Thursday, October 05, 2006
Friday in Chico -- Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on importance of environmental activism
By DAN BARNETT
The scenario is chilling.
"I live in Mount Kisco, New York," writes Robert F. Kennedy Jr., "11 miles downwind of the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. ... On the morning of September 11, 2001, United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston passed within a few thousand feet of Indian Point as it followed the Hudson River down to its rendezvous with Tower Two of the World Trade Center. Had it banked left and crashed into the plant instead, it could have triggered a large release of radiation. The surrounding area, including New York City, might have been rendered uninhabitable for years."
So, asks Kennedy, what has been done to protect the nation's nuclear power plants from terrorist attack? Virtually nothing, he says. In fact, "federal law absolves nuclear power plant operators from any legal duty to protect their plants from attacks 'by enemies of the United States.'"
According to Kennedy, this is but one of innumerable examples of the wholesale dismantling or gutting of laws designed to protect the public against the excesses of the nuclear, coal, oil, chemical, pharmaceutical, agriculture, media and other industries that he claims have conspired with the Bush administration to undermine the free market and subvert the will of the people. These abuses are detailed in "Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy" ($21.95 in hardback, $13.95 in paperback from HarperCollins) published in 2004.
He is scheduled to speak in Chico Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Chico State University's Laxson Auditorium as part of the President's Lecture Series, one in a series of On the Creek Lectures "dedicated to exploring sustainability issues that affect the world today." Tickets range from $35 for premium seats to $20 for students and children. For more information, call the University Box Office at 898-6333.
According to publicity materials, "Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s reputation as a resolute defender of the environment stems from a litany of successful legal actions: prosecuting governments and companies for polluting the Hudson River and Long Island Sound; winning settlements for the Hudson Riverkeeper; arguing cases to expand citizen access to the shoreline; and suing sewage treatment plants to force compliance with the Clean Water Act."
Though Kennedy says "this book is not about a Democrat attacking a Republican administration," he writes "most national environmental leaders," when asked about "the greatest threat to the global environment," wouldn't answer "overpopulation, or global warming, or sprawl. The nearly unanimous response would be George W. Bush."
The popularity of Earth Day in 1970, he writes, surprised the polluters, so over the next three decades they "bamboozled" the public and bought off the loyal opposition until their triumph, with some notable exceptions, in the "stealth" policies of the Bush administration bowing to the agendas of King Coal and Big Pork.
Kennedy accuses the administration of "fear-mongering," though he does a fair amount of that himself. Nevertheless, as the book's copious notes attest, something really nasty is going on after all. "Corporate capitalists," he writes, "don't want free markets, they want dependable profits, and their surest route is to crush the competition by controlling the government. The domination of our government by large corporations leads to the elimination of markets and, ultimately, to the loss of democracy." Think of Big Energy -- or Big Agriculture. The manure is getting deeper, Kennedy says, and it's time we get shoveling.
Dan Barnett teaches philosophy at Butte College. To submit review copies of published books, please send e-mail to email@example.com. Copyright 2006 Chico Enterprise-Record. Used by permission.