Partner Spotlight: Tzeporah Berman, Defend our Coast

• October 30, 2012
Tzeporah Berman

Creative Commons: Kris Krug for Static Photography, 2009

Every few weeks we chat with someone from one of the more than 375 partners that make up our global climate movement. This week we’re talking to Tzeporah Berman, co-organizer of the wildly successful Defend our Coast rally in Victoria, BC Canada last Monday. Learn from Tzeporah as we discuss the diverse coalition behind this successful show of solidarity and why the Canadian government would be unwise to ignore the growing movement opposing the Tar Sands.

TCK: Last year we heard a lot about the Keystone Pipeline but I understand that you have recently demonstrated against another pipeline – The Northern Gateway. Can you tell us more about this and the reason you were recently demonstrating?

TZEPORAH BERMAN: This protest is about the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline and the proposed new Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline, both which threaten to bring tar sands oil to the coast resulting in over 400 oil tankers plying the sensitive and spectacular waters of British Columbia. The Enbridge pipeline would travel through the Great Bear Rainforest and the Kinder Morgan Pipeline would travel through the city of Vancouver.

But this protest is about more than just pipelines. It’s also about Canada’s efforts to rapidly expand the tar sands while minimizing the protection of the land, air, water, and people of the region. It is also about Canada’s abysmal record on climate change and the fact that the tar sands companies are aggressively lobbying for the expansion of the tar sands while fighting any action on climate change.

While the pipelines are the catalyst for this event, everyone knows the extent of what is at risk – our land, our ocean, our water, our air and ultimately our climate.

TCK: Clearly you were not demonstrating alone, what can you tell us about the coalition you represent and some of the more unusual partners that you are working with? What do you believe is the key to effective co-operation with such a diverse number of groups?

TZEPORAH BERMAN: The First Nations of British Columbia are central figures in this movement. Over 100 First Nations have used their ancestral law to put in place a ban on pipelines and tankers, creating an unbroken wall of opposition from Northern BC to the Lower Mainland and extending into the ocean. Many of these bands were present at the protest and we were honoured to have them there.

We are also seeing participation in these events from some of the largest unions in Canada, the business community, academics and others.

All generations signed up to the event, youth, parents, and grandparents. They are coming together because they are concerned about these pipelines and climate change and come from all walks of life – teachers, fishermen, business owners, and students. They even cover the range of political parties – we know many people are disillusioned with the current federal and provincial governments they voted for and they are coming to make sure their concerns are heard.

TCK: Will stopping the Northern Gateway stop the extraction of tar sands? If not, what more needs to be done?

TZEPORAH BERMAN: Stopping the Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipelines will slow the expansion for a time but the oil companies will continue to aggressively push for more pipelines to feed their dreams of extracting more oil. Ultimately we must  cap the expansion of the tars sands, respect First Nations rights and title, bring in regulations to ensure the land, air, and water is protected, and transition to clean energy.

One way that people can get involved beyond the pipeline battles is to support the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations (ACFN) in their efforts to fight Shells plans to open new mines in the tar sands. You can lean more about this and take action at stopshellnow.com

TCK: Do you believe that the Canadian Government or the executives at Enbridge are beginning to take notice with actions such as these? What are some of the other tactics you would think about using in terms of escalating actions?

TZEPORAH BERMAN: I think the Government of Canada and the Government of BC would be unwise to ignore this. This is not a one-day event – this is a sign of a growing movement that’s not going to go away. With more than 5,000 people showing up on a Monday to voice their concerns and hundreds of people willing to risk arrest shows that the people of BC are committed to doing whatever it takes to stop these pipelines. Governments can chose to ignore this at their peril.  Recent polls show that the majority of the people of British Columbia oppose these pipelines.

TCK: Can you tell us about the next steps in the fight to challenge the Northern Gateway pipeline? How could TckTckTck partners support you in your efforts? Is there international pressure that would help?

TZEPORAH BERMAN: One of the best ways that TckTckTck partners can help is to amplify the work being done in Canada, the US and Europe on tarsands and pipelines.  Follow the campaigns on www.dirtyoilsands.org.  We aggregate all the events of each week in a blog called The Dirt.

Then, please share with your members the hard work being done by the First Nations to protect their territories, the science that proves these pipelines are bad for the environment and bad for people, and  ask your members to write to our federal and provincial governments and share their concerns.

This is not just an issue in British Columbia. Climate change affects everyone and Canada is thwarting progress both at home and internationally. Let our governments know that increasingly the international community is asking, “What happened to Canada?”  We are the country that played a leading role in many international agreements including the Montreal Protocol.  We are known for our wild places, wild rivers and incredible forests.  We are also known for being polite…nice.  Quite frankly, there is nothing ‘nice’ about pumping 300 million litres of toxic sludge into unlined open pits everyday that now cover 170 square kilometers and can be seen from space.  There is nothing ‘nice’ about gutting our environmental laws in order to push these pipelines through quicker.

Sometimes when I talk to my international colleagues they are horrified by the impacts of the Tar Sands.  It is the single largest industrial development on Earth and the impacts are devastating. They refer to it as a great tragedy.  A tragedy is a problem without a solution.  There are solutions at hand to stop what’s happening in Canada.  It’s not a tragedy.  It’s a scandal. The fact that aboriginal communities downstream are suffering from rare cancers is a scandal.  The fact that Canada pulled out of Kyoto is a scandal.  The fact that our environmental laws are being eliminated for big oil is a scandal.  The fact that Canada’s emissions are steadily going up and not down is a scandal.  As a Canadian I am not asking that you help us raise awareness and bring the force of the international community to bare.  I’m begging you.


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