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The Green Life: Book Review: “This Crazy Time: Living Our Environmental Challenge”

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October 13, 2011

Book Review: “This Crazy Time: Living Our Environmental Challenge”

Tzeporah Berman This Crazy TimeBill McKibben describes Tzeporah Berman as "a modern environmental hero." Others think of her as a radical pragmatist. Her new book, co-written with Mark Leiren-Young, is This Crazy Time: Living Our Environmental Challenge (Knopf, Sept. 2011).

It’s a memoir by an effective eco-campaigner who has spent the past 18 years evolving from a civil-disobedient student to a key negotiator, reworking policies and agreements with global corporations, governments, and environmental groups. For her efforts, Berman was recognized by Utne Reader as one of 50 world-changing visionaries. This spring, she became the co-head of Greenpeace’s climate-and-energy campaign.

This Crazy Time is a direct and personal no-holds-barred account, beginning with Vancouver Island’s Clayoquet Sound Blockades of 1993, a tipping point in Canada’s environmental movement. Berman was charged with 837 counts of aiding and abetting. After years of work, more than 12 million acres of Canadian rainforest are protected.

The book is equal part historical account and activist training guide. Berman details the development of her supply-chain research, understanding of power dynamics, and methodical goal setting. An effective negotiator who sometimes upsets folks on both sides of the table, she frankly states, “If you’re going to campaign, and protest, and blockade, and do direct actions, you have to be willing to talk to all the players and work out solutions. Otherwise that’s not campaigning, it’s just complaining.”

It’s a good ride, from the shores of Clayoquet Sound to the red-carpet premiere of Leonardo DiCaprio’s environmental documentary 11th Hour (which featured Tzeporah as an expert) to boardrooms of North America’s largest lumber companies.

Berman also recants her experiences at the Bali climate talks, during which Canada was voted the country doing the most to hurt the potential for progress in fighting climate change. Impassioned and practical, Berman reminds us: “A problem without a solution is a tragedy. A problem with a solution that is not being implemented is not a tragedy, it’s a scandal.” 

Someday will we reflect on this “crazy time” before we created a global economy not based on resource depletion? Call her crazy but that’s Berman’s idealistic vision.

--Pamela Biery

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