Recently, I’ve posed the question:
Is there an inevitable journey for professional environmentalists from impecunious youthful idealists to zealous hustlers loyally serving industrial interests for personal gain?
I made the inquiry in reader comments following a piece in the Vancouver Observer, Tzeporah Berman: coming home to Vancouver. The comment thread includes contributions from Damien Gillis, a filmmaker and respected environmentalist who remains focused on “issues of environmental and social justice issues – especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada’s wild salmon.”
Gillis and others posed hard questions to the now Amsterdam based Greenpeace executive. These were about Berman’s promotion of the independent power industry – she was a founder of greenwasher Power Up Canada – and her credulous pre-election support of Gordon Campbell and the BC Liberals.
Additionally, May Mickelow offered her conclusion to a sharp critique,
…you promote things that are proven to have been and continue to be detrimental to BC and BCers, so stay gone!
Tzezorah Berman has her supporters too. Last week, the Vancouver Sun published an uncritical piece that called her a fearless eco-activist. That was a surprising contribution from a newspaper that consistently reflects Fraser Institute opinions, including the claim that global warming science is untrustworthy and that management and exploitation of forests and power generation should be in private hands, unsullied by regulatory controls. Apparently, the editorial board judges that views of erstwhile eco-activists pose no threat to the newspaper’s philosophical goals.
Berman had advocates in the VO comment thread. One was Nigel Protter, a consultant with direct involvement in the private power industry and a rather destructive proposal involving the Ryan River, near Pemberton. Another was Ian Ferguson who resorted immediately to argumentum ad hominem:
Ahem, Uh, you guys do realize that most of you sound irrational and narcissistically self-absorbed? Oh, wait, probably not, eh?
He followed that with,
Sigh. Certitude without knowledge is a dangerous thing.
My response was,
Don’t worry Ian. You can set aside selfish purposes, open your mind to reality, study carefully and learn. Good luck, when you gain a degree of knowledge, you might even acquire a modicum of common sense and wisdom.
And his response:
Hey, thanks Norman… for proving both my points. Now, go look up the word “sanctimonious.”
Ferguson added not a single insight to the subjects under debate. He attempts to undermine opposing arguments by attacking persons instead of addressing arguments, a not unusual tactic of those with nothing to say. Like others who fear plebeian usurpers of the public stage, Ferguson ought to marshal his facts and hone his debating skills.
Public discourse may have been hijacked by professional propagandists promoting special interests, displacing the collective voice of ordinary citizens, but new media provides unprecedented freedom in the theatre of ideas. As Jody Paterson wrote at A Closer Look:
…there’s no hiding the growing prowess of B.C.’s political bloggers, who never sleep. Word spread fast.
Ferguson may not understand the motives of people who speak without remuneration or financial interests. He might consider words of John Edgar Wideman:
A speech to be performed because no one’s listening. Like singing in the shower: no one hears you, but don’t people sing their hearts out anyway, because the singing, the act itself, is also a listening to itself, so why not do your best to please yourself.