Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Senator Kerry talks to me and other bloggers on the environment

Earlier this evening I joined with a few other Los Angeles area bloggers in a conference call with Senator Kerry. Also on the call was SteveAudio, Pamela Leavey of The Democratic Daily (and kerrygoddess on DailyKos), and last but not least, DailyKos frontpage editor SusanG.

The conversation is part of his ongoing tour to promote his and Teresa's new book, This Moment on Earth. (The Senator will be at Dutton's Brentwood Wednesday 4/4 at 6pm as part of his book tour, if you're in the L.A. area.)

Below is are some rough notes of the questions we asked, and some rough notes of the Senator's comments. The conversation focused chiefly on environmental issues, as that is the nature of the book, but we did touch slightly on Iraq and foreign policy.

Opening remarks: The book is a broad effort by Teresa and me to try to focus on a lifetime of effort on the environment, and focus people’s energy on how and why the grassroots of America is ahead of Washington, and why there’s urgency on not only global climate change, but also air quality, water quality, toxins, food, air and water—a moment where we have to decide whether we’re going to make responsible choices about the future, or capitulate to a series of tipping points—fisheries, pesticides, chemicals and so forth.

This is as critical a moment for the environment as the original earth day in 1970. The book is about how individuals in America are taking initiative to hold the government accountable.

SteveAudio: The EPA is refusing to discuss the melamine-infected wheat gluten, and the Endangered Species act.

Kerry: These guys are so Orwellian it’s not funny. They’ve taken away the “polluter pays” principle, and put it to the “everyone pays”. They’ve undone the roadless forest rule—it’s a shocking, negligent malfeasance on issues critical to our national welfare and safety. If it weren’t true, you wouldn’t even write it as fiction. They’ve been beholden to the oil industry—and they’re blocking renewable alternative fuels from getting into the marketplace. The sooner Gonzales resigns, the better

Hekebolos: Regarding the Mass. v. EPA decision—where does this go from here?

Kerry: Mass and Cali are now free to do what they want. Kerry wants to proceed forward on these issues in the Senate and the Commerce committee efforts. We’ll try to set a standard—require people to push the technology curve, and respond to the urgent demands of global climate change.

SusanG: There’s a lot of pressure from corporations for this deregulation. I’m puzzled about the human nature that would allow them to continue these deregulation patterns. Do they think that their families are exempt from the things occurring in their own bodies?

Kerry: I think that a lot of them haven’t had time to look at the facts and the issues, and also, a lot of them are forced into thinking about the short term because that’s the way Wall Street has worked. It’s not always the way it works, because there are exceptions. There’s a “quarterly report” short-term syndrome that’s infected a lot of corporate leaders, and lots of them are just not aware. It’s not as conspiratorial as people think, but it’s definitely negligent. And there are corporations that are exercising responsibility. The Climate Change Action Partnership has Dow, GE, IBM, BP, Layman Brothers—they’re exerting enormous leadership, and showing people that it’s good business and good bottom line to engage in energy efficiencies and adopt different practices. They’ve all reduced emissions voluntarily and found that they’re saving money as a consequence. Part of the purpose of the book is—chapter 7 and 6—the conclusion, there’s a lot of money to be made, wealth to be created. The environmentalists have been fringed by a myopic group that has said that they care more about a snail than a job—and that’s a false straw man presentation. But in fact, responding to these things that we’re promoting are in fact, job-creating and increases health and tens of thousands of jobs. China will confront this issue headlong of how it provides for its power demand without killing everyone through pollution, and that requires them not building one pulverized coal plant, and the only way to do that is embrace carbon sequestration and clean coal technologies. What we used to think of as a two-fer, this is a five-fer, and minimum. You do one good thing and you get 5 benefits out of it. Reduce hospital visit, create jobs, improve American security, expand your tax base. All of these things happen as a consequence of tackling these issues, and the real test here—and this is in the book—if we’re wrong after 928 peer-reviewed studies each of which documents that human activity is creating this—then even at that, the worst that can happen is you still get all those other benefits. But if they’re wrong—if Jim Inhofe and the flat-earthers are wrong—the worst that happens is absolute global catastrophe. So which side of the ledger do you want to be on?

Hekebolos: have you heard of Energize America 2020, the netroots-built energy policy platform?

Kerry: No, but I think it’s a fascinating idea. It’s a wonderful, welcome development and it just goes to show how the grassroots and the blogosphere are ahead of Washington on these issues. I'm looking forward to see it, and we’ll try to incorporate them in the finance committee and commerce committee.

SteveAudio: There’s a growing movement to encourage you and your colleagues to just say “go screw yourself” to Bush if he vetoes the funding, and not send any more supplemental bills to his desk. Does that have political merit?

Kerry: We have to find a legitimate mechanism to end the war. I joined with Russ Feingold. This confrontation is good, healthy. His simplistic exploitation of the issue is exactly what’s gotten us into this hole. He hasn’t dealt with the realities of how this will be resolved. Kissinger just said there’s no military solution. So in that case, where’s the diplomatic and political solution. And that’s what we need, and that’s what will support the troops and address American interests at the same time.

As for my own personal commentary--I previously hadn't been aware of Senator Kerry's commitment to environmental issues, but I am a lot more aware now. My girlfriend is an environmentalist, and she told me no more than a couple of days ago that when she was making her decision on whom to support in the 2004 primary, she took a look at the environmental platforms of all the candidates and Senator Kerry was by far her favorite.

I also continue to appreciate Senator Kerry's efforts to reach out to bloggers and activists on these issues, even though he's not seeking any higher office than the one he currently possesses.

I will be attending the booksigning tomorrow and will post a report and perhaps some photos from that event.

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