It’s been almost a year since controversial B.C. environmentalist Tzeporah Berman caused an uproar ahead of the 2009 provincial election by criticizing the NDP for its opposition to the carbon tax.
Now Berman is hitting back at critics who have launched a Web site, Save Greenpeace, aimed at gathering signatures on a petition demanding that Greenpeace International rescind its recent hiring of her.
Berman will start her new job as codirector of Greenpeace’s global climate and energy campaign on April 1 and now plans to move to Europe.
“I really don’t have much time for people who spend more time in a circular firing squad than in fighting fossil fuels,” Berman, executive director of PowerUP Canada, told the Straight from her home on Cortes Island. “That is what this is. The fossil fuel industry must love this. This isn’t a debate. It’s a classic circular firing squad, and all it does is reduce our effectiveness and waste our time.”
As of today (March 17), 118 people had signed the on-line petition. The petition states, “We call on Greenpeace to live up to the spirit of 39 years of dedicated action and renounce collaboration and partnership with destructive corporations.”
The site also criticizes Berman’s support of Premier Gordon Campbell, her support for private run-of-river hydropower generation, and her collaboration with “resource extraction corporations”.
Edmonton-based activist Macdonald Stainsby told the Straight he was one of “several” individuals who cofounded the Save Greenpeace site.
Montréal-based cofounder Dru Oja Jay said in a phone interview that he is familiar with what he calls “the Great Bear Rainforest sellout”.
The Straight asked Jay whether he thought Berman is damaged goods in B.C.
“It would seem so, yes,” Jay said. “If you give Gordon Campbell an award during Copenhagen, I would hope that you are damaged goods. But I haven’t seen any polling on it. The issue is democracy. There is no democratic accountability in environmental groups. In the past this has served Greenpeace well, in the sense that they had a strong pro-environment mandate. But now the lack of accountability is starting to really show its weaknesses. The executive is going in a direction of corporate collaboration which is exactly the wrong way that we need Greenpeace to go if we are going to stop runaway climate change.”
Jay added that Greenpeace’s move could have ramifications in Alberta, where tar sands operations are at a critical crossroads and already contribute huge amounts of greenhouse gases.
“What we are afraid that they are going to do, and what every indication says they are going to do, is undertake a large-scale market and direct-action type campaign and then that is going to feed in to some type of closed-door negotiation with oil companies in terms of the tar sands,” Jay said. “In our minds that would be catastrophic, because the climate isn’t something that you can just shave a little bit off of and call it progress. What they are going to do is take all of the momentum that’s going to be built up by grassroots groups and people who are legitimately worried about the tar sands and they are going to funnel it into something that falls short of what’s needed and that is to shut down the tar sands.”
Ivan Doumenc, a 2008 Vancouver park board candidate with the Work Less Party, has signed the petition.
“I’ve been so mad generally over what Tzeporah has been doing that it’s hard to focus on the exact root cause of what’s making it so difficult [to express in words],” Doumenc told the Straight.
“For me, fundamentally, it’s the discrepancy between what she claims to stand for, and what she actually does in effect, which is serve as a front for a privatization scheme that has nothing to do with the environment or the public interest, but has a lot to do with the wealth of transnational corporations,” Doumenc said. “Now, if you’re from the private power industry or the B.C. Liberals, fair game, fair game. That’s what you are in the business of doing. But when you are an environmentalist with a track record, with a reputation, this basically makes me go ballistic.”
Doumenc added: “The other thing that makes me mad is, she is using all that credibility that she has built with the public to do what? To stab us in the back and to essentially go in the opposite direction of what she is standing for, and support privatization of the commons. It’s absurd. To know that, now she’s done the damage in B.C., she’s leaving and going and working for Greenpeace somewhere—forget it, you know? We’ve got to stop that.”
Berman dismissed these sentiments.
“One of the reasons that I am joining Greenpeace is because it is such an effective organization around the world in protesting dirty oil and coal,” Berman said. “I think that we need more protest in the future and not less. They are creating this polemic out there, this concern that Greenpeace has hired someone that doesn’t believe in what Greenpeace does, and that is not true.”
Berman added that, from her perspective, 118 signatures “pales in comparison to the amazing amount of e-mails and calls” that she and Greenpeace have received in support of her move.