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Sunday, March 25, 2007

"This Moment on Earth"

That's the name of the new book by John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry, which is officially "released" as of tomorrow, but has already been out on bookstore shelves in some places. I was lucky and was able to pick up my copy on March 19th. So I am almost done reading it. Well, the first time through, that is - this is the kind of book I'll be reading at least once more pretty quickly.

The subtitle is Today's New Environmentalists and Their Vision for the Future, but instead of being about big-shot ivory tower types and grand visions, it's mostly about everyday people who were faced with serious environmental issues in their own neighborhoods, and the work they did to improve their situations. Well, there is at least one "ivory tower type" who has "grand visions" in the book, namely architect William McDonough, famous among other things as a co-author of the Hannover Principles and Cradle-to-Cradle design; but as it happens, McDonough has a record of turning grand visions into reality. He designed the first green building in New York City, the Environmental Defense Fund offices, all the way back in 1984; in 1993 he led the way in the greening of Pittsburgh with the redesign of the Heinz Family Foundation offices.

While it's reassuring to read about leaders like McDonough who are positioned to make a difference in a big way, the power of the Kerrys' book is that it doesn't just talk about the professionals like McDonough, but also people who step up in response to a problem that desperately needs them to take action - not because they are experts or trained activists, but because it is their neighborhood. And the book rounds out the stories of individuals' actions with a grounding in the context of each situation from a policy standpoint.

In sum, the book is an engaging mix of "short stories" of real-life, mixed with just enough wonk to be a serious study of the issues. It's the kind of book you don't need to read from cover to cover - open it up just about anywhere, and you will find a good starting point to read just a little bit. That's a great way to make it more accessible to those of us who rarely spend much time sitting down with a book anymore.

In fact, I've found it the perfect book for a 20-minute commute on the train. And that's the only reason I haven't finished it yet...I'm saving it just for reading on the train, so I can get as many pleasant commutes out of it as possible.

The cover is beautiful.. where was it taken?
I'm sorry I took so long to reply to this...I finally checked into your question. The cover photo is of St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park, Montana.
It is stunningly beautiful, isn't it?
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