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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

This Moment in Philly

Monday night I enjoyed a wonderful evening at the Philadelphia Free Library, where John and Teresa Kerry gave a talk on their new book, This Moment on Earth. Before the show, waiting in line for about an hour before doors opened, I had a great conversation with three local women who were quite excited for this opportunity to hear the Kerrys speak about their book.

As we waited, and chatted about current politics but of course also what we all knew we missed in 2004, I also remembered fondly the late October 2004 campaign stop in Philly. That was the first event where I had seen John Kerry in person, and probably the only time during the campaign that I heard a complete speech that he gave. While there'd been no doubt about my vote or commitment before that event, afterwards I realized what I'd been missing and I was annoyed with myself for not taking every possible opportunity to hear him speak. (I have since reordered my priorities in that respect. :) )

Anyway, back to Monday night. I'm sorry I didn't get photographs or audio to share with you, but I did take a few notes.

When JK came on he talked about how great it was to be in Philadelphia, how much he enjoyed the city, and did mention the big campaign rally in October 2004 as a fond memory. He also said they had just come from an event at the Academy of Natural Sciences - another of Philadelphia's many jewels, which is within a couple blocks of the library. He then introduced the book with the usual jokes, including that the book was produced from shredded Gonzales emails -adding, "I wish - but we couldn't find them," which got a nice chuckle from the crowd.

Getting into the serious stuff, JK talked about how the book was about optimism, about everyday people resolving problems in their own communities. He went on to describe some of the people in the book and the kinds of problems they were addressing. He tied these struggles into the political and cultural environment, with observations such as (these are all paraphrased of course):

JK went on to describe the mechanism of global warming in layman's terms. It was almost a little too lay for me, I was wincing at a couple of the simplifications, but I gotta remember that I was immensely privileged in the area of naturalist education in my upbringing, between growing up with a woods to roam in, a family that appreciated the outdoors, and the opportunity to study ecology in high school. I'm sure it was a helpful explanation for many in the audience. And I sure hope people start understanding this, because we will need educated voters to elect people who will start tackling environmental problems rather than denying them.

Finally, JK closed his portion by summing up what he sees as the three main efforts we need to undertake now to address global climate change: energy efficiency; alternative/renewable fuels; and clean coal technology. I know some folks think "clean coal technology" is a mirage at best, but I think that JK and others who really study it objectively understand that coal plants WILL be built no matter what, so the choice is what kind of coal plants will be built. It might be nice if we could just stop the coal industry in its tracks, but that's not realistic, folks. In any case, I don't know anyone who would disagree on the first two points, efficiency and alternative/renewable energy.

Next, Teresa spoke on her own experiences with environmental issues and her current concerns. She talked about her work that contributed to the greening of Pittsburgh, which was identified as America's "greenest city" a few years ago. This, by the way, is a truly amazing story of leadership to make something really big happen. One item she mentioned that I hadn't known before: when she took over the Heinz Foundations after John Heinz' passing, she instituted environmental criteria for the foundation's grants, to avoid their grant activity from contributing to the problem. That may seem kind of like a backroom detail, but that is how organizations are influenced to change - make the revenue stream dependent on the change. It is the vision to see those sorts of links and the determination to leverage them, that makes Teresa such an effective leader.

Teresa spoke a bit about some of the serious toxins issues we are faced with today. This is her area of expertise - if you missed it, be sure to check out the podcasts of her recent Women's Health and Environment conference, where the subject of environmental toxins was addressed in great detail.

She wrapped up with the story of the G-Diaper. She emphasized that this is an example of how people can create solutions to environmental problems, even when national leadership is failing us. As she said, it would be nice to have that national leadership, but when it isn’t there, we can still make a difference ourselves.

There was then a short Q & A, then we all headed upstairs for the book signing. The ladies I’d been sitting with were all gushing about what they’d just experienced… one said, “Oh my God, they’re so real” to which her sister fervently agreed; the third woman said something like “I think he’s so handsome!” which made me think of a few other “Kerrycrats” I know! (And of course I smiled and responded, yes they are, and yes he is. :) )

The book signing process was a little too much like an assembly line for me – it seemed the library staff really wanted to go home on time and were trying to get everyone through the line as quickly as possible. I swear they were glaring daggers at me for slowing the line to – gasp - exchange a few pleasantries with John and Teresa. It was great to have that brief opportunity though! And of course, they both looked great, and were quite gracious when we spoke. I think they must have been a bit tired of the assembly line by that time themselves (I had ended up near the end of the line, not wholly unplanned).

So that was my very pleasant “moment in Philly” on Monday night. Again I am sorry for the lack of photos, but ya know, I was too caught up in “the moment” to be fiddling with cameras and such.

I can leave you with this interview of the Kerrys done by the local radio station though – it’s very much worth the listen!

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Thanks for the recap, MH. Sounds like such a great evening for you.
This is an awesome account, MH. Sorry it took me so long to get over here and read it in
full! I love that you mention people in line and at the event who are new to the subject
and who are getting a new look at the Kerrys, as well.

Also loved the fish joke. :-) I like Gonzales quip a lot, but preferred the Harry Potter
one from Pittsburgh! LOL!!

It is a privilege to hear the impressions of someone like you who *does* have a more
educated environmental/ecological background because I am coming to this very much as a
new issue, one I need a lot of information about. I agree that any simplification JK
resorts to is probably for the benefit of people like me and I am grateful to him and to
THK for their work in bringing this to the attention of so many of us who have not been
involved until now. You're right, as they are -- this cannot wait any longer.

Thank you for the radio interview -- I really enjoyed it!!
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