Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has lauded Surrey’s efforts to “nurture” green technology.
Kennedy was the keynote speaker at the 13th annual Surrey Environment and Business Awards luncheon, hosted by Surrey Board of Trade Tuesday (Sept. 17) at the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel.
The awards celebrate Surrey-based businesses and board member who demonstrate “exceptional dedication” to environmental issues.
Kennedy was announced as the speaker on June 13. He is the son of former New York Senator and U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of former President John F. Kennedy.
Kennedy is president and co-founder of Waterkeeper Alliance, an environmental protection group working to preserve and conserve water resources. He is also a partner in Silicon Valley’s VantagePoint Ventures Partners’ CleanTech investment team and Rolling Stone magazine named him among “100 agents of change.”
The board of trade said Kennedy is an “agent of change among environmental activists.”
“He shares a bold vision for the future, in which energy independence and sustainable technology revitalize the economy. Kennedy is a co-founder and President of Waterkeeper Alliance, an environmental protection organization focused on the preservation and conservation of water resources.”
During his speech, Kennedy said he loves that Surrey is trying to make the city a “nurturing area for green technology and have that vision for the future.”
“I think it’s an optimistic vision. A vision that’s going to attract business and it going to make people who are entrepreneurial and smart people want to live here,” he said.
Following his speech, Kennedy told the media his message today was that Surrey’s “embracing the new energy economy.”
“Communities that embrace and nurture and develop technologies and apply to that transition are the communities that will end up on top, not only economically, but morally with quality of life and there’s no community that’s doing that more than Surrey,” he said. “I’m very proud of what they’re doing here.”
Kennedy also applauded the board’s encouragement of green technologies.
“What we saw here today, all of those incredible companies, you wanted to give an award to every one of them,” he said. “Also the fact that the Surrey Board of Trade is here to nurture green technology companies. There’s very few communities that have an organization like that, specifically here, to help companies that have those ideals flourish.”
Kennedy was also asked about the controversy around his anti-vaccination stance.
“It’s important in a democracy for the free flow of information that some people may tell you is dangerous… We ought to be able to talk about things and we ought to be able to freely make them.”
In a tweet in March 21, Kennedy alleged that rising depression and anxiety in teens “associated with the neurotoxic aluminum we are giving young teens” in the Gardasil vaccine. On the same day, he also tweeted asking whether or not it should be investigated whether the “dramatic explosion” of dementia and Alzheimer’s is related to the “aggressive push” of flu shots containing mercury.
Earlier this year, members of Kennedy’s own family called him out for his “misinformation” about vaccines in an op-ed on Politico.
As for his anti-vaccination stance, SBOT CEO Anita Huberman said there has been opposition about the board’s invitation to speaking, adding that she would “characterize it as a social media mob.”
“We have received some criticism from the general public on social media for inviting Kennedy to speak, not because of his views on the environment, but because of his views on vaccination,” Huberman said in an email to the Now-Leader in the lead up to the event. “We certainly do not agree at all with his position on vaccination, but he is not here to talk about vaccination, but rather about the environment and business potential in the green industry.
Huberman said Kennedy is “a leader of the environmental movement in North America and the world.”
“He was not invited because the SBOT agrees with all of his positions (in fact, our pipeline position is in direct opposition to his position), but because he is a world-renowned environmentalist and a linkage to the clean-tech sector – Silicon Valley. He will bring a perspective that will make people think. I believe we need to be an organization that invites healthy dialogue and different points of view, and Robert Kennedy Jr. is a person that certainly will do that,” Huberman said.
While there was a heavy police presence at the hotel, Huberman said she was “very pleased with the calmness.”
“I’m so glad we stuck to our guns and hosted the event.”