Keynote speaker still fighting for the environment

Environmental activist Tzeporah Berman is the keynote speaker at the Meadowlark Nature Festival

For Tzeporah Berman, coming to speak at the Meadowlark Nature Festival is a welcome change of pace.

“What I have been trying to figure out for 25 years now, if you care about a place or an issue, what do we do about it?” asked Berman. “I’ve explored a lot of different things over the last couple of decades, from blockades to boardrooms and everything between. I want to share some stories of my own journey and my hope, inspire.”

Berman, one of Canada’s most influential environmentalists, has an impeccable record of fighting to protect our natural spaces, all the way back to the “War in the Woods” in the early 90s, starting with her first protest at Clayquot Sound. In her early 20s, she faced nearly 1,000 criminal charges and six years in prison for her role in organizing blockades.

Berman, now an adjunct professor at York University, spends most of her time lately speaking at energy policy and political conferences. Coming to Meadowlark as the keynote speaker on May 19 gives her a chance to connect in a different way.

“I have such a big love of nature and I want to encourage people to engage in the protection of not only wild places but also the ecosystems services that nature provides,” said Berman. “When the festival asked me to speak, I was so glad to see people doing this work, just to connect people with nature and what an incredibly beautiful province we are all so lucky to live in.

“I hope I can contribute to the festival, by talking a little about how we address these challenges that are facing our province and our wild places.”

Berman will draw on her book, This Crazy Time: Living our Environmental Challenge, to share stories about more than two decades of activism. Sometimes, she said, it feels like an endless battle and can be overwhelming.

“Right now, I work most of my time on climate change and there is not a lot of good news on climate change, but at the same time, I feel like I am so lucky to be able to get up every day and work on the issues that keep me up at night,” she said. “I think these are the challenges of our age, and what we do now to address climate change, to ensure that we have clean water and clean air, and the future affects everything.”

Berman said part of what drives her is the successes over the years and the passionate and dedicated people she has been able to work with. But as a mother, she doesn’t feel she really has a choice.

“Knowing what I know, I just look at my kids and say I have to do everything I can,” said Berman. “I got engaged because of a love for big trees and bears. And now these are really the moral and economic issues of our age. They will affect what kind of world are kids live in.”

Berman said this is an incredible time to be an environmentalist, hearkening back to her early protests in Clayquot Sound, where 10,000 people came out to protest.

“This is one of the most exciting times to be working on these issues, There are more people engaged than ever before,” said Berman, referencing pipeline proposals, fracking and other issues of the day. “Instead of letting people decide behind closed doors, we are all talking about it around our kitchen table. That is really important.”

Another change Berman has seen over the years is corporate outlook.

“When I first started doing this work, when you talked to a corporate leader about sustainability, about environmental issues, they looked at you a little bit like you were crazy. Now they all have massive sustainability departments and environmental scientists working for them,” said Berman. “The world has changed so much and I think that’s exciting.

“At the same time, the cumulative impacts on our environment have also increased, so the challenges are also greater but we are getting better at figuring out solutions, so I still have hope.”

Berman said she hasn’t had much chance to experience the South Okanagan and is excited about the chance, and the opportunity for a family adventure.

“I am bringing my husband and my two boys and we are going to spend the whole long weekend. We are going to sign up for some of these great hikes Meadowlark Festival has,” said Berman. “Besides which, I love B.C. wines … I am going to have to go visit some of those as well.”

The 20th anniversary Meadowlark Nature Festival takes place from May 18 to May 22, with 81 different events from Princeton to Penticton.

Find out more about the festival at


Tzeporah Berman is the keynote speaker at the 20th anniversary Meadowlark Nature Festival. -Submitted photo

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