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My Conversation With John Kerry

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Senator John Kerry (D-MA) was in New York City on Monday to promote This Moment on Earth, the book on a new environmentalism that Kerry wrote with his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry. The 2004 Democratic presidential nominee spent almost 30 minutes with me discussing his book and the factors that drove him to push for greater public recognition of the dangers caused by global climate change.

We also touched on other issues including the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings this week on the Justice Department scandal, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's trip to Syria, the Democratic drive to withdraw U.S. troops from the Iraqi civil war and why Dick Cheney just can't stop lying to the American people about Iraq and terrorism.

I met with the relaxed and friendly Senator Kerry before his appearance on The Colbert Report on Monday. Here, along with some audio clips, is that interview.

Bob Geiger: With the passion you have and the voice you've had on the Iraq war and issues like health care for all American children, what is it in the last two and a half years, since the presidential election, that prompted you to write this book, at this time?

John Kerry: During the campaign in '04, everywhere we went, I raised environmental issues, every state I went to, we did environment events, from clean coal technology in West Virginia to hog farms in Iowa to wind farms in Minnesota to coastal erosion in Louisiana, I mean, you name it. And people didn't seem to connect the dots as much as we thought they should and at the end of the campaign there was a feeling somehow -- there was even an article written 'Is Environmentalism Dead?' -- and it was in response to that that we wanted to redefine that environmentalism has been shoved a little bit into a corner until recently and now it's beginning to break out again, thank heavens.

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But mostly, this was an effort to try to connect the dots for people, so they began to see environmentalism not as caring less about the economy and caring less about jobs and caring less about health about education and security -- they're all linked. And that environmentalism is those things and more. And we wanted to show people, other people around America who get it, who aren't your typical environmentalist -- like a Marine who's taking care of the rivers down in North Carolina or the rancher out in New Mexico who was a Bush organizer who's fighting to preserve her land.

There's a lot of folks out there who understand what's at stake who are doing amazing things to change the direction of the country. We wanted people to know about it and see it and give a new sense of what it means to care about the environment.

Geiger: So in 2004 you mentioned the environment in almost every speech you gave on the campaign trail....

Kerry: There was no speech that I gave where I didn't talk about energy independence, global climate change and the combined need to put our efforts into alternative and renewable fuels, all of them -- including my acceptance speech.

Geiger: But what do you think it is over the last year or two that kind of flipped the switch in the heads of a lot of Americans, that's made them start paying more attention to climate change and global warming?

Kerry: Well, several things. One, the issues are becoming more urgent and the media has begun to cover it with a greater sense of urgency. Two, Al Gore's movie obviously helped to penetrate the public consciousness in a very big way. And I think that had a lot of impact in helping shift the view on that issue and, three, locally there's sort of a critical mass beginning to gather again, like there was in 1970, where people are prepared to go out and try to make a difference.

Geiger: I think also the specter of category one hurricanes becoming category fives overnight and...

Kerry: Well, you know, you had four hurricanes the summer that we were running in '04, that kept me out of Florida... But I think the accumulation of all of that, the changes in weather systems locally, people just inherently know something's happened.

Geiger: Now, you say in the book that the people actually doing something to address global climate change and who are very active, you said that they're not "surrendering to pessimism and scare tactics." Approaching it from another angle, what do you say about Congressional Republicans like Senator Inhofe who say -- and I think you quote him in your book saying that it's all a hoax, that climate change is all a hoax.

What do you say about Congressional Republicans who say that and then as a follow-up, what do you say to Americans who get confused when they hear you, your wife, Vice President Gore talking about climate change and then they hear a United States Senator saying it's all BS?

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Bob Geiger is a writer, activist and Democratic operative in Westchester County, NY.
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