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Review: Searching for radical pragmatism in 'This Crazy Time'

A new autobiography takes readers through the life of environmental power-activist Tzeporah Berman, from the inside of a jail cell to the Hollywood red carpet, and highlights lessons learned in the world of negotiating. 

This Crazy Time

This Crazy Time Knopf Canada

Tzeporah Berman

Tzeporah Berman Jaime Kowal

Bill McKibben describes Tzeporah Berman as ‘a modern environmental hero.’ I like to think of her as a radical pragmatist. This Crazy Time (Knopf Canada, 2011) is an autobiographical memoir of an effective eco-campaigner who has spent the past 18 years evolving from a student practicing civil disobedience to a key negotiator, leveraging vital policies and agreements with global corporations, government, and environmental allies. Berman has been recognized by Utne Reader as one of 50 Visionaries Who Are Changing the World. This spring she assumed the position of Greenpeace International’s co-head of the 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, a formal entre perhaps for a path that is still blazing change today. After years of work on the part of many allied organizations and individuals, over 12 million acres of endangered Canadian rainforest are protected today.

This Crazy Time has value just as a good read, but it is also equal parts Northwestern Coastal history and activist training guide, as Berman describes in detail the development of her chain-supply research, understanding of power dynamics, and methodical goal setting. An effective negotiator who sometimes upsets folks on both sides of the fence, Tzeporah 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 is a good ride, from the shores of Clayoquet Sound to the Hollywood Red Carpet Premiere of Leonardo DiCaprio’s environmental documentary 11th Hour, which included Berman as an expert, on to board rooms of some of the largest lumber companies in North America and to a disappointing Copenhagen 2010.

Berman also reports on her direct experience at the Bali Climate Talks, where Canada was voted as the country doing the most to hurt the potential for progress in fighting climate change. Impassioned and practical Berman reminds readers “We need to remember that 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 came to terms with creating a global economy which is not based on resource depletion? This vision seems part wistfulness and part hope, but all heart.

This Crazy Time, by Tzeporah Berman with Mark Leiren-Young, is available in hardcover or e-book from Knopf Canada, copyright September 2011.

Pamela Biery is a freelance writer and communications professional living in Seattle. Her work has appeared in regional and national publications. She maintains a website at www.PamelaB.com.


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