Blue Crane by John J. Audubon
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Those involved in the Region 2020 Initiative have repeatedly insisted they have no preconceived agenda and are in no way connected with the United Nations Agenda 21 efforts. For the sake of argument we will concede that those individuals are sincere in their beliefs and honestly see no connection. We, however, believe otherwise, and we hope that when one puts all the pieces of this carefully structured puzzle together with the fact that visioning sessions are, and have been for some time now, going on in communities all across America and in other countries he will begin to see the invisible hand behind the scenes.

Other countries are openly referring to their visioning sessions as "Local Agenda 21" initiatives. When a member of our committee asked Josh Wolfe, the Chairman of the American chapter of the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), about this, he was told they (ICLEI) had conducted a survey and decided it would be better if Agenda 21 or the United Nations were not specifically mentioned.

John Zimmerman, speaking for Region 2020 in an appearance on the WERC Fine Line, a local radio talk show, said their effort is in no way connected with efforts of the Birmingham Regional Planning Commission, but the September 19, 1997 edition of The Oxford Independent shows a picture of Larry Watts and John Rouse meeting with Oxford Mayor Leon Smith, who was welcoming them as representatives of Region 2020, and publisher John Childs, Jr. An article in the September 16, 1997 edition of The Anniston Star identified Larry Watts as being from the Birmingham Regional Planning Commission and John Rouse as being from the Southern Research Institute and both as representing Region 2020.

A document downloaded from an Internet site in England, discussing the visioning process for Australia, carries the title, "Local Agenda 21 Tools -- Visioning." The following quotes are taken directly from that document:

Visioning is an important tool in implementing a Local Agenda 21 process. The outcomes of this "visioning" will differ everywhere...

What is required is a general direction or vision. Don't get caught on the detail of a vision. It is a starting point from which the rest of the process will develop.

Mission statements are a starting point and can integrate environmental, social and economic viewpoints. Note that they do not have to specifically mention those words.

Once participants have developed a "vision", they inspire people with it. This document then goes on to discuss an exercise of the visioning process in which it describes:

The method involves participants looking ahead and imagining their community in the year 2020.

Task 1: Participants individually look ahead to an ideal future and enter their ideas on paper. They rank their visioning ideas on a scale and a facilitator arranges these ideas according to ranking by the individuals in the group. The group then discusses these and tries to arrive at a consensus of agreed priorities. If you have attended one of the 2020 sessions you should by now see the obvious similarities. Coincidence?

A document taken from an Internet site in England describing the Rushmoor, UK project referred to the "Future Search Conference" as a mechanism to facilitate consulting, involve the public and develop partnerships with groups within the local community. It then went on to say: "The Future Search Process seeks common ground for action in communities. Originated by the Tavistock Institute in London in the 1960s, the concept crossed the Atlantic where it has been widely applied to a range of organizations and communities."

A document titled "Kurt Lewin's Change Theory in the Field and in the Classroom: Notes Toward a Model of Managed Learning" downloaded from MIT Sloan School of Management, discusses the use of the change agent to effect changes in people's perceptions and behavior by employing the techniques developed by Kurt Lewin. In this document the author says, "The full ramifications of such restraining forces were only understood after decades of frustrating encounters with resistance to change, and only then did we begin to pay attention to the work of cognitive psychologists on perceptual defenses, to what psychoanalysts and the Tavistock group were trying to show us..."

(This article is highly technical and written in the language of the psychologist. We will attempt to put the gist of it into layman's terms, but the actual article itself can be furnished if requested.)

The author points out that the key to developing a method of directing change in people's thoughts, perceptions, feelings and attitudes was in understanding the psychological mechanisms involved. Before change can occur, a need for a change must be seen. One of the best ways of establishing such a need is to cast doubt on a person's currently held beliefs and attitudes. There are a number of techniques that can be used to do this, but perhaps one of the best is for someone the person respects (an authority figure, perhaps a scientist or an educator) to raise questions about the validity of a position and to suggest alternatives. This authority figure might strengthen his case by offering examples of a differing position held by many others. The essential idea is to show the person (or group) to be changed that it is in his best interest to change, thus establishing motivation for the change.

Well directed group sessions can accomplish this without the subject ever being aware of what is happening. When the leader of the group is a skilled facilitator it is not difficult to take broad issues on which almost everyone agrees and point out how certain individual positions may not be in agreement with the so-called consensus. This raises self-doubt in the individual holding that position. Self-doubt is a form of guilt and is uncomfortable. The individual begins to examine his position in an effort to see if there is some way he can move to a less questionable one without losing face. Seat a man in an uncomfortable chair and he will soon try moving to one that is more comfortable.

The author offers three ways to help move people from one position to another: 1) Show how words might mean something different to others or subtly shift the word meanings. A good example of this is the word "discrimination." At one time it was considered good to be a man of discriminating taste. Now the word carries a negative connotation. 2) Convince the subject of the need to broaden his perception of a subject, to consider diverse opinions as equally valid. 3) Help the subject establish new standards of judgment by getting him to see that the reasons for his position may be based on out-of-date evidence. (This is the "everything is relative" approach.)

In the end, the author points out that the best example of such processes is what has commonly been called "brainwashing".

Click Here to go to additional commentary about Region 2020

background image by Ken Stein

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