Agenda 21, endorsed by the United States, came out of the Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro in 1992.
It called for cooperation among 178 participating nations to work for the long-term livability of the planet by slowing population growth, curbing pollution, and minimizing the disappearance of natural resources. The buzz term that came from the summit was sustainable development.
Thomas A. DeWeese, the principal meeting organizer, said none of the 150 people in attendance was for environmental spoliation.
What they object to, he said, is international cooperation that restricts the rights of Americans. Every time the government enacts a law that deals with trade or land use or energy consumption, it plays into the Agenda 21 program, he said.
Most legislators and most Americans don't realize it, he said.
"It's not about population or environmental issues," said DeWeese, who runs the American Policy Center in Warrenton, Va. "We believe in sovereign government. We believe nations decide best for themselves, not through international cooperation."
DeWeese's family knows something about government intrusion, for good or bad. One of his ancestors owned part of the land on which Gen. George Washington encamped his army in 1777 at nearby Valley Forge.
"It's not a Democrat-Republican situation," he said. "It's a mindset. More of it was done under George Bush II than under Clinton."
Agenda 21 might be the overarching theme for the conference, which ends Saturday. But it wasn't the only issue for 24 groups in attendance.
State Rep. Sam Rohrer, an unsuccessful Republican primary candidate for governor in the spring, joined legislators from Oklahoma and Washington in decrying what they see as overbearing federal interference in state matters. No one used the term states' rights, but that's how it would have been said generations ago.
At issue, Rohrer said, is the 10th Amendment. The last of the Bill of Rights, it says any powers not expressly given to the federal government by the Constitution are "reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."
Rohrer said the states themselves were much to blame, as they accept federal regulations in order to get federal aid for transportation, education, and welfare.
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