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Environment

Bill Stowe, An Iowa Hero

“We are in a water crisis in this state… We have sold our souls to the devil..”

 

Earth Day 2016

Earthrise Dec. 24, 1968

Earthrise Dec. 24, 1968

My participation in the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970 evolved in a convergence of social vectors. Among them was this Apollo 8 photograph of Earth above a lunar landscape by astronaut William Anders.

After viewing the photograph I felt conflicts and maladies in society were insignificant compared with what we have in common within our tiny, shared ecosystem suspended in the dark vastness of space. The photograph and its wide publication were a call to action to work for a common good. I still feel that way. It makes sense.

By spring 1970 we had witnessed the Tet Offensive, the My Lai Massacre, and renewed bombing of North Vietnam. We watched the violence of the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. We saw bits of Woodstock and Altamont in the media. We also landed men on the moon and returned them safely to Earth. At this convergence I didn’t know what to do, so joined with some high school classmates who were organizing Earth Day events. Earth Day was a common denominator.

What has Earth Day become?

Last week the Johnson County Board of Supervisors proclaimed April 17 through 23 Earth Week and announced two related events: an energy fair, and a local foods panel.

The focus on energy, CO2 emissions particularly, is well placed. We continue to use the atmosphere as an open sewer, discharging millions of tons of the greenhouse gases into it daily. Any reduction in electricity usage benefits the environment, even if the changes needed to solve the problem are trickier to accomplish than changing light bulbs.

Our food system is an obvious pick for Earth Day. Nine percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It is a commonplace people need food to live, and the merging of Earth Day with the local food movement is an expected assimilation within normal spring activities. There are few better ways of appreciating Earth than getting one’s hands dirty in the ground, and spring in the Northern hemisphere is a great time to do it. It’s tough to see how planting a few trees, flowers or vegetables will rescue the environment, but as with electricity usage, every bit helps.

There is an entire menu of Earth Day related activities in our county.

Quoting Albert Camus in a recent opinion piece in the Washington Post, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar described why the 2016 election is important,

“This is no longer a prayer but a demand to be made by all peoples to their governments — a demand to choose definitively between hell and reason.” That is what the stakes of this election are: We are choosing between hell and reason.

In 1970 I thought we were already living a form of hell and the Earthrise photograph gave us hope. I would not have believed that in 2016 the Age of Reason itself would be on the brink of dissolution.

The good news is solutions to the climate crisis are working, particularly in the development of alternatives to fossil fuels to generate electricity and industrial power. The challenge is everything on our blue-green sphere is connected in a single ecosystem. What I do in my back yard has implications for living creatures around the planet.

Individuals in the U.S. are willing to do their part and what’s lacking is no secret: the political will to do straightforward things like ratify the Paris Agreement. Negotiated by 195 states within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the agreement addresses greenhouse gases emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020. Some 120 nations are expected to sign when the agreement opens for signature this Earth Day.

Will the United States be among them? It’s an open question. Many politicians have indicated the United States should not participate in the agreement at all. Their rationale doesn’t make sense, and that’s what Abdul-Jabbar was getting at. Reason the way most understand it is not in vogue in parts of our government.

Politics aside, Earth Day is a chance to revisit this iconic photograph. When we consider the big picture, as the photograph encourages us to do, little has changed since it was taken. Our troubles seem petty compared to the overriding fact we live on our only home and it’s much smaller than we often see.

Act Now To Stop Proposed 7,499 Hog CAFO In Allamakee County

Factory farms poisoning Iowa*Note from BFIA: This petition is not available online. To sign a hard copy of this petition, see instructions below.

Action alert from Allamakee County Protectors:

Allamakee County is faced with another challenge! There is a large confined animal feed operation proposed near one of our finest trout streams. Attached is a petition that you can print, sign and send back.

Many residents and tourist enjoy the area in jeopardy. Many people from other states enjoy the beauty of this area, so feel free to sign even if you don’t reside in our state.

What we know.
1. There will be a county supervisors hearing on the permit by the end of April.

2. The location is near Village Creek west of Lansing, IA.

3. Jones Creek which naturally produces trout feeds to Village Creek and then to the Mississippi. The CAFO would directly impact these waterways if a manure spill occurred.

4. The CAFO will be 3 buildings housing 7,499 hogs each owned by Reicks.

5. Reicks produced approx. 640,000 hogs last year and this permit is an attempt to move into Allamakee County.

Please sign the petition so our supervisors are aware this is something we don’t want devastating the people, plants or animals of this delicate area.

Thanks,

Robert Nehman, Executive Director
Allamakee County Protectors
P.O. Box 32, New Albin, Iowa 52160
Email: isisjoy520@aol.com
Phone: 608-385-3111
Petition opposing Reick’s factory hog
farm in Allamakee County

“Grassroots action on the CAFO issue is urgently needed. There is a 30-day window to deal with this issue before it is out of local hands, and 10 of those days are already gone!! This is winnable if we can show enough interest via the attached petition.

Every signature is precious. And we want people everywhere to print the petition, get as many family members and friends to sign, and then return. The address to send the petition to is at the bottom of the page.

Other than the petition, there is only one way people can help stop the monstrous CAFO. That is to attend and speak-up at the one public hearing that the county supervisors will hold. No date for that petition has been set yet. But everyone feels it must be within the next 20-days.

Thank you for your help with this. It will be greatly appreciated by all who stand to lose a great deal of money on greatly depreciated property values, widespread stink, pollution of an OIW (Outstanding Iowa Waterway – Village Creek), destroyed rural roads and bridges, and overall loss of quality of life.  – Ric Zarwell”

 

Petition text:

Family Farms, Yes! — Out Of County Factory Farms, No!

“We – the undersigned – value our rural communities, family farms, and quality of life. We support local farmers
and their families. We strongly oppose large-scale, corporate-owned factory farms with operations
throughout the state that pose a real risk to the quality of our air and water, the value of our homes and
farmsteads, destruction of the county roads, and the direct threat to Village Creek- which is a named and
recognized ‘Outstanding Iowa Waterway’. We are particularly concerned about recent news that Reicks
View Family Farms of Lawler,!Iowa, is planning to build a factory farm this year near Village Creek. Therefore,
we call on our County Supervisors to stand with us in opposing this development and in so doing helping to
protect the residents of Allamakee County and the property they own. We also call upon the DNR and its
director, Chuck Gipp, to uphold their mission statement and protect the natural resources of Iowa.”

Include name, street address, city/state, email

 

Update: Science And Green News

thom hartmann
Give your brain a break from the Donald.

There are other news sources besides CNN, MSNBC, Fox, and right-wring radio.  Thom Hartmann is one. http://www.thomhartmann.com/

 

Why Palm Oil Is Bad For Iowans

Palm Oil Extraction Photos Credit Wikimedia Commons

Palm Oil Extraction Photo Credit Wikimedia Commons

On Friday, Feb. 5, the benchmark crude palm-oil future contract traded on the Bursa Malaysia Derivatives exchange reached its highest level since May 2014, according to NASDAQ.

Traders were feeling bullish as warm, dry weather caused by El Niño in the region receded from the prime palm plantations in Sumatra, Borneo and other parts of Indonesia.

These palm oil producing regions are half a world away, yet they matter to Iowa more than one knows.

The use of palm oil for cooking is in direct competition with soybean oil, including Iowa-grown soybeans traded on international markets. In a recent interview, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey said one out of four rows of Iowa soybeans are bound for international sales.

“India, the world’s largest importer of cooking oils, will buy more soybean and sunflower oil this year (2015) than ever before as a global glut weakens prices and prompts buyers to switch from palm oil,” according to Bloomberg News.

Because of the decline in farm commodity prices, current trends may favor soybeans over palm, but at the expense of soybean farmers. There is a clear case to be made to avoid products like chocolate, ice cream, detergent, soap and cosmetics that contain palm oil and its derivatives as a way to support Iowa farmers.

What matters more is deforestation to expand the cultivation of palm trees. Using a slash and burn methodology to clear equatorial rain forest for palm plantations, the haze covering Indonesia was visible from space. While haze may be viewed as a temporary inconvenience, deforestation has a direct impact on the planet’s capacity to process atmospheric carbon dioxide. That’s not to mention the loss of habitat and biodiversity, as well as release of carbon stored in trees into the atmosphere.

From logging, agricultural production and other economic activities, deforestation adds more atmospheric CO2 than the sum total of cars and trucks on the world’s roads, according to Scientific American.

“The reason that logging is so bad for the climate is that when trees are felled they release the carbon they are storing into the atmosphere, where it mingles with greenhouse gases from other sources and contributes to global warming accordingly,” the article said. “The upshot is that we should be doing as much to prevent deforestation as we are to increase fuel efficiency and reduce automobile usage.”

Most corporate food conglomerates use or have used palm oil and its derivatives as an ingredient. What’s a person to do?

The first recourse in Iowa is the power of the purse. Avoid purchasing products with palm oil because it competes with Iowa-grown soybeans, and is a contributor to climate disruption. There is no such thing as sustainably grown palm oil.

Palm oil and its derivatives go under many names. A list of alternate names for palm oil can be found here along with a handy wallet sized printout.

Here is a list that discusses use of palm oil in various consumer products.

Explore the Rainforest Action Network web site, beginning with this link. There is a lot of information about the issue and actions you can take to address the most pressing aspects of deforestation.

While Indonesia may seem distant, what goes on there and in other equatorial palm plantations matters here in Iowa.

Electric Car Emissions vs. Gasoline

Thought this would be of interest to folks here: (about 2 minutes)

The Facts About CAFOs Speak For Themselves

factory farm map

CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) proliferation is ruining Iowa. Jefferson County Farmers and Neighbors are fighting hard to save what we have left. Please share this article and help them get the facts out about CAFOs.

jfaniowa.org

Letter to Editor Submitted in Response to Burlington Hawkeye Article

In the October 11, 2015 edition of the Burlington Hawkeye, business editor Rex Troute published a column, “Tired of the Tears Over Big Hog Operations.” The article was in response to the JFAN Annual Meeting. You can read a hard copy PDF of the article here.

In response, JFAN submitted the following letter to the editor. As of November 9, the letter has not been published. We are sharing it with you in full below.

The Facts About CAFOs Speak for Themselves

by Diane Rosenberg | Executive Director, Jefferson County Famers & Neighbors, Inc.

Rex Troute says he’s tired of the “crying over modern hog production, ” that we can’t go back to the old days, and should just accept industrial farming in order to efficiently “feed the world.” Anyone can throw out platitudes to make their point, however statements have more significance when they are backed by medical, scientific and environmental research. The Jefferson County Farmers & Neighbors Board of Directors takes exception to Mr. Troute’s comments and offers the following facts.

We’re going to have to change the way we raise hogs in Iowa because industrial hog production is destroying rural Iowa and infringing on the inalienable rights of thousands of Iowans to clean air and water and a good quality of life. And, yes, there are alternatives to CAFOs.

To address several of Mr. Troute’s points:

1. It’s a false argument to say rejecting CAFOs is just yearning for the “old days.” Many Iowans reject CAFOs because of the harm they cause to health, the environment, property values, rural economies, and quality of life – all documented in 50 years of scientific research.

2. Alternatives to CAFOs do exist. One example is raising hogs in hoop house operations using deeply bedded straw. Iowa State University researchers have found that the cost of raising hogs is comparable to CAFOs. The benefits? They employ more people, cost less to build, don’t need confinement pits or prophylactic antibiotics, and are humane. In fact, consumers are getting wise, increasingly demanding humanely raised, non-CAFO meat, opening up more opportunities for traditional producers.

3. There is no evidence that independent, traditional pork farmers can’t produce enough food without CAFOs. 80% of the world produces its food without the benefit of industrial agriculture reports the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Until the agribusiness expansion pushed out independent farmers, thousands of traditional family farms produced plenty of food for the US and beyond. Yes, we have a larger population to feed than 30 years ago. But had agribusiness expansion not decimated independent producers, the number of farmers would have grown to meet the demand, and rural communities would be robust.

3. The foul, debilitating stench from CAFOs is vastly different than the “smell of money” produced by traditional farms. Today’s hog manure putrefies for 6-12 months in underground pits devoid of air and light. It produces over 300 chemicals including 150 gases. Hydrogen sulfide and ammonia are among the worst, causing headaches, nausea, vomiting, confusion and respiratory ailments – all documented by peer-reviewed studies.

4. That some hog waste wound up in streams when hogs were on pasture is a typical industry talking point. But it’s an indisputable fact that the DNR documents a three-fold increase in impaired waterways over the last 15 years as CAFOs continue to replace traditional farms.

The health, wealth, future, and even heart and soul of rural Iowa are being sacrificed for corporate profits. Iowa needs more people crying for a change otherwise Iowa risks becoming the nation’s “throwaway state” for the benefit of agribusiness interests.

Reading Naomi Klein

This Changes EverythingUnlike the climate crisis story spoon fed to us in decreasing numbers of corporate media stories, in social media memes, and in fleeting conversations at community gatherings, in This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate, author Naomi Klein said there is a nascent, global movement preparing to take climate action.

“The climate movement has yet to find its full moral voice on the world stage,” Klein wrote. “But it is most certainly clearing its throat—beginning to put the very real thefts and torments that ineluctably flow from the decision to mock international climate commitments alongside history’s most damned crimes.”

If you haven’t read Klein’s 2014 book, you should. Not because of a desire to take sides in the public discussion of global warming and the need to keep global temperature increase to two degrees or less. But because a). reading a paper book can be good for us, and b). with Klein you can hear her broader story and learn new things. Here’s more on why you should pick up a copy at your library or bookstore if you haven’t already.

In Iowa, as home to the first in the nation caucuses, we are inundated with stories about politics. Elections matter, and we have seen how in the Republican awakening after Barack Obama’s 2008 election. Progressives hardly understood that Republicans, though in the minority in the Congress, would exercise such power that much of Obama’s agenda was sidelined from the beginning. Republican comebacks in 2010 and 2014 have turned the congress from Democratic to Republican, and right-wing hardliners have more input to the legislative process than their numbers warrant. Taking climate action in Congress has, for the most part, been a non-starter.

“It’s not just the people we vote into office and then complain about—it’s us,” Klein wrote. “For most of us living in post-industrial societies, when we see the crackling black-and-white footage of general strikes in the 1930s, victory gardens in the 1940s, and Freedom Rides in the 1960s, we simply cannot imagine being part of any mobilization of that depth and scale.”

“Where would we organize?” Klein asked. “Who would we trust enough to lead us? Who, moreover, is ‘we?'”

Klein’s book frames answers to those questions: People are organizing everywhere, resisting unbridled extraction of natural resources by corporations. “We” includes almost everyone.

This Changes Everything reviews the recent history of the climate movement. It covers extreme extraction of natural resources that leave behind waste heaps, fouled water and polluted air, then are burned and produce atmospheric gases that warm the planet. Everyone from fossil fuel companies to environmental groups have been involved in what Klein calls “extractivism.” There is a growing resistance, including environmental groups divesting from investments in the fossil fuel industry, indigenous people mounting court battles, and community groups violating international trade agreements to move to renewable energy sources. The book is a snapshot of where the climate movement currently stands.

While Klein has her point of view, she depicts the complexity of a global network of fossil fuel companies seeking to extract hydrocarbons scientists tells us must be left in the ground. While the resistance may not have found its full moral voice, Klein’s book makes the case it won’t be long and recounts the significant inroads indigenous people and communities near extraction sites are making.

When we talk about taking climate action, Naomi Klein’s work should be part of our conversation.

Senator Cruz And The Sierra Club

The exchange between U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and Sierra Club president Aaron Mair during an Oct. 6 Senate judiciary subcommittee hearing was a brief flash in the news cycle. Was it also a debate about climate change?

The subject was to have been the impact of federal regulations on minority communities. The junior senator from Texas turned it into something else — a desultory grilling of Mair in which he brought out some old sawhorses from the climate denial tool shed. Here is the exchange:

Sierra Club board member Donna Buell posted this on Facebook after the hearing:

Donna Buell FB Snippet 10-09-15

Mair was quick to reply on behalf of the Sierra Club:

[]

View the entire two-hour hearing if you have the stomach for it here.

Cruz asserted in an Oct. 7 press release he “proved, contrary to liberal assertions that man-caused climate change is ‘settled science,’ that there is still a healthy and vigorous debate about the causes and nature of climate change based on the data and scientific evidence.”

So does Cruz picking a fight indicate debate? Decidedly not. In fact, as Mair pointed out in his video response, Cruz’s claims during the hearing have been debunked by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency over which Cruz has oversight in his role as chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

What’s this about?

It is about the attempt of right wing politicians like Cruz to hijack reasonable discussion among people with differing opinions in favor of a personal agenda.

On Oct. 12, I was part of a Sierra Club panel of presenters in which I suggested attendees could continue the discussion Cruz and Mair started by bird dogging Cruz in Washington, Iowa Wednesday morning.

Miriam Kashia, a veteran of the Great March for Climate Action, raised her hand and said, “I’ve done that.”

She reported the incident in an Oct. 13 guest opinion in the Iowa City Press Citizen,

Then, during a media interview with Sen. Ted Cruz speaking about the terrorist threat, I jumped in and asked him, “What is your response to the fact that the Pentagon tells us that climate change is the biggest threat to America’s security?” His response, “You don’t have the right to ask any questions, because you’re not a member of the media.” The media, meanwhile, was not doing its job.

Statements by Cruz and his ilk so often go unchallenged. People agree with him, and in Texas helped elevate him to power in 2012. His supporters are vocal and much of what is said serves the conservative agenda or it doesn’t get heard. I don’t doubt there is a Cruz community that buys into his world view, even though it appears to be based in something other than reality.

What becomes clearer each time people like Cruz are examined is nothing is behind the verbiage but vapidness. Sarah Beckman pointed this out about Cruz in an Oct. 13 post on Iowa Starting Line.

If you spend enough time with Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, you start to get the feeling that there is something “off” about him. His long pauses, his forlorn looks out into the audience, his deep crescendos and trailing whispers, his odd pop culture references. They all paint the picture that Cruz is maybe not as honest and authentic as he lets on while campaigning.

Never is Cruz talking about what we have in common, about how we can live better with each other, or how we solve the greatest problems of our time, like mitigating the causes of global warming.

Elections matter, and when the electorate elevates people like Cruz to positions of power over NASA, NOAA and the government’s scientific bodies, we are doing ourselves no favors.

If readers plan to move to Texas to sort out this mess, and elect someone who will enter the arena to fight for all of us, then God bless. I don’t see that happening.

Cruz gives us reason enough to engage in politics. Leaving important political work to others helped produce Senators Cruz, Ernst and Grassley, and the troubled time in which we live.

There is a better way, and it’s up to us to find and follow it.

RFK, Jr. Calls Koch Brothers “Deadly Parasites” On Democracy

koch brothers own americaEver wonder why you rarely see Robert Kennedy, Jr. on the TV?  Possibly because he is the most knowledgeable and articulate spokesman for the environment there is, and he is unafraid to tell the truth about corporate greed. Prepare to be blown away when you read this.

ringoffireradio.com/

Excerpts from an article that originally appeared on EcoWatch.

by Stefanie Spear

At this year’s Waterkeeper Alliance conference in Boulder, Colorado, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. delivered a provocative unscripted keynote that lambasted the carbon lobby for undermining democracy and subverting the common right to a healthy environment.

Speaking to a group of activists, including more than 200 Waterkeepers from 30 nations, Kennedy declared, “We are engaged, as Abraham Lincoln said, ‘in a great Civil War.’” This time, he said, “the conflict involves all the Earth’s peoples. It’s not just a battle to protect our waterways, our livelihoods, our property and our backyards. It’s a struggle for our sovereignty, our values, our health and our lives. It’s a battle for dignified humane and wholesome communities. It’s a defensive war against toxic and economic aggression by Big Oil and King Coal. It’s a struggle to break free of the ‘soft colonialism’ of carbon’s corporate tyranny and create an economic and energy system that is fair, rooted in justice, economic independence and freedom.”

“Polluters,” he explained, “assault soft targets first—and that means the poor.” He recounted how the majority of toxic industrial sites and noxious facilities are in lower income communities where residents lack political power or connections to protect themselves. He gave examples of these environmental injustices including, Emelle, Alabama, which is home to the largest toxic waste dump in America—one of the country’s most impoverished regions where one-third of the residents live below the poverty line and more than 65 percent of the residents are black—Chicago’s south side, which has more toxic waste sites than any other American community and East Los Angeles, a primarily black and Hispanic community, which is the most contaminated zip code in America.

“In these communities,” he said, “Not just the land and water, but the people have been commoditized—and everything becomes expendable in the drive for corporate profits.”

But he added, “It’s not just the poor who are under assault. The corporate hunger for profit is threatening all people with loss of their natural world and the other assets of their patrimony.”

Kennedy said that corporate efforts to privatize the commons are occurring in all parts of the world and that “environmental injury correlates almost perfectly with political tyranny.”

“In China, Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, environmental destruction went hand in hand with political despotism and corruption,” he continued. “Thanks to the Pinochet regime, the forests and waters of Chile are no longer owned by the Chilean people. Every single river in Chile is now owned by a Spanish company, Endessa which plans to dam all of them for private profit. So the people of that nation no longer own their rivers, they don’t own their forests. Even the highways, railroads, utilities, airports, stadiums and prisons—all the public spaces that once formed our civic lives are being occupied by private and corporate wealth.”

To give context to the history, Kennedy talked about the many environmental insults in the 1960’s that spurred the modern-day environmental movement, including the 1963 extinction of the Eastern Peregrine Falcon from DDT poisoning, the burning of the Cuyahoga River, the Santa Barbara oil spill and the declaration that Lake Erie was dead, which all occurred in 1969. The Santa Barbara spill held the record for the largest oil spill until Exxon Valdez and the BP Deepwater Horizon. In those three examples, polluters had effectively privatized a major American river, one of the Great Lakes and all the beaches in Southern California.

In response to such insults, in 1970, 20 million Americans, 10 percent of our population, came out on the streets for the first Earth Day in “a democratic reassertion of popular sovereignty over the common’s, those crowds demanded that our political leaders return to the American people the ancient environmental rights that had been stolen from our citizens since the Industrial Revolution,” Kennedy said.

In response to this massive public outpouring, Republicans and Democrats working together passed, over the next 10 years, 28 major environmental statutes, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, RCRA, TSCA, FIFRA, The Federal Mine Safety and Health Act and Superfund. All of these statutes were intended to restore our rights to the public commons. What happened next? “These new prohibitions against corporate pollution hurt the industry’s bottom line. So the polluters fought back,” he declared.

Throughout the next three decades, polluters funded politicians including Presidents George Bush and Ronald Reagan, their appointed judges and various Republican Congresses chipped away at the new environmental laws. But then, according to Kennedy, the industry achieved its most brazen and stunning victory. Kennedy said, “In the year of the millennium, the most corporate friendly Supreme Court since 1933 stopped the 2000 election vote count in Florida and stole the presidency from Senator Al Gore, the greenest presidential candidate in our history. That decision turned the White House over to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, two Texas oilmen.”

Even as they dismantled America’s environmental laws by statute, Bush and Cheney stocked the regulatory agencies with industry lackeys and profiteering cronies who weakened and auctioned off America’s public lands and forests to the campaign contributors at fire sale prices, according to Kennedy.

But George W. Bush wasn’t done. He next appointed two ultra-corporatist U.S. Supreme Court Justices—John G. Roberts in 2005 and Samuel Alito in 2006. Kennedy said that it is wrong to think of these judges as traditional conservatives. “They are not. They are corporatists. If you analyze their decisions, there is no coherent conservative political philosophy. They have taken the ‘conserve’ out of conservatism. The only predictable outcome of their rulings is that ‘the corporation always wins.’”

The apogee of their unctuous worship of unsheathed corporate power was the Supreme Court’s 2010 5 to 4 decision in favor of Citizens United, which, as Kennedy proclaimed, “turned American democracy over to large corporations.”

The so called “Citizens United” decision is the “most sweeping expansion of corporate power this century. In an acrimonious split decision, the five ‘conservative’ justices declared that, in the eyes of the Constitution, corporations were people and money is speech,” continued Kennedy.

“And today it’s hard to argue that we still have a democracy in this country when you have the Koch brothers, the two richest people in America, who have pledged already to put nearly $900 million into this presidential election, which is comparable to the amount spent by either political party,” said Kennedy. “This year’s presidential election is going to cost $10 billion with half of that coming from 100 wealthy families. Nearly $1 billion is coming from two brothers.”

And, said Kennedy, “You will hear no criticism from the press, the supposed guardians of our democracy. And that’s because most of that money will go to media advertising—the 4th estate has been bought off.”

“Whether we recognize it or not, we are all locked in a life and death struggle with these corporations over control of our landscapes and political sovereignty,” Kennedy said. “If a foreign nation did to our country what the coal and oil barons do every day, we would consider it an act of war! They poison our rivers and aquifers, steal our fish, flood our cities and trample our democracy. They are pilfering our values, robbing our culture, impoverishing our lives, sickening our children and stupefying our minds with pollution. They subvert our heritage by privatizing our patrimony. They are turning America into a colonial economy.

“Under the colonial model multinational corporations exploit weak political systems to commoditize and privatize a nation’s resources. A robust democracy would never allow a foreign company to plunder the nation’s natural resources, poison her landscapes and subjugate her people. So colonialism requires the multinationals to weaken and capture the indigenous political system of the target nation. They do so by making alliances with local oligarchs with military and intelligence apparatus and conservative religious organizations and buying off the media. All these indigenous elites get a share of the profits in exchange for allowing the theft of their country’s resources. Pollution is not just theft—it is treason. The Koch brothers are not just America’s biggest polluters—they are thieves and they are traitors to our country and their crimes against America and humanity have made them the richest men on Earth.

Corporations are a useful economic tool. However, “corporations should not be running our government because they don’t want the same thing for America as Americans want,” he continued. “They don’t want democracy. They want profits. They want no competition. They are corrupting our democracy. They are stealing everything that we care about in this country.

“I believe in a true free market where you can’t make yourself rich without making your neighbors rich and without enriching your community, where we properly value our national resources and where we reward efficiency. But polluters make themselves rich by making everybody else poor. They raise standards of living for themselves while lowering quality of life for everybody else. They undervalue natural resources or take them for free. And they do it all by escaping the discipline of the free market. Polluters externalize their costs to artificially lower the price of their product. The 28 environmental laws that we passed after the first Earth Day in 1970 were intended to restore true free market capitalism by forcing actors in the marketplace to pay the true cost to bring their product to market. There is a huge difference between true free market capitalism—which makes a nation more efficient, more prosperous and more democratic—and the kind of corporate crony capitalism which we have today.”

After 45-minutes of some of the most powerful comments about the reality of the world today, Kennedy finished by telling the crowd, “But we are not going quietly. We’ve heard the summons to the barricades and we are filling the streets. We are the soldiers in a revolution against carbon. And this is an industry that no longer has a justifiable economic model.”

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.Pointing at the roaring crowd, he said, “Every single person here is willing to die with their boots on. That commitment is what brought you the Waterkeeper movement. We are going to keep fighting for these landscapes, for these rights, for these rivers and for all the values that we care for as a people and as a society.”

(click here to read the entire article)