Bobby Kennedy, Jr., Environmentalist? – Far Less than Meets the Eye

I am, without reservation, very pleased that so many serious environmentalists, not to mention pretty much the entirety of the Kennedy clan, are calling out Robert Kennedy, Jr., for his inane but nevertheless dangerous behavior.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has a checkered record, at best, as an environmental activist.  It should not be forgotten that he ousted his mentor, the pioneering Hudson River environmentalist, Bob Boyle, from leadership of the group that Boyle founded, Riverkeeper.  Boyle, not incidentally, was not only Kennedy’s boss and mentor, but also, to a certain extent, his savior:  Boyle befriended him after Kennedy’s heroin bust.  The break came as a consequence of Kennedy wanting to hire a convicted felon, a wildlife smuggler, to Riverkeeper.  See the Washington Post on this ugly story.

On another front, Kennedy and another Natural Resources Defense Council lawyer, Jacob Scherr, parachuted into Ecuador to make deals with Conoco, a rampant polluter of the Oriente, the Ecuadorian part of Amazonia.  To quote from a New Yorker article from September, 1993, With Spears from All Sides:  “Confidential notes of the second NRDC meeting with Conoco were leaked to every nonprofit in the world with an interest in the Oriente, and the NRDC quickly found itself under wide attack.  In late May, Kennedy and Scherr again flew to Ecuador, where they were greeted, loudly and rudely, with picket lines supported by La Campaña Amazonia por la Vida, a coalition of thirteen Ecuadorian environmental and human rights groups.  ‘Robert Kennedy and Jacob Scherr are what we call environmental imperialists,’ Esperanza Martinez, who was then a coordinator of  Campaña, told me. ‘They came to Ecuador for five days, and then they went home and sat down with an oil company and decided they knew what was best for us.  What on earth gave them that right?’”

Then there’s the saga of Cape Wind, the offshore wind power project that Bobby Kennedy, Jr. did his utmost to kill, enlisting his powerful uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy, to help derail it.  (Teddy: “But don’t you realize, that’s where I sail.”)  This was an exercise, at its baldest, in an advanced case of Nimbyism by particularly moneyed and entitled interests, Bill Koch perhaps foremost among them.  (See this from Greenpeace.)  A NY Times book review of the excellent retrospective on the eventual failure of the project, Cape Wind: Money, Celebrity, Class, Politics, and the Battle for Our Energy Future on Nantucket Sound, had this to say: “Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a noted environmentalist, makes a bizarre appearance on a radio talk show, lumping the wind power proponents in with ‘polluters.’”  Wind power as pollution!  Sounds more like Ronald Reagan or Donald Trump to me.


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New Yorker Climate Issue – Just for the Record

The New Yorker had a characteristically superb compendium of stories last month about the climate crisis.  The best one was “Climate Change from A to Z” by Betsy Kolbert.  She relates important facts about climate change, going through the entire alphabet:  A for Arrhenius (who scoped the physics of global warming in the late 19th Century) to Z for Zero (in which she recounts how the “Colorado River basin has been called ‘ground zero for climate change in the United States.'”

She touches on the promise of clean tech but neglects one of the key burgeoning areas that is going to help us mitigate the worst impacts of the climate crisis, namely hydrogen.  I wrote a letter to the magazine and, just for the record, I want to share it here. Continue reading


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The New Yorker Gets One Wrong

Franzen graphicWhat can you say about a publication, the venerable “New Yorker,” that has brought us writers the likes of Rachel Carson, Bill McKibben and Betsy Kolbert?  Easy:  They’ve got their environmental worldview very nicely in order.  But nobody’s perfect, so the editors responsible for accepting a recent essay, questionable (to be kind) in its logic and facts, by the novelist Jonathan Franzen, are to be forgiven.

There was, in fact, another reasonably bone-headed essay on the environmental movement from another distinguished writer, Nicholas Lemann, a couple of years ago that elicited responses from some worthy environmental leaders in whose company I found myself when the magazine printed my letter alongside theirs. Continue reading


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In The New Yorker

Eustace TilleyI’ve got a letter this week in the venerable New Yorker.  Nicholas Lemann wrote an article there a few weeks ago about the first Earth Day and the state of the environmental movement today.  It was, in a word, uninformed.  I had a few bones to pick, so I wrote a letter.

I’m delighted, of course, that the good editors at the New Yorker saw fit to print my note.  I am in excellent company, along with Fred Krupp, President of the Environmental Defense Fund, and Robert A. Low, a former top NYC environmental official.

They made some salient points as correctives to Lemann’s article as did I.  The edited letter from me points out the really quite vigorous state of environmental activism in the US today, not to mention in the world beyond, and its effectiveness.  Continue reading


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