"The commons have been privatized by private parties for personal profit."

— a Speech by Robert Kennedy


Lake Ontario Keeper
Lake Ontario Keeper news service

Speech transcript August 1/2003

Robert Kennedy speaks to Toronto by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
The following is a complete transcript of Mr. Kennedy's public address, June 21 2003 at Bambu by the Lake in Toronto. The speech marked the end of the 2003 Waterkeeper Alliance International Conference.

1. I want to start first by introducing all of you who don’t know the Waterkeepers up around the upper deck. There’s one hundred and fourteen Riverkeepers and most of them are here tonight and they’re from rivers all over the United States. We have seven licensed riverkeepers in Canada and dozens of applications for new ones, which we are processing as quickly as possible. I hope those you who are guests tonight and don’t know the Waterkeepers will mingle tonight and meet some of these people who are really extraordinary people who have given their lives, each one of them.

2. In order to be a Waterkeeper you have to have patrol boat, you have to have a full time paid riverkeeper, and you have to be willing to sue polluters and those are the three principle requirements.

3. And all of these people are warriors who have given their lives to a single water body and are engaged in a fight to protect that water body on behalf of the public, on behalf of the community through which that water body runs.
Our Maritime Community
4. I want to start by recognizing Richard O’Brien who is the owner of this restaurant, the Bambu, where we’ve spent a lot of our time. Richard is a waterkeeper at heart he took this piece of shoreline and he colonized it, he pioneered it. This lake is the forgotten lake. It has been taken over by government agencies and by industry and stolen from the public. There are beautiful beaches all over Lake Ontario and this part of Toronto and during the summertime, years ago, thousands of people used to congregate at those beaches.

5. This is a maritime community. Toronto grew up as a nautical city and yet its relationship to the water has been cut off. And that’s what happens to our water resources, to the public trust, to the commons; we allow industry to privatize to take them over and take them away from the public and the public thinks it’s okay because they’re doing it and they turn their backs on the water and go play golf or do some other activities. The commons have been privatized by private parties for personal profit. And what we do as Riverkeepers is we retake the commons and we reassert the public’s right to the commons.
The Code of Justinian
6. I drove back from that wild place we went to for recreation this afternoon; we drove across the Don River, the most polluted river in North America. The Lake Ontario Waterkeeper has counted one thousand industrial pipes discharging into the river. Each one of those pipes is stealing something from the public because the laws of this province and the federal laws of Canada say this water is not owned by the government it’s owned by the public. It’s not owned by the parliament, it’s certainly not owned by industry, it’s not owned by the airport, it’s owned by the people. Everybody has the right to use it nobody has a right to use it in a way that will diminish it.

7. Neither diminish nor injure its use and enjoyment by others. This is ancient law, it goes back to ancient times, to the Code of Justinian. It’s in the Magna Carta, it’s in the constitutions of all the provinces and all the states. The Code of Justinian said that those things that are not susceptible to private ownership, and they include all of the commons; the air that we breathe, the water, the shared resources, the wandering animals, the fisheries, the dune lands, the wetlands; those things belong to the people, everybody can use them nobody can use them in a way that damages their enjoyment by others. And those laws were embodied in the Magna Carta and in fact the reason that law was signed was because King John tried to privatize the deer which got him in trouble with Robin Hood. He tried to privatize, he tried to sell monopolies for the other tems, [sic] and the other waterways. He tried to sell monopolies for the fisheries. He tried to sell navigational tolls and that triggered a public revolt. In the field of Runnymede they forced him to sign the Magna Carta. That was the beginning of constitutional democracy. It’s the Bethlehem and the place where our US Bill of Rights came from but in additional to all of our Bill of Rights it has two additional chapters one on free access to fisheries, one on free access to navigable waters. And those rights descended to the provinces of Canada and the people of the states of America; they come from a European tradition and those rights are still intact.

8. These industries, those thousand pipes that are discharging into the Don River they are privatizing the river. They got away with something, they stole something. They stole that resource from the public they polluted the lake so the public can’t use the lake either. And fifty percent of the Toronto beaches have been closed this summer; the public can’t use them anymore. Somebody’s making money by privatizing those beaches, and somebody is making money by privatizing the land that the airport is on. That public land for the airport is in the hands of the powerful entities that want to take that land from the public.
The Red Hill Creek
9. I was down in Hamilton, there are fourteen rivers that flow through Hamilton and each and every one of them have been buried except one, which is the Red Hill Creek and they’re now going to put an expressway over that and bury it. Here in Toronto people have come to their senses and they’re saying the same thing they’re saying in Los Angelos, we have turned these rivers into culverts. And in Toronto and California and in cities all over the place, they’re tearing up the culverts and returning the rivers to the public. In Hamilton they’re still burying them and this is an old way of thinking. We have lost touch with the waterways. The Waterkeeper notion is that we have to re-establish the public’s right to use those waterways. We put a boat out on the waterways as a constant reminder that those waters are owned by the public. They are owned by the people; we have a right to use them and no one has the right to misuse them.
The Bambu is a Beachhead
10. And what Richard has done with this restaurant, and incidentally he has given free public offices the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, he has re-established a beachhead for the public on Lake Ontario where the public can now get access and understand that they own this waterway. We’re going to broaden this beachhead up and down both sides and move the federal government and move the airport to allow the people back on and get the public using those waterways.
Polluting the Airwaves
11. I want to say something along the same lines about Moses Znaimer; Moses is a keeper too. There is no difference between the public trust mandate that applies to the waterways and those that apply to the airwaves. In 1934 in the US we created the Federal Communications Commission because radio was propagating across the country and there was a recognition that there is a limited amount of airwaves and that they were owned by the public. The government could licence the use of the airwaves so long as it was for the public benefit. That governed all of the establishment of all radio and television stations until 1996 - radio and television stations had to demonstrate that they were serving a public purpose. The primary mandates were diversity, that there be many stations, that they be locally controlled, so you could get a crop report in North Dakota, and that there be easy access.

12. And what’s happening in the United States right now? It’s the trend that Moses more than anyone in North America is fighting against. We had Ted Turner in the United States but he sold out to Time Warner thinking it was a good idea because they used to do stuff on the environment but that station has been co-opted and now it doesn’t do environmental news. We received a report and 4% of the 15,000 minutes on national network news were devoted to the environment last year. They’re not covering what’s important. They cover Laci Peterson and the O.J. trial; they don’t cover what’s important. The consolidation that is taking place is just as threatening and polluting as what’s happening to our waterways. They are polluting our airwaves with this crap.

13. The reason is because of the laws in the early 80s and in 1996. We have thousands of radio and television stations, by 1988 there were only fifty companies controlling all of the 10,000 television and radio stations, today there are ten. We passed a law last week - Michael Powell, the son of Colin Powell and the head of the FCC turned the entirety of radio and television stations, the airwaves over to the highest bidder, and the highest bidder is Fox TV. And within ten years there will be only three companies controlling each and every single radio and television station and most of the newspapers. One will be General Electric, the largest will be Fox, which will control 45% and one more, we don’t know who that’s going to be yet. But what’s happened? You can’t get a crop report in North Dakota anymore. And if you’re an artist and you don’t hang around with these people, you can’t get on the air. And if you’re a dissenter, like the Dixie Chicks, they can kill you in a minute.

14. And what’s happened is the news networks, the news departments, have been turned into profit centres for the controlling corporation. The news has been turned into entertainment. They’ve got rid of their foreign bureau and investigative reporters. And they put Lacy Peterson on and they don’t put the environment on. They’re polluting the airwaves the same way the industries have polluted the waterways; both have been stolen from the public. They’ve liquidated the commons for cash.

15. I was down at Moses’s station today and what he’s done is he’s taken his stations out of the remote areas and put them right downtown where the public can access them and the whole place opens up into a studio that is really a public studio. He’s got a booth like a telephone booth that you can put a dollar in, they call it a looney here, into a little slot and you can be on tv, national television for two minutes. I had an idea, there were barricades up because Moses is having a party there so I had to sneak across and I went into the booth and I spent two minutes on his station… I had to pay the dollar. Anyone in Canada who has a point of view can do that. If the Dixie Chicks lived here, thanks to Moses, they could go on TV and talk about George Bush. So, Moses is a Keeper doing what we’re all doing. We’re protecting the waterways, which are part of the commons, he’s protecting the airwaves, which is part of the commons.

16. I’ll tell you how important it is - the NRDC and the Detroit Project, and now the Waterkeeper Alliance, is getting involved in this issue of hybrid cars being produced in the US. We produced an advertisement; it’s a really high quality advertisement a beautiful ad that mocks the car advertisements. It talks about how Detroit could be making cars that get you 50 miles per gallon, that will get you to work in the morning and won’t get you to war in the afternoon and that could save our children and the air we breathe and all the other good things that fuel efficiency is going to get for our country and they pull the sheet off the car at the end and there’s nothing there and the ad says the only problem is Detroit won’t build it. And it’s a beautifully constructed ad, we didn’t want PSA time with this, we wanted to pay, we had raised the money and we went to ABC and you know what they said, “we’re not going to run it” and we went to CBS and they said, “we’re not going to run it” we went to NBC and they wouldn’t run it. Nobody would run it because they get 15 billion dollars a year from the automotive industry and nobody wants to offend the Bush administration because it’s given them this huge gift. We can’t get our stuff on television.

17. Listen, I grew up in a milieu, in a household where I was taught that communism leads to dictators and capitalism leads to democracy and that is not true. Free market capitalism tends to democratize a country but unfettered capitalism leads to corporate control and that is fascism. The capitalist doesn’t want a free market he wants profits and the way you get profits is through monopoly control, by crushing the competition and by buying government assistance in crushing the competition. That’s what Walmart has done in our country and Smithfield and Fox News and General Electric, which has screwed so many of us on our rivers, the Hudson River. It’s the biggest polluting company in the world with 83 superfund sites, more than anyone else, and now they are going to end up controlling 45% of the news networks and the other 45% is going to be controlled by Fox News. Where do you think we’re going to be, the people who are concerned about this? The most important commons that need preserving right now are the ones Moses is fighting for. He’s fighting for democracy and democratic control of the airwaves.

18. Some farmers from the Midwest sent me two fantastic quotes. One was the dictionary definition of Fascism; “the control of government by a small group of right wing corporations.” And Mussolini said that fascism should be called corporatism.

19. I spoke to some farmers who are being absolutely run off their land a week ago at a Waterkeeper conference, a farmers conference, and I gave them a wonderful quote by Abraham Lincoln who, at the height of the Civil War, wrote to a friend and said, “I have the South in front of me and the corporations behind me and for my country I fear what’s behind me.” This is what we’re looking at now.

20. Moses came over here fleeing Adolf Hitler and the first thing Hitler did was consolidate the media, allowing the big friendly media groups to swallow the little guys. He cut taxes to the rich and raised taxes for the poor and he put the CEOs of the big corporations in power of government ministries; he needed the corporations to help him keep control. The European fascisms during the 1930s, Spain and Italy and Germany, they all faced the same depression that we faced here in this country but we elected Franklin Roosevelt and he raised taxes for the rich and he created anti-trust laws and he put people to work. He created public parks and social programs to help the poor. We took a different road than the European fascisms but today all of those programs that Roosevelt put in place are being dismantled. The first thing they do is privatize the commons and give big corporations control of the things that belong to all of us.
The Hog Industry
21. When I was in that conference in Gettysburg last week we were discussing the hogs. You Riverkeepers know what’s happening in our country, it’s one of those paradigms of iron clad corporate control, frightening control, being seen across North America. It’s one of the Waterkeepers’ primary fights and we’ve been successful at driving them out of the country, but where are they going? There coming to Canada where you don’t have the laws. And any of you who care about these things you’ve got to fight this industry because it’s a blight on the landscape, it’s a blight on democracy. We’ve been fighting them all over North Carolina.

22. What happened is Wendell Murphy took a look at what Frank Purdue had done to the chicken industry where every independent chicken and egg producer was put out of business. By moving chickens from farms into industrial production, they shoehorn chickens into tiny cages, cut off their beaks without anaesthetic and feed them antibiotics that force them to lay their guts out, literally, during their short and miserable life. And Wendell Murphy looked at this as state senator of North Carolina and said I can do the same things with hogs. He passed all these laws in North Carolina that make it very, very difficult to sue anyone who calls themselves a farmer although this has nothing to do with farming. There’s no stewardship, there’s no animal husbandry. It is factory production of pork chops. They shoehorn 850,000 animals in one facility; they dowse them with antibiotics and put them in cages where the animal can’t turn around for their entire lives.

23. Pigs produce ten times the amount of waste as a human being. One facility with 850,000 hogs produces more crap everyday than New York City. But New York City has to have fourteen sewage treatment plants and they don’t have to. Well, they do legally but they can’t produce a cheaper hog if they obey the law. They use their political power to capture the state agencies and state legislators that are supposed to regulate them. And all of them, we have court decisions that say this, each and every one is operating illegally every single day, and no one is enforcing the law. They have corrupted our democracy so they can ignore the law so they can make these huge amounts of profits. As a result of that fifteen years later there is more hog crap being produced in North Carolina than by people in New York, Texas, California, North Dakota, South Dakota, New Jersey and Pennsylvania combined. Fifteen years ago North Carolina had some of the purest water in the United States, today it has the filthiest.

24. This creature called Pfistieria piscicidia, unknown to science previously, has appeared in these waters and caused a billion fish to die in a single instance in 1997. Every fish you pull out of the river is covered with postulating lesions. The fishermen suffer brain damage, they can’t remember the way home and they can’t ply the water safely anymore, their bodies are covered with postulating lesions. The people who live around these facilities suffer from the air emissions and their property’s value will drop by 30%. If you fly over the area at 15,000 feet you want to vomit; the stench hits you, even in an airplane. If you’re within two miles and you drink a glass of orange juice it has the taste and smell of hog crap. The farmers in the area can’t hang their laundry, they can’t go into their fields and they can’t sit on the porch during the summer months.

25. They did the same thing to the hog industry they did to the chicken industry. Fifteen years ago there were 27,500 independent hog farmers in North Carolina, today there are none. They’ve been replaced with 2,200 factories and one company owns 1,500 of them, Smithfield. And Smithfield dropped the price of pork to the farmer from 60 cents a pound to 8 cents a pound. It costs 36 cents to raise the hog and nobody can afford to raise the hog except them because they own the slaughterhouse, too. And you and I are paying the same amount for pork chops and bacon. So they can tell the farmer what price to pay, the only way to keep farming hogs in America is to sign a contract with Smithfield which makes you an indentured server on your own land for the rest of your life.

26. The way they treat these people is worse than dirt and I’ll tell you how much… I’ll shut up about this issue… but if you are Canadian you should everything in your power to make sure one of these facilities isn’t built in your area. In North Carolina, in six states in the United States, legislatures in those states, six of them, have now passed legislation that makes it illegal to photograph a factory farm or a factory farm animal. You cannot take a picture of one. Now you say, okay, you could find one or two people who would think that that was okay, but this is entire legislatures who have voted to pass these kinds of laws. You have to wonder, were they in the civics class that I took? Where were they?

Devolution of Federal Power
27. This is what can happen to human beings, the human mind. We ask how could Europeans act so crazy during WWII, well, we’re seeing it right now. We’re seeing people do things that are absolutely insane, that go against everything we believe in a democracy. We talk about it right now; in Ottawa and Washington you’re seeing the federal governments who are privatizing the commons and they’re saying, ‘It’s called devolution. We’re going to dismantle the federal government and return control to the provinces and the states. After all, that’s community control and local democracy. The states are in the better position to patrol and police and protect their own environments.’ But the real outcome of that devolution will not be local control or community control; it will be corporate control because these corporations can so easily dominate the political landscapes.

28. And we remember in the Hudson Valley, the 1960s version of community control, before we had the federal environmental laws, one of the General Electric CEOs came to the town and they said to the town fathers, ‘we’re going to build a spanking new factory and we’re going to bring in 1,500 new jobs and we’re going to raise your tax base and all you have to do is let us dump our toxic PCBs into the Hudson River and persuade the New York state government to write us a permit to do it and if you don’t do it we’ll move to New Jersey across the river and we’ll do it from over there.’

29. And Fort Edwards and Hudson Smalls took the bait, New York State wrote the permit and twenty years later General Electric closed the factory and fired the workers and they left town with their pockets stuffed with cash the richest corporation in the history of mankind and they left behind a two billion dollar clean up bill that nobody in the Hudson River valley can afford. And I’ve got clients, one thousand commercial fishermen, who are permanently out of work because even though the Hudson is loaded with fish they are loaded with General Electric PCB toxins and the fish are too toxic to legally sell on the market. And the barge traffic is all dried up because the riverbed is too toxic to dredge. And all of that beautiful shoreline property that was given to General Electric by these grateful localities with tax breaks has been taken permanently off the tax roll. It has been robbed from those communities as a source of revenue and recreation. And every woman between Albany and New York has elevated levels of PCBs in her breast milk. And everybody in the Hudson Valley has General Electric PCBs in their flesh and in their organs.

30. What the federal laws in the United States and in Canada do is put an end that kind of corporate blackmail. To stop these corporation from pitting these communities against each other; one in New York against another in New Jersey, or one in Ontario against a community in Quebec. To get them to race together to bottom; to lower their environmental standards to recruit these filthy industries in exchange for prosperity, and to ransom their children’s future in the process.

31. And what the federal laws did is democratize our country. They gave us the power to participate; through permit hearings and environmental impact studies. Even the most humble individual can participate in the dialogue that determines the destiny of our communities. And you know, what the polluters say is that we’ve got to choose between economic prosperity and environmental protection. And that’s what they say, and what their indentured servants in Ottawa and Capitol Hill say. It’s a false choice. In 100% of these situations good economic policy is identical to good environmental policy.

32. If we want to measure our economy, and this is how we ought to measure it, by how it produces jobs and how it maintains jobs over the generations, how it preserves the assets and the value of the assets of our community, we have to avoid the seduction of the notion that we can advance our society by leaving our poor brothers and sisters behind.

33. If, on the other hand, you want to do what they’ve being urging us to do in Ottawa and Capitol Hill which is to treat the planet as if it were a business in liquidation. If we convert our natural resources to cash as quickly as possible we can generate an instantaneous cash flow and the illusion of prosperity but our children are going to pay for our joyride. And they’re going to pay for it with denuded landscapes and huge cleanups that are going to amplify over time and that they’re never going to be able to pay. Environmental injury is deficit planning. It’s a way of putting off the costs of our generation’s prosperity onto the backs of our children.
A True Free Market Economy
34. And one of the things all the Riverkeepers regularly do is constantly confront this argument that an investment in our environment diminishes our nation’s wealth. It doesn’t diminish our wealth. It’s an investment in infrastructure. The same as investing in telecommunications or road construction, it’s an investment that we have to make if we’re going to ensure the economic vitality of our generation and the next. And you know, there is no stronger advocate for free market capitalism than myself; I believe that free market capitalism is the most efficient and democratic ways of distributing the goods of the land, the bounties of our nation. But in a true free market economy you can’t make yourself rich without making your neighbour rich and without enriching the land.

35. But what polluters do is make themselves rich by making everyone else poor. They raise standards of living for themselves by lowering quality of life for everybody else. And they do this by evading the discipline of the free market, by forcing the public to pay the costs of their production. You show me a polluter and I’ll show you a subsidy. I’ll show you a fat cat who’s using political clout to escape the discipline of the market. That’s what pollution is about.
The Don River
36. You know when these polluters dump their waste into the Don River… Incidentally there is a plan for cleaning up the Don River, for cleaning up these thousand pipes, but it’s a hundred year plan. This is true, it’s not a joke. The Lake Ontario Waterkeeper discovered this plan, and five generations from now is when they’re going eliminate those pipes and clean up the Don. Which is, of course, a joke.

37. When somebody dumps their pollution in the Don, and when General Electric dumped its PCBs into the Hudson, it was avoiding one of the costs of bringing its product to market, which is the cost of properly disposing of a dangerous chemical. When it evaded the cost it didn’t go away; it was able to out-compete its competitors and make its shareholders rich but the cost didn’t go away. It went into the fish and it made the people sick. And it put the men out of work and it dried up the barge traffic and it took the land off the tax rolls and all of those impacts impose costs on the rest of us when they should be reflected in the costs for General Electric when it brings its product to the market place.

38. And what the Riverkeepers do is, we don’t even call ourselves environmentalists anymore, we call ourselves free marketeers because we are going out and patrolling the market place and finding the cheaters and saying to them ‘we’re going to force you to internalize your costs the same way you internalize your profits.’ Because we know that when someone cheats the market it distorts the market for everybody and none of us gets the benefits, the efficiencies and the democracy that the free market promises us.
Regulations Benefit Polluters
39. And you know industry, I was talking to a guy called Peter Allen up here who was talking about whether he wanted to start litigating against polluters and he was saying that sometimes regulation can be burdensome for industry. And I said, well you know what, that’s what industry says, they say that environmentalists are putting these burdensome regulations on us. But the regulations are there for the benefit of industry, not for us. You have no right to pollute, those thousand pipes have no right to be there; this is ancient law and it’s modern law. There is no right in this country, or any other country in the world, to use your property in a way that injures your neighbour’s property or injures the public property. It is called a public nuisance and it is illegal. They don’t have the right but what we do because we’re nice, is say okay, we’re going to give you the right but you’ll have to get a permit and you’ll have to show that you’re using the best technology and that you’re not hurting the fish or the environment.

40. And that’s what the regulations are for; the regulations are there for the benefit of industry. If we get rid of the regulations they shouldn’t be able to pollute at all anymore. So, you know if anybody ever asks you about all these burdensome regulations you should say, well, let’s get rid of them all and stop industry from polluting all together, and see how they like that.

41. And when they talk about property rights what they’re really talking about is the right to use their property to injure their neighbour’s property. Every law diminishes somebody’s property rights, every law does. If we had to pay people to obey the law government would simply cease to exist, we couldn’t print enough money. But government has always had the right to regulate bad behaviour. We passed a law in New York that says that if you want to have a porn shop you have to locate it in certain red light districts in the city. If we had these laws that the polluters are asking for, the guy who owns the porn shop could say I’m not going to move unless you agree to pay me all of the profits that I expected to make at my present location. And everybody in New York could say well wait a second I was about to start a porn shop in my house, you’ve got to pay me too. And if government had to start paying people not to do bad things government would simply cease to exist. It’s the same if you have to pay people not to fill wetlands and not to dump pollutants into the air or water or kill endangered species, which are a public resource, government would cease to exist but government has always had the right to protect the public and protect community. And that’s what environmental laws are about.
Why We Do It
42. I want to say one final thing and that is, the reason that we are protecting nature is not for the sake of the fishes and the birds but it’s for our sake because we recognize that it’s the infrastructure of our lives. And if we want to meet our obligation as a civilization and as a generation which is to create communities that provide for our children dignity and enrichment, the same kind of communities that our parents gave us we’ve got to start by protecting our environmental infrastructure, the air and water, the wandering animals, the landscapes that enrich us. We protect nature because we recognize that it enriches us; it enriches our economy and we ignore that at all peril but is also enriches us culturally and historically and recreationally and spiritually. And human beings have other appetites besides money. And if we don’t feed them we’re not going to grow up, we’re not going to become the kinds of beings our creator intended us to become. We’re not going to fulfill our destinies. We’re not protecting those ancient forests in the North West in British Columbia for the sake, as Rush Limbaugh loves to say, for the sake of the spotted owl. We’re protecting those forests because we believe that those ancient trees have more value to humanity standing than they would if we cut them down.

43. I’m not fighting for the Hudson River and Mark isn’t fighting for Lake Ontario for the sake of the shad and the sturgeon and the striped bass, but because we believe our lives will be richer, and our children’s lives will be richer, in a world where there are shad and sturgeon and striped bass. In a world where the fishermen are still out on the water, the traditional-gear fishermen that have been fishing the water that we represent for three hundred and fifty years using the same methods that were originally taught by the Algonquin Indians to the New Amsterdam settlers and passed down through the generations. And that my children we be able to see them and touch them when they come to shore to wait out the tides and repair their nets and in doing that connect themselves to three hundred years of New York history and understand that they are part of something larger than themselves, that they are part of a community, part of a continuum.

44. I don’t want my children to grow up in a world where there are no commercial fishermen on the Hudson, where it’s only big corporations 150 miles off-shore, strip-mining the ocean. And where there’s no family farms, where it’s only Smithfield foods with their meat factories. And where we’ve lost touch with the seas and the tides and what connects us with the 10,000 generations of human beings that were here before there were laptops and what ultimately connects us to God.
The Creator’s Creation
45. And I don’t believe that nature is God or that we should be worshipping it as God, but I do believe that it is how God talks to us most forcefully. And God talks to human beings through many vectors; through each other, through organized religion, through the great books of those religions, through wise people and art and literature and music and poetry but no where with such texture and force and detail and clarity and grace and such beauty as through creation.

46. We know Michelangelo not by reading his biography but by looking at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. And our best place to assess the divine is by looking at the creator’s creation. And for me when we destroy something like Lake Ontario it’s like destroying the last bible on earth. And when we cut off the public access to it it’s like cutting off access to the last Bible or Torah or Talmud or Koran or Tami shad on earth. It’s a cost that I believe we have the prudence not to impose upon ourselves and I doubt if we have the right to impose it on our children.

47. And that’s what environmental activism is about. It’s about recognizing that we have an obligation to the next generation and that obligation is identified by the term sustainability. And all that word means is that God wants us to use the things we’ve been given, the bounties of the earth, to enrich our quality of life, to serve others, but we can’t use them up. We can’t sell the farm piece by piece; we can’t drain the pond to catch the fish; we can’t blow up the mountain to get to the coal; we can live off the interest but we can’t cut into the principle - that belongs to our children.

48. And what we do as Riverkeepers is we elbow our way into those courtrooms and those back hallways at Capitol Hill where those big shots are with their indentured servants in the political process. They’re privatizing the commons; the air, the water, Lake Ontario, the fisheries, the wandering animals the endangered species. They’re liquidating the commons and stuffing their pockets with cash. 49. We elbow our way into those cabals and we say we are emissaries for the future and we demand an accounting, we want to know what you’re doing with things that don’t belong to you, with things that belong to our children.
The First Riverkeeper
50. Now, the first Riverkeeper was started by marines that got together in 1966 in an American Legion and they were mainly commercial and recreationally fishermen, and when they got together they weren’t radicals or militants but that night they started talking about violence. They saw something they thought they owned, the fisheries on the Hudson, that their parents had exploited for generations, and the purities of the water and it was being robbed from them by corporations over whom they had no control.

51. They’d been to the government agencies that are supposed to protect Americans from pollution, the Corps of Engineers, the Conservation Department, the Coast Guard, and they were given the bum’s rush. And they had come to the conclusion that government was in cahoots with the polluters and the only way that they were going to reclaim the river for themselves was if they confronted the polluters directly. Somebody suggested that they put a match to the oil slick that was coming out of the pen central pipe, which had blackened their beaches and made the shad taste like diesel so it couldn’t be sold at Fulton Fish Market. Somebody else said they should float a raft of dynamite into the intake pipe of the Indian Point Power Plant which was killing a million fish a day on its intake screens and taking food off their tables.

52. A guy stood up, who was another marine named Bob Boyle, the outdoor editor of Sports Illustrated Magazine and he was a great fly fisherman and he had done an article on angling two years earlier and had discovered this ancient navigational statute, the 1888 Rivers and Harbours Act, that said that individuals could sue polluters and collect bounties and it had never been used, ever. It’s a 19th Century statute; eighty years, it had never been enforced. And he persuaded these men, these angry men that they shouldn’t be talking about breaking the law but enforcing it. Eighteen months later they collected the first bounty in United States history under this 19th Century statute and they used that bounty to go after other polluters, all the big corporate polluters in America. And they hired me using bounty money and they used bounty money to construct a boat that patrols the river today.

53. They hired me and a full time Riverkeeper and we’ve brought hundreds and hundreds of cases and we’ve forced polluters to spend billions of dollars to clean up the Hudson, which today is an international model for ecosystem protection. It’s the richest water body in the North Atlantic producing more pounds of fish per acre, more biomass per gallon, than any waterway in the Atlantic.
The Camaraderie of the Waterkeepers
54. We have one of the great Waterkeepers, who’s not here today and really one of the guiding lights of this movement, Rick Dove. Rick’s the one who got us into the hog litigation in North Carolina; he was 26 years in the Marine Corps, a combat veteran from Vietnam and a judge advocate general in the United States marines. And he told me recently, he said that when he left the Marine Corps and became a commercial fisherman he never thought he would experience the camaraderie, the tight-knit relationships with men and women that he experienced during the war, but he was wrong because what he found in the Keeper movement is even better than that, it surpasses that.

55. So many of us feel that way, that we are engaged in something, a fight, this is Armageddon, this is the final battle against the forces of ignorance and greed. The people here, they’ve given their lives to it and if you check with these guys you’ll see so many of them have the tattoo of the sturgeon, the Waterkeeper Alliance logo, tattooed on their bodies and the reason they have it is because they know that they have made a lifetime commitment, maybe not to the Waterkeepers, although many of them have, but to the principles that are represented by the Waterkeepers.

56. We want to recognize Richard and Moses and Bob Hunter, who we all love, as honorary Waterkeepers. And what we’re going to do tonight, if you stay with us and drink a whole lot, we’re going to take you down somewhere and we will tattoo a sturgeon somewhere in downtown Toronto.

57. And I want to say this because I am the president and the newly elected interim director. We’re going to put a fund aside for any Keeper or Keeper staff member who wants to get a tattoo and we’re going to put an end to this logo controversy once and for all.

58. Thank you very much.