Riverkeeper Eco-Tours on the Housatonic
Schools, civic and private groups can canoe the river through the wildlife preserve at October Mountain State forest with Housatonic Riverkeeper Tim Gray. Learn about the wildlife and the HRI citizen movement to clean up the river. Our 6 Coast Guard certified canoes can hold up to 24 people. Call (413) 446-2520 for more Information.
Waterkeeper Alliance president Robert F. Kennedy Jr. helps HRI launch Riverkeeper canoe fleet and speaks on "Our Environmental Heritage" at HRI fundraiser.
(Ed. note: The following is text from Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.'s speech following the HRI fund-raiser dinner at Eastover Resort, June 5, 2003. The photographs are from the earlier events at Woods Pond where Kennedy helped launch the HRI's new fleet of Riverkeeper canoes.)
"I'm really happy to be here - up in the Berkshires. I spent alot of time here growing up. My friend Gene Dellea is here; he and Don Dowd, who are two of my family's oldest friends in Massachusetts, used to bring us on a camping trip, I think two years right near here, down by the river. My whole family would come, my uncle Teddy brought us on these trips every year.
"I have a special love for the Berkshires, I've done alot of skiing here, but the thing that strikes me is: what a wonderful sense of community people have up here.
"It's that sense of community that Alex deTocqueville pointed to when he distinguished America - its an optimism, its a sense of caring about each other and an obligation to focus on a spiritual mission - there's something more important than just accumulating material wealth. You're constantly reminded about that by the beauty of the Berkshires, and by the attitude of everybody in these communities.
"I'm so proud of our association with Tim Gray - he is the paradigm of Riverkeeper character, the kind of professional curmudgeon: bulldog, crusty, difficult, never-give-up, very very comfortable with the kind of David and Goliath battles that we fight and that we so often end up winning."
asthma epidemic and free hummers
"I was reading a recent New York Times just before I came over here, about a new study that said that 1 of every 4 black children in New York have asthma, and I have 3 sons who have asthma as well. We don't know why we're having an epidemic of asthma now, but we do know that asthma is triggered by bad air days, particularly by particulates in ozone, and the largest source of ozone is automobiles.
"Our government just passed this new round of tax cuts that give anybody who buys any of the 36 most feul-inefficient automobiles a 100% tax break - so that if you go out and buy a $100,000 Hummer today - this is under the new tax bill that was passed last week by the administration - you'll get 100% of your money back. Essentially, you'll get your car for free. It's true only of cars that weigh over 6,000 lbs. and get under 11 mpg - and at the same time they got rid of tax breaks for buying hybrid cars.
"The other major source of air pollution is coal-fired power plants in the Ohio valley - dinosaur plants that are 50-60 years old. Under the original agreement of the Clean Air Act, they were supposed to be shut down as soon as they made major renovations. All of them are past that point now, but the administration has said that we are going to abandon the fundamental compromise that made the Clean Air Act possible and 'we're going to let you pollute forever'.
"I live 4 miles from the state of Connecticut and I have 3 children who go to school there and every single freshwater fish in CT now has an advisory because of mercury poisoning. Same for 17 other states where every freshwater fish has an advisory -- in all, 44 states have some advisory for mercury. There's no geological source for that mercury in CT, it is coming from precipitation and 40% of the mercury produced into the atmosphere comes from those same Ohio valley powere plants that now have been given permission to pollute forever.
wreckers of the wild frontier
"At the same time those plants are getting coal from producers that are cutting down the Appalachian Mountains - destroying the historic landscape that defined our country. That's the source of our values, of our virtues - the places where Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett roamed. They are being cut down by these giant machines that almost dispense completely with the need for human labor.
"And it's just giant companies that are pocketing money and in order to give them extra profits we are living in a science fiction nightmare where we are bringing children into the world in the USA where the air is too toxic to breathe, where a child in CT (and most children in MA, too) is deprived of the seminal, primal experience - the American experience of childhood of having their fathers take them fishing and being able to eat the fish.
"You can't do that anymore because the fish are contaminated. Imagine that - that we are living in that world today and the reason is so that a few wealthy utility CEOs can pocket some more money. They are making money by poisining our waters, by toxifying our air so much that our children can't breathe it.
what the environmental movement is about
"And this is what the environmental movement is about - it's not about protecting fishes and birds for their own sake - it's about reckognizing that the environment is the infrastructure of our communities.
"And if we want to meet our obligation as a nation, as a people, as a civilization, as a generation, which is to create communities that give our children the same opportunity for dignity and enrichment as the communities that our parents gave us, we've got to start by protecting our environmental infrastructure: the air that we breathe, the waterways, the landscapes that enrich us; and that's what environmental advocacy is about."
(photos and transcription by Dave Read, newberkshire.com)