Robert F. Kennedy never backed down from a fight, even when it was with mobsters, union thugs or Southern segregationists. His son certainly has the same pluck.
RFK Jr. spoke for nearly 90 minutes Thursday night at The Maritime Aquarium, railing against political and economic systems that he says are failing our environment and failing our country.
A backer of solar and wind power, Kennedy says those emerging green technologies for powering our country will never fully be realized until we take money out of politics. Otherwise, he said, the coal and oil lobbies will continue to influence our energy policies – and win subsidies for their industries – through the money they contribute to politicians.
“Why do you think the Koch brothers are spending $300 million on this election?” he asked.
And: “Wherever you see widespread environmental damage, you will see the subversion of American democracy.”
And: “You show me a polluter, I’ll show you a subsidy.”
Tragedies of our reliance on coal and oil, he said, include pollution of our air and water that in turn causes costly health issues, environmental damage that is costly to repair or is so vast that it forever changes the landscape, and subservience to Arab sheiks.
Kennedy’s appearance kicked off a new “Global Insights” lecture series that will carry The Maritime Aquarium to our 25th anniversary next summer and feature a number of other notable presenters, including celebrated zookeeper Jack Hanna (March 14) and ocean defender Jean-Michel Cousteau (May 20).
Kennedy is chief prosecuting attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper and president of Waterkeeper Alliance, which have spent the past decades waging legal battles against corporate and municipal polluters. Now, though, he said, the groups have turned their attentions to fighting to give green energy a fair chance vs. King Coal and foreign oil.
“We don’t consider ourselves environmentalists any more,” he said. “We are free market-ers.”
Though speaking without prepared notes, Kennedy still was able to pepper his talk with fact after fact –
• about strip mining and mountain-top removal methods for extracting coal in West Virginia. Coal wouldn’t be such an inexpensive fuel if the companies had to pay the cost of environmental damage done in their extracting it, he argued. (“The most catastrophic way to boil a pot of water that’s ever been devised.”)
• about our need to upgrade the nation’s “grid” to handle newer forms of energy production, and the possibility of turning every home into a power plant through solar energy. (“We need to build a national marketplace for energy.”)
• about health issues caused by air and water pollution from the coal industry. (“The CDC says that one of every six women have dangerous levels of mercury in their blood.”)
“The answer to me, to everything, is to get the money out of politics,” Kennedy said.
Seeing things as they are and asking why, and dreaming things that never were and saying why not? Don’t have to wonder where he got that from.