May 22, 2009 Features & Images » Feature Story

The Green Rift 

Has the Environmental Movement Been Torn Apart?

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Berman's reprisal came four days later. In a front page story in the Vancouver Sun , she renounced her membership in the NDP.

"You have put politicking before the planet in the most hypocritical fashion," she wrote in a strongly worded e-mail to NDP leader Carole James. "I have had to watch the embarrassing display as you pulled a 180 on your earlier strong positions to the reactionary ones you advocate now."

James largely laughed off the reprisals, telling reporters that "We certainly agree to disagree with the environmental movement."

Berman certainly agrees there's a split in the environmental movement, but challenges the notion that it's somehow broken with the NDP.

"I would say it's not true that the environmental movement has always rallied behind the NDP," she says. "I think it's fair to say that traditionally, the environmental vote has always gone to the left.

"I would say that it's the first time that so much environmental criticism has been targeted at the NDP."

As for the split in the movement, Berman thinks there's more a split in the NDP. People within the party, she says, have been calling her to say that they didn't support the move to "axe the gas tax," as James put it.

That assertion finds agreement with Andrew Weaver, a professor of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Victoria.

"I actually do not think there is a split in the environmental community, I think there is a split in the NDP," he says. "There are those within the NDP who are opposed to private electricity production and there are those who are concerned about the potential loss of union jobs. Rather than dealing with those issues up front, they're greenwashing them and claiming there's an ecological problem."

Joe Foy finds common ground

Not everyone in the environmental movement has turned against the NDP. The WCWC, for example, supports the carbon tax but feels the B.C. Liberals have their policies backwards on other issues.

Joe Foy, the WCWC's national campaign director, says his group didn't join the chorus condemning the NDP platform for a number of reasons: first off, they weren't asked to attend the press conference. Secondly, they wouldn't have gone if they were asked because there's a host of other issues they're focused on.

"We wouldn't have focused strictly on that issue," he says. "We're kind of pissed off about a whole variety of issues."

Chief among them is run-of-river hydro. Together with Rafe Mair and the Save Our Rivers Society, the WCWC ran a kind of province-wide counter-campaign against the B.C. Liberals and run-of-river projects.

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