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This Crazy Time: Living Our Environmental Challenge

by Tzeporah Berman with Mark Leiran-Young

As Tzeporah Berman, co-director of Greenpeace International’s climate and energy program, explains in her memoir, the history of social movements is filled with familiar patterns. A movement may begin as a fringe protest, but once it becomes large or powerful enough to force its opponents into negotiations, hard choices need to be made about what, if anything, to compromise about in order to reach the original goal. During nearly two decades as one of Canada’s most prominent environmentalists, Berman’s life has followed similar patterns.

The first part of This Crazy Time largely deals with the 1993 blockade of Clayoquot Sound in B.C. Berman uses her experiences as a nascent activist to demonstrate the role direct action played in creating national awareness around forest conservation, but she also highlights the limitations of this form of protest. As the book progresses, we witness Berman’s campaigning style evolve to include negotiations with industry and government. This method enabled her to make incredible gains for Canada’s old-growth forests, but also drew the ire of many colleagues who didn’t agree with what they perceived as a capitulation to corporate and government interests.

By outlining her successes in forest conservation – and later in addressing broader climate issues – Berman has provided a strategic guide for creating social change in the face of massive opposition. Her book includes a few short lists of useful tips, but for budding activists, her stories themselves offer the best lessons. She strays at times when attempting to counter the accusations of her more vocal critics; these passages are unnecessary distractions. The compromises Berman may have made to gain meaningful access to policymakers, celebrities, and corporations render her controversial among certain groups and individuals, but her successes speak for themselves.


Reviewer: David Leonard

Publisher: Knopf Canada


Price: $32

Page Count: 384 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 978-0-30739-978-6

Released: Sept.

Issue Date: 2011-10

Categories: Science, Technology & Environment