All things environmental

Musings about the environment and all it touches, from education to city planning

This Crazy Time – a review

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Tzeporah Berman

I just finished reading Tzeporah Borman’s biography (so far), entitled This Crazy Time.  A very rewarding, engaging book.

Berman’s environmental awareness emerged during the Clayoquot Sound’s War in the woods, where her obvious leadership abilities led to a stint with Greenpeace, followed by the founding of the group ForestEthics, then back to Greenpeace.  Her story is likely familiar to those who follow environmental politics in general and Canadian forestry issues in particular.  But even if you think you know the story (I thought I knew, for one), read this book anyways.

Read this book to be treated to wonderful insights to the inside story – and, overall, it is a story full of hope, covering the protection of Clayoquot Sound, the creation of the Great Bear Rainforest, and the protection of a large chunk of the boreal forest in Canada.  Despite setbacks, it is a story that shows that the environment not only must be but can be protected – and what works.

Read this book, also, to learn that compromise works and that industry is not the great Satan, much to the indignation of hard line environmentalists.  Berman has been reviled by many, for negotiating with the forest industry, for praising former BC Premier Gordon Campbell for his carbon tax – for dealing with the devil, basically.  Except that Berman shows, convincingly, that it works.  Even if the protection is not complete, it is at least better than a fight to the death – the death of the environment, usually.  And parts of the encounters are actually really funny – it`s hard not to chuckle while reading the account of the Victoria’s dirty secret campaign, for instance.  

But of course in these campaigns there were also setbacks, especially on the climate file, and these are eye-openers.  Particularly noteworthy is this encounter:

Just before leaving for Copenhagen I met with Steve Kelly, the chief of staff for Canada’s environment minister.  But he didn’t want to talk, he wanted to lecture us.  Kelly said: “if you think that you can limit the oil sands and limit industry and limit fossil fuels and put a tough cap on carbon and not destroy the economy, then you don’t live in the real world.”

Meeting Kelly was an eye-opener…besides being floored that we seemed to have a chief of staff for the environment who clearly didn’t care for the environment, I had not in almost twenty years of lobbying government ever met one who was this rude and belligerent and who clearly had such little knowledge of the environment and climate change.

But what sticks with me the most are some personal remarks thrown here and there that not only flesh out Berman as a real human, flawed and fearful, but also point out rays of hope.  Consider her reaction when she was looking for a school for her son (this is at Linnaea, on Cortes Island):

 “Every morning they have a circle with all sixty kids sitting together and talking about their day.  I remember walking into the circle, and there were Grade 7 and Grade * boys sitting with kindergarten kids in their laps.  By choice.  They were chatting while they waiting for the circle to start.  And I thought to myself, when I was in kindergarten we were afraid of the Grade 8 boys.  We didn’t talk to them, let alone run over and sit in their laps.  There was just something so moving about the way the older kids took care of the younger ones that I fell in love with the school.”

Towards the end of the book Berman writes of a conversation with her grandmother, after her spirits were crushed in the futile UN climate negotiations (where Canada won yet another of its many Fossil Awards):

After attending the UN negotiations in Bali, I spent a week with my ninety-two-year-old grandmother, not long before she died.  One day we were sitting in the hospital and I told her about my despair.  She said “I don’t want to hear any more about how hard it is, how big it is, and that you don’t know if it can work.  When your mother was growing up, when I was having my seven children, we didn’t have a phone.  We had a party line.  We didn’t have a car.  No one had their own car.  We had just gotten electricity…you need to hold on to fact that the world can entirely change in your lifetime.”

I found that excerpt very moving, as if it held the key to the whole book.  Not only does it reveal where Berman got her toughness from – but that very last sentence shows that despair is never justified.  Things have an amazing way of evolving – and that is the root of hope; and the whole book, ultimately, is about hope.

Happy reading!

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2 Responses

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  1. […] anyone who says solar and wind can replace fossil fuels is wrong, is guilty of mental laziness.  Tzeporah Berman’s grandmother had this bit of wisdom that we should all […]

  2. […] often underestimate how much things can change. Canadian environmental activist Tzeporah Berman recounts a conversion with her grandmother […]


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