Dr Michael Coffman is CEO: Sovereignty International, and President of Environmental Perspectives, Inc. in Bangor, Maine, USA. He regularly writes articles for a variety of publications and is known for his radio interviews. He attended the Earth Summit in Johannesburg where he promoted the ideas contained in the Freedom 21 Charter.
We have all heard about global warming, ozone depletion, ecosystem destruction and a host of other ills that environmentalists claim mankind is supposedly foisting upon mother earth. This has developed into a litany of alleged environmental catastrophes. These assertions all face a serious problem, however.
According to the very well documented book The Skeptical Environmentalist by Bjorn Lomborg, these scary stories are just that; scary stories that have no basis in fact. Lomborg is a former Green Peace activist and professor of statistics at the University of Aarthus in Denmark, who set out to prove that the scare stories are correct, and found just the opposite.
That has not stopped the United Nations from using these false allegations to develop a plan to live sustainably. Called Agenda 21, the UN intended it to culminate in a series of actions agreed upon by world leaders at the World Summit on Sustainable Development at Johannesburg, South Africa, in September 2002. Agenda 21 is a forty-chapter manifesto allegedly defining the ills of the world and a host of collectivist solutions that would result in what the UN calls global governance. Although they adamantly deny it, a close study of exactly what the UN proposes makes it clear that global governance is merely a euphemism for world government.
In an attempt to save the earth, Agenda 21 seeks to control almost every aspect of human life through a maze of regulations: from how and what people use for transportation, how and where we live, how and when we procreate, to how much water we can drink. Agenda 21, however; won't work. It can't work. In fact, it will make matters worse.
Take, for instance, Agenda 21's central goal of eliminating poverty by controlling human activities that supposedly hurt the environment. While the UN proclaimed during the Johannesburg World Summit that sustainable development will reduce poverty, just the opposite is true. In his compelling book; The Mystery of Capital, Hernando de Soto provides over-whelming evidence that the reason impoverished developing nations can't get out of poverty is because they don't have an efficient system of legal private property rights for all their citizens.
If a developing nation has private property rights at all, de Soto found in a $26 million study that it can take decades and hundreds of arbitrary bureaucratic steps to obtain a legally registered deed. Since the average person has neither the time nor the resources for this, they develop an extralegal arrangement of property rights. Because it has no legal standing, the property has no asset value. Without asset value, the property has no collateral for capital needed for new business starts or expansion.
Hernando de Soto calls this "dead capital" and estimates there are 9.3 trillion dollars (US) of it world-wide. This staggering sum is ninety-three times as much as all development assistance to the developing nations from all advanced countries from 1989 to 1999. Since capital is unavailable, citizens of these impoverished nations cannot create wealth to work their way out of poverty.
If the nations made the dead capital available through formal property rights, there would be no need for foreign aid. Yet, Agenda 21 does just the opposite; it depends on foreign aid and creates a tangled network of interlocking regulations and control of private property rights that will lock people into a hopeless state of perpetual poverty.
There is a better way. It is called Freedom 21. Freedom 21 is based on accessible private property rights and free markets that drive the economic engine of the United States and other developed nations. Freedom 21 offers equal opportunity for improving the lives of citizens from every nation. All it requires is the elimination of government corruption, a free marketplace and easy access to formal private property rights for all citizens.
This is not equal distribution of private property as Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is doing, but rather legal title to land and property often already owned but without clear title. Once available, many citizens can use the asset value to start or expand a business.
While the environment should be protected, that protection should be clearly evident and not based upon highly controversial science that is typically politicised to justify unneeded UN treaties or to maintain the power base of corrupt governments.
To attain true sustainability nations must provide their citizens with formal property rights that permit the building of wealth, and the resources to protect the environment. This is the principle that helped prevent the United Nations from implementing Agenda 21 at the Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable development.