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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The Clear Reality of the Clean Tech Revolution

Oil companies and OPEC insist that we are going to need their product ad infinitum, but the International Energy Agency said in June this year that “a peak in oil demand is on the horizon” and “Growth is set to reverse after 2023 for gasoline and after 2026 for transport fuels overall.”

The IEA’s latest “World Energy Outlook,” out this week, makes what appears to be a bulletproof case for the looming demise not only of oil, but of coal and natural gas.  Dr. Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the IEA, is unequivocal:  “The transition to clean energy is happening worldwide and it’s unstoppable. It’s not a question of ‘if’, it’s just a matter of ‘how soon’ – and the sooner the better for all of us.” (This echoes what the IEA reported in December of last year in “Renewables 2022.” ) Continue reading


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Atoms and Ashes

Nuclear power has been a bête noire of mine for decades.  When I was a kid, I thought this was the future – power “too cheap to meter” as the high priests of the cult of the atom told us.  But a book came out in 1971 by two veterans of the American nuclear project that was an epiphany for me:  Poisoned Power.  Long before Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, it made a convincing case against nuclear power.  In the half century since, I have seen virtually nothing that has made me rethink my opposition.  A brilliant new book, Atoms and Ashes – A Global History of Nuclear Disasters, has further deepened my convictions – not that they really needed any deepening, as my posts here will attest. Continue reading


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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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Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid

I have always said that I’m an environmentalist but not a naturalist.  I’m an environmentalist largely because I had so much pleasure outdoors as a kid:  camp on the ever-magnificent Lake George in New York, climbing and hiking in the Adirondacks, skiing in the Green Mountains, traveling around the American West one memorable summer, playing ball in the fall and spring.  I was blessed that way.  My wife and daughter have imbibed much of that love of the great outdoors.  I have never gained, however, a great deal of a grasp of the inner workings of the natural world.  Birders are all around me in Central Park during migration, but I can’t tell a hawk from a handsaw. The wonders of nature nevertheless never cease to astonish me.  An article from last year absolutely mystified me with this fact:  A species of beetle in South Africa, feeding on animal dung, like others of their cousins which are found on all the continents except Antarctica, roll their dung balls in a straight line at night by orienting with the Milky Way.  Astonishing.  The flash of color from a male Red-winged Blackbird once captivated me so thoroughly hitchhiking at dusk in Wisconsin that I realized it was my totem animal.  When I watch trees waving in the wind, it seems to me that they are dancing in joy at the sunlight and air. Continue reading


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NYPD’s Scofflaws

Let me see if I have this right:  The law says that you have to wear a mask on public transportation in New York City, including in subway stations and on the trains.  But police officers feel free to ignore the law.  They not only don’t enforce it, but they don’t observe it.  And our mayor says, point blank, the cops won’t enforce the law!  What am I missing here? Continue reading


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“Water flows toward power and money.”

That water flows toward power and money is, according to Marc Reisner in his magisterial book, Cadillac Desert, “the West’s cardinal law.”  In every chapter, that sad fact is illustrated in abundance.  The book, first published in 1986 and revised in a 1993 edition, put a new lens on the American West and the regional and national politics of water.  It, like so many chronicles of the abuses of power, and the lies, arrogance, and destruction that accompany them, is both revelatory and maddening.

Dept. of Better Late than Never:  A friend gave me the book more than 30 years ago.  Continue reading


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Hydrogen Rising

Hydrogen appears, finally, to be well along in realizing its enormous potential to substantially decarbonize our energy.  I wrote about The Hydrogen Economy last year and this week I sat in on a compelling webinar, “Opportunities for Hydrogen in the Northeast,” presented by the NECEC.  NECEC includes the Northeast Clean Energy Council and NECEC Institute. Continue reading


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Quantum Leap

Credit: Ross MacDonald

It is big news that Scientific American, one of the world’s most prestigious sources on science and technology, after 175 years of publication, has endorsed a presidential candidate for the first time ever.  The Editors declare that “Scientific American Endorses Joe Biden.”  They feel “compelled to do so” and “do not do this lightly.”  The first and foremost reason given for this historic endorsement is clear:  “The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people—because he rejects evidence and science.”  They detail the catastrophic consequences of this rejection, like the nearly 200,000 Americans who have succumbed to the coronavirus.  They further note his lies and, beyond that, the attacks on “environmental protections, medical care, and the researchers and public science agencies that help this country prepare for its greatest challenges.” Continue reading


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Women’s March 2020

Women's March NYC 2020

(Click on the photo and go to the Flickr stream, click on toggle slideshow, and enjoy some of the posters from yesterday’s march in NYC.)

That’s not me, but it’s certainly my sentiment.  I’m a dad and I’m against the patriarchy.  I’ve written about the evils of the patriarchal mentality, and was reminded after the catastrophic election in 2016 about how the New, Improved American Right is fed by it.

I was out with my daughter for the march in 2018 and yesterday with my wife.  They went together in 2017 for the big inaugural event in Washington, along with a million of their sisters and brothers. Continue reading


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