The following is the transcript of Robert Kennedy Jr.'s speech at the Democratic Convention on July 28, 2004. RFK Jr. is the president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, an organization dedicated to protecting American waterways and bodies of water.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
In 20 years as an environmental advocate, I’ve been disciplined about being non-partisan in my approach to the environment. If you talk to the CEOs of almost any environmental organization, they’ll say that the worst thing that could happen to the environment would be if it became a partisan issue, the province of a single political party. Five years ago, if you asked experts what they thought was the gravest threat to our environment, they’d mention a whole range of issues, from over-population to global warming, to toxins in our food and air. But today, they’ll give you just one answer: It’s George W. Bush.
You simply cannot talk honestly about the environment today without speaking critically about this administration. This administration has promoted 400 major rollbacks that threaten to eviscerate 30 years of environmental progress. They’ve put polluters in charge of the very agencies that are supposed to regulate them. The second in command of the EPA is a former Monsanto lobbyist. The second in command of the Forest Service is a former timber industry lobbyist.
This administration says that we have to choose between environmental protection on one hand and economic prosperity on the other. But that is a false choice. Good environmental policy and good economic policy are identical. If we treat this earth as a business, converting our natural resources to cash as fast as possible, we might have a few years of pollution-based prosperity. But our children would have to pay for it - pay for it with a barren landscape, poor health, and astronomical clean up costs.
Environmental injury is deficit spending – putting the cost of our generation’s prosperity on the backs of our children. This entire Administration is about deficit spending. They’ve squandered a $5 trillion surplus. And they’ve squandered the goodwill of the world.
When I was a little boy, I went to Europe with my uncle and my father. Thousands of people came out to welcome us. They were proud to name their streets after American presidents such as Teddy Roosevelt and JFK. But in just three and half years, the international goodwill that took America more than 200 years to earn has been squandered.
John Kerry understands that we’ve got to protect our environment not just for the sake of the fishes and the birds, but for our own sake. John Kerry understands that we’ve got to protect our environment because it enriches us – not just economically, but historically, culturally and spiritually.
When we destroy nature, we diminish ourselves. John Kerry understands that.
And that’s why we need to join John Kerry in protecting our environment – in standing up to polluters, preserving our environmental monuments, and keeping our air and water safe for our children.