Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spoke at Transylvania University's Haggin Auditorium on Wednesday night about the benefits of green capitalism, and how good environmental policy means good business policy.
Kennedy, who came to the university as part of its Kenan Lecture Series, defined green capitalism as a means to democratize environmental infrastructure which creates sustainable business and energy independence using natural resources.
"One of the things that I've done over the past three decades as an environmental advocate is to constantly go around and confront this argument that an investment in our environment is a diminishment of our nation's wealth," Kennedy said. "It doesn't diminish our wealth. It's an investment in infrastructure ... It's an investment we have to make if we're going to ensure the economic vitality of our generation and future generations."
Kennedy said that the biggest question is how energy is used and how subsidies given to oil and coal companies affect the environment. He suggested that America follow other countries in decarbonizing its energy supply and using solar and wind power.
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Throughout his discussion before a sell-out crowd, Kennedy brought the problem of pollution and the debate about energy to the doorstep of Appalachian counties where mountaintop-removal coal mining has been used. He quoted a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report that said extracting coal using mountaintop removal has "flattened an area of the Appalachians the size of Delaware and poisoned thousands of miles of rivers and streams" in the last 20 years.
Transylvania said the event was a sellout, and Kennedy's remarks drew a standing ovation.
Kennedy, son of the late Robert F. Kennedy, is an environmental lawyer and professor at Pace University School of Law. He is president of Waterkeeper Alliance, an organization that champions clean water and strong communities.
Transylvania's Kenan Lecture Series is funded by a grant from the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust.