The details behind an appointment to a provincial tar sands/oil sands advisory body show that climate advocate Tzeporah Berman is exactly the right person for the job, veteran journalist and Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid argued last week.
After Berman was named as one of three co-chairs of Alberta’s new Oil Sands Advisory Group (OSAG), CBC picked up the opposition Wild Rose Party’s objections to her characterization of the tar sands/oil sands, using a comparison to the region of Mordor from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. “As far as the eye can see, mines and huge open pits are being pumped out into areas the size of lakes,” Berman told Climate Home. “If you spend more than a couple hours walking around in the tarsands, your eyes start to run and your skin starts to hurt.”
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But Braid focused on—and welcomed—Berman’s subsequent effort to walk back those comments. “I was very jet-lagged, and being attacked by that reporter because of my willingness to have conversations with the oil industry,” she told him in an interview. “So I reverted to a stump speech I’ve been giving for 10 years. The fact is that I’m in a very different position today.”
To Braid, “that comment suggests we should start welcoming people like Berman, instead of trying to run them off. She finds herself mistrusted and even cast off by other climate-change activists. Suncor CEO Steve Williams apparently faces the same reaction from some of his industry colleagues. The reason? They’ve been talking to each other. They look for points of agreement, and ways to expand them.”
Berman and Williams appeared on a panel at the recent Business and Climate Conference in London, UK, “where they described how they’ve been meeting, sometimes testily, to work out solutions,” Braid writes. “The collaboration doesn’t go down well with everyone,” he notes. “Williams once told her, ‘They’ve been calling me a traitor.’ She replied: ‘Me too.’”