3. If you are reading this you have access to the internet. Thus you have access to information on Agenda 21. Google it and teach yourself. Then make your own informed decisions regarding it. That is what I did and I am amazed and totally discouraged with the direction I see America headed. If you own land or are working hard to own it, please read very carefully. Start with your own city’s comprehensive plans and the county’s and the state’s plans. Those who live along waterfrontage be aware of the Rock Co. Shoreland Zoning Ordinance 2012, WI Administrative Code Chapter Natural Recources 115. Don’t think the UN hasn’t any power. It’s power is in deception. Just keep digging and leaarn.

  4. And welcome to ‘Spot the Looney’, where once again we invite you to come with us all over the world to meet all kinds of people in all kinds of places, and ask you to… Spot the Loony!

  5. I chatted with Paul Lembrich (feaured in the article) at the AB-303 hearings at the state senate. During my testimony, I tried to make it clear that people who support smart growth like me consider having daily needs within a short distance “property rights”, since if those daily needs move outside of my bike/walk radium, that impacts my lifestyle no less than forcing others to walk.

  6. As someone from Wisconsin who now lives in Maryland (the first state to legislate smart growth) this is all simply fear-based blather. There is no conspiracy. There is no UN agenda. All these claims amount to a heap of blather by people who want to sell books and mass-hysteria books. Someone said “just read it yourself people and get educated.” You should do that by reading it directly from the UN. This is no more severe an agreement than we have in Kyoto or trade agreements. Why is it anytime there is any talk of environmental stewardship, it’s portrayed as some sort of underhanded attempt to control the world? It’s totally ridiculous, and speaks more of peoples’ ignorance than it does of reality.

  7. Please just read the actual document. It’s called the Rio Declaration. It’s comprised of 27 guiding sustainability principles – like eradicating poverty. I realize Agenda 21 sounds much more “sinister” but the “21” simply stands for the 21st century. We won’t ever force you conspiracy driven tea party folks to shop organic or ride bikes, and the U.N. isn’t going to confiscate your 4 car garage any time soon. If you don’t agree with the 27 principles contained in the actual document, I’m curious to know which ones you disagree with and why. From the ACTUAL document, not the made-up property right/socialist society blather.

    1. Stacey: you aren’t going to force anybody to do anything – you are going to build consensus – in other words, guilt people into spending to protect the environment. In Illinois entire towns have been rebuilt – at the citizens expense because “the old was wasn’t sustainable”, what ever that means. Look at Uptown Normal, Il. Now they want bike paths on major roads – only millions of $’s the state thinks the sewer system isn’t sustainable because sewer and rain water mix together! They want to whole system rebuilt.

      Agenda 21 is dead – they just don’t know it yet.

    2. I’ve read the documents, Stacey. What you don’t understand is that what they mean by sustainability and what you think they mean, are two completely different things. You also fail to read the document and it’s 27 principles, and then do a fact check to see if implementation is working out the way you believe it is. Did you know that because of manipulation of the financial markets to reduce the perceived over-consumption of the middle class is what caused the housing market to crash? Are you aware that this is also what is causing the loss of jobs, economic instability……and that 30,000 children die of starvation each day because of market manipulations, not because there is a shortage of food? We are marching toward global hegemony, just as surely as Adolf Hitler. If you think for a minute that our involvement in the Middle East is about anything other than oil you need to think again and read some more. If you do not understand how Wall Street, the IMF and World Bank are stealing resources from impoverished countries for corporate profit and gain – not sustainability, you need to take off the rose colored glasses and open your eyes. Perhaps you’re not old enough to know that the mechanisms for top down, lock-step control were developed decades ago and are being implemented now. But regardless of your age, you need to understand that government is not the friend of the people. If you don’t understand how property rights, water rights, civil rights etc are undermined by Agenda 21 then I do not believe you have read and understood the document. Your worth will be determined by “them” and you will be issued carbon currency according to that value. Careful how you spend it – you won’t get more.

  8. The Tea Party around the country is actively working to educate people about the dangers of following Agenda 21. There are several layered efforts at work to make this nonsense about “Utopia” happen. You can check to see if your city or county are participants in ICLEI. ICLEI is the local mechanism used to bring Agenda 21 to your home town. Then there is Destination 2025. Destination 2025 is Regional and National, feeding in to Agenda 21. Bill Clinton signed us up for this with his pal, Al. This is nothing new. Most Americans have never read Mein Kempf by Adolf Hitler so think his agenda was simply about killing Jews and Catholics. It wasn’t – it was much larger than that. Hitler wanted to create a sustainable utopia – a one world government. He was big follower of Darwin and Marx. When you read through the Agenda 21 documents, Destination 2025 documents, or the ICLEI documents, you see that their goals coming to fruition. The American middle class, for instance, was viewed as being the cause of over-consumption. In order to curb consumption the global elite tied to Wall Street stole the middle class savings. This is why the economy won’t grow – they killed the economic engine. Hitler used something dubbed “The Big Lie” to get people to cooperate with his agenda for world domination. He chose the wrong Lie and got his butt kicked as a result. Global Climate Change and “sustainability” are the new “Big Lie” and because we’re not outright slaughtering people, this lie is widely embraced. There is no sustainability agenda. The environmental destruction brought about by wind turbines alone proves this point. They are not environmentally friendly, do nothing to reduce our dependence upon foreign oil, and do not reduce global warming. They do siphon billions of dollars off and into the Global Green Fund. Eisenhower warned us about the rise of the military-industrial-corporate complex. We didn’t listen. Agenda 21 is not a Tea Party initiative but is something brought to us by individuals whose rule will be much more tyrannical than anything ever previously seen – but they believe they have the moral right and moral authority to force us to bend to lock step, top down control.

  9. I understand public fears about Big Government and totalitarianism, because I agree with those fears.

    I only disagree about the details.

    In this case, I agree there’s potential for petty tyranny by local, state and federal land-use agencies, because humans are fallible and agencies require on-going public scrutiny to keep them honest and beneficial. It’s our job as citizens to pay attention, to support aggressive and honest news investigators, and to speak up when something goes wrong with our government. It’s our life-long job to study and supervise our government. It can never be trusted to run itself.

    But I don’t fear land-use planning in general, and it seems odd that Tea Partiers have chosen it as a rallying point.

    Counter-productive land-use regulations, or unfair application of those regulations, should only be possible if the majority of citizens have no say in their government. If bad regulations or bad agencies can’t be fixed, despite public opposition, that’s only a SYMPTOM of a larger problem (… a “dictatorship” or power-grab that has grown beyond all public control).

    Tea Partiers are attacking a symptom instead of the CAUSE of their concern. They’re wasting everyone’s time and money going after the wrong things (arguing about individual issues like land-use planning, health care, birth control, gay marriage, etc. etc. etc. ).

    This guarantees their failure.

    In fact, Tea Partiers are making our overall situation WORSE, because they’re diverting and wasting public attention, allowing the root cause of their concerns to quietly grow larger and more powerful.

    The real threat is the “dictatorship.” Tea Partiers should set aside all distracting issue details for now, and get to the true heart of their concerns. They need to answer key questions: Who are the “dictators” controlling our government? (No quick answers, please. We need careful analysis and proof.) How did they gain their power? How do they maintain their power? How coordinated are they? How can we take their power away? How can we restore American democracy, citizen rights, equal opportunities, and community self-control?

    If Tea Partiers focus all their tremendous energy and time on those key questions, they might accomplish something worthwhile and lasting.

    Agenda 21 isn’t the problem. It’s a distraction and diversion.

    1. Land use planning is a direct assualt on our property rights. If I chose to cut every single tree I OWN down thats my business. If I want to build out buildings or plant want ever i want I should be able to. Not to mention here in my county there a re rules that state a person must own 35 acres in order to build on it. Which greatly restricts people who want to move out of town and builing their own places. as it adds as much to the cost of attaining property to build on. there as few chunks land that big to purchase which further jacks up the price of land. And ay the same time restricting my ability as a land owner to sell say 5 acres to a friend or relative that is looking to build. I would say land use planning is a huge infringement on our rights.

  10. This is going on all over the country, the cutesy names are different but the plans are all the same.

    Alabama = CLEAR Plan 2030
    California = Plan Bay Area
    Florida = Seven50
    New Hampshire = Granite State Future

    The people of this country are not going to let the UN use their climate hoax to control us, our property and take away our rights under the UN Constitution!

Comments are closed.