Massachusetts Democratic Senator and 2004 presidential contender John Kerry is honoring Earth Day today by calling on the federal government to protect the human and ecological health of poor and minority communities through strengthening its commitment to environmental justice. In a speech this afternoon, Kerry demanded the creation of a new environmental justice position at the U.S. EPA, a system for monitoring childhood asthma and other diseases influenced by the environment, and “environmental empowerment zones” — poor and minority areas where development decisions would be subject to strict federal and local review. Kerry is a longtime supporter of environmental causes and helped organized the first Earth Day in Massachusetts in 1970.