The author with lawyer and change agent Robert F. Kennedy Jr.Environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. blasted coal mining, calling the largescale environmental destruction it causes a “subversion of democracy” comparable to “liquidating the state for cash” and “detonating the Hiroshima bomb once a week.”
Speaking passionately to more than a thousand delegates at the International Association of Business Communicators World Conference in Chicago, Kennedy recalled what his late father, US Senator Robert F. “Bobby” Kennedy, told him in 1968: “Mining destroys the environment and permanently impoverishes the community.”
Kennedy was only 14 years old when he heard this, leading him to become an environmental advocate and change agent. His advocacy has been to harness renewable resources to create an energy-independent world.
A fishing hobbyist, Kennedy disclosed that his mercury levels are 10 times what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the US considers as safe. He suspects this is a result of mercury in fish caught from polluted lakes. “Exposure to mercury causes a loss of five to seven points in the IQ (intelligence quotient) of kids. In fact, 640,000 children in the US are exposed to dangerous mercury levels in the womb,” he said.
Kennedy was named one of Time magazine’s Heroes for the Planet for his success in helping Riverkeeper sue alleged polluters and lead the fight to restore the Hudson River in New York. The group’s work spawned more than 160 Waterkeeper organizations across the globe. In 2009, he was named one of Rolling Stone’s 100 Agents of Change.
Despite these achievements, Kennedy continues to protest against coal mining, which he believes pollutes the air and poisons the fish. “Coal mining is stealing the air from my children’s lungs. My three sons have asthma on bad air days. I am fighting for the right to catch (healthy) fish.”
He proposes a shift to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and even geothermal. “A true free market promotes efficiency and eliminates waste. It fairly values our natural resources and rewards good behavior,” he said citing the “invisible” costs of coal that make it look cheap compared to other fuels.
For example, he said, West Virginia taxpayers funded 3,000 miles of road with a 22- inch asphalt overlay. “Why? Because coal trucks weigh 90,000 pounds and they need 22 inches of asphalt to transport the coal. Those are invisible costs because budget for that road is not added to the cost of energy produced from coal.”
Kennedy said, “Polluters use the free market to privatize the air, water, wildlife and public lands. Polluters make the public pay their production cost when, in fact, they must be made to pay the true cost of bringing their product to the market.”
He added, “Free market capitalism, the greatest economic engine, must be harnessed for a social purpose, or else it will just lead to oligarchy and corporate kleptocracy….”
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