Robert Kennedy, Jr. makes appearance at UMD, speaks on environment, economy

With the health of our planet’s environment in a seemingly unstoppable rate of decline, it isn’t unusual to feel intimidated. You may feel like nobody knows the solution to the impending doom that awaits you. But Robert Kennedy Jr. has a possible solution that could prove to be beyond adequate.

“Once you build our [power] plant, it’s free energy forever,” Kennedy said to a crowd of around 300 people who came to see him speak at UMD’s Marshall Performing Arts Center on Friday.

The plants he’s referring to would produce wind and solar power.

Sustainable energy sources like these were the main talking points of Kennedy’s lecture. He spoke about the importance of creating a free market to support clean energy, much like the market for coal is right now. He also highlighted the idea that the U.S. should institute a grid for the buying and selling of renewable energy.

This, Kennedy said, would allow for cheap, easily accessible, clean energy. A novelty that’s not so easy to come by nowadays but would dramatically decrease our output of pollution through energy production.

“We need to do well by doing good,” said Kennedy, “Free market capitalism is efficient. And efficiency leads to the elimination of waste.”

The U.S. is currently ranked third in the world for potential solar energy, and is number one in wind energy. The Great Plains alone put out enough wind power to put other sources of energy to shame. According to Kennedy, if we harnessed the wind power available in the United States, it would create enough energy to power all of North America for a long time.

Although the use of coal has remained relatively cheap due to government subsidies, its cost to the well-being of Americans is nothing to brag about. Around $1.3 trillion has been spent on these subsidies.

Kennedy’s speech marks the 150th Anniversary of the Land Grant Act, which set aside 30,000 acres of federal land in Minnesota for the advancement of liberal education and eventually led to the institution of UMD on that land. UMD is also celebrating the 40th anniversary of its American Indian Studies program, which is reflective of the Land Grant Act’s educational goals, and asked Kennedy to speak on behalf of the environment; an important topic within Native American culture.

People interested in environmental sustainability can take action by contacting any of the many environmental agencies around the Duluth area, including UMD’s own Environmental Science Club.




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