Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Ed Begley, Jr. tells our reporter, Slater, <br>that his hero is <b>"Bobby Kennedy, Jr. ..."</b>
Ed Begley, Jr. tells our reporter, Slater,
that his hero is "Bobby Kennedy, Jr. ..."

Slater then asked Ed Begley Jr, "What kids can do to save the planet?"
Ed Begley Jr. replied; "Kids can help the environment by riding a bike. Always wear a helmet of course and stay in the bike lane. Take public transportation with your parents and your friends and see if you like that. That’s a good way to get around. Start a home garden, be energy efficient, turn off the lights and the water. All of those things are very good for the environment and good for your pocketbook. "

Rita Wilson-Hanks was asked by MY HERO  reporter Slater: "Who is your environemental hero?"<br>Rita Wilson replied,  "my environmental hero is <b>Bobby Kennedy, Jr."</b> <br>
Rita Wilson-Hanks was asked by MY HERO reporter Slater: "Who is your environemental hero?"
Rita Wilson replied, "my environmental hero is Bobby Kennedy, Jr."

Slater: What can kids do to save the planet?
Rita Wilson: Well, you guys are really in the fortunate position of being at the forefront of all of this stuff. When I was going to school, we didn’t even know that we could save the environment, so the fact that you know you can save the environment, getting the awareness out there is probably something you could do.

Ted Danson was asked by Slater: <Br>"Who is your environmental hero?" <br>Ted Danson: "Right now my hero is <b>Bobby Kennedy, Jr..."</b>
Ted Danson was asked by Slater:
"Who is your environmental hero?"
Ted Danson: "Right now my hero is Bobby Kennedy, Jr..."

Ted Danson: "Right now my hero is Bobby Kennedy, Jr..."He is so passionate, so bright, and so dedicated to the environment. He is my favorite speaker on the environment, bar none -- he is amazing.

Slater: What can kids do to save the planet?
Ted Danson: Kids can kick their parents in the rear end and insist…you know, you guys got us to stop smoking. It was kids who got their parents to stop smoking. You can get your parents either to vote for people who care about the environment…you’re learning all of this stuff in school. You can make sure your parents act on it. You can ask them questions, nudge them, push them. You guys are really powerful. Seriously, you got us all to quit smoking. It was kids that did that. It was also kids that got us to start labeling tuna fish cans “Dolphin safe.” Remember that? You are so powerful you guys. You don’t have to wait to grow up and obviously, (Slater) you’re not which is a little spooky.

Meg Ryan introduced Bobbie Kennedy, Jr. at the EARTH To LA NRDC Event.

Two years ago at this very event, NRDC issued a call to action to have this state lead the nation in curbing auto emissions. Well, in that time, California has passed a law, the first of its kind in the world, to reduce pollution from all new trucks and cars here in the nation’s biggest auto market. NRDC acted and, thanks to your support, NRDC won. Two years ago at that same event, NRDC issued a call to action to protect the fragile ecosystem around the Channel Islands. Since then, California‘s Fish and Game Commission has fully protected 175 square miles around the islands, a historic step for ocean conservation. NRDC acted and, thanks to your support, NRDC won. And when some in Washington wanted to drill for oil in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, one of the country’s last pristine places, NRDC led the charge to block it. NRDC acted and, thanks to your support, NRDC won.

At the center of these efforts and so many more, NRDC has been lucky to have a senior attorney who is also our national spokesman and the environmental movement’s star quarterback for a cleaner and safer world. Maybe it’s because he comes from a political tradition where you don’t accept what’s wrong, you roll up your sleeves and you make it right. Tonight’s keynote speaker doesn’t do what is easy; he challenges all of us to do what is hard, to summon our own commitment, our own outrage, and resolve. Please join me in welcoming my personal environmental hero, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

ROBERT KENNEDY JR. then went on to speak for almost a half hour to the sold out venue of stars who had come to help Kennedy raise funds for NRDC and its efforts to protect the environment. RFK, Jr. gave us all a lot to think is some of his speech...

Robert Kennedy Jr. spoke in May of 2004 at the NRDC event EARTH TO LA
Robert Kennedy Jr. spoke in May of 2004 at the NRDC event EARTH TO LA

"I want to start by thanking Elizabeth Wiatt and Laurie David for twisting everybody's arm in getting us all out here tonight. I want to thank all the members of the Hollywood community. Over the last couple of years we've lost Congress, we've lost the Senate, we've lost the White House and in some cases we're losing the courts and the one real power center we have left in this country is this community and it's so important to us because the most recent gallop poll showed, and there is no difference between Republicans and Democrats, the rank and file, want stronger environmental laws and stricter environmental enforcement but the White Houses campaign to eviscerate our environmental laws has been a stealth campaign and our challenge really is to get the word out there. If we can take the debate to the American people we win this debate every time but it is very difficult to get it there without your help.

I want to start by saying this, that with over 20 years as an environmental advocate, I've been very disciplined about being bipartisan and about supporting people from both political parties that are strong on the environment. I've been a strong supporter of Congressman Chris Shayes, in Connecticut, who is a Republican, Lincoln Chafee, John Chafee, Olympia Snow, my own Governor George Pataki, and of course my own cousin Arnold Schwarzenegger. The worst thing that can happen to the environment as an issue and to our country is if that issue becomes the province of one political party or it becomes a bipartisan issue. I don't believe that there is any such thing as Republican children or Democratic children, all of us have the same values, all of us want clean air and clean water for our children. If you ask the leaders of the top environmental groups in this country five years ago, 'What is the biggest environmental threat to our country?', you would get a range of answers from: global warming, overpopulation, sprawl development, etc. Today if you ask them you would get one answer and that would be George W. Bush. You cannot speak about the environment today in any context without speaking critically of this President. Anybody who has doubts about that should go to the NRDC website and check the annual report just released last week on the assessment of the White House. We have over 400 major environmental rollbacks listed, that have already been enacted by the White House or are being promoted today. Tremendous damage has been done to our Environmental Laws, our Environmental infrastructure over the last 3 years. Really devastating damage, campaign debts that are going to be paid for by generations of Americans but the worst is yet to come. If even a fraction of the laws that are currently being proposed by this administration are passed by this time next year…we will effectively have no significant federal environmental laws left in our country. That's not exaggeration, that's not hyperbole, it is a fact. Many of our laws will remain on the books in one form or another but they will be unenforceable and we will be like Mexico which has these wonderful poetic environmental laws, but nobody knows about them and nobody complies with them because they can't be enforced.

I'll give you some examples on how this is impacting us on our day to day lives. This year the EPA announced for the first time since the clean water act was passed 30 years ago that America's waterways are getting dirtier. The Lake Erie dead zone, you remember Lake Erie was dead in the 1960's and the clean water act restored it? The Lake Erie dead zone for the first time is growing again.

"6 months ago the New York Times published the results of a survey of New York City children that said that one out of every four black children in New York now has asthma. I have three son's with asthma. We don't know why we're having this epidemic of asthma…I talked with Dr. Hugh Sampson, who is a national authority on asthma about three weeks ago and he told me that pediatric asthma levels in our children has doubled again over the last five years. We don't know why it's happening, whether it's hormones in our food, pesticides or something but we do know that about 50% of asthma attacks are triggered by two components of air pollution: particulates and ozone. Half of the particulates and ozone in our air now in New York City are coming from one source, 1100 power plants, coal burning, antiquated, dinosaur coal burning power plants in the Ohio valley that are discharging those pollutants illegally. They were supposed to have cleaned up 10, 15, even 20 years ago and they didn't do it. The Clinton administration was prosecuting them, many of them criminally. 51 criminal prosecutions against these power plants. Many of them did clean up. But the ones that didn't were violating criminal provisions of the Clean Air Act.

The Clinton Administration was prosecuting them, 51 prosecutions, 70 criminal investigations. But this is an industry between the coal producers and the coal burning power plants that gave 48 million dollars to the president's campaign in 2000 and to the Republican party and have given 58 million dollars since and one of the first things the Bush Administration did when it came into office was to drop those prosecutions. Now this is unprecedented in our history where somebody who can give a pay off to a politician and get a criminal prosecution against themselves dropped…and many of you remember how the press went crazy when President Clinton pardoned Mark Fritch for a crime that he had done that supposedly his ex-wife had donated some money to the President and that's a pardon. But here we have 51 current prosecutions that were dropped by the justice department and EPA. That action caused the top four enforcer's at the EPA to resign…three of these people had been with the EPA for 30 years, serving 6 different President's… we have never seen anything like this before and then as another favor to the coal and power plant industry…the administration tore the heart and soul out of the Clean Air Act, so that those plants will never have to clean up their pollution ever, never."

I've worked for NRDC on New York City's water shed, it's water supply system, it's reservoir system for almost 20 years. New York's water supply comes from the Catskill Mountains primarily, about 120 miles north of New York City. It's the finest drinking water of any municipality in our country. It's bottled and sold in other cities. It accounts for the incomparable taste of New York City pizza and New York City bagels. But this area has been protected from industrial development and pollution for over a hundred years. But 6 months ago we learned that all the fishes in the New York City reservoir system are now so contaminated with mercury that they are unsafe to eat. It is now unsafe to eat any fresh water fish in the state of Connecticut with one exception, hatchery bred trout. The same is true in 17 other states, that every fresh water fish is now too contaminated to eat and 45 states now have mercury advisories on large numbers of fish within their jurisdictions. There is no geological source for that mercury in the state of Connecticut or in the New York city water supply. That mercury is coming out of the air and over 50% of it is being put into the air by those same 1100 coal burning power plants.

One out of every 12 American women now has so much mercury in her womb that it is dangerous for her to have children. Dr. David Carpenter, a national authority on mercury contamination said the science is very clear that kids born to these women would have cognitive impairment…permanent IQ loses of about 5 - 7 points. 8% of the women in this country now have those levels in their blood.

According to the CDC report 630,000 American children every year who have been exposed to such high levels of mercury in their mothers wombs that they are subject to brain damage plus a whole grim inventory of other diseases including kidney disease, liver disease, autism, blindness, heart disease and the Clinton Administration after seeing these reports classified mercury as a hazardous pollutant under the Clean Air Act and that triggered a requirement that those utilities remove that mercury, 90% within 3 1/2 years. According to the utilities themselves it would cost about 1% of the value of those plants to do the mercury removal. And that sounds like a good deal for the American people but this is the same industry that gave 48 million dollars to Bush and the Republican Party before the 2000 election and then another 58 million dollars for his current re-election campaign and 6 weeks ago the Bush Administration came in and threw out those regulations and replaced them with new regulations that pretend to require that the mercury will be cleaned up in 15 years but only 40%, but the bad news is that those mercury regulations were written by industry lawyers and the way that they were written under a special provision of the Clean Air Act will mean that they will never be cleaned up because the lawyers will fight the requirements forever. The provision itself was written by a law firm we now know called Lathan and Watkins, which is the utility law firm and the partner of that law firm recently joined the Bush Administration and his name is Jeffrey Homestead and he's the head of the Clean Air Division at the EPA and he's the same person that wrote the new source performance standard's which also were written by industry lawyers at Lathan and Watkins.

So we are now living in a science fiction nightmare where we are bringing children into the world where our air is too poisonous for them to breathe and I can watch my children gasping for air on bad air days. And where most of the children in this country now can no longer enjoy the seminal, primal activity of youth which is to go fishing with their father and coming home and eating the fish because the fish are too contaminated to eat.

I live about 3 hours from the Adirondacks, I go hiking and fishing with my children there all the time, this is the oldest protected wilderness on the face of the earth, it's been protected since the 1880's, forever wild. We had a right to believe that those forests and those mountains would be in primal condition for generations of Americans, but guess what? Half the lakes in the Adirondacks are now sterilized because of acid rain and the acid rain is coming from those same power plants and the Bush Administration has put the brakes on the statutory requirement that they clean up the pollution that caused acid rain.

In May, I flew over the coal fields of Kentucky where this coal is being mined and I saw something that if the American people could see it there would be a revolution in this country, something that could never happen in California. These coal companies, Orage and Peabody are literally cutting down the mountain range, these historic landscapes that were the wondering areas of Daniel Boone and Davey Crockett, who are the source of our values, our virtue, our character, as a people. They are being cut down to the ground by these giant machines, 25,000 tons of dynamite that they use now in the Appalachians every day and I flew under one of these machines, a drag line that costs a half a billion dollars and stands 22 stories high. I flew under it in a little Cessna 172 that was tiny next to it and I could look up and see that man in the cab that was driving this machine and they're cutting down the tops of the mountains to get at the coal seams beneath and these machines are so colossal that they practically dispense with the need for human labor. They use 30 men to take down an entire mountain range and they take the tops of these mountains and they dump them into the adjacent river valleys and they've buried 1200 miles of America's most pristine, beautiful streams. This is illegal. Of course it is. You can't dump rock and debris and toxic waste into a stream into the United States of America. It violates the Clean Water Act. And Joe Lovett, my friend, brought a lawsuit against them on behalf of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and we won the lawsuit and we got an injunction against all mountain top mining in Kentucky and West Virginia. Two days from when that decision was issued and they were waiting, the Bush Administration changed the clean water act to legalize dumping of rock, debris and any other solid waste into America's waterways. They ripped the heart out of the Clean Water Act to give a passage to these mining companies to allow them to get money. They paid 48 million dollars ( to the Bush 2000 election campaign) and they are now getting billions and billions of dollars worth of relief and profit as a result. But you and I and our children will pay that campaign debt for generations.

For 20 years I have fought to get GE company to clean up the Hudson where they put PCB's for many years….I have a thousand clients, fishermen who are now permanently out of work, every woman between Oswego and Albany now has elevated levels of mercury in her breast milk, everybody in the Hudson Valley now has General Electric PCB's in our flesh and in our organs. The science says if GE cleans up the river we will be able to eat fish within 2 years, if they don't we won't be able to eat them for a 100 years. We finally got an order last year from the EPA to force GE to finally clean up the Hudson River. Our celebration was short lived because the Bush Administration allowed the SuperFund to go bankrupt. So there is no more money in Superfund. That money is critical because isn't just used to clean up orphan sites where they can't the perpetrator, it's used for leverage by the EPA to force polluter's all over this country to clean up their own sites because the EPA has the authority to say if you don't clean it up, we'll clean it up and charge trouble damages. And that's the only reason Superfund sites get cleaned up in America because the fund is there and guess what? There is no fund there. And my children will probably live out their lives, if we don't see some change, without ever being able to eat the fish in the Hudson River.

"When you talk to the people in the White House who are promoting these terrible results, they invariably say is, 'Well, the time has come in our nations history where we have to choose between economic prosperity on the one hand and environmental protection on the other….and that is a false choice. In 100 percent of the situations good environmental policy is identical to good economic policy. If we want to measure the economy… and this is how we ought to be measuring it… based upon how it produces jobs and the dignity of jobs over the generations and how it preserves the value of the assets of our communities… (then good environmental policy makes sense.) If on the other hand, we do what the Bush White House is urging us to do, which is to treat the planet as if it were a business in liquidation… to convert our natural resources to cash as quickly as possible… to have a few years of pollution-based prosperity, we can generate an instantaneous cash flow… and the illusion of a prosperous economy. But our children are going to pay for our joy-ride. And they're going to pay for it with denuded landscapes and poor health and huge cleanup costs that they'll never be able to afford because they're going to amplify over time. Environmental injury is deficit spending. It's a way of loading the cost of our prosperity onto the backs of our children.

"Our regulatory agencies have been turned against the environment, it's not just Jeffrey Homestead who is now running the air division (of EPA), who was an anti-air lobbyist…but if you look who's running the Public Lands, it's a mining industry lobbyist, who's running the Forestry Service, it's a timber industry lobbyist, who's the second in command at EPA, it's a Monsanto lobbyist, everyone of our director's, the undersecretaries, the secretaries, the deputy secretaries, in all our federal departments that oversee the environment are all being run by lobbyists from the regulated industries that they are supposed to regulating. The White House is an energy industry dream team, 22 of the top 38 officials came out of the coal or oil industries. We are seeing a total possession by corporate polluters of our government agencies.

"And I have to say this. There is no stronger advocate for free market capitalism than myself. I believe that the free market is the most efficient and democratic way to distribute goods in the land. The best thing that could happen to the environment is if we had a true free market economy in this country. Because, when it's functioning, a free market eliminates waste. And waste is pollution. But we don't have that anymore. In a true free market economy you can't make yourself rich without making your neighbors rich and without enriching your community but polluters do is make themselves rich by making everyone else poor. They raise standards of living for themselves by lowering quality of life for everybody else and they do that by escaping the discipline of the free market. You show me a polluter, I'll show you a subsidy. I'll show you a fat cat who's using political clout to escape the discipline of the free market and force the public to pay his production cost. When this coal industry and its utilities puts its smoke in the air, which violates the Clean Air Act, they're putting mercury in our ponds, stopping our fishermen from making a living, making our children sick, giving them asthma, and these impacts impose these costs on the rest of us, instead of being reflected in the cost of the product when it reaches the marketplace. And what all the federal environmental laws are meant to do is to restore the free market economy in America. So people pay the true costs of bringing their products to market and don't foist those costs off on the public. And what NRDC does is, I don't even consider myself an environmentalist anymore. I'm a free marketeer. I go out into the marketplace and we catch the polluters and we say to them, "We're going to force you to internalize your costs, the same way that you're internalizing your profits."

I was raised in a milieu where I was taught that communism leads to dictatorship and capitalism leads to democracy. But it's not as simple as that. Free market capitalism definitely democratizes our country but corporate crony capitalism is as antithetical to democracy in America as it is in Nigeria.

"I got in trouble a couple years ago. I was speaking at a conference with 1100 farmers and I said to them that I was more frightened of these big corporate, polluting multi-nationals who were taking over our country than I was of Osama Bin Laden. I got a standing ovation from the farmers because they see what's happening on the ground more than anybody else in this country. They see the tyranny and the bullying, how these companies are robbing them of their democracies… contaminating with pesticides and driving them from the land. But I got beat up by the Farm Bureau and Agri-Business for about six months after that. But I stand by that statement.

I stand by a statement that was made time and again by Teddy Roosevelt who said that this country would never be destroyed by foreign enemies but he warned us that it would be destroyed by the malefactors of great wealth who would subvert our democracy from within. We have been warned from the beginning of our colonial period by our most visionary leaders from Thomas Jefferson on down, not to let the corporations gain control of our country and these farmers (that I had spoken to) sent me this wonderful quote from Abraham Lincoln at the height of the civil war in 1863, when he said, " I have the south in front of me and I have the bankers behind me, and for my country I fear the bankers more."

And the same day, I got another quote from another farmer in Iowa that was spoken by Mussolini. He said, "Fascism should not be called Fascism. It should be called 'Corporatism.' Because it was the merging of state and corporate power." Communism is the control of business by government. But Fascism is the control of government by business. And both of those are things we have to avoid in this country. We have to steer the middle course, which is free market capitalism and all of the values that come with it. Property rights and law and order and clean air. These are all the values that the environmental movement stands for. And they're values that are claimed often by the conservatives now, but they have taken the 'conserve' out of 'conservatism.' And they've taken the law and order out and they're letting these big law-breakers go free. And they've take free market out because they're all for corporate welfare.

"What we are fighting for is not just the fishes and the birds. We protect nature not for natures sake but for our own sake because it's the infrastructure of our communities and if we want to meet the obligations of our civilization and our culture which is to create communities for our children that provide them with the same opportunities for dignity and enrichment as the communities that our parents gave us we've got to start by protecting that infrastructure. The air that we breathe, the water that we drink, the landscapes that enrich us. We're not protecting nature for nature's sake. We're protecting it because it enriches us, yes it enriches our economy and we ignore that at our peril. But it is also enriching us esthetically, recreationally, culturally, historically and spiritually.

Human beings have other appetites besides money. And if we don't feed them we're not going to grow up…we're not going to become the kind of beings that our creator intended us to become.

And the one great hope that I have for this country today is the support from people like you who understand how absurd and reckless these policies really are and more than anything else this organization that I love and that I work for is the most effective environmental organization and also it's an organization that embodies all of these different values that I really feel are the heart and soul of our country. I work with these extraordinary people, lawyers and scientists, 260 of them who are some of the brightest, finest, most wonderful people I've ever met but they're fighting for something they all know is more than the environment and we're seeing something terrible happen in our country today. We're seeing these extraordinary values that America has represented to the world just being squandered. Not only our national treasury which has gone from a 4 Trillion Dollar surplus to a 5 Trillion Dollar deficit, 9 Trillion Dollars that we borrowed from future generations. It's all deficit spending and destroying our environment is deficit spending and liquidating the good will of nations that we've built up through 200 hundred years, you know the moral authority that we've exercised in the world and these wonderful alliances that we've had with other countries that all of us took pride in and those things are being liquidated today and it's the same attitude in every sector that's destroying the environment that governing is not about public service, it's about plunder. We see that more clearly than anybody in our sector because we see the heart and soul of our country, the public lands, our air and water, our children's health being stolen from them. Their brain power being stolen from them to pay off campaign contributors. But in every sector the same thing is happening.

I work in this sector, the environment because I don't think there is a better organization in the world than"

Page created on 6/5/2004 9:08:25 AM

Last edited 6/5/2004 9:08:25 AM

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Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was born into a family of privilege. The Kennedy's. Nephew of President John F. Kennedy and son of Robert Kennedy. He could have done many things with his life but he has chosen to fight for the Environment.

My Hero recently watched Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wow a theatre full of Hollywood A-listers that had come to the NRDC fundraiser "EARTH TO L.A.!" This star studded sold out benefit for the NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL rolled out the 'Green Carpet' for NRDC supporters including Tom Hanks, Larry David, Meg Ryan, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Black, Diane Keaton and many, many more.