Passionate, profound and funny, Berman is inspiring people from all walks of life to get off the sidelines and fight the good fight--and win. This unique book--part manifesto from a leader, part humorous activist memoir from a soccer mom--offers a wryly honest, behind-the-scenes, ultimately uplifting look at the state of the planet. For almost 20 years, Tzeporah Berman has been one of our most influential environmentalists. A founder of ForestEthics and PowerUp Canada, she was instrumental in shaping the tactics and concerns of the modern environmental movement.
In her early 20s she faced nearly one thousand criminal charges and 6 years in prison for her role organizing blockades in Canada's rainforest. She later transformed her tactics and sat down with CEOs and political leaders to reshape their policies and practices. In her new role at Greenpeace International she is fighting the problem of our time: climate change. This Crazy Time is an impassioned plea for a better world.
Excerpted from This Crazy Time by Tzeporah Berman with Mark Leiren-Young. Copyright © 2011 by Tzeporah Berman with Mark Leiren-Young. Excerpted by permission of Vintage Canada, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
TZEPORAH BERMAN is a co-founder of ForestEthics and PowerUp Canada, and the former Greenpeace International Climate and Energy Co-Director. She has been designing and managing environmental campaigns for almost twenty years. She is known for her role in coordinating the largest civil disobedience in Canada’s history, the logging blockades in the rainforests of Clayoquot Sound in 1993, during which she was arrested and charged with 857 counts of criminal aiding and abetting. She is also known for her work in creating unlikely alliances with the logging industry and major paper and wood consumers that have resulted in the permanent protection of millions of acres of old-growth forests. She was one of the experts in Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary, The 11th Hour. The Royal BC Museum has included her in a permanent exhibition as one of the 150 people who have changed BC’s history. She has been lauded as “Canada’s Queen of Green” in a cover story in Reader’s Digest and was recognized by the Utne Reader as one of 50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World.
MARK LEIREN-YOUNG is the author of Never Shoot a Stampede Queen, winner of the 2009 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, and The Green Chain—Nothing Is Ever Clear Cut. He wrote, directed and produced the award-winning feature film The Green Chain, and wrote and produced the EarthVision award–winning TV comedy special Greenpieces. His stage plays have been produced throughout Canada and the US and have also been seen in Europe and Australia. As a journalist he has written for such publications as TIME, Maclean’s and the Utne Reader. He’s half of the comedy duo Local Anxiety and has released two CDs—Greenpieces and Forgive Us We’re Canadian.
20 Writerly Questions forTzeporah Berman
1. How would you summarize your book in one sentence?
In This Crazy Time I tell stories from the past 18 years of blockades, boycotts and boardrooms to inspire others to get off their butt and kick some - starting with their nearest politicians.
2. What inspired you to write this book?
I have met so many people over the years that care about environmental issues and want to make change but have trouble figuring out how to engage or they think they can’t because they are not an expert. Then a couple of years ago I met youth from across Canada at the International climate negotiations in Copenhagen. They were hungry for stories of campaigns I had worked on and tips of what works and what doesn’t.
3. How long did it take you to write it?
4. Where is your favourite place to write?
Sometimes it is cafes with my earphones in and some good music and a really good coffee but other times it is curled up in bed with a big cup of mint tea.
5. Did you do much research?
Well, the book is a result of 18 years of campaigns and research but during the writing of it we had to research up to date facts and figures all the time.
6. If there was one book you wish you had written what would it be?
The Geography of Hope by Chris Turner.
7. What’s the best piece of writing advice you have ever received?
I think it was advice from Louise Dennys at Random House in our second meeting. I was struggling with how to make sense out of all these disparate experiences and stories and how to tie it all together into a book. She told me to, “Think of the book as a campaign and plan it out then just tell one story at a time and weave them together.”
8. If you could talk to any writer living or dead who would it be, and what would you ask?
Barbara Kingsolver - I would just tell her that sometimes she explains what I am thinking so clearly it is a relief, and she does it with such grace and humour it makes my heart sing.
9. Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what kind?
Yes almost always. Right now my favourites are Jack Johnson and John Mayer.
10. Who is the first person to read your manuscript?
My husband Chris.
11. Do you have a guilty pleasure read?
My twelve year old son’s fiction. When he is sleeping I sneak in and borrow whatever he is reading! It started with Harry Potter and then moved to Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and recently Suzanne Collin's The Hunger Games...
12. What are you reading right now?
I just finished Ian McEwan’s new book Solar.
13. What was your favourite childhood book?
Harold and the Purple Crayon or maybe Where the Wild Things Are. When I got older I was deeply affected by The Diary of Anne Frank.
14. Were you always interested in writing?
Yes when I was younger but this is really the first time I have written anything longer than a press release or report in almost twenty years.
15. What do you drink or eat while you write?
Really good coffee or lattes or herbal tea. I never eat when I write.
16. Typewriter, laptop, or pen & paper?
17. What did you do immediately after hearing that you were being published for the very first time?
Poured a glass of wine, went out onto my deck on Cortes Island to look out over the lake and called my husband.
18. What was the most surprising fact you uncovered while writing your book?
The tarsands operations in Albert result in 1.8 Billion Litres of toxic water being spewed into open pit unlined mines EVERYDAY. On the flip side we also uncovered that last year for the first time in humand history, the combined new investment of renewable energy (solar, wind etc ) was greater than the investment in new oil, coal and nuclear.
19. If readers learn one thing from your book, what do you wish it to be?
We are living a tremendous tipping point moment in which we all have an opportunity to affect whether we have clean air to breathe and water to drink, whether we protect the last of the wild and choose clean, safe renewable energy over dirty, limited and dangerous fossil fuels. In this moment decisions are being made over whether the poor will have access to energy and whether new emerging economies leap the fossil fuel era and learn from the mistakes that we have made in industrialized countries. We don’t need to be rocket scientists, we don’t need to build a new widget––we need to find ways to organize, to engage each other and hold our elected officials and major corporations accountable. You don't have to be an expert, we all have a role to play. Actually engaging in the debate and organizing is way more fun and satisfying than just taking out the recycling or writing a guilt cheque for carbon offsets. Start small. Write a letter to your MP. Have a dinner specifically to discuss an issue you care about and invite someone from one of the groups working on that topic. Go to a rally or protest. It can snowball from there!
20. What is the best gift someone could give a writer?
Space. A great dinner. Review time and serious, thoughful feedback.
It was the oddest thing to watch as one after another, the scientists and UN officials and all my environmental colleagues from around the world made statements condemning Canada.
After hearing that, every morning I’d get up at five and go to the main coordinating office to check the agenda, which was larger than an encyclopedia. I’d flip through it, underlining and highlighting sessions I thought I should attend. I went from international panel to international panel and learned more than I ever wanted to know about the coming impacts of climate change. What blew me away most was not just the statistics but that so many scientists were unable to stop themselves from crying.
The second day in Bali, Canada had the dubious honour of receiving the Fossil Award of the Day for a leaked memo that showed Canadian delegates had been instructed to agree to nothing short of binding targets for all countries. The memo went on to propose that Canada push for a “special circumstances” addendum. The positions were designed to derail the negotiations in Bali. The Harper government knew full well that China would never agree to be treated the same as the “developed countries” that had created the mess to begin with, let alone agree to special circumstances for Canada and other oil-producing nations. The result was that Canada could hide behind China, and the Harper government was left with a very convenient excuse to do nothing.
I delivered my speech, and it was a tough one to make because I’d never felt less proud of being Canadian. So that’s what I talked about. “Today I stand here as a Canadian, ashamed. Ashamed that while the international community struggles to fight global warming, Canada is developing the largest fossil fuel project in the world, the Alberta tar sands. Ashamed that my government has reneged on our Kyoto commitments and is refusing to commit to strong absolute emissions reduction targets and, more than that, holding up important international agreements that would chart a path forward.”
Then I laid out for them just how much climate change had already changed Canadian forests. Ten million hectares (25 million acres) of forest are completely dead due to pine beetle infestations. The pine beetle is an innocuous little bug that used to die every winter when the temperature dropped below minus forty degrees. The problem is that the beetles don’t die seasonally anymore because it doesn’t get cold enough. The result is that pine beetles are eating their way through British Columbia’s old-growth forest.
There were over a thousand environmentalists in Bali for the climate talks. At the end of every day hundreds would meet and vote on which countries did the most to hurt the potential for progress in fighting climate change. Canada won first, second and third place. On the third day, Canada’s minister of environment, John Baird, finally arrived, just in time to win all three days’ Fossil Awards.
From the Hardcover edition.