On Monday night, I traveled to Pleasantville, NY to attend a screening of Pandora's Promise. While I had originally intended to provide live coverage of the event via NEI's Twitter feed, I was foiled by poor reception inside the theater. I'm writing this summary to take it's place.
Pleasantville is only a 27-minute ride from Indian Point Energy Center, and a number of local anti-nuclear activists as well as plant employees were in attendance. All of us were met at the theater entrance by a volunteer from Riverkeeper who was distributing a copy of Pandora’s False Promises, a primer produced by Paul Gunter’s Beyond Nuclear. The presence of the Riverkeeper volunteer led the film’s director, Robert Stone, to quip from the podium that it was the “first time he had been picketed.”
I'm planning on posting a full review of the movie here on NEI Nuclear Notes ahead of Friday's nationwide premiere, so I won’t go into much detail concerning the film itself. From a personal perspective, it was heartening to see our industry’s value proposition explained in such an inspirational and artful manner. I don’t doubt that nuclear enthusiasts will enjoy the film and want to share it with friends and family.
Following the screening, Andrew Revkin of the New York Times moderated a discussion between Stone and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. of Riverkeeper, and it was here that the tenor of the event became contentious. The theater is not far from Kennedy’s boyhood home, and it was clear from the start that he views the film as something of a personal affront, a feeling that was no doubt magnified by the fact that he makes an appearance. In a brief clip, Kennedy is seen giving a speech to the Colorado Oil and Gas Association where he talks about how he believes that large renewable energy projects are actually natural gas plants.
Kennedy was not pleased, claiming that the clip was taken out of context, and that overall the film was “an elaborate hoax.” Among the more colorful exchanges:
- According to Kennedy, none of the individuals who appeared in the film were actual environmentalists and all were compromised by the fact that they either worked for or had been paid off by the nuclear industry. That led Revkin to interject, "You invest in solar, why should I believe you?"
- Kennedy said he considers The Breakthrough Institute to be an “anti-environmental” organization, and that founders Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger are “liars.” Stone retorted,"Why would I or any people in my film, lie?"
- While Stuart Brand might have founded the “Whole Earth Catalog,” his work was now hopelessly compromised because his organization, “The Long Now Foundation,” took corporate donations.
- Studies by the World Health Organization (WHO) about the health impact of Chernobyl were not to be believed because of the close relationship between WHO and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
- When Kennedy admitted he didn’t know much about climate change advocate Mark Lynas, Revkin interjected that he was a person “who cared about science.”
- And when Kennedy complained that there weren’t any alternative voices in the film that might have disputed studies concerning the health impacts of radiation, Stone stood his ground saying, “I will not put people in my films who would say documented untruths.” And after one extended Kennedy tirade, Stone said “you shouldn’t be attacking me, you should be attacking the fossil fuel industry.”
"The solid middle realizes that climate change is a serious issue," said Stone. "To take nuclear out of the equation when we need it most is irresponsible."