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Senator John F. Kerry and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, at a campaign appearance in 2004 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Senator John F. Kerry and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, at a campaign appearance in 2004 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Dina Rudick/ Globe Staff/ File)

Kerrys mount campaign to help the environment

New book aims to inspire others

WASHINGTON -- In 2004, during his run for president, Senator John F. Kerry was touting wind power in Minnesota, endorsing clean-coal technology in West Virginia, and talking about preserving fisheries in Washington state. His wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, kept her own busy travel schedule, warning about carcinogenic toxins and the importance of cancer screening.

They had hoped such issues would help vault them to the White House. Now, they hope to show people that it doesn't take the power of a president -- or even a veteran United States senator -- to help save the environment.

Recent months have found the Kerrys tapping on laptops, reviewing page proofs, and killing extra adjectives from sentences, finishing "This Moment on Earth," a book dedicated to individuals who are taking action to stop global warming and other threats to the environment.

The couple hope the book can inspire others to do the same.

"We want to make a statement: We both believe this is a vital moment," Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, said in an interview last week in his Senate office. "This book is driven by a sense of urgency, to put on the table that this is a pretty critical moment. We're losing opportunities every single day."

The book tackles climate change and other environmental challenges from the bottom up, telling the stories of individuals who have taken smaller steps to help solve big environmental problems, ranging from polluted rivers to the link between environmental hazards and major health issues such as cancer.

It also marks a new phase in the political partnership that is the couple's marriage. The politician and his wealthy philanthropist wife want to use the book to take on a public role outside of politics.

A 10-city book tour is scheduled, as well as joint television and radio appearances.

Heinz Kerry, who has shied away from discussing the 2004 campaign in detail, said in an interview she resisted the idea of writing a book with her husband because she felt "lazy" and emotionally and physically drained after the grueling 2004 campaign.

A former Republican senator's wife who was born in Africa and educated overseas, Heinz Kerry said she felt wronged by GOP "wise guys" who lampooned her international background.

But with time and distance from the campaign, she said, she came to realize that her husband's unsuccessful presidential campaign created a powerful pulpit the couple can use to speak their minds on crucial issues.

For her husband, Heinz Kerry said, there was the added value of indulging in an important project that isn't centered on politics.

"It was a focus, even more than a distraction," she said. "It made him see what was important."

Since Kerry narrowly lost the presidency in 2004, he and his wife have rarely made major public appearances together. He was busy with Senate business and laying the groundwork for another presidential campaign; she had her own projects through the Heinz Endowments and the Heinz Family Philanthropies.

The book project was supposed to be his alone. After the 2004 run, where Kerry said he was frustrated that energy independence and climate change weren't catching on as major campaign issues, he put together a proposal for a book that would tell stories of individuals making strides on environmental issues.

But as he started discussing concepts with his wife, he said, he found she was practically overflowing with ideas -- about environmental toxins, women's health, and "greening" efforts in cities such as Pittsburgh, the hometown of her late husband, John Heinz, heir to his family's ketchup fortune.

So the couple decided to join forces, as they did in the 2004 campaign. They interviewed the book's subjects together and separately, and spent hours editing each other's copy.

Both wrote about their love of nature developed during their childhoods -- Heinz Kerry's years growing up in Mozambique, and Kerry about his summers on Cape Cod.

In retrospect, Kerry said, it's no accident that they would write about the environment.

They first met on Earth Day 1990 at a rally in Washington, when John Heinz was a Senate colleague of Kerry's, representing Pennsylvania.

Kerry and Heinz Kerry reconnected two years later at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro; Kerry was divorced and Heinz Kerry had lost her husband in an airplane crash a year earlier.

The book has strong political overtones. The Kerrys accuse President Bush and his administration of caving to energy industry lobbyists and ignoring mounting evidence of global climate change.

But unlike the science-heavy presentation that is the backbone of Al Gore's Oscar-winning film and book, "An Inconvenient Truth," the Kerrys' book tells of unsung individuals who are fighting for the environment.

There's a former Marine in North Carolina who transformed himself from a commercial fisherman to a "riverkeeper," taking polluters to court when he saw toxins killing fish in his local river.

The book also profiles Ellen Parker and Cheryl Osimo, two Cape Cod women who helped found the Silent Spring Institute, a Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition project that explores links between women's health and environmental circumstances.

The book is scheduled to go on sale March 26.

Kerry said he and his wife have incorporated environmental lessons in their lives. They own three hybrid cars, have replaced most of the lights in their homes with efficient fluorescent bulbs, and now buy carbon credits for the fuel they burn in their cars and private plane, he said.

Yet Kerry said one of the book's central lessons is that major sacrifices aren't necessary.

"I didn't want it to be an angry book. I wanted it to be positive," he said. "You can keep your quality of life. You can do the things you do. We can just do them in a way that's carbon-neutral, and benefits the people around you."

Looking back at 2004, Heinz Kerry said she knows they both "poured our hearts and our souls out in terms of ideas" as Kerry ran for the White House.

Though the campaign fell short, she said she takes solace in the fact that they can still bring passion to a cause together.

"He didn't do badly, let's put it that way, but it wasn't enough, and you learn your lessons," she said. "Wherever we are, we are at a place and time where we can do something."