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Nature & Democracy
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

     ... environmental lawyer. Author of Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals are Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy, Mr. Kennedy is senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), chief prosecuting attorney for Riverkeeper, and president of Waterkeeper Alliance. In addition, he is a clinical professor at the Environmental Litigation Clinic at Pace University School of Law, a former assistant district attorney for New York City and coauthor of The Riverkeepers:  Two Activists Fight to Reclaim Our Environment as a Basic Human Right.


Our environment is being destroyed, George W. Bush and his corporate cronies are doing it, and the public is completely unaware of what’s happening because the media is not doing its job, says Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., America’s most prominent environmental lawyer This is a deliberate stealth attack, Mr. Kennedy says, a radical agenda being concealed by the White House with Orwellian rhetoric that calls the destruction of the forest the “healthy forest” law, the destruction of the air the “clear air” bill. Their actions are designed, he says, to eviscerate 30 years of environmental law, eroding all Americans’ quality of life in ways neither Republicans nor Democrats want.

A strong advocate for free market capitalism which Mr. Kennedy believes democratizes the country, he is alarmed by the kind of corporate crony capitalism he considers as antithetical to democracy, efficiency and prosperity in America as it is in Nigeria. What polluters do, he says, is make themselves rich by escaping the discipline of the free market, forcing the public to pay their production cost -- over 400 environmental roll-backs have been promoted or implemented by this administration over the last three-and-a-half years.

Mr. Kennedy also fears for democracy in the United States.  He says democracy is being assaulted by an administration that undermines laws and adapts regulations to suit corporate interests -- large corporations on Capital Hill have a disproportionate advantage to dictate national policy and the White House at the epicenter for this disturbing trend, he says. Mr. Kennedy has a long list of large corporate polluters who are in charge of the very government agencies that are supposed to protect the public from pollution. But rather than fix environmental problems, Mr. Kennedy says, the White House will fix the law so that polluters don’t have to comply with it any more. He points to the virtually unknown but hugely powerful John Graham who rewrote the Clean Water Act to permit factory hog farmers -- an industry Mr. Kennedy demonstrates cannot make money without breaking the law -- to discharge unlimited amounts of waste, forever.

And if the environmental degradation and attacks on fundamental democratic processes weren’t more than enough, Mr. Kennedy says that the United States is actually a lot less safe now than it was on 9/11/01, despite billions spent on “homeland security.” While the United States searched for weapons of mass destruction and spent $200 billion dollars in Iraq, it was distracted from the real national security issues, he says. Not only did the U.S. fail to build Afghanistan into a paradigm to the Islamic world or catch Osama bin Laden, there are now 15,000 chemical plants and 104 nuclear power plants in the U.S. that are unguarded against terrorist attacks, putting millions of Americans at grave risk. What does this have to do with large corporations? Almost nothing has been done to make them shoulder the cost of protecting their installations. As in hundreds of examples, Mr. Kennedy says it is no accident that large contributors to President Bush and his political party get to put their private profit before every other consideration that most assuredly impacts us all.

[This Program was recorded September 17, 2004, in Atlanta, Georgia, US.]

Conversation 1

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. describes the corrosive effect of excessive corporate power on America’s environment and democracy for Paula Gordon and Bill Russell. Mr. Kennedy explains how the Bush administration is eviscerating 30 years of environmental law.


Conversation 2

Our environment is being destroyed, the president is doing it and the public is completely unaware of it because the media is not doing its job, Mr. Kennedy says.  He shows the enormous social and environmental costs both of Reagan abolishing the Fairness Doctrine in the ‘80s and subsequent massive consolidation of media ownership. Mr. Kennedy elaborates with specific examples of massive pollution and unprecedented examples of the government rewarding and condoning criminal behavior. Even modest increases in fuel efficiency standards would yield enormous economic and environmental gains, but are being stalled by the oil and auto industries which have disproportionate political influence, he says.


Conversation 3

Visionary leaders from Abraham Lincoln to Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt feared corporate power, Mr. Kennedy demonstrates. The erosion of democratic institutions is deeply disturbing, Mr. Kennedy says, quoting Mussolini’s description of fascism as a merger of state and corporate interest. Strongly advocating free market capitalism, Mr. Kennedy shows how polluters are escaping the discipline of the free market.  He further demonstrates how corporate crony capitalism on Capital Hill dictates national policy, with the White House the epicenter for this disturbing trend. He gives a series of chilling reasons America is a lot LESS safe than it was before 9/11/01.


Conversation 4

Family farms are failing, rural communities are being shattered by factory farms, an industry that cannot make money without breaking the law, Mr. Kennedy says. He gives vivid examples of the environmental, social and economic havoc being wrought. Every time environmentalists win a law suit, Mr. Kennedy says, the industry goes into the White House which fixes the law so industry doesn’t have to comply with it. He describes frightful new diseases being released by hog factory farms.  He urges the mass media again to become a forum for democracy, informing people about political policies on Capital Hill which are emanating from the White House with dire consequences for our quality of life that nobody wants.


Conversation 5

Make media accountable, Mr. Kennedy says, eager for people to understand that corporations don’t want democracy or free markets, they want profits.  The government has become an opportunity to plunder, he says, and expands. Mr. Kennedy shows how the commons -- airwaves, water, air, fish -- still belong to the people of the United States, not to large corporations or polluters. He reiterates the importance of a genuinely free market. We must spend our lives fighting for what’s right, even if we it means we have to die with our boots on, Mr. Kennedy believes, and objects to religion being used to justify plunder.



Mr. Kennedy has done the world an enormous service with Crimes Against Nature.  He is devastatingly effective in reporting on fearsome attacks on the United States and the world launched by much of corporate America and the Bush administration they have funded.  We thank him on behalf of unborn generations far into our collective future.

Amanda Leesburg was masterful in bringing this conversation to pass in the face of considerable obstacles.  She raises the bar on what it takes to be an effective public relations professional while acting on her excellent values. We thank her most sincerely.

Related Links:

Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals are Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy is published by Harper Collins.

For more about the vital work being done by some of the organizations with whom Mr. Kennedy works, visit the websites of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Waterkeeper Alliance, learn about the Hudson River at the Riverkeeper website and the effective work being carried out in the Southeast by the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeepers. Each and all of these fine organizations welcome your interest and support. They are great ways to be part of the solution!!

Because the challenges to the Earth are many, complex and life-threatening, we have produc ed a wide variety of programs on the Earth and our relationship with it. Guests have included: Rchard Leakey, Claudine André, David Orr, Karl Henrik-Robèrt, Edward O. Wilson, Ray Anderson, Janiine Benyus, Alexandra Fuller, Paul Hawken, William Calvin, Sy Montgomery, Denis Hayes, Carl Safina, Bill McKibben, David Suzuki Riki Ott, and Mike Tidwell.

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