LEWISBURG, Pa. — Sound economic and environmental policies are intrinsically tied, and energy providers should reward customers for conserving power rather than consuming it, environmental lawyer and bestselling author Robert F. Kennedy said Tuesday night at Bucknell University.
"Good economic policy is identical to good environmental policy," Kennedy said."A true free market promotes efficiency and the elimination of waste. We need to protect our natural resources."
Kennedy, who has built a reputation as a stalwart defender of the environment through a series of successful court cases and his work as an environmental activist, kicked off the Bucknell Forum spring events with a talk titled "Globalization and the Green Economy: A New Vision for American Leadership and Strength." He spoke to a packed audience at the Weis Center for the Performing Arts.
The nation needs to end its dependency on oil, coal and nuclear power and instead invest in solar and wind power, Kennedy said. To do this, state and federal leaders must provide incentives to those who opt for renewable energy and end subsidies for companies that pollute air and water. Electric companies, Kennedy argued, should make homeowners "energy entrepreneurs" and pay them for all of the solar-powered electricity they produce, not just for a fraction of it.
Senior attorney Kennedy serves as senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, chief prosecuting attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper, president of the Waterkeeper Alliance and partner in Silicon Valley's VantagePoint Ventures. He also is a clinical professor and supervising attorney at Pace University School of Law's Environmental Litigation Clinic.
He has led successful battles to preserve and protect rivers, fragile land and the New York City water supply. In 2009, Rolling Stone named Kennedy one of the "100 Agents of Change." TIME magazine named Kennedy one of the "Heroes for the Planet" in 1999 for his role in helping Riverkeeper restore the Hudson River, a project that led to the creation of more than 160 Waterkeeper organizations around the world.
Kennedy has worked on environmental issues throughout North and South America and helped several indigenous tribes in Latin America and Canada to protect their traditional homelands. The New York City watershed agreement, which he negotiated on behalf of environmentalists and watershed consumers to protect the city water supply, is regarded as an international model in stakeholder consensus negotiations and sustainable development.
'Nature is our infrastructure' During his talk, Kennedy was harshly critical of former President George W. Bush's environmental policies. He commended President Barrack Obama for initiating "a sea change" on environmental policies but added that the environment should not be a partisan issue. He blamed politicians for giving "big polluters" a free pass on environmental regulation and for passing on their costs and liabilities to taxpayers.
"Nature is the infrastructure of our community, and if we want to protect our future and the dignity, enrichment and prosperity of our children, we've got to start by protecting our infrastructure," he said. "We need to change it so that companies get rich by getting customers to conserve energy."
Kennedy estimated it would cost $3 trillion to build a new energy grid for solar and wind power — about $1 trillion less than the Iraq War has cost.
Crimes Against Nature A 1976 Harvard University graduate with a bachelor's degree in American history and literature, Kennedy studied at the London School of Economics and received his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. After graduation, he attended Pace University School of Law, where he was awarded a master's degree in environmental law.
Kennedy's books include the New York Times bestseller Crimes Against Nature (2004); The Riverkeepers (1997); and Judge Frank M. Johnson Jr: A Biography (1977), as well as historical children's books. Kennedy has published articles in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone,Esquire and other publications.
He is the son of the late U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy and the late Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.
WVIA air dates Kennedy's talk will be broadcast on WVIA-TV on the following dates: Feb. 11, 8 p.m.; Feb. 14, 3 p.m.; Feb. 21, 5 p.m.; Feb. 22, 7 p.m.; Feb. 25, 8 p.m.; Feb. 28, 12 p.m.
The Bucknell Forum The Bucknell Forum series "Global Leadership: Questions for the 21st Century" continues next month with Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams, the founding coordinator and campaign ambassador of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Williams will speak at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 9, in Trout Auditorium at Bucknell.
Visit the Bucknell Forum website, www.bucknell.edu/theforum, for more details about Williams' talk and other speakers in the series, which runs through the spring semester.
Vice President for Communications Pete Mackey announced Tuesday the formation of a new Bucknell Forum Task Force, which will shape a new series, "Creativity: Beyond the Box," that will begin in the fall.
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