When I hit the town with Bobby Kennedy Jr.


 Robert F. Kennedy Jnr. came to Melbourne  to give a Keynote Speech to the Jewish Defense Fund, an Israeli environmental agency that was raising funds for the Yarkon River Rehabilitation Project. You might recall that this was the river into which athletes for the Maccabia Games fell when a bridge collapsed.

Robert F Kennedy Jnr was the President of the international Waterkeeper Alliance and I was the National Manager of Waterkeepers Australia, establishing the network of community activists to care for and protect our waterways. You might know waterkeepers through the Yarra Riverkeeper as a local organisation that at the time was about to be formed.

This speech, long as it is, was given without notes. It covers the grand narrative of humanity, Judean Christian religion, US history, the true nature of free market capitalism and the role of protectors of our environment. It was oratory as we rarely see it here in Australia.

Robert Kennedy Jr
Waterkeeper Alliance

Thank you very much. I’m, really, really happy to be here in Melbourne. It’s my first trip to Australia. I was so delighted and really touched by the number of people, political leaders and elected officials who are here tonight. So many of them came up to me and expressed an admiration for my father and talked about how his life had inspired them to get into politics, and that’s something I encounter all the time in the United States.  But it was very touching for me to encounter that here, and I ran into so many people who had met many other members of my family either here or in Israel.  My sister Rory somebody said, my sister Carrie and my sister Kathleen and of course my Uncle Teddy Kennedy. Actually I run into that all over the place from when I was a little boy, people coming up to me and saying, you know, “You’re Ted’s nephew” or “You’re Jack’s nephew” or  “You’re Bobby’s son” or “You’re Joe’s brother”, or “You’re Kathleen’s”.

When I go to Massachusetts every other person says “I knew your father”. But I was in California last week speaking, and a bunch of people came up after I’d spoken and said “Oh you’re Arnold’s cousin”. That was a new one.

I was really happy with what Miriam Haran (Director General, Ministry of the Environment, Israel) said and with what John Thwaites (Minister for the Environment, Minister for Water, Victoria) said about the importance of caring for our waterways. One of the basic premise of river keepers … is that we’re not protecting the environment for the sake of the fishes and the birds.  We’re protecting it for our own sake because we recognize that nature is the infrastructure of our communities.  And that if we want to meet our obligation as a nation or a generation or a civilization, which is to create communities for our children; to provide them with the same opportunities for good health, and for dignity, and enrichment, as the communities that our parents gave us, we’ve gotta start by protecting our environmental infrastructure, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the wildlife and the fisheries and the wandering animals and the public lands that enriches and that connects us to our past, that provide context for our communities and that are the source ultimately of our values and virtues and characters of people.  And the group that I work for, that I’ve worked for for the last twenty years, for the River Keeper movement was really founded on that premise by people who understood that the environment was a critical part of their economy.  The eco means home, whether its economy or ecology it means protected, it means making dignified and enriching homes.

And the River Keeper movement was started on the Hudson River back in 1966 by a blue collar coalition of commercial and recreational fishermen who mobilized on the Hudson to reclaim the river from its’ polluters.

Many of the people I represent come from families that have been fishing the river continuously since Dutch colonial times. not, you know, your prototypical kinda affluent, tweed jacketed, pipe smoking environmentalists, who’re trying to preserve distant wilderness areas in the Rocky Mountains or what have you. They were factory workers, carpenters, lathers, electricians.  Half the people in Crotonville made their living, or at least some part of it, fishing or crabbing  the Hudson. For the most part they had little expectation that they would ever see Yosemite or Yellowstone or the Everglades.  They didn’t have the money to go visit the National Parks with their families.  For them the environment was their backyard.  There was the bathing beaches and the swimming holes and the fishing holes of the Hudson.

In 1966 Pan Central Railroad began vomiting oil from a four and a half foot pipe on the Croton- Harman rail yard. And the oil went up the river on the tides and it blackened the beaches and it made the shad taste of diesel so they couldn’t be sold at the Fulton Fish market in New York city.  And all of the people in Crotonville came together in a room about a quarter or a fifth the size of this room, which   was the Parkenville American Legion hall, a veterans hall.

And this was a very patriotic community. They were combat veterans from World War II and Korea.   And 300 of them came together in that American Legion hall that night.   And these weren’t radicals, they weren’t militants, they were people whose patriotism was rooted in the bedrock of our country.  But that night they started talking about violence because they saw something that they thought they owned, which was the abundance of these fisheries and the purity of the Hudson’s water, which their parents had exploited for generations.  And it was being robbed from them by large corporate entities over whom they had no control.  And they had been to the government agencies that are supposed to protect Americans from pollution, to the corps engineers, the conservation department, the coast guard.  And they were given the bum’s rush.

At one point the court Colonel in Manhattan, after 20 separate visits by Richie Garrett, who was a former Marine and Art Glouker another marine, begging him to do his job and shut down the Pan Central pipe, he finally called them in exasperation “These are important people”, speaking of the Pan Central board of directors, “We can’t treat them that way”.   And in other words we can’t force them to obey the laws.

And by this evening in March of 1966 virtually everybody in Crotonville had come to the conclusion that government was in cahoots with the polluters, and that the only way that they were going to reclaim the river for themselves is if they confronted the polluters directly.  And somebody suggested that they put a match to the oil slick coming out of the Pan Central Pipe, burn up the pipe. Somebody else said they should roll a mattress up and jam it up the pipe and flood the rail yard with it’s own waste.  Somebody else said they should float a raft of dynamite into the intake of the Indian Point power plant, which at that time was killing a million fish a day on its intake screens and taking food off their family tables.

And then a guy stood up who was another marine a combat veteran from Korea called Bob Boyle and he was the outdoor editor of Sports Illustrated magazine and he still is today, he’s been there for sixty years. And he was a great fly fisherman and spin fisherman and he had written half a dozen books on angling. He was one of the gurus of dry fly tying in our country.  And two years before he had written an article about angling in the Hudson for Sports Illustrated.  And in researching it he had come across an ancient navigational statute called the 1888 Rivers and Harbours Act.  And that statute said that it was illegal to pollute any waterway in the United States.  You had to pay a high penalty if you got caught.  Also there was a bounty provision that said that anybody who turned in the polluter got to keep half the fine. He had actually checked the law out with the libel lawyers at Time Inc. which owns Sports Illustrated and he said “Is this still good law?” and they said “It’s still on the books and in eighty years it has never been enforced”.  And that evening when all these men were talking about violence, he stood up in front of them with a copy of that law and the memo and he said, you know, “We shouldn’t be talking about breaking the law, we should be talking about enforcing it”.

And they resolved that evening that they were going to start a group that was then called the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association and later became River Keeper, and they were going to go out and track down and prosecute every polluter on the Hudson.

Eighteen months later they collected the first bounty penalty in the United States history under this nineteenth century statute. They shut down the Pan Central Pipe for good.  They got to keep $2,000 which was a huge amount of money in Crotonville New York in 1968.  There were two weeks of wild celebration in the town and they used the money that was left over to go after Ciba-Geigy and Tuck Tape and Standard Bran and American Cyanamid, the biggest corporations in America.

In 1973 they collected the highest penalty in the United States history against a corporate polluter. They got $200,000 from Anaconda Wire and Cable for dumping toxins at Hastings New York.  They used that money to construct a boat which they called the River Keeper.  And they started patrolling the river.

In 1983 using bounty money they hired their first full time River Keeper, former commercial fisherman named John Cronin.  He hired me a year later as the prosecuting attorney for the group.

Actually about a year after that we started at Pace Law School White Plains New York, which is a law school which specializes in environmental law. We started a litigation clinic where I supervise today and I have 10 3rd year law students, with my partner, who by a special court order, are allowed to practice law under our supervision

Last summer four of my students won the biggest penalty in the United States history, against a municipal polluter. They got $5,600,000 against New York City in penalties, and $100,000,000 in remediation for destroying a trout stream up in the Catskill Mountains.

We’ve forced polluters to spend over four billion dollars now on remediation on the Hudson. And today the Hudson is an international model for the ecosystem protection.  This is a waterway that was dead water in 1966.  For twenty mile stretches North of New York city, south of Albany, it was a national joke.  Today it is the richest water body in the North Atlantic.  It produces more pounds of fish per acre, more biomass per gallon than in any other waterway in the Atlantic North of the Equator.

The Waterkeepers Alliance is ..  the fastest growing environmental group in North America. We have them on every river on the West coast from Prince William Sound.  I’m actually launching that this summer, in Alaska.  We have already existing Cook Inletkeeper in Alaska but all the way down the West Coast.  Five of them are on San Francisco bays, then Santa Monica Bay, Santa Diego Bay, all the way down to Laguna San Ignacio, in Mexico, where there’s a fishing co-operative that licenses riverkeepers.  And on the East Coast on all the major rivers from the Bay of Fundy in Canada to the St. Johns in Florida.  Each riverkeeper has to have a patrol boat, you have to have a fulltime paid river keeper and they have to be willing to challenge polluters for the control of the river on behalf of their local communities.

We have many international keepers now. We have six keepers here either being licensed now or already licensed in Australia.  Tonight we have the Lang Lang Riverkeeper here and we have the Avon Riverkeeper here and if they could stand up please, well you guys don’t be shy you can’t be river keepers.  And Catherine Brown and Greg Hunt are also here from Waterkeepers Australia.

But you know a lot of people argue, and we hear this more and more these days, that we have to choose between environmental protection on the one hand and economic prosperity on the other, and that is a false choice. In 100% of the situations good environmental policy is identical to good economic policy if we want to measure the economy, and this is how we ought to be measuring it, based upon how it produces jobs and the dignity of jobs over the long term, and how it preserves the value of the assets of our communities over the long term.  If on the other hand we want to do what they, the polluters and sometimes their indentured servants in the political process, urge us to do, which is to treat the planet as if it were business in liquidation , convert our national resource to cash as quickly as possible, have a few years of pollution based prosperity, we can generate an instantaneous cash flow, and the illusion of a prosperous economy.

But our children are going to pay for our joy ride. And they are going to pay for it with denuded landscapes, poor health, and huge clean up costs that are going to amplify over a time and that they will never be able to pay.  Environmental injury is deficit spending.  It’s a way of loading the cost of our generation’s prosperity onto the backs of our children.

And if you don’t believe that, if you have doubts about that, look at the nations that didn’t invest in their environment. All of our environmental investment began in the United States on Earth Day in 1970.

I remember what it was like before Earth Day. I remember .. when the Cuyahoga River burned.  I remember that Lake Erie was declared dead, one of the biggest freshwater bodies on Earth, there was no fish life left in it at all.  I remember that I couldn’t swim in the Hudson or the Charles or the Potomac when I was growing up.  And what the air was like in Washington D.C. where I grew up, which wasn’t even an industrial city.  Some days you couldn’t see down the block for the smog.  There were thousands of Americans dying in our cities every year during smog events

And in 1970 this accumulation of insults drove 20 million Americans out onto the street, 10% of our population, the largest public demonstration in American history, demanding that our political leaders return to the American people the ancient environmental rights that had been stolen from our citizens over the previous 80 years. And the political system responded.  Republicans and Democrats got together, created the EPA, passed 28 major environmental laws that protect our air, and water and endangered species, and food safety and wet lands etc.  And they became the model for over 120 nations around the world.  They had their own versions of Earth Day and began making their own investments and their environmental infrastructure.

But there’s a lot of countries that didn’t do that, and invariably they were the countries that didn’t have strong democracies. And because democracy and the environment are intertwined.  One of the best measures of how a democracy is functioning is how it preserves and distributes the goods of the land, the commons, those assets that are not subjected to private ownership but by their nature are owned by the whole community: the air, the water, wildlife, fisheries, the public lands.  And you know, do we allow those things to be concentrated in the hands of a few powerful people or corporations?  Or do we make sure they stay in the hands of all of the people?  And that really is the best measure of how a democracy is functioning.  But conversely you cannot have strong environmental protection under any system except for locally based democracy and there are a lot of reasons for that.  The principal one is that the fishes, and the birds and the children the next generation don’t participate in the political process.  And the only way that their interest gets represented is in a locally based democracy, where individuals who harbour those values can inject them into the political dialogue again and again and again and again, again.

And that only happens in a real democracy and that’s why there’s a direct correlation around the planet between the level of tyranny in various countries, and the level of environmental degradation. Whether it’s right-wing tyrannies like Brazil, you know during that 70s and  80s, or Saddam Hussein’s Iraq during the 80s and 90s.  Or left wing tyrannies like Eastern Europe and China and the Soviet Union, where they are now, you know, dealing with these science fiction nightmares because of their failure to invest in their environmental infrastructure.

Russia’s a great example you know. The Soviet Union, they didn’t have a democracy, so they had no Earth Day and so they had no environmental law that requires the government to do an environmental review before it distributes or disposes of a public trust asset.  They didn’t have any of that in the Soviet Union.  As a result of that the Aral Sea, the third largest freshwater body on Earth, is now a desert.  They didn’t have a clean water act in Russia and the Sea of Azov as a result is now a biological wasteland.  They didn’t have nuclear regulatory review requirements of the kind that we passed in our countries, and because of that one fifth of Belarus in Russia is now permanently uninhabitable from radiation contamination.

In Turkey, where I was this Autumn, they don’t have a clean water act – 300 species have disappeared from the Marmara Sea over the past 15 years. The Black Sea will be dead within 10.  In Thailand where I also was in the Autumn, they don’t have a clean air act.  You can see people on almost any street in Bangkok  wearing gas masks and particle masks.

The New York Times recently reported that the average child in Bangkok, a city as large as New York with 20 million people, the average child who reaches the age of 6 has permanently lost 7 I.Q. points. Because of the density of airborne lead contamination at ground level, because they didn’t have a clean air act that said that you gotta get the lead out of the gasoline.  In China they lose a 150 thousand people in Beijing dead every year from smog events.  One of the growth industries in Beijing today is oxygen bars, where people literally go to buy a breath of fresh air.  In Mexico City if you own an automobile you can only drive it 3 days a week.  Smog events kill 10 thousand people a year and shut down their principle state industries, sometimes for weeks at a time.

In those nations and many many others, environmental injury has matured into economic catastrophe. And that’s what would have happened in the United States or Canada or Australia or any other country that fails to invest in its environmental infrastructure.  You know, one of the things I’ve been doing  is to constantly go around and confront this argument that an investment in our environment is a diminishment of 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 we have to make if we are going to ensure the economic prosperity of our generation and the next generation.

And you know, there is one thing I want to say which is that there’s no stronger advocate for free market capitalism than myself. I believe that the free market is the most efficient and democratic way to distribute the goods of the land.   It’s also the best thing that could happen to the environment if we had true free market capitalism.  Because the free market encourages efficiency and efficiency means the elimination of waste, and pollution of course is waste and a free market would also encourage us to properly value natural resources.  And it’s the under valuation of those resources that causes us to use them wastefully.

But in a true free market economy you can’t make yourself rich without making your neighbours rich and without enriching your community. But what polluters do is they make themselves rich by making everybody else poor.  They raise standards of living for themselves by lowering quality of life for everybody else.  And they do that by escaping the discipline of the free market.  You show me a polluter, I’ll show you a subsidy.  I’ll show you a fat cat using political clout to escape the discipline of the free market and force the public to pay his production costs.  All polluting corporations are externalizing machines.  They’re constantly figuring out how to externalize their costs for somebody else to pay their production costs.   And one of the best ways to do that is through pollution, it’s a way of shifting the cost to the public.

I’ll give you an example just from my own experience on the Hudson.  And I can give you gazillions of examples but this one is particularly relevant to me because, and it has to do with the largest company on Earth which is the General Electric Corporation.  GE came into the Hudson valley back in the 60s and said to these two poverty stricken upstate towns, Fort Edward and Hudsons Falls “We’re gonna build you a spanking new factory, we’re gonna create 1500 new jobs, we’re gonna raise your tax base and all you have to do is waive your environmental laws and let us dump our toxic PCBs into the Hudson River”.  And if you don’t do it, this is what they said “We’re gonna move to New Jersey.  And we’ll do it from across the river and you’ll still get the PCBs but they’ll get the jobs and the taxes”.  So Fort Edward and Hudsons Falls took the bait and two decades later General Electric closed those factories, they fired the workers and they left the Hudson Valley 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, two billion dollars, that nobody in the Hudson Valley can afford.

What GE did was impose costs on the rest of us that should, in a true free market economy, be reflected in the price of that company’s product when it makes it to the market. What GE did, which is what all polluters do, is they shifted the costs involved. They used political clout to escape the discipline of the free market.  And what all of the federal and environmental laws in our country were intended to do was to restore free market capitalism in America by forcing actors in the market place to pay the true costs of bringing their product to market, rather than forcing the public to pay those costs.And what I do as a Riverkeeper, and what all the Riverkeepers do, I don’t even consider us environmentalists any more, we’re free marketeers. We go out into the marketplace and we catch the cheaters, the polluters, and we say to them, “We’re gonna force you to internalize your costs.  The same way that you internalize your profits”.  Because as long as somebody is cheating the free market, it distorts the entire market place.  And none of us gets the advantages of the efficiency and the democracy that the free market otherwise promised our country, and you know, promised our communities.  And you know, what we have to understand is that there’s a huge difference between free market capitalism which democratizes the country which makes us more efficient and prosperous and a kind of corporate crony capitalism, which is as antithetical to democracy and efficiency and prosperity in America or Australia as it is in Nigeria.

Every child in Melbourne has a right to go down to the Yarra River and pull out a fish and bring it home and feed it to their family with pride. And ultimately every child in Tel Aviv has the right to go down to the Yarkon River and swim and fish and bathe and enrich their lives.  And enjoy it you know, and understand that this is part of their community and that this is a connection to their community that the ancient Israelis felt too, you know, they’re connected to the land.  And this is wrong and it’s a theft to rob them that, it really is a theft.  And this is what these people on the Hudson Valley understood.

The constitution of the state of New York, like the constitutions of every state, say the people of this state own the waterways of the state. They’re not owned by the governor, the legislature or by the General Electric company.  They’re owned by the people.  Everybody has a right to use them, nobody has a right to use them in a way that will diminish or injure their use and enjoyment by others and this is ancient law goes back.

I’ll give you just a little history lesson, this is kind of a digression. The Code of Justinian was law in ancient Rome and it enumerated the public trust assets as the air, the water, wildlife, fisheries, dune land, wetlands, and the oceans and running water.  Those things belonged to the public, if you were a citizen of Rome, whether you’re rich or poor, humble or noble, or European or African, you’d have an absolute right to cross a beach and throw a net and take out your share of the fish.  The Emperor himself couldn’t stop you.  Then when Roman law broke down in Europe during the Dark Ages, the local Lords and feudal Kings began reasserting control, their own control over the public trust asset.  And that’s what always happens when democracy breaks down is that, you know, that powerful entities will assert themselves and the first they’ll try to do will be to privatize the commons.  Steal it from the public and of course this happened everywhere in Europe.

I’ll give you an example from England. King John said the deer no longer belonged to the public but they would belong only to the nobility and only we can hunt them.  And that’s what got them in trouble with Robin Hood.  He also began selling monopolies to the fisheries, closing them off to the public and erecting navigational tolls on the Thames and the other rivers of England.  This caused, triggered revolt, the public rose up, they confronted them at the battle of Runnymede.  And they forced them to sign the Magna Carta which was the beginning of constitutional democracy and all of our Bill of Rights from the U.S. constitution are embodied in that document. But in addition there are chapters on free access to fisheries and navigable waters.  Those rights descended to the people of The United States and of Canada.  And they are part of our law, they’re what legal scholars call natural law, God given rights that nobody can take away, no human institution or agency can take away.

And you know these fishermen on the Hudson back in the 60s, they said well, you know, the constitution states that we own the fish, but we don’t own them anymore, the General Electric company privatized them. We can’t use them.  They turned them into profits, they liquidated them and then they left.  And we said that is an act of theft.  And we have to start treating them as thieves.  And we began hauling them off to court and lo and behold winning our cases and so established this case law as a precedent in all of the states in the United States so it has really fostered the growth of the Riverkeeper movement.

I want to make one last point, which is the point that I started off with. Which is the reason we’re protecting the environment is not for the sake of the fishes and the birds but it is for our sake because we recognize that nature enriches us.  It enriches economically – yes it’s the base of our economy and we ignore that at our peril.  The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment.  But it also enriches us aesthetically and recreationally and culturally and historically 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 kind of beings that our creator intended us to become.  When we destroy nature we diminish ourselves, we impoverish our children.  You know we’re not preserving the ancient forest in the Pacific North West in our country as some of the timber industry officials argue.  We’re not protecting it for the sake of the Spotted Owl. We’re preserving those forest, those trees because we believe the trees have more value to humanity standing than they would have if we cut them down.

And I’m not fighting for the Hudson for the sake of the Shad, or the Sturgeon, or the Striped Bass, but I believe my life will be richer and my children, my community will be richer, if we live in a world where there are Shad, and Sturgeon and Stripers in the Hudson. And when my children can see the fishermen, the traditional gear fishermen of the Hudson River in their tiny little open boat out on the river, doing what they have been doing for generations, and touch them when they come to shore.  To wait out the tides, to repair their nets and in doing that connect themselves to 350 years of New York State history.  And understand that they are part of something larger than themselves.  They’re part of a continuum, they’re part of a community.  I don’t want my children to grow up in a world where there are no commercial fishermen left on the Hudson where it’s all  you know  Unilever and Gordon Seafood and 400 tonne factory trawlers 100 miles off shore strip mining the ocean with no interface with humanity.

And where we don’t have family farmers left in America which is the trend right now. Instead it’s all Smithfield foods, and Cargill and Premium Standard Farms raising animals in factories and warehouses and treating their stock, and their workers and their neighbours with unspeakable cruelty.  And polluting the land and the waters by way of externalizing their costs to lower the price of food at the marketplace.  But it increases the price that we all pay.

And I don’t want my children to grow up in a world where we’ve lost touch with the seasons, and the tides and the things that connect us to the ten thousand generations of human beings that lived before there were laptops and that connect us ultimately to God. And I don’t believe that nature is God, whether we ought to be worshipping it as God.  But I do believe that this is the way that God communicates to us most forcefully.  And God talks to human beings through many vectors, through each other, through organized religion, through the great books, those religious (people) were wise people, through art and literature and music and poetry, but nowhere with such force and detail and clarity and texture and grace and joy as through creation.  We don’t know Michaelangelo by reading his biography, we know him by looking at the ceiling and the Sistine Chapel.

And we know our creator best by immersing ourselves in creation and particularly the wilderness which is the undiluted work of the creator. The free flowing rivers, like the Yarkon and the Yarra or the Hudson.  And this is how we get in touch with those and if you look at every religious tradition throughout the history of mankind.  The central epiphany always occurs in the wilderness.  Buddha had to go to the wilderness to experience enlightenment and self realization.  Mohammed had to go to the wilderness at Mt Hangaj in 629 and climb to the summit in the middle of the night.  To wrestle an angel there to have the Ramadan, the last stanza of the Koran squeezed from his body.  Moses had to go for 40 days to the wilderness in Mt Sinai to get the commandments.  The Jews had to spend 40 years wandering in the wilderness to purge themselves of 400 years of slavery in Egypt.  Christ had to go to the wilderness for 40 days to discover his divinity for the first time.  His mentor was John the Baptist, a man who lived in a cave in the Jordan Valley and dressed in the skins of wild beasts, and ate locusts and the honey of wild bees.

And all of Christ’s parables are taken from nature: the eye and the vine, the yew of the branches, the mustard seed, the little swallows, the scattering of the seeds in the fallow ground, the lilies of the field. He called himself a fisherman, a farmer, a vineyard keeper, a shepherd.  The reason he did that, and it’s the same reason all the Talmudic prophets and the Koranic prophets did the same thing, and all of them, every one of them came out of the wilderness, and all of them were shepherds.  And that daily connection to nature gave them a special access to the wisdom of the Almighty.  And the reason they all did this, they all used parables taken from nature as morality plays.  It teaches the difference between right and wrong, it teaches what the face of God looks like.  And the reason Christ and the others did this is because that’s how they stayed in touch with the people. They were saying things, Christ was saying things that were revolutionary.  They contradicted everything they’d heard from the literate sophisticated people of their time.  And they would have dismissed him as a quack but they were able to confirm the wisdom of his parables through their own observations of the fishes and the birds.  And they were able to say he’s of the same way as the Talmudic prophets.  They were able to say they are not telling us something new.  They were written into creation, by the creator, at the beginning of time.  And we haven’t been able to decipher them until the prophets came along who had immersed themselves in wilderness and learned the language and then come back to the cities and explain to us about the will and the wisdom of God.

And, you know, this is where our values come from. This is where our values come from and this is where our national values in America or Australia come from.  If you look at Israel, if you look at the great literature of all of our countries or look at the songs by which we define ourselves,  those things that we hold up as high council, in all of them the unifying theme is that nature is the critical defining element of who we are as a people.  We define ourselves by talking about all of this that unites us to the land.  These are the things that root us in the land, connect us and provide contacts to our communities and when we cut ourselves off from those things we cut ourselves off from the source of our values.  And those are the values that define us – not only the shared values which define us as a community but also define our morality and define, ultimately, our humanity.  And when we cut off the source of those things,  we’re under threat to lose not only the source of our community, not only the feeling of community that we have but also ultimately the sense of humanity.  And when that happens, you know, God save us all.

And I’ll close with a proverb from the Lakota Indians which has been expropriated to some extent by the environmental movement where they said we didn’t inherit this land, this planet from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. And I would add to that, that if we don’t return to that to our children something that is roughly the equivalent of what we received that they will have the right to ask us some really difficult questions.

Thank you all very much for having me to Melbourne and thank you for your commitment to this issue and to future generations. Thank you very much.