If one Kansas lawmaker has his way, the act of using resources in a sustainable manner will be outlawed.
State Representative Dennis Hedke has introduced a bill in the Kansas legislature that would ban government from implementing or participating in anything related to sustainability.
Sustainable development is defined in the bill as "a mode of human development in which resource use aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for generations to come." (That language is taken directly from an official United Nations document.)
The legislation left one Bloomberg editor from Kansas scratching his head over why someone would create this kind of "self-destruct button."
But this is not a new or terribly surprising development in modern American politics.
Rep. Hedke was one of a handful of state lawmakers who introduced bills in 2012 banning implementation of Agenda 21 principles. Agenda 21 is a non-binding international framework for sustainability that was passed at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit and signed by President George H. W. Bush. It was subsequently supported by Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. The framework is meant to provide a rough guide for low-carbon development.
Hedke called Agenda 21 "aggressive environmental, social engineering and global political control."
In fact, Agenda 21 (which, again, is totally non-binding) explicitly states that countries and local communities have “the sovereign right to exploit their own resources pursuant to their own environmental and developmental policies.”
Over the last two decades, conspiracies about Agenda 21 have largely stayed outside of mainstream politics. The rise of the Tea Party changed that. President Obama's strong support of renewable energy and sustainability-related programs stoked fears among Tea Party members that he was using Agenda 21 to strip state and local governments of their power. Those conspiracies were elevated by primetime pundits like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and pushed by organizations like the John Birch Society.
In January 2012, that fear eventually worked its way square into the center of national politics when the Republican National Committee adopted a resolution "exposing" the "insidious" Agenda 21 as a way to "create a one world government."
Post-election, the furor over sustainability continues in some states around the country.
Arizona's Senate recently approved a bill making it illegal to implement Agenda 21 principles or any other similar program that "espouses the usurping or overthrow of the Constitution of the United States."
And in Oklahoma, Tea Party-affiliated state senator Al Gerhart recently threatened a fellow Republican in an attempt to force a hearing on a bill banning Agenda 21 in the state.
"Get that bill heard or I will make sure you regret not doing it. I will make you the laughingstock of the Senate if I don't hear that this bill will be heard and passed. We will dig into your past, your family, [and] your associates, and once we start on you, there will be no end to it. This is a promise," wrote Gerhart, who is founder of the Sooner Tea Party.
Passions are running high on this issue. Expect more of these bills -- along with more legislation repealing state targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency -- to pop up in Tea Party-dominated legislatures around the country this year.