Tzeporah Berman: Environmental Activist
- Thursday, 05 January 2012
Once called an “enemy of the state,” Canadian environmental activist Tzeporah Berman could be mistaken today for a soccer mom. But the passionate redhead remains as unapologetic now as when she attended her first major protest against logging giant MacMillan Bloedel in 1993, or when she spearheaded the Victoria’s Dirty Secret Campaign against the lingerie company’s not-very-green catalogue habits. Berman may have changed her overalls and sweatshirts for fashionable layers of wool, but she is still making environmental waves.
Tzeporah Berman has recently published This Crazy Time, outlining the story of her activism and how it has morphed over the years. “Part manifesto from a leader, part humorous activist memoir from a soccer mom – This Crazy Time offers a wryly honest, behind the scenes, ultimately uplifting look at the state of the planet.”
Berman is founder and former director of ForestEthics, a non-profit environmental organization in Canada, the US and Chile. ForestEthics worked with many multinational companies to help them develop more environmentally-friendly practices. One victory from her protesting days in Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia, Canada, is the establishment in 2006 of the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement, which protects 5 million acres of BC’s forest from logging.
But getting such concessions took much too long, and logging moved at a faster pace. She therefore had to change tactics, and started to approach top executives at key corporations to try and persuade them to adopt greener techniques.
More recently, Greenpeace appointed Berman to head up its international climate and energy campaign. This job required her to lobby and negotiate with big industry and governments, a move that turned many of her eco-activist colleagues against her. “Politicians need to know there are consequences for inaction, but they also have to know there’s going to be support,” she maintains, as she justifies her support of the premier of BC at the UN’s 2009 Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen. “You have to be willing to say, ‘that’s a good thing,’ and then we’ll see more of it.”
When Berman returned to Canada in fall 2011 after a trip abroad, she was horrified to hear her younger son declare that “they have figured out how to do the oil sands better. Now we can get oil that we really need while leaving the forests and even the butterflies are OK.” He got all this from a series of TV ads. Incensed, she maintains that “they” are not only polluting the environment with the toxic water pumped out of the tar sands, but they are also polluting children’s minds.
No doubt Tzeporah Berman’s role as eco-warrior is not yet over, fashionable clothes and boardrooms notwithstanding. Children’s minds and the environment are at stake.