‘Our Environmental Destiny:’ RFK Jr Carries the Banner in Eugene
He could have been taking his leisure on a yacht, or wining in the French Riviera with the judge who presided over his drug charge. But he’s a Kennedy.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. was every bit his father’s son on Thursday evening, speaking to a packed Eugene music hall, leaning with one foot over the stage’s edge and gesticulating to the audience, wanting the hall lights raised so he could see our faces and talk with us.
The talk was titled ‘Our Environmental Destiny,’ but it included many overarching themes such as the true cost of energy, freedom of information in democracy, and real free market economics.
An environmental attorney by trade and an activist by choice, he is well-versed, authoritative, and righteously indignant about nature’s destruction and our democracy’s sabotage.
Kennedy first paid tribute to Oregon, admiring people here for their community values, values that define the greater nation. Protecting our environment, our “pubic trust assets,” is an essential part of preserving community.
“Nature is the infrastructure of our communities,” he said. “We live in a science fiction nightmare in this country.”
It’s a theft of democracy our as well as the earth. Our children are losing their connection to the “seminal, primal activity of American youth,” like fishing and swimming in our wild and scenic rivers.
“Wherever you see large scale environmental destruction, you’ll also see subversion of American democracy.”
For instance, coal has been maliciously destroying the air, water, mountains and communities for over 40 years. Three of Kennedy’s own sons suffer from asthma, which he largely attributes to coal dust: “The air in their lungs has been privatized by the coal industry.”
Kennedy remarked on a conversation with his father when he was 14, when RFK Sr. said about the coal operators in Appalachia, “They’re not just destroying the environment. They’re permanently impoverishing the people, and they’re doing it to break the unions.”
He mentioned how our oil use is actually making us behave like an addict, which is reflected even in policies such as the use of torture. In a detailed history lesson Kennedy stated that since our country’s inception, we’ve had a reputation for refusing to torture prisoners of war. Yet, in the two most recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, policies have burgeoned to condone torture, deny due process, and infringe on other rights of POWs.
Our right to free expression is continually under siege, and access to accurate and balanced information is a “critical foundation stone” of a democracy whereby citizens make rational decisions.
A huge threat of demagoguery came about in 1987, when Reagan’s FCC dissolved the Fairness Doctrine. The Doctrine had previously said that radio and television broadcasters must give time to cover significant news and to balance opinions on controversies with equal time on the limited airwaves.
Since Reagan’s abolition, however, TV and radio airtime has been open to one-sided domination. Five major corporations control virtually all mainstream media in the U.S. Five guys, burgers and fries. Fast food knowledge.
Furthermore, we suffer an info-tainment complex in America. Sex, drugs, rock and roll, “If it bleeds, it leads,” and all that rubbish.
Investigative reporters in America have lost their jobs in droves, which in turn means that Americans lose the service of having important, complex issues explained to them in an understandable way. Now, they are explained however a select few broadcasters want them to be.
Kennedy quoted Thomas Jefferson, saying,
“An uninformed public will trade 100 years of hard fought civil rights for a half hour of welfare…”
Our staunch, cartoonish alignment with party colors is evidence of this. It used to confuse RFK when he’d get standing ovations at speeches in midwest red states, until he deduced,
“Eighty percent of Republicans are Democrats who just don’t know what’s going on.”
That delighted the Eugenians, the brightly festooned, sandal wearing, long stringy grey haired champions of mob involvement. They giggled most gleefully.
Now, thanks to a recent Supreme Court decision barring limits on campaign spending, corporations can buy information and decision making power. Ironically, the case cited the First Amendment in its decision, creating what he called “a system of legalized bribery.”
“That is the end of the world,” Kennedy said, “That is the end of American democracy.”
Our societal hesitation to switch over to a clean energy economy is crippling us. We shy from over-regulating polluters, as we presume economic retardation. Kennedy argues that such voids are golden opportunities, in true free markets. He cited numerous historic examples.
In eighteenth century Britain, there was a huge push on Parliament to end slavery. At the time, free human slave labor was the greatest source of energy to the British empire, accounting for some quarter of its GNP. The public overwhelmingly supported abolition, on moral grounds, but resistors feared an economic downturn.
When Parliament emancipated slaves in Britain in 1772, the sudden void in the labor force acted like an entrepreneurial low-pressure system, and it kicked off a thunderstorm called the Industrial Revolution that was the single largest creation of wealth in human history.
American free-market capitalism is an illusion. Fossil fuels industries are largely dependent on government subsidies, and they have massive hidden costs, and they wield political clout to prevent actual market evolution.
“Capitalism, which I love,” he said, “is a tool, not a God…you wouldn’t worship a hammer. Corporations are a great thing, but they should not be running our government…they want different things for America than Americans do.”
Rounding the night out with a positive, solutions-based approach made Kennedy’s occasional fuming all the more legitimized.
There are ways, he assured, to get off of the fossil “fuels from hell,” and onto the renewable “fuels from heaven.” We chuckled, but he was as serious as a bout of mercury-induced cancer. (His own blood’s mercury level is 10 times the EPA prescribed safe level.)
He focused heavily on the need to revamp the electrical grid in the United States, and to improve accessibility to it. The old grid is “under-built” and “over-used.” A newer, smarter grid, capable of efficient long-range transmission would help create a more egalitarian energy network across the country.