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Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. on Our Environmental Destiny

Nov 03, 2014 05:57PM ● By Lisa Worth Huber

Photo from RFK Jr. lecture at WCSU: Left to right: Dr. Averell Manes, Conflict Resolution Project; Dr. Lisa Worth Huber, National Peace Academy; Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.; Dr. Laurie Weinstein, Executive Director, Jane Goodall Center for Excellence in Environmental Studies.

Saying the nation was on the brink of a moral as well as environmental catastrophe during a presentation at Western Connecticut State University (WCSU) in Danbury on September 20, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. pleaded for Americans to live with the understanding that everything is connected—what affects one, affects all. 

“There is no way to remove mountaintops without impacting the rest of the world,” Kennedy said. “There is no way to drop PCPs into the Housatonic River and not compromise people’s health.”

A long-time defender of the environment, Kennedy was named one of Time magazine’s “Heroes for the Planet” for his success in helping Riverkeeper lead the fight to restore the Hudson River. The group’s achievement helped spawn more than 160 Waterkeeper organizations across the globe. 

“It’s important to remember that our landscape connects us to our past and to the 10,000 generations who lived before us, and it is essential we do everything within our power to ensure there is wilderness for future generations to explore,” said Kennedy at the WCSU event, which was sponsored by the Jane Goodall Center for Excellence in Environmental Studies.

Shared resources—air, wind, water, fisheries, wildlife and public lands – are the assets of the whole community—not just a select few, Kennedy reminded the audience. Koch Industries, Exxon and other energy companies are creating a corporate kleptocracy in the country, working toward changing the nation’s democracy to an oligarchy of the wealthy and few, he suggested. “We cannot let them steal what belongs to all of us. Everyone has a right to use the commons,” Kennedy said. 

Kennedy’s environmental leadership is legion. He serves as president for Waterkeeper Alliance, as senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, and is chief prosecuting attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper. Kennedy also serves as a partner on the CleanTech investment team of Silicon Valley’s VantagePoint Capital Ventures and co-hosts the Ring of Fire radio show. Among his numerous published articles and books are The New York Times bestsellers Crimes Against Nature (2004) and The Riverkeepers (1997). He is also a licensed master falconer. 

He has grave concerns over the way coal companies are destroying the land and polluting waterways. During his talk, he referenced the documentary film, The Last Mountain, which tells the story of mountaintop removal in Appalachia. The movie spotlights  Kennedy’s environmental activism and legal leadership. Stressing the need for good environmental policy, he said, “No one benefits when we diminish nature’s wealth. There have been over 500 mountains destroyed in Appalachia your children will never see.” 

The nation needs to look at the hidden costs of oil, which is the wealthiest industry in the history of humankind. Look to the success of Iceland, he said. Back in the 1970s, they decarbonized, went local geo-thermal, and through wise energy investments, moved from being one of the poorest countries in Europe to the fifth richest country in the world. 

In the same way Eisenhower enhanced the U.S. by investing in the national highway system, Kennedy said the community needs to create a similar grid for alternative energy. “Make it ubiquitous. Make it affordable—solar by day, wind at night,” he advised. 

Kennedy left the audience energized and hopeful by stressing the need to revitalize the marketplace so the market better serves the public interest. “It’s possible, to change this devastating trajectory,” he said. “We have the knowledge, the passion and the resources. Let’s make it cheap, green and clean.”


Lisa Worth Huber, PhD, is Secretary for the National Peace Academy (co-sponsors for this event). A consultant and facilitator, she works with businesses, schools, and community organizations addressing conflict concerns and building compassionate communities. She is the Academic Director for the MA program in Conflict Transformation at The Graduate Institute in Bethany., email: [email protected].

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