Assoc. News Editor
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., environmental attorney, made a rousing case at Franklin & Marshall College for ending coal production and building a smart grid that will support sustainable alternatives.
“Coal industries have cut down 500 of the largest mountain tops in Virginia,” said Kennedy.
“The ammonia nitrate used to detonate the mountain tops,” continued Kennedy, “goes into the rivers and pollutes the water supply for all Virginians.”
Kennedy’s “Our Environmental Destiny” speech on Thursday, Oct. 4 at 11:30a.m.,was the focal point of F&M’s Sustainability Week, which began on Sunday, Sept. 29 and ended on Saturday, Oct. 5. Sustainability Week, sponsored by the Wohlsen Center for the Sustainable Environment, included a Wild Foods Workshop, free Fair Trade Cafe and the college’s annual Trashion Show.
Sarah Dawson, director of the Wohlsen Center, said,” Sustainability Week is a time when we make a concerted effort to educate the campus about consumption.”
Sustainability Week, which is typically held in April to recognize Earth Day, was rescheduled to eliminate competition and rouse sustainability awareness earlier in the semester. “We absolutely encourage students and staff to become involved as we all work to become more educated consumers,” said Dawson.
In 2010, the 59-year-old Kennedy family heir was named one of the “Heroes for the Planet” in Time Magazine. Kennedy is chief prosecuting attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper, senior attorney for the National Resources Defense Council, and head of Waterkeeper Alliance.
Kennedy, reciting his entire talk from memory, gave statistics on the environmental, physical and economic cost of coal production and oil drilling. He said that the U.S. Government gives oil industries 1.3 trillion annually to cover costs that would be “catastrophically” expensive for the oil companies to pay out of pocket.
He argued that coal production, typically touted as one of the cleanest energy sources, is increasing the amount of mercury in our bodies. “Mercury is found in every fish in the world,” Kennedy said. “I am an avid fisherman and I like to eat the fish. The level of mercury in my body is actually ten times that of what a safe level would be.”
He mentioned the resources in our country and that government subsidies make if difficult for sustainable industries to grow. Our government is operating in a way that “rewards companies for doing bad things and punishes them for good behavior,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy is the proud owner of two solar panels. He believes he should be rewarded for the extra energy the solar panels on his roof produce. Two solar systems on his roof that produce more energy than he uses. “I should be able to sell that extra energy on the New York “grid,” he continued, but they give that to utilities instead.
He concluded that the government must rationalize the free market and harness social purpose. The answer to our environmental problems”, Kennedy said on Thursday, “is cap and trade and free market capitalism.” His talk ended with a Q&A session that was attended by members of the media, students and staff.