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Robert Stone and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Clash After Screening of Pandora's Promise

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?"
  • 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.”
As for Stone, while he might have seemed taken aback by some of Kennedy's comments, he was clearly pleased with his finished product and the reaction it's been getting as he's been screening the documentary around the country, primarily on college campuses. According to Stone, the ideas in the film have "really brought people together," around the issue of nuclear energy, with the support crossing partisan lines.

"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."


Anonymous said…
If people are going to read "Pandora's False Promises", they should also read this.
Anonymous said…
The enviromental movement has already more or less taken coal out of the equation. If you remove nuclear then that means thatall you are left with is natural gas which only provides a fraction of our electricty now.

I know enviromentalists will point out solar and wind, but wind is only even remotely economical in a small percentage of the country and solar isn't economical anywhere and is several times more expensive in most of the country.

This country needs to get realistic about its energy strategy. Energy is the lifeblood of our economy and we will never recover from the current economic malaise if we essentially outlaw all of the most economical forms of energy. Laws designed to stop CO2 have no real effect on global emmisions, all they amount to is the countries implimenting them shooting themselves in the foot while the jobs and economic growth move elsewhere to countries without such laws. The net CO2 emmisions actually rise because the jobs are going to countries with much dirtier forms of energy than we have and require even more energy in trasportation costs to ship raw materials and manufactured goods across the globe.

The only way the human race could get serious about reducing global warming is if there was a one world government which could enact the same laws worldwide. To be quite honest the simplest rule would simply be to cap world population at current levels. The earth is a finite resource and there is only a finite number of humans required to farm the land, fish the seas and manufacture the goods we need. The exponential growth of population is the cause of 90% of our problems as the number of people exceeds the carrying capacity of this planet. It makes no sense to accelerate the destruction of this planet simply to keep alive an ever-expanding population of people who have no benefit to society.
Rod Adams said…
Eric - thank you for sharing your insights and experience of watching the post film debate. I sure hope that Revkin follows through with a post that embeds the video; it sounds like great theater.

"Divide and conquer" is a time tested tactic in communications battles; the antinuclear opposition has generally been quite a bit more united than those of us who support nuclear energy technology development.

My prediction is that Pandora's Promise is going to help separate the thoughtful, progressive environmentalists who want everyone to live a better life with a lighter footprint on a cleaner planet from those who simply want to adhere to a anti-human mantra of fewer people on earth, most living with lower expectations.
SteveK9 said…
Ridiculous, over-the-top personal attacks and exaggeration from RFK. This is a good thing. If the other anti-nukes react like this, Pandora's Promise will have an even more positive effect than I though.
Anonymous said…
Going the personal attacks route is a game Kennedy best not play. His background has some seriously huge skeletons in the closet. Having the Kennedy name affords some protection from scandal and there are idiots out there who will still fall down and kiss his feet no matter what, but for the most part that innoculation only goes so far. He may cross the line somewhere and find that the way back isn't all that inviting.
Bob Stevenson said…
I watched Pandora's Promise in a theater in Dallas. Me an 4 other people on weekday afternoon. I was impressed and I do believe the film makes a strong case for the redevelopment and use of nuclear energy. If the old school liberals, still trapped in place by their dogmas, who can't ever admit to being wrong about anything want to keep bending over and kissing Kennedy back sides... well, that is too bad. Truly open minded people should see this film and decide. Kennedy type liberals - never mind. Don't bother. You just might get so mad you blow a fuse.
Anonymous said…
Robert Stone seems to have made a very interesting and honest documentary about nuclear energy and just asks people to think.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. just seems to operate from a sense of entitlement and thinks everyone should take what he says because... HE is a KENNEDY! And he just drones on and on without really saying much.

Bob Stevenson said…
Robert Stone makes a very interesting documentary that just asks you to think about nuclear energy again and keep an open mind.

Robert F. Kennedy drones on and on and.. calls Stone a liar and calls the people in the documentary liars and.... thinks he has the right to tell everyone what is true and that his word must be accepted because he is .... a Kennedy.

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