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Activist Tooker Gomberg missing, presumed dead


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I met him a couple years ago when he came to speak at Laurier. He was quite inspiring. Its too bad he's gone. RIP
Alex D. from TRIBE on Utility Room

Day Dream

TRIBE Member
from a environment e-news letter


It is with great sadness that I report that Tooker Gomberg,
writer, politician and environmentalist, is missing and
presumed dead.

All indications are that he took his life on March 4th.
He leaves behind his partner, Angela Bischoff.

Originally from Montreal, Tooker spent time in Edmonton
and Toronto before moving to Halifax in 2003. Tooker was
an inspired writer, activist and green crusader. He touched
the lives of many -- through his Greenspiration project, his
remarkable mayoral campaign in Toronto, and many many
other projects and writings.

To learn more about Tooker, to read his writings, ideas,
news coverage and discussion, please see the links below.

Planetfriendly.net has created an on-line discussion
forum where you can share your thoughts and feelings
about Tooker, his life and ideas. To see the posts and
discussion, or to add your own comments, go to:

Groups in Halifax, Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton are
planning memorials. If you hear the details of any public
gatherings, please post them on the above forum.

We've also created a forum for your thoughts on how
to create stronger, more supportive community for
environmentalists, activists and everyone who is
working for a better, more sustainable world:

Any announcements, updates or discussion related
to this message will be posted on the forum.

- Peter Blanchard


Tooker Gomberg - Online Discussion & Announcements

Globe & Mail - Tooker Gomberg presumed dead:
(or follow this link and scroll down to Globe & Mail:
http://www.planetfriendly.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=55 )

Greenspiration -- Tooker & Angela's "around-the-world
odyssey documenting and sharing inspiring ecological stories"

Tooker Gomberg -- Writings and Links

Being an Activist, Changing the World

Caring too much, caring too little, by Peter Blanchard

Creating Stronger Community -- Links, Resources, Discussion

"Take care of yourself and each other" - Tooker Gomberg

Klubmasta Will

TRIBE Member

props once again to a very influential activist. i wonder if he had any idea how many people his actions actually inspired? check out some of the links in day dream's post above.

any news on the toronto memorial?
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TRIBE Member
Here's the NOW article:



Tooker Gomberg, (1955-2004) who is presumed to have died last week in Halifax from depression-induced suicide, was one of the most optimistic and zestful social change activists I ever met. Tooker coined the term "greenspiration" to define his approach to public education, because he believed that environmentally friendly changes were also people- and economy-friendly, so change just required a liberating rethink, not suffering. He believed people would alter their mindset and their habits if eco communications were shocking but well crafted.

That's why he became a multimedia artist of public theatre, using his craft to inscribe new possibilities and policy ideas on the canvas of the public mind.

The fruits of Tooker's guerrilla-art approach to political art are legendary. My personal favourite was his pretend bank heist in Montreal. While running as a federal candidate in the mid-90s, he and a merry band of rascals in Robin Hood green led the media in a fake bank holdup that held up government fiscal policy as a force that steals from the poor to give to the rich. His actions were carried out with such good humour and positive energy – never with any trace of meanness, violence or destruction – precisely because he believed that people in large numbers could be won over. All he was doing with his policy art was tickling the public funny bone to loosen up people's greenspiration.

I first got to know Tooker about a decade ago around more hardcore policy initiatives. He was a city councillor in Edmonton at the time, one of the first municipal politicians in Canada to champion the idea that cities could create jobs and save money by conserving energy.

He convinced Edmonton engineers to adopt a scheme whereby a small city investment was used to pay for energy efficiency retrofits to an energy hog of a hockey arena. In this brilliant plan, the arena's yearly savings in operating costs were then applied to the city's second-worst energy hog, and so on. The entire program, save for the modest initial investment, was to be financed exclusively through savings.

This program became one of the prototypes that now inspires the multi-million-dollar green municipal fund operated by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, a major vehicle delivering energy savings to meet Canada's Kyoto commitments.

Bad-boy Mel Lastman, no slouch when it came to stunts, met his match in Tooker. As Toronto's mayor, Lastman turned moose statues into icons. Tooker, who never met an icon he couldn't spoof, filled a hollow moose with garbage to show what he thought about the impact of the Adams Mine proposal to haul Toronto's garbage to real moose habitat in Northern Ontario.

It was the Coalition for a Green Economy, which I chaired, that hired Tooker to use his art to break open the public debate on the mine. He succeeded, and the deal was eventually undone after a shrewd legal exposé by then-councillor David Miller.

Less remembered is the fact that Tooker also took the lead in the quiet, reflective work of creating policy alternatives to hauling garbage hundreds of miles away to a Northern Ontario pit. He, Cameron Smith, Jack Layton and others in the Green Coalition did the development work on the idea that organic scraps – about a third of what goes into the typical garbage pail – could be converted to methane and used as the base for a relatively low-cost, renewable, low-pollution fuel source.

By making the public case for this option, which is what saved the day in terms of showing there was a positive option to replace the Adams Mine scheme, Tooker was the greenspiration behind Toronto's new green boxes, which are now poised to transport our organic scraps to a useful afterlife. And a beautiful deep lake can now grow in the pit of the Adams Mine. I'd like to see it called Tooker Lake.

I loved talking with Tooker, but to be honest, I never felt comfortable walking with him. He deemed the car a public enemy, an enemy of public space. A person who lived his beliefs, he was not a safe person to stroll with.

I remember navigating the streets around Ryerson University with him, listening to him talk about one of his heroes, Abbie Hoffman, the original Yippie, master stuntman, comic and author of Steal This Book. Tooker wanted to write a book like that one, something that would inspire people to take control of their lives. I can't recall too much of that conversation. My mind was fixated on dodging the cars that kept screeching on their brakes as Tooker walked in front of them, daring them to challenge his right to public space.

Tooker was a lucky man in many ways. He had a keen mind, an adventuring spirit and a wonderfully joyous and loyal life partner in Angela Bischoff.

But I talked with him a few times when he was really down during the months before he left Toronto. It was then that I understood what a black hole with no bottom really meant. It shook me to my core.

Thinking about the fate of such greats as Phil Ochs, Abbie Hoffman and Tooker, I often wonder if brilliant social change artists suffer severe depression because their gifts of acute mind-bending sensitivity come with a price – they lack the membranes to filter out the pain of the world. The incurable invasion of that pain leaves them without hope, which Tooker could not live without, for hope was at the centre of his all-too-short life.


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From this week's NOW:


The piece below was written by the late eco activist Tooker Gomberg on Earth Day 2002. He was suffering from severe depression at the time, and this was a private exercise for his therapist as he battled burnout.

It's another strange day for me. Things have been strange for eight months or more. I used to be an activist. Now I don't know what I am. Did you ever read the Kafka story about the guy who wakes up and he has turned into a cockroach? My mind is in a fog. I can't think very clearly. Making a sandwich takes a long time. I have to concentrate on every step along the way, and I am moving very slowly and deliberately. I feel stunned and spaced out most of the time. Today is Earth Day, but I feel I am on another planet.

I have been spending lots of time in bed, mostly sleeping, dozing and dreaming. My mind has melted down, though I am told that it will come back once the depression lifts – whenever that is. For some people it's months or years. Others never get out of it.

But I am writing to you about activism. Amory Lovins, the great energy efficiency guru, once called me a Hyper-Activist. I guess that's what I was. I lived, breathed and focused on activism. It kept me thinking, inspired, interested and alive.

But it also allowed me to ignore other things in life that now, suddenly, I realize. This makes me sad and despondent. I used to enjoy cooking, but stopped. I always liked kids, but never really thought about having kids. Changing the world was more important, and having a kid would interfere.

I didn't develop my mind in a broad way, learning about music and art and theatre and poetry, for example. I never really thought about a career – I was living my life, not worrying about the trappings and credentials of the boring status-quo world.

Maybe I was living in a bubble of naïveté. I never wanted to be "normal" anyway. Maybe it was the tear gas and last summer's smog. Maybe I pushed my brain too hard and over-stressed it with the (pro-Kyoto) passport burning or 20 years of pushing against the juggernaut. Maybe 9/11 firmed up my worries into a real fear that working for change is really dangerous.

It could just be a physiological response to too much coffee. Maybe I've burned out my adrenal glands. Maybe my brain is poisoned from so much thinking about tragic ecological issues and being frustrated by the slow rate of improvement and the rapid destruction of the living world. Could my brain have been damaged when I was close to dying from heat stroke in Vietnam in 1998?

I should have developed a deeper kinship with my family and with people. Don't get me wrong. I had lots of friends and acquaintances in the activist world. But they were not deep friends of the heart. I neglected my heart, and how I was feeling about things. Now that I'm in crisis, I don't really have the language to connect with people. The silence is easier than trying to explain what I'm going through, or to relate to other people's issues or problems.

So what advice can I offer? Stay rounded. Do the activism, but don't overdo it. If you burn out or tumble into depression, you'll become no good to anyone, especially yourself. When you're in this state, nothing seems worthwhile and there's nothing to look forward to.

It's honourable to work to change the world, but do it in balance with other things. Explore and embrace the things you love to do. Don't drop hobbies or enjoyments. Be sure to hike and dance and sing. Keeping your spirit alive and healthy is fundamental.

I never really understood what burnout was. I knew that it affected active people, but somehow I thought I was immune to it. After all, I took breaks every now and then and went travelling. And all my work was done in partnership with Ange, the great love of my life.

But in the end, when burnout finally caught up with me, it was mega. It must have been because of the accumulation of decades of stress and avoidance. And now I find myself in a dark and confusing labyrinth, trying to feel my way back to sanity and calm.

So take this warning seriously. If you start slipping, notice yourself losing enthusiasm and becoming deeply disenchanted, take a break and talk to a friend about it. Don't ignore it.

The world needs all the concerned people it can get. If you can stay in the struggle for the long haul, you can make a real positive contribution and live to witness the next victory!
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thanks for posting that!

the mind of an intelligent depressive person can be a sad and fascinating place. reading that made my heart heavy. it sounds a bit like a suicide note, or at least like final words. :(

Booty Bits

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man, thats hard to read.
his advice is really, really great though.
no one can give themselves over to an external cause so much without sacrificing part of their soul.
such a loss.
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TRIBE Member
wow....that is soo sad :(
but good i guess...he did do SO many positive things, so rather than mourning the loss of him we should be celebrating the fact that there are people so dedicated to creating positive change!
i want to be inspired instead of depressed by that...