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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University October 29, 2007 | Vol. 37 No. 9
Newt Gingrich, Environmentalist, Launches His New JHU Press Book

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

A political giant stands poised to become the talk of the environmental movement, and his name might raise some eyebrows.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and longtime friend and conservationist Terry L. Maple have co-authored A Contract With the Earth, a new Johns Hopkins University Press book that attempts to refocus the environmental debate on the principle of common commitment.

The School of Advanced International Studies and the JHU Press will co-host the book's launch today in Washington at an event to be held at 5:30 p.m. in SAIS' Kenney Auditorium. Free and open to the public, it will feature a talk by Gingrich, who will answer questions from the audience afterward. Gingrich will be introduced by Scott Barrett, director of the school's International Policy Program.

The book, released today, spells out the need for ushering in an era of "bipartisan environmentalism." While acknowledging that liberals and conservatives do not see eye to eye on many issues, Gingrich and Maple argue that environmental stewardship is a mainstream value that transcends partisan politics. The authors believe that most people are weary of the legal and political conflicts that only serve, in their estimation, as roadblocks to effective environmental conservation.

The book, which includes a foreword by renowned scientist and Pulitzer Prize winner E.O. Wilson, has already garnered praise from the heads of such organizations as the Nature Conservancy and the Wildlife Society. It found a home at JHU Press due to Maple's connection with Vincent Burke, a friend and senior editor at the Press, and Gingrich's desire for the manuscript to go through a peer review process.

Gingrich, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999, is widely heralded as the chief architect of the Republican Party's Contract With America. He was first elected to Congress in 1978 and served the Sixth District of Georgia for 20 years.

A former environmental studies professor, Gingrich was the founding chair of the West Georgia College chapter of the Georgia Conservancy and championed efforts to create the Chattahoochee River Greenway, protect the wild tigers of Asia and establish the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Marine Sanctuary. In 1998, the Georgia Wildlife Federation named him Legislative Conservationist of the Year.

He has authored 14 other books, both fiction and nonfiction.

Maple is president and chief executive officer of the Palm Beach Zoo and professor of conservation and behavior at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He previously served as president of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and was president and CEO of Zoo Atlanta from 1985 to 2003. He was co-editor of the book Ethics on the Ark: Zoos, Animal Welfare and Animal Conservation.

Maple says that the two want leaders from both parties to put environmental issues on the agenda and find common ground. This book is a call for that, he says.

"In many ways, these are the biggest issues of the century, and we need to get on with facing them," he said.

Maple describes the book as positive, optimistic and unique in its approach.

The authors write that America has lost its position as environmental leader of the world and needs to reclaim that role.

Specifically, the book details how technologically savvy environmental entrepreneurs can and should be the cornerstone of environmental solutions, and that a proper balance needs to be made with government regulations and incentives, which the authors say must be dramatically increased to achieve workable and broadly supported environmental solutions.

It also argues against what they call "environmental panic" and embraces the concepts of thoughtful cooperation and problem solving.

Editor Vincent Burke says that A Contract With the Earth is aimed at a general audience and at people on either side of the political spectrum.

"It's for those who have an open mind on what the solutions to our environmental problems might be," Burke said.

Burke acknowledges that readers might be very surprised to see the extent of Gingrich's background on environmental issues.

"His involvement on these issues goes back to his earliest days in politics," Burke said. "He almost single-handedly saved the Endangered Species Act and was a big proponent of the Hawaiian reserve."

In fact, Gingrich stresses in the book that there is nothing inconsistent about being a conservative and a conservationist.

Maple agrees that readers will probably learn a lot they didn't know about the former House speaker.

The book tour will feature dates in Atlanta and New York City, and Gingrich is currently lined up to promote A Contract With the Earth on NPR and The Today Show.

The book, priced at $20, will be available at all major bookstores and through the JHU Press Web site,

To attend today's event, RSVP to 202-663-5648.


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