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By Phyllis Spivey

March 13, 2005

Who would have thought in 1992 that weird notions emerging from a distant United Nations (U.N.) summit on the environment would soon surface in official Riverside County policies?

Held in Rio de Janeiro, and attended by 110 heads of state, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) � also called the Rio Earth Summit � produced five revolutionary, inter-linked documents: The Treaty on Climate Change, The convention on Forest Principles, The Rio Declaration, The Treaty on Biodiversity and Agenda 21, an 800-page blueprint for international action on development and environmental protection. It called for all levels of government worldwide to implement "sustainable development."

Sustainable development, according to a 1996 report by enthusiast Donald A. Brown of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Office of International Activities), is "a way of thinking about the future that integrates economic, environmental, and social goals." Others see it differently: a socialistic scheme using environmental threats to redistribute the wealth of American taxpayers inside and outside the U.S.; anti-property rights, a system that permeates all facets of life and results in tyranny.

Although the sustainable development agenda was first introduced in 1972 at a U.N. environmental conference in Stockholm, Sweden, the concept got little attention until 1987, when it became the subject of a 1987 U.N. report calling for a world-wide political transformation built on sustainable development policies. Even then, it took the Rio Earth Summit and the election of Bill Clinton to begin the U.S. conversion.

Six months after taking office, Clinton created the 25-member President�s Council on Sustainable Development by Executive Order. Top heavy with leftists from government and environmental sectors, the council also included a few appointees from the business world, such as Enron Chairman and CEO Ken Lay, now awaiting trial for conspiracy and fraud.

By 1996, the council and supplemental task forces, had made sweeping recommendations for implementing the U.N. model for a "Sustainable America." Their how-to manuals for transforming the country covered virtually all areas of American life, including agriculture, the economy, health issues, population stabilization, education, housing, transportation, and community development, all of which incorporated biodiversity strategies.

Biodiversity is described as the sum of all the different species of animals, plants, fungi, and microbial organisms living on earth and the variety of habitats in which they live. Because scientists estimate that upwards of 10 million � some suggest more than 100 million � different species inhabit the earth, biodiversity considerations can be anything the planners want to include .

One of the most disturbing "sustainability" documents originated at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) � "Community Sustainability: Agendas for Choice-making & Action." A draft guide for developing sustainable communities in the U.S. and internationally, the "sustainability roadmap" was prepared for yet another U.N. environmental summit, the 1996 "urban-ecological" Habitat II at Istanbul, Turkey.

The radical 26-page guide called for a blending together of workplace, housing and nature where Americans would live in highly-concentrated, heavily-controlled urban clusters, i.e., "human settlements." They would rely on "transit, walking and bikes" for transportation and support marketplaces incorporating "consumer collectives," "eco-buying cooperatives" and "workers collaboratives" in a climate of "eco-justice."

Meanwhile, the sustainable development doctrine dominated the Clinton administration�s agenda, flowing unhindered through legislative and regulatory arteries to infect policies at every level of government. Federal mandates and a multitude of "incentive" programs, e.g., public-private partnerships, in housing, transportation, education, banking, commerce, foreign policy, and even trade metastasized sustainable development throughout the country.

Tom DeWeese, President of the American Policy Center, estimated in 1997 that sustainable development had invaded the planning policies of all cities with populations of over 50,000. Yet few Americans had ever heard the term; even fewer knew what it meant.

Today, however, talk of sustainable development and its equivalent terms is common, though many people still fail to understand the significance. Smart Growth, the New Urbanism, Liveable Communities, Liveable Regions are simply catchy synonyms for sustainable development policies, while words like visioning, stakeholders, habitat protection and collaborative approaches are used in the implementation process

Just read the fancy brochures and press reports describing the County of Riverside�s new $35 million general plan (RCIP), which is intended to control housing, roads and wildlife preserves for the next 50 years. They�re full of references to smart growth and new urbanism strategies and, just as Donald A. Brown described, they exhibit "a way of thinking about the future that integrates economic, environmental, and social goals."

(Concept of sustainable development, its United Nations origins and linkage with biodiversity strategies, as well as its invasion of government policies, especially community development.)

A General Plan is a blueprint for growth and development over the long term. It acts as a constitution for both public and private development, the foundation upon which leaders make growth and land use-related decisions.

But the Riverside County Integrated Project (RCIP) isn�t just any general plan. It�s the product of four years, nearly $35 million and, for one county supervisor, 50 trips to Washington, D. C. and Sacramento. It locks up enough acreage to create another Orange County, but not for people. Instead, the RCIP favors 24 so-called endangered species and another 122 species that environmentalists might some day designate "endangered."

For humans, however, the preferred word is containment: high density "community centers"i.e., stacked housing and commercial buildings with pedestrian walkways, bike paths and public transit. And transportation facilities? They�ll be identified only "after environmental needs have been addressed." The RCIP is classic sustainable development.

A glossy RCIP brochure describes the plan as "a model for the nation ... largest multi-species habitat conservation plan in the nation ... a textbook example of Smart Growth ... coordinated by a partnership between the Federal Government, the State Government, the County of Riverside, the Riverside County Transportation Commission and the Southern California Association of Governments."

Significantly, federal, state, and regional governments are precisely where sustainable development policies are most firmly entrenched, owing primarily to President Clinton�s embrace of the concept after the U.N. Earth Summit in 1993. It�s also where the money is, and RCIP backers are counting on lots of it to fund their project including, they say, "creative use of state and federal grant and loan funds to confront the continuing financial reality of not having enough money to do everything that is desired."

A July, 2004 Orange County Register editorial strongly criticized the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) for its 104-page study designed to create "a sustainable future." The editorial warned: "The ideas in the study should concern Southern Californians, since their governments are committing themselves to a plan designed to change the way most of us live."

Referring to "compact community development" (aka community centers, aka urban clusters, aka human settlements), as an "Eastern European-style planning regimen" the editorialist asserted:

"... the regional planning agency wants to engage in social engineering: pushing us to live in high-density condos near transit stations. This is the foundation of an authoritarian planning regimen known as the New Urbanism, in which planners try to recreate dense urban centers and discourage the suburbanization most of us prefer."

The Register writer continued: "This is more of what many current city governments are pushing: stopping growth in open spaces, using zoning and taxpayer subsidies to reward developers of high-density projects, using eminent domain to take private property to make way for the infill developments."

Though quoting directly from the SCAG study, the writer could have lifted identical language from the RCIP and its promotional information. In fact, in describing the SCAG study, the editorialist was also describing the RCIP.

Typical of sustainable development policies, the RCIP transfers wealth, property, and power, from private hands to government bureaucrats. County supervisors called it "historic" when they voted to acquire 153,000 acres for habitat, but landowners large and small called the multi-species plan an unprecented land grab. Even before the RCIP was approved, their properties were effectively devalued or the status made uncertain, while potential land buyers found themselves in competition with the county.

Even land located within cities goes to habitat under the RCIP, Lake Elsinore losing over 10,000 acres. But Councilman Robert Schiffner pointed to another problem: The habitat plan doesn�t define where the habitat will be. "The only way to find out (if you�re a property owner) "is to try to pull a permit," he said in July 2003.

A year later, county deputy planner Kristi Lovelady created more uncertainty, advising potential property buyers to have the county review land for habitat potential before it�s purchased. "The game rules have completely changed," Lovelady said. "Not only that, the game is different." No kidding.

The county�s message to affected property owners: don�t count on anything � except more bureaucracy. Potential habitat will now be reviewed by a panel of biologists, planners, mapping specialists and others known as the Habitat Evaluation and Acquisition Negotiations Strategy (HANS). Lovelady said the 14 cities in the county will set up similar panels.

Tax money is the enabler. Besides setting up new bureaucracies, the RCIP puts taxpayers on the hook for potentially billions of dollars, for: (1) ongoing maintenance of the 500,000 acres of habitat; (2) yet unknown acquisition costs of the acreage still to be "purchased" by the county; (3) revenue replacement for the 500,000 acres removed from the tax rolls; and (4) underwriting legal costs to defend the RCIP against many promised lawsuits.

True, the RCIP calls for building fees to fund habitat maintenance costs, but development is cyclical. When the economy slackens, development slows or dries up; then what? And though the county boasts of big subsidies (more taxes) from federal and state government � two essentially bankrupt administrations � how dependable is that revenue stream? When it comes to government schemes, the taxpayer is always the funder of first and last resort.

When Donald A. Brown of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1996 described "a way of thinking about the future that integrates economic, environmental and social goals," he was only talking about sustainable development. Riverside County is implementing it.

Just two months before the Riverside County Board of Supervisors approved the RCIP, The Press Enterprise welcomed The Center for Sustainable Suburban Development to UC Riverside. It�s entirely fitting.

� 2005 - Phyllis Spivey - All Rights Reserved

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Phyllis is a researcher and freelance writer specializing in political analysis. She has been published in Lew Rockwell�s Rothbard-Rockwell Report, The Welch Report (on-line), The Orange County Register and is a regular contributer to The Sentinel Weekly News, Corona, California. She holds a Christian worldview and writes primarily on trade, economic, education, environmental, and immigration issues.

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Typical of sustainable development policies, the RCIP transfers wealth, property, and power, from private hands to government bureaucrats. County supervisors called it "historic" when they voted to acquire 153,000 acres for habitat, but landowners large and small called the multi-species plan an unprecented land grab.