If I were God and could design a fitting punishment for the Kennedy family’s sins over the years, it would be hard to beat two scenarios now unfolding. First is the prospect of Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger’s takeover of the governor’s mansion in California along with his Kennedy family wife, Maria Shriver, and then perhaps helping deliver that state to George Bush in 2004. But second and even more divinely sanctioned, is the sight of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who routinely berates my country about our environmental policies, now opposing renewable energy in his own Massachusetts backyard.
Kennedy, a rabid green activist especially when it comes to other countries, showed up in the news last week to oppose a U.S. $700 million wind turbine farm in Nantucket Sound, located near Hyannis, home to the Kennedy family compound, among other stables for the rich and famous of the political left. Despite the emerging hypocrisy of course, as recently as this past weekend, Kennedy was back in Canada (in Montreal) to slam Canada’s record on the environment.
Forget the debate over whether wind turbines are economical or whether they might slaughter a few too many seagulls. It is sheer fun to watch Kennedy squirm in the face of 130 possible 40-storey windmills that might give clean, renewable energy for a couple of thousand homes in Martha’s Vineyard. The pleasure is acute given how Kennedy and his merry band of green activists warn Canadians not to put comfort, i.e., a job, ahead of environmental purity.
For example, RFK Jr. was a regular presence in efforts to ban logging in large parts of British Columbia over the past decade. Three years ago, he proudly proclaimed that “legislation, litigation and agitation” would be used to save the so-called Great Bear Rainforest, a name that appears on no map but was chosen by environmentalists to carve off yet another big chunk of B.C. and keep it away from anyone who doesn’t make their living from politics or activism.
Kennedy lectured locals and noted that forestry wasn’t very profitable in B.C. anymore (true, thanks to efforts of outsiders like Kennedy) and that tourism should replace it. Right. Try telling a logger with three kids and a mortgage to instead change bed sheets on minimum wage at the Great Bear Rainforest Inn.
In November 2001, Kennedy was at it again, this time lecturing Newfoundlanders and their Fortis Corporation about a dam it wanted to build in Belize. “The Belize project is inconsistent with the best traditions of Canada,” said Kennedy. A Freudian psychologist might surmise whether Kennedy unconsciously meant the tradition whereby Canada’s liquor was bootlegged into the U.S. by Kennedy’s grandfather, Joe, during Prohibition. Ordinary Canadians might merely object to Kennedy’s attempt to inform us of our past, especially since in many parts of Canada, dams are, traditionally, what allow many of us to flick on our light switches. Regardless, in April 2003, the Belize Supreme Court struck down the third attempt by environmental groups to stop the project; the court agreed with Fortis’ earlier claim that the greens, including Kennedy, had spouted misinformation.
Besides bugging British Columbians and Newfoundlanders, Kennedy showed up in Alberta in March 2002, to give, as that province’s premier Ralph Klein noted afterward, a “20-minute dissertation” to him on how Alberta’s hog farms were dangerous to Albertans. At the time, Klein reminded Kennedy that education was preferable to legal heavy-handedness. Kennedy, a lawyer, disagreed and told a lunchtime Calgary crowd that “The best way to educate them [errant hog farmers] is to put them in jail.” Some might agree with the sentiment but think the object of such education should be Robert Jr.’s oft-drunk relatives, including say, Uncle Ted, who ran away from a drowning young woman in his crashed car all those years ago.
And Kennedy also lectured politicians and residents in Canada’s largest province, Ontario, about water policy. In 1999, he argued that North America's environment was being despoiled by "fat cats" using political clout to pass on their hidden costs to taxpayers and future generations.
Kennedy is typical of Democrats who are happy to lecture other countries about their environmental policy but who are apoplectic whenever, say, the American right reminds European politicians that peace and prosperity is not automatic but occasionally requires tough foreign policy choices, including ones that offend some European elites on occasion. Such interference in other countries’ affairs in verboten by the American left when it comes to foreign policy, but apparently not so objectionable if it concerns forestry policy or water.
And of course, Kennedy, like many others in the environmental movement, use their advocacy and influence with the public to advance the politics of redistribution and envy. In a 1999 interview with Canada’s national newspaper, the National Post, Kennedy told the interviewer that “Environmental advocacy addresses the question of how you allocate society's wealth, society's natural resources, the bounties of the land, and whether they're being allocated fairly among all of the people.” In other words -- and with apologies to Clausewitz-- environmental advocacy is an extension of class warfare politics by other means.
“The GDP measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile,” said the pampered Robert Jr. in 2001, in one of his many I’m-here-to-save-Canada-from-Canadians appearances. That the statement has some truth in it doesn’t make it any less banal, but it is also easy for Kennedy to say, since his family’s share in that non-worthwhile measurement is rather substantial, unlike most Newfoundlanders or newly unemployed forestry workers in British Columbia.
Of course, on some issues Kennedy may well be right. Just because he is a Boston lawyer with a famous family and lots of money doesn’t mean he is always wrong. For all I know, maybe he is right in his opposition to windmills in Nantucket. And to argue that many in the environmental movement go too far is not an argument for letting polluting companies soak taxpayers for clean-up costs or for taking a pave-it-all approach to the environment. The idea of balance is not an enemy of the free market and no conservative or libertarian should make the opposite error of deep greens like Kennedy and assume that the environment doesn’t matter.
But arguments about proper environmental policy aside, if God has a sense of humour, gigantic wind turbines will one day be visible from the Kennedy family compound.