Conspiracy theorists this past week tried to use the United Nations’ “Agenda 21” as a reason to scrap Floyd County’s proposed revamp of its comprehensive plan, warning that the international initiative is a plot for “centralized control over all of human life on Planet Earth.”

That claim comes from Glenn Beck, the extreme right-wing talk show host recently fired from the conservative Fox News Channel because his views had become an embarrassment even for them.

As his show was reaching the end of its controversial run, Beck issued this warning on June 15:

Some people now have begun questioning and standing up to what, on the surface, seems like a harmless initiative just to save the environment. But it is not. Be awake. Spread the word. Watch your local community. The answer will be found with the individual. The answers and the solutions will be found in the local communities. But once they put their fangs into our communities, they’ll suck all the blood out of it, and we will not be able to survive. Watch out.

The same dire warnings are broadcast by Alex Jones, the right-wing Texas broadcaster who also supports conspiracy theories that claim the government staged the 9/11 terrorist attacks as well as the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

So what is Agenda 21 and why does it scare the hell out of conspiracy theorists?

Simply put, Agenda 21 is an action plan on sustainable development that emerged out of the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janerio in 1992. It provides guidelines for suggested actions on the environment that may be taken by member nations at a local or national level.

The key word is “may.” Like most UN initiatives, it has no binding authority on member nations.  It is not a treaty or a directive.

Says Tariq Banuri, director of the United Nations Division for Sustainable Development:

Agenda 21 is not a binding treaty. It sets out a sort of common vision. Agenda 21 is trying to say that environmental concerns are common concerns of everyone on this planet.

In fact, the preamble to Agenda 21 notes that:

Agenda 21 addresses the pressing problems of today and also aims at preparing the world for the challenges of the next century. It reflects a global consensus and political commitment at the highest level on development and environment cooperation. Its successful implementation is first and foremost the responsibility of Governments.

On June 9, 2011, President Barack Obama signed Executive Order 13575, establishing the White House Rural Council, which provides federal grants for states and localities that wish to implement Agenda 21-style programs.

The decision to implement sustainability programs or other environmental initiatives under Agenda 21 lies with local and state governments.  Congress has not taken any action to implement Agenda 21 programs at the national level and no bills promoting such programs are under consideration.

Floyd County’s comprehensive plan includes some broad language on sustainability and talks about balancing community needs with individual rights but any actual implementation would fall upon the board of supervisors.

So where’s the control? Where’s the conspiracy? Where’s the bogeyman?

There isn’t one. There never was.