May 22, 2009 Features & Images » Feature Story

The Green Rift 

Has the Environmental Movement Been Torn Apart?

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"Bill Good said, 'What do you mean by green stimulus and what do you mean by green jobs?'" she told her audience. "I said two sentences about how we need to rethink our opposition to run-of-river and that we have to figure out how we can support the expansion of renewable energy in this province."

That set them off - anonymous callers who rang her phone off its hook. Calls that brought death threats against her and imploring her to "watch your family."

"I had people saying to me, as an environmentalist you cannot speak out opposite to other environmentalists in this province," she said. "I was like, I'm sorry, I thought I was part of a movement, not a cult!"

Berman's journey towards environmentalism came on a trip to Europe in 1989. At the time studying fashion design at Toronto's Ryerson University, she caught jet set fever after her first year and wanted to take in some ancient ruins.

While backpacking in Greece she visited Athens at a time when air pollution as at an "all-time high."

"I was so excited about seeing the Acropolis," she says. "People were dropping like flies in the street. I remember going back to my hostel that night and coughing up black."

Hoping to do some hiking, she and her travel-companion sister picked a random place on a map and landed on Germany's Harz Mountains as their next designation. It provided no respite from Greece's black air.

"I wake up in the morning to go hiking and find out that we're surrounded by forests that are dead," she says. "They had all died as a result of acid rain and they'd been left standing by the government as a testimony to the impacts of industrial civilization."

Berman yearned to come back to Canada where she could be surrounded by intact wilderness again. Once back in school she started taking courses in environmental studies at the University of Toronto. It was there that she first learned about temperate rainforests and began gravitating towards environmentalism.

The following summer she started backpacking throughout British Columbia and signed up as a volunteer with the Western Canada Wilderness Committee (WCWC). While with the WCWC she lived in the Carmanah Valley on Vancouver Island, helping the organization research clearcut logging in B.C.'s forests.

"I fell in love with B.C.'s rainforests," she says. "(I) really admired (the WCWC's) work in supporting the scientific research that was going on there and raising public awareness about the impacts of clearcut logging on old-growth forests."

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