John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry spoke passionately last night at Seattle’s Town Hall regarding “this moment in time”. Using their recently written book entitled “This Moment in Time” as a stepping off point, John Kerry and his wife spoke about their ongoing concerns regarding real threats to the future of “Mother Earth.”
John Kerry derided the Bush Administration for going backwards on dealing with environmental threats to our future and said that it was “intolerable.” Citing environmental concerns today as broader than global climate change with its impending threats, he said we are “facing tipping points on a series of issues” dealing with the environment.
Citing Bush’s “shameless attack” on the environment, he gave a series of examples. In 19 states you can’t take your kids fishing. Some 44 states have advisories against eating fish and in some 44 rivers and harbors you can’t fish or swim. Bush’s “Clean Skies” legislation actually allowed 5x as much pollution than if the law had been left intact. Our major fisheries are all over fished. The “polluter pays” cleanup legislation was abandoned by Bush. Roadless areas were opened to new roads and cutting. The list is numerous.
The incentive for the Kerry’s to write their book was to give people hope and to write about what individuals across the country have been doing despite the wanton assault by Bush. The book details stories of people fighting to protect our future. The book ends with a series of things individuals can do to help, noting it is important to act because the US contributes 25% of the global pollution contributing to Global Warming. And if we hope to get action on reducing China’s threat to build a new coal plant every week, we must be sincere in reducing our contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.
Citing that 928 peer reviewed scientific studies point to man’s impact on global warming and not one peer reviewed study speaks to the contrary, Kerry says the prudent thing to do is to apply the “Precautionary Principle.” If all these studies are wrong and we still acted on them, at the worst, we would have a cleaner world and be energy independent . But if we don’t act on them and they are right we will have “a catastrophe.”
Teresa Heinz Kerry described her work on what I consider one of the unacknowledged sleeper threats facing us. That is the cumulative impact of all the different chemicals that we have released into the living environment that have unforeseen impacts and consequences. Of some 80,000 different chemicals produced for the market, only 10,000 have been vetted by the FDA as to safety. And this speaks nothing to synergistic effects or impacts of random combinations of chemicals.
Sewage treatment does not remove minute quantities of most chemicals. For example, medicines people take eventually wind up in the water supply, in either the original form or altered form. Heinz Kerry noted for example the reported presence of chemotherapy waste in one study and the presence of Prozac in London in another, appearing in water. Birth control chemicals and other chemicals that affect reproductive behavior in humans also impact other living species. Yet there is little attention being paid to these chemicals accumulating in the environment and their long term impacts.
Heinz Kerry said that one of her life lessons is that if you don’t do certain things to protect yourself when you know there are potential consequences you will pay the price. From her childhood in Africa she learned it’s common sense not to go into the stream with piranhas when its feeding time. She said it is frequently blind arrogance and greed that contribute to needless suffering. Using the Precautionary Principle she said means we look at the facts and work to prevent or mitigate potential harm and disaster.
John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry may not be in the White House but they are living their principles and passions by acting on them. We are all fortunate to have such caring individuals continuing to do public service for the world by speaking out and writing books like “This Moment in Time: the New Pioneers on the Environmental Frontier.”