We asked questions.
We froze our butts 24 hours a day for a full week with little
government or media interest. The Edmonton Journal did
an interview, and my mug made it to the front page of the
newspaper. But the Kyoto Now! sign I was holding was
cropped out, and I had one quote about the Grey Cup
football game that weekend. The fate of the earth was
trumped by pigskin.
The Kyoto Protocol was in serious limbo. In order to
become international law, Canada and Russia would have
to sign on. Given that climate change is arguably the most
important survival issue of our time, Ralph Klein and
Alberta were standing in the way of Canada signing on.
Eventually Canada did ratify the treaty, but at that point in
time it was far from clear if Chrétien would stay the course.
It was an epic struggle. On one side, the largest
corporations on the planet - the oil, gas and car industries
alongside Ralph Klein and the Government of Alberta. On
the other side the little guy from Shawinigan, intent on
signing Kyoto as part of his legacy as Prime Minister of
Canada, much of the Canadian public, and a little guy
from Montreal, former Edmonton City Councillor and
I hit the road, preaching the benefits of Kyoto in Edmonton,
Edson, Rocky Mt. House, Calgary, and Lethbridge. But
didn't make a dent in the mantra we heard night after night
on the news -- that Kyoto would be dire for Alberta.
So what do you do when the earth is being terrorized, the
life support systems of the planet yanked out bit by bit by
powerful vested interests? What's a conscious, concerned
person to do?
When so much is as stake, isn't an informed person obliged
to act? To take a chance? To be bold? The great American
writer Henry David Thoreau wrote of the duty of civil
disobedience. He said that citizens should act on their
consciences, to do what's right even if it means breaking
the law. "Let your life be a friction to the machine" he said.
I decided to occupy Ralph Klein's Calgary office, to focus
attention on the promise of Kyoto, of how good it could be,
of how Klein was lying.
With Jerry rolling tape and a suitcase full of food and
water, we walked into Klein's Calgary Elbow constituency
office and spoke with Betty his assistant. I wanted a
response from the Premier about the Lost Document. She
said we should be patient. After a half hour discussion of
the benefits of wind power and the dangers of burning ever
increasing amounts of coal, oil and natural gas, she told us
we would have to leave.
"I'm not leaving" I said, until I received a response from
Klein. She called security. We scoped out the office, and
discovered the vault.
Once locked inside, I did a number of media interviews
before my cell phone went dead. To my delight there was
a fax machine in the vault, and it was working.
I looked around and found a sheet of Ralph Klein, Premier
letterhead. Pen in hand I jotted down that I was inside
Klein's vault to bring attention to the Lost Document which
proved that Kyoto would be good for Alberta. I included
the website address, and faxed away to my media list. I
even faxed the Premier at home for good measure.
Then the lights went out, so I faxed by the light of my
lighter. I heard noises from outside - they were trying to
open the vault. I knew my time was limited.
I spied a large Stars and Stripes. I wonder if it was a gift
from Klein's Houston oil buddies. Or perhaps ExxonMobil.
After an hour and a half I heard the lever moving. I grabbed
it, heaving my weight to prevent it from turning, and
suddenly, down it went.
A band of Calgary's finest SWAT team, uniformed to the
hilt, lunged at me, rifles perched, shouting at me to get on
the ground. Pouncing on me, they pinned me to the ground,
sliced off my knapsack, and yelled, all at once. "Relax", I
shouted back. "I'm trained in the art of civil disobedience.
I am a non-violent protester."
They gruffly handcuffed my hands behind my back, hoisted
me up, and walked me into the office. There awaited a
cadre of cops. One threw my winter coat over my head, like
a shamed criminal, and frog-marched me out of the office
into the public corridor.
The sound changed outside the office. I ducked my head
and the coat fell to the ground. "Why is Ralph Klein afraid
of the Lost Document?" I asked the TV cameras as the
police threw my coat back over my head, leading me away
to a waiting cruiser.
At the police station I'm stripped and all my belongings
taken away from me. I'm left with a t-shirt, pants (no belt)
underwear and socks, and left in a white cell, alone.
I pace the room, entertained by the graffiti on the walls.
Then my heart stops: there is a big swastika scraped from
the paint. It must be 2 feet square, the most obvious graffiti
in the cell.
As a Jew, and an anti-racist, this deeply offended me. I
stared at it, dumbfounded. I tried scraping the paint off
with my fingernail, but no luck.
I notice my pants have a brass button. I drop them, scrape
away the swastika's power by turning it into a square, and
put my pants back on.
A few hours later two burly cops come into my cell,
towering over me, close to me. One growls, "Take off
your shirt". So I take off my shirt.
"Take off your pants". Uh oh. What's coming now? Are
they going to humiliate me? Rape me? What?
"Take off my pants?" I ask, incredulous. "Take off your
pants" the cop bellows. I take off my pants, and throw
them on the ground.
"We're taking these as evidence. You damaged public
property" and they're off with my clothes.
After 26 hours I'm back on the streets.
My day in court is March 1-3, 2004. I have several charges
against me, including mischief - for interfering with the
operation of the office, and theft - for taking a small
Alberta flag, meant for constituents, worth no more than
a quarter (but not, interestingly, for cracking open the
champagne). And I've been charged for damaging public
property when I effaced the swastika.
I look forward to my day in court, when I can ask how long
the swastika had been there, and was the person who
scratched the swastika also charged with damage to public
property, and why hadn't it been removed?
But most importantly, I look forward to establishing the
seriousness of the climate crisis, and the need for
government actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
We will get expert testimony on the contents and value of
the material in the Lost Document. And we'll argue that the
Charter of Rights and Freedoms ensures our right of protest
and freedom of expression.
We'll argue that locking myself in Ralph Klein's vault was
a political act, in the long tradition of non-violent civil
disobedience, from Gandhi's salt march in India to Rosa
Parks refusing to go to the back of the bus in Montgomery
We have a right, and a duty, to protest when horrible things
are being done by our governments. That is a cornerstone
of democracy. Without political pressure, things rarely
change. But with letters and petitions, articles and rallies,
sit ins and occupations, the message can get through to
government to act.
Around the world the coral reefs are dying off due to
warmer ocean temperatures. The polar bears are in trouble
due to warmer water and less ice to fish from. 20,000
people died in Europe in the summer of 2003 due to
extreme heat, exactly the sort of weather one would expect
in a climate changed world. Alberta has been suffering
through the worst droughts in its history, and serious
concerns are being raised about dramatically shrinking
The world's climate scientists say that we need to reduce
our greenhouse gas emissions by 60-80%. Kyoto is just a
tiny first step. With public involvement and pressure on
politicians, perhaps Canada can begin moving.
The Lost Doc shows that Kyoto is not bitter medicine, but
actually an opportunity disguised as a problem. When we
realize that we can save money, create employment and
protect the environment through Lost Doc-type initiatives,
a huge new potential is unleashed. The power to change.
(closing paragraph about the power of individuals to make
a difference, to stand up and be counted)
For more information:
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
Stories of ecology and activism,
including short, inspiring green films:
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Last edited by Peter Blanchard on Sat Apr 03, 2004 7:10 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 03, 2004 2:11 pm Post subject: RELATED LINKS, ORGANIZATIONS, RESOURCES: Reply with quote
RELATED LINKS, ORGANIZATIONS, RESOURCES:
Tooker & Angela on Climate Change
Tooker & Angela on Kyoto
Tooker & Angela on Renewable Energy
Energy Links, Organizations, Resources, Renewables...
Executive Summary of the Lost Document
The Lost Document -- Corporate Media's spin...
Being an Activist, Changing the World
By Tooker & Angela: www.greenspiration.org/Article/TenCommandments.html
By Elizabeth May: www.sierraclub.ca/national/activist.html
Nonviolent Civil Resistance & Protest
Become the Media, Alternative & Mainstream Media Guide
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 31, 2004 10:13 pm Post subject: to Tooker from Amanda Reply with quote
[posted on behalf of Amanda Dainow]
Letter to the Editor, Chronicle-Herald Halifax
To the Editor,
I am shocked and deeply saddened at the loss of Tooker Gomberg. He has been one of my greatest inspirations in the fight for environmentalism and social justice. I admired him from afar for several years, and finally had the true honour of knowing him personally. He was not only a com/passionate and brilliant activist, he was a genuinely kind, honest, helpful and deeply caring person. He and his partner Angela were awesome together.
Tooker really will be missed, by those who knew him and by environmental/social justice communities. I never apologize for the loss of someone, but in this case, I am very sorry – for those who had yet to know him, and for the policies and minds he had yet to influence.
As it pours rain outside, it seems as if the Earth is mourning the loss of one of her finest defenders. Seeing and hearing about the plethora of extremely creative initiatives Tooker had organized, and reading the multitude of articles he had written, across a range of topics, continues to inspire me to this day, and whenever I seek inspiration, I think of the many significant contributions he has made, across the country and abroad.
– Amanda Dainow
A personal letter I wrote and meant to give to Tooker:
I just wanted to let you know that though you have no way of knowing it, you have been an immeasurable inspiration to me.
I first became aware of you and your activism during the public meetings for the proposed Adams Mine in Ontario. I remember reading the green mayoral leaflet you had published, with your picture at the top, and the issues you were addressing, checked off on the side. I read it enthusiastically, then took it home and presented it to my dad, at the time, the only voter in the house, attempting to convince him to vote for you as mayor, explaining that you were a real novelty – someone who was really passionate about the environment, and someone who I knew would make Toronto and Ontario better places, to live and to have a future. I think I somehow convinced him.
I remember you biking around the city and handing out these flyers, getting to know people and discussing the issues, as always, in the process. I thought you were so awesome that when the Student Environment Network (SEN) was discussing keynote speakers for our high school environmental conference, I insisted that we have you as one, and everyone agreed. Of course, politics became a bit of an issue, and it was discussed whether we should have Eleanor, our staff mentor and board rep, introduce you, or one of us students. Because I was so set on having you speak, everyone agreed that I should introduce you, and, needless to say, I was really excited.
When you gave your speech to the 200 plus high school students and staff at the conference, the entire auditorium was blown away. Even those who had been falling asleep woke up and were called to action. I was also lucky (and determined) enough to monitor your workshop, which of course had the same effect. Everyone in the room could feel the energy radiating from you as you spoke about the many innovative projects you had done, across the country, and there wasn't one student who wasn't inspired.
After meeting you in person, seeing your slides, and hearing you describe your many enthralling adventures, I was compelled to become even and ever more active environmentally. I resolved to do whatever I could, no matter how small, to help the planet, and help the people of Earth understand and get involved. I was so impressed by your presence, I wanted to invite you to speak at my high school's Earth Week assembly, but unfortunately you were unable to. I checked and received updates from greenspiration, and was really impressed with the site and the continuity of your efforts. I knew that you and Angela must be a fantastic team, to do so many amazing things and so much outreach to defend the planet.
You may not remember these events, and it is totally understandable, having experienced so incredibly much, and having met so very many people in so many places as you have. I just thought you should know. It's probably just me being silly, but it is a little intimidating to speak to someone so incredibly knowledgeable and talented as yourself. You are such a compelling speaker, a passionate politician (which has become an oxy-moron in this society), a sharp writer, a powerful environmental/social activist and a compassionate person. You have bravery the likes of which Canada has never seen, and I really admire how you apply your knowledge and know-how creatively, appropriately and intelligently. Your actions are eye-catching, original and direct, and your articles are very poignantly and intelligently written. You live a very simple life, while dealing with the most complex issues, and make them accessible and appealing to the public. I really appreciate the fact that you live exactly the way that you speak of; you are totally honest and genuine, showing that the personal is political; there could only ever be one Tooker Gomberg.
I was happily surprised and overwhelmed when I heard that Angela had been hired as the TRAX coordinator at the EAC, and that you were both living and working here. I felt as if somehow fate had brought us all together, to join forces to fight for the planet. I had wanted to know you better personally and assist you in any campaigns or events you were spearheading in Toronto, but I guess it just didn't happen – maybe it wasn't the right time.
I hoped that this was my second, real chance to have the privilege of working with you, and getting to know you. I was already getting a bit involved with the EAC, and then I met you both at various events. I brought my partner along, and we had the joyful and educational experiences of participating in the Car Free Day space demo and Critical Masses. It was really exciting for me to try out the space frames you had described to us at the SEN conference, one of the many ingenious patented Tooker Gomberg creations.
Your ideas amaze me: they are absolutely accessible, fun, effective, attractive and completely your own. We are always eager to read any of the many consistent articles you write, on a variety of topics, for a variety of causes and publications. You are so versatile, with such an extensive background knowledge, and such an immense amount of life experience – that's why I feel intimidated, though it has nothing to do with you personally – you have always been very kind, generous and helpful to me. I will never forget how you helped me fix my kick stand in the EAC after a freezing protest against seismic testing; I felt so honoured to have THE Tooker Gomberg help me fix my bike!
I love your collaborative films with Uberculture; your large film repertoire is, of course, also really impressive. Your talents and knowledge never end. The saddest and most aggravating thing is when activists tire of being active, and distance themselves from the issues, fading into ignorance, and virtually giving up, becoming comfortable and complacent. I really admire you for not giving in, or giving up, continuously fighting for the future, and not sacrificing care for comfort. You are entirely true to your word, and that is a real, extremely rare virtue.
You work around the clock and around the country, doing more in a day than most people do in their lives. Your energy and efforts amaze me, and you always have several projects on the go. You have won many victories for the environment, and are, as you should be, a nationally-celebrated environmental defender. You make witty, radical but entirely plausible suggestions and use theatre and humour to poke fun at silly laws and politics, while calling attention to very important issues which are otherwise ignored. You and Angela are the best team anyone could put together. I know that you help her out constantly, which she appreciates, and so do I and the others at the EAC and in the environmental community. You add so much substance and life to everything you do, whether it's something you're participating in, like TRAX, or something you're organizing, like a couch demo or a city-wide compost program. You always make me feel welcome, saying hi or offering me snacks (I'm sorry I wrote so much about myself in this letter.)
You inspired me throughout my high school years, and continue to inspire me years later, several provinces over. I am so grateful that I have had the chance to learn about you and the issues you have been raising, and advocating so hard for, and that I have a second chance, to get to know you as a person as well. You are the best activist in Canada, putting yourself out there and on the line all the time, never stopping, stepping back or stepping down. I cannot tell you enough how much I appreciate what you have done for me, for the people of Canada and the world, and for the Earth. You have shown the power of one person, or a small group of citizens, making change, encouraging others, myself included, to fight for what is right and what we believe in. In my eyes, you are a national hero, a true revolutionary, and Canada's most effective spokesperson for the future. I'd be more than happy to help you with any future projects.
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 30, 2004 11:47 pm Post subject: Tooker's last column: Every Breath You Take (plus links and Reply with quote
Tooker's last column
Stir It Up column / Tooker Gomberg
Every Breath You Take
I remember when people used to blow toxic fumes into my lungs while I waited in line at the bank or the cinema.
Now smokers are banned from most public indoor spaces, treated like pariahs and forced outside to burn their du Mauriers. Cigarette packages display graphic pictures of diseased lungs and warnings of the dangers of tobacco smoke. Advertising is banned. And voila – the quality of indoor air is dramatically improved.
The air outside is another story. Every breath you take is laced with a cocktail of toxic gases and poisonous particles delivered to you by the largest corporations on Earth: the oil and the car corporations.
When the horizon turns orange and smog gets in your eyes, all those tailpipes are largely to blame. Noxious car fumes are especially damaging to the lungs of those most vulnerable: the young and the elderly. Everyone knows someone suffering from asthma – one in ten Canadians has the disease, and the rate is even higher among children.
The costs of all this automobile use are enormous. One report concluded that the costs of car crashes in Alberta alone topped three billion dollars annually. That’s approximately $1000 per person. Add to that another ten billion dollars spent annually in Canada for roads, highways and parking lots. Subtract 250,000 people around the world who die annually in car crashes – and that doesn’t include those killed or maimed by smog. The sum total: a huge and preventable carnage.
Let’s borrow a few tools from the anti-smoking toolkit and push for a major reduction in toxic tailpipe emissions from our overuse of cars. Here are some ideas to get started.
Warning labels. Every car sold in Canada should have a warning label affixed to its bumper. Possible slogans: Cars are the greatest killer of kids in Canada. The more you drive the greater the risks of climate catastrophe. Get healthy. Ride a bike, or walk. Thank you for not smogging. Improve your carma. Stop driving.
“Kick the Car Habit” information should be included with every car sold, every licence issued, every driving lesson. Autoholics Anonymous chapters should be set up in cities and towns across the land and a toll-free number could offer help to those who want to break their car driving addiction and save money by driving less.
Ban car ads. New drivers are seduced through slick, expensive and sophisticated advertising campaigns. Car ads should be prohibited because driving is a dangerous activity, killing around 3000 Canadians annually in crashes alone, not including those who lose their lives or are sickened from air pollution. The federal government estimates that every year 16,000 Canadians die prematurely from dirty air.