May 22, 2009 Features & Images » Feature Story

The Green Rift 

Has the Environmental Movement Been Torn Apart?

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Sara Jennings, president of the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE), told the province's Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) that all IPP's should be stopped until a "comprehensive study" could be done to see which rivers are best-suited for the projects.

Other AWARE members have noted their ideological opposition to privately-run projects and the possibility that electricity could be sold to the United States.

It's a position that has put Protter and AWARE into a headlong conflict over whether IPP's are the right way to give B.C. its electricity. Protter thinks they're an essential part of feeding power-hungry customers on the Western Interconnect. AWARE thinks they're an environmentally careless way to get electricity.

"There's an environmental movement of people who know nothing about much," Protter says. "Then there are environmental engineers and people who are doing things for the environment. That's not a movement, that's a calling and a career."

Nowhere was the split between Protter and AWARE more evident than in early April, when he sent association members a news release announcing funding for a wave energy project he was working on.

Pina Belperio, a Whistler activist and former AWARE director, sent him a simple response - "FU," ostensibly meaning "f*** you."

Speaking in an interview in mid-May, Belperio doesn't deny that's what she meant but said she did it because she didn't want to receive Protter's e-mails.

"Normally you ask to be on people's e-mail (lists), I don't appreciate receiving unsolicited e-mails," she says. "Maybe that's his way of trying to get me to see the light. Religious people tend to do the same thing."

Protter and AWARE both want to create a more sustainable world. Why, then are they fighting?

"I think we actually agree on a lot of things that might not always have been seen on the outside," Jennings says in an interview. "We have had Nigel present to our group before and I've had conversations with him. We have different points of view on some things and similar points of view on others.

"He's doing what he's doing because he believes it's the right thing to do, and the same with us."

And Pina?

"Nigel believes passionately that his ideas are right and we believe that our ideas are right," Belperio says. "I think we have to work together is what it comes down to, not that we're going to agree on everything."

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