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Building resistance to government control

By Henry Lamb
web posted May 10, 2004

There is no doubt that for a generation the environmental movement has dominated domestic policy. The 1964 Wilderness Act launched a string of environmental laws and regulations that now give the federal government jurisdiction, if not total control, over every square-inch of land in the United States.

This outcome is not the result of citizens rising up begging the government to take control of the use of their land. It is the result of a well-planned, well-funded campaign to empower government to manage land - and people - in ways that conform more to socialist ideals than to the principles of freedom set forth in the U.S. Constitution.

The campaign has been remarkably successful. Hiding behind the banner of "protecting the environment," hundreds of organizations have promoted laws and regulations at every level of government, which have the effect of expanding the power of government while reducing, or extinguishing the individual's freedom to control the use of his own property.

In the early days of the environmental movement, activists labored out of conviction, in hopes of reducing pollution and improving the environment. Progress was slow, however, until the money began to flow. The Environmental Grantmakers Association discovered that the activity of environmental groups could be easily coordinated by funding particular organizations to promote particular programs.

Throughout the 1990s, environmental organizations were funded to achieve specific goals. Executives from many of the major environmental groups occupied management positions in the Clinton-Gore administration, and were only too willing to make grants to these organizations, and to rewrite regulations and push for legislation to expand government control over all land use.

As the effects of this movement impacted local communities, other organizations sprang up to resist. This resistence was labeled the "Wise Use" movement, and quickly denounced by environmental organizations as "anti-environmental," groups funded by greedy corporations. Through the environmental funding machinery, grants were issued and new organizations created expressly for the purpose of discrediting the Wise Use movement.

In the early days, the resistence movement was just that, resistence, always on the defensive, trying to prevent some new initiative to expand the power of government. Six years ago, a small group of leaders from these "resistence" organizations met in Washington, DC, and decided that a new strategy was needed. Instead of always fighting against the initiatives of others, what was needed was a pro-active campaign to advance the principles and virtues of freedom. After all, they reasoned, if the principles of freedom prevail, government control over private property cannot expand. They decided to launch a national campaign to "...advance the principles of freedom in the 21st century." The campaign was called the Freedom 21 Campaign, to counter the impact of Agenda 21, which is the source of current land use, and other anti-freedom policies.

With virtually no money to offer organizations, as was used by the EGA to coordinate environmental activities, Freedom 21 organizers decided to hold a national conference and simply invite other organizations to participate. The first conference in 2000, brought organization leaders to St. Louis, where the Principles of Freedom were adopted. Each annual conference has grown, in both numbers and enthusiasm. The campaign has also grown, and is now spreading to other nations.

Freedom 21 protest in GambiaOne of the original Freedom 21 co-sponsors, Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, took a group of college students to the U.N. Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa where they helped organize local people to protest the meeting. There is now a growing Freedom 21 movement in Gambia, and other countries in Africa.

But it is in the United States that environmentalists are beginning to get concerned. The Freedom 21 campaign has grown beyond land use organizations, and now embraces grassroots organizations working toward educational, family values, second amendment, and other issue areas that have been impacted by values and principles recommended in Agenda 21. Hundreds of groups are now working together to advance the principles of freedom within their own issue area.

Within 48 hours after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the Law of the Sea Treaty, more than 200,000 e-mails went out, and the Washington Post reported that Eagle Forum, one of the original Freedom 21 co-sponsors, may have scuttled the treaty.

The fifth annual Freedom 21 Conference will be held in July in Reno. Grassroots leaders from around the country will hammer out a national action plan, and listen to champions of freedom.

By advancing the principles of freedom, this movement hopes to reverse the tightening grip of government, and encourage free markets and individual ingenuity to create ways to protect the environment and continue to improve life for all people. A society controlled by government is not a free society.

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO), and chairman of Sovereignty International.

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