Confronting a climate crisis

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      Outspoken Cortes Island environmental activist Tzeporah Berman can think of at least two things holding our society back as we approach Earth Day on Wednesday (April 22).

      “I was thinking the other day that we now have an overdeveloped consumption muscle and an underdeveloped civil-engagement muscle,” Berman told the Georgia Straight by cellphone on April 13. “When I was a kid, we volunteered. My parents were engaged in knocking on doors for political parties and volunteering for community groups, and being a part of a strong community was part of our upbringing.”

      Berman, executive director with PowerUP Canada, took part in a day-long PowerUP conference in Vancouver, which was focused on finding solutions to today’s environmental quandaries. Berman said there is still time to avert a full-blown climate crisis, but she added that the window for action is closing.

      “There is no question that we need to change our lifestyle,” she said. “But it’s not enough to change our light bulbs; we need to change our laws. The majority of our emissions are coming from industrial sources. The largest projected increase in emissions in Canada is going to come from the tar sands. So I think it’s critical that we all engage with our elected decision makers.”¦We can’t solve global warming alone, but together we have a fighting chance.”

      Berman said she believes there is “enormous change afoot”, especially if we look at U.S. president Barack Obama’s environmental policies.

      “The Obama administration is committed to a large scale-up of renewable power, to a cap-and-trade program, and initiatives that link strong climate policy to green stimulus and green jobs,” she said. “That’s a huge sign of hope, I think, for all of us. I think that this is the question I am asking: ”˜Are we going to see complementary and similar policies from the Harper government? And are we going to see people in British Columbia in this [May 12 provincial] election vote for the candidates that show some climate leadership?’ ”

      UBC community and regional-planning professor Bill Rees, inventor of the “ecological footprint” analysis, told the Straight in a previous interview that he is old enough to remember the importance of homegrown food handpicked from his grandmother’s farm, and he can relate to using resources sparingly.

      However, Rees said recently that the postwar period is responsible—largely through the advertising industry—for transforming modern society from “conservers to consumers”.

      “We’d come through the rationing of the Second [World] War and the Depression before that and people were happy living on very little,” Rees said by cellphone. “But we had all of this idle machinery and underemployed labour as a result of the end of the war. To put all of that capital to work, the advertising industry had to turn us from being essentially conservative in our consumption patterns into turning consumption into a way of life.”

      Rees pointed to four things that will precipitate change: catastrophe, coercion, pricing, and education.

      “Pricing is marvellously effective at changing people’s behaviour,” he said. “If you think of energy use, there have only been two times in the entire history of industrial civilization in which per-capita energy use declined.”¦In the late 1970s, or early 1980s, there was a period of five or six years where the steep uptick was almost completely reversed. So we had an equally steep downturn in per-capita energy consumption for a period of years. And it was simply because of very high energy prices.”

      Rees said the other time was 18 months ago, when gas prices hit $1.50 a litre. “We’re still seeing the ramifications of that with the collapse of Detroit and so on,” Rees added. “The SUV is dead.”

      Now instead of bailouts, Rees said the governments should be raising gasoline taxes and introducing resource-depletion taxes to account for market failures in the fossil-fuel sector.

      He is also keen to ratchet up public consciousness ahead of Earth Day.

      “I’ve spent 40 years of my life trying to do that.”

      More on Earth Day 2009:
      Sow the seeds of change
      Doctored crops stir Latin American debate
      B.C. deserves better environmental policies
      Confronting a climate crisis
      Software has a hard impact on the planet
      Courier firm sets example with hybrids
      Take politics out of the Agricultural Land Reserve: agrologist
      Critics say Premier Gordon Campbell is wrong on Gateway Program
      Public meetings to begin on growth plan



      Apr 16, 2009 at 8:13am

      Once environmental activist Tzeporah Berman is nothing more than an annoying shill for Gordo & Co. Like Marc Jaccard, author of the Carbon/gas tax, Berman loves the limelight of media attention, but now getting a little long in the tooth, likes the comforts of armchair activism.

      Taxing people to be environmentally responsible is a 1980's thing and doesn't work. We are now well into the 21st century and 21st century solutions need to be made.

      The 300 km. solution - An affordable way to reduce gridlock and pollution

      Real action is needed, but I do not see any but tax after tax, burdening the poor, while the carbon tax lobby cares nothing.

      Berman, your time has come and gone!


      Apr 16, 2009 at 10:10am

      Don't buy this nonesense. There is no climate crisis. The climate models that the anthropogenic global warming argument is based on are flawed. See the video below and do some reseatch into the opposition to climate hysteria.

      Don't listen to these shills for global taxation through carbon tax and cap and trade.

      <object width="300" height="251"><param name="movie" value=""></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="300" height="251"></embed></object>

      The Pacific Ocean has entered the cool phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the sun looks like it is entering a new grand minimum, so it will only be getting colder in this part of the world for several decades.

      Cap and trade does nothing to affect greenhouse gas emissions but is very good at inflating the cost of all consumer goods and services becuase business and industry pass along the costs of buying carbon credits to the consumer.


      Apr 16, 2009 at 12:50pm

      Matt Burrows refers to Tzeporah Berman as an "environmental activist", period. But is this really an accurate description?

      Would it be more accurate to describe her as a business lobbyist representing the interests of private, export-oriented hydro power companies?

      What exactly is PowerUP Canada? Is it a non-profit advocacy group, and if so who funds it? Or is it a commercial business association, an industry lobby group comparable to, say, Phil Hochstein's ICBA?

      Rod Smelser


      Apr 18, 2009 at 1:37am




      Apr 22, 2009 at 11:30am

      "Berman, executive director with PowerUP Canada, took part in a day-long PowerUP conference in Vancouver, which was focused on finding solutions to today’s environmental quandaries."

      The Tyee is reporting that the United Steelworker's Union has withdrawn its support for PowerUP because of Berman's denunciation of Carole James.

      Rod Smelser