May 22, 2009 Features & Images » Feature Story

The Green Rift 

Has the Environmental Movement Been Torn Apart?

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Berman's stint with the WCWC left a heavy impression on the budding environmentalist - she would bloom just two years later as a "blockade coordinator" for the "Sons of Clayoquot Sound."

She first arrived in Clayoquot Sound, on Vancouver Island's west coast, in 1992. There she later took up residence in a "peace camp" on the side of a highway as part of a massive protest against the logging practices of MacMillan Bloedel.

Mike Harcourt, B.C.'s NDP premier at the time, permitted logging in 33 per cent of the 262,000-hectare rainforest near Tofino - a rare entity in the world. Harcourt thought he could appease environmentalists by allowing logging in only a cross-section of the forest.

Environmentalists responded in kind in the summer of 1993. They launched road blockades. They started "tree-spiking" - literally hammering nails into trees to damage sawblades and chainsaws.

856 people were arrested - and Berman, a chief spokesperson for the protesters, was among them. She was taken off the side of a highway while giving a speech, but today she can't remember the charge.

From there Berman gained more influence in the movement. She helped draw the boundary for the "Great Bear Rainforest" to help keep it off limits to logging. She led boycotts against corporations like Victoria's Secret to stop them using non-recycled paper for their catalogues.

With ForestEthics, a firm she co-founded, she made clients out of environmental enemies such as Dell, Estee Lauder and Hewlett-Packard, helping them adopt more sustainable practices. She realized early on that protests alone wouldn't make a difference.

Her collective experience as an environmentalist won her an appearance in Leonardo DiCaprio's documentary " The 11 th Hour" and brought her to Hollywood premiere parties where she'd stand beside the likes of Paris Hilton.

Today, however, Berman finds herself standing with a chorus of environmentalists who've broken with those who remain dogmatically opposed to government policies.

Upon launching their platform in which they promised to axe the carbon tax, the NDP faced a major attack at a single press conference from three prominent environmental groups: the David Suzuki Foundation, ForestEthics and the Pembina Institute - three of 16 groups that lauded the carbon tax when it was first released.

Pembina called the promise to axe the tax a "step backward" for climate action. David Suzuki warned that if the NDP got rid of the tax, future politicians would consider it poison at the polls.

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