John and Teresa Kerry on the Environment

The Tattered Cover Book Store needs no introduction. The woody reading room where authors flog their books is a much-coveted venue, covered with photos of writers both well- and lesser-known, the mecca of Denver’s literary scene, and a haj for any serious reader.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), lately the barely unsuccessful Democratic nominee for president, probably needs no introduction either, but he got one anyway, albeit a half hour after the scheduled start of his book flogging, for This Moment on Earth, the collaborative environmental work he wrote with his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry.

The senator said when he finally arrived, “We are pleased to here. So many people have told us about this wonderful store, the Tattered Cover. They said that when you get here, you won’t want to leave, you’ll make it a second home. One of the reasons we are late, the weather on the East Coast is such that we may have to make this our home for a while.” This had the advantage of being charming, but the disadvantage of not explaining much about the delay.

Kerry then joked that their book was “254 pages, made up of recycled Attorney General Gonzales emails. Actually we couldn’t find the emails, but it is recycled.”

Much of the ground John and Teresa Kerry covered in their presentation was covered in the story we published on Friday. But Kerry pressed home to the crowd of about 250 the importance of the many emerging environmental issues, and the brief time period the world has for dealing with some of them.

Citing an American environmental ethic stretching back to the native Americans, through Emerson, Thoreau and Theodore Roosevelt, Kerry said:

“It goes back to the foundations of the country … It’s always been a bipartisan tradition. That has been lost. This book celebrates the challenge of this moment and the upside of what we can get out of this moment. It is not a scientific tome, not a political treatise.

“We have a very short window, This is not just about climate change, though climate change is currently the big deal, but there are tipping points in other issues: Toxins and chemicals  and what we put into our bodies unwittingly, and in the not-coincidental rise of cancer.”

Teresa Heinz Kerry said:

“I would say, why do we have an FDA (Food and Drug Administration) that covers drugs and foods and pesticides but we don’t have an agency that covers cosmetics, personal care products and household products.”

Cancer rates among women are skyrocketing, she said. “Some of these ingredients, active and inactive are carcinogenic. Everybody reacts differently to this cocktail of chemicals.

Teresa Kerry said an interviewer asked her, “If you had $100 to give to a n environmental cause, who would you give it to?” She noted that while she supports many environmental groups  — her first husband was that late Sen. John Heinz, of the ketchup Heinzes — she believed the best use of the money would be to change all the light bulbs in the house to compact fluorescent bulbs, which would save considerable carbon emissions from electricity production.

Sen. Kerry emphasized that the presentation was about their book, and not a political discussion, but the crowd wasn’t going to let him get away with that entirely. One questioner urged him to try again for the presidency. Kerry dodged the question by not replying directly to it — and then noted aloud, “You notice how I dodged that question.” Hmmm.

He was also asked by a questioner which of the current Democratic candidates for president was most likely to take an aggressive approach to addressing environmental issues. The senator answered:

“I have not made a choice in this race. I reserve the right to do so down the road. I’m going to watch carefully and see who embraces these issues in the most passionate way. I want to see the track record and commitment that’s necessary to move forward.

“I am sick and tired with the game that gets played, and it just gets worse. We need to call people to account on these issues. The American people are way ahead of the politicians in Washington.”

In response to another question from the audience, Kerry called the consequences of the Iraq War “obviously disastrous. It is the most disastrous foreign policy choice made anywhere.”