Few small cities can lay claim to the celebrity connection that Fort McMurray does. And likely none wants to shed the limelight those celebs bring, faster than this city of 67,000 located in Alberta’s northeast.
Typically, when stars of song and screen mention your city’s name, it’s a boon for tourism, recognition, and to some degree, legitimacy. However, when celebrities pontificate to the masses of the evils of industries such as Fort McMurray’s oil sands, citing dubious information or playing the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do game, it does a disservice to the image of the community, to its residents and workers, and to those companies investing billions of dollars into the economy while producing the most in-demand product in the world.
Regardless of the method used, discovering and producing oil and gas is not the most sanitary of businesses. The demand for oil and gas has been increasing steadily for decades, and despite our plentiful reserves, we are still largely reliant on foreign oil from countries such as Russia, Venezuela, and those in the Middle East.
The inconvenient truth is that this burgeoning demand for oil is not created by countries. It comes from you. You soccer moms, commuters, and anyone stepping on an accelerator. Your plastic totes storing stuff you’re convinced you will use again, the film wrap protecting your sandwiches at lunchtime, and even your toothbrush are made from products that started their life, at least in part, as oil. Let’s face it, fossil fuels have become an inseparable part of our daily life. That’s okay. Our evolving and prevailing demand now is that we find cleaner ways to produce and process fossil fuels. And that’s okay too.
Public sentiment and internal corporate pressure to become more efficient drives resource companies to find and invest in new technologies for producing their products. Fort McMurray’s oil sands industry can be held in high esteem for their inventions and applications in reducing emissions, reclaiming land used in the production of heavy crude, aggressively mitigating the effect their operations have on wildlife, recovering tailings previously thought to be waste, and being the unsung heroes in driving the economy of our nation.
Is there more work to be done? Definitely. And nobody in Fort McMurray would argue the point.
Comparatively speaking, however, putting Fort McMurray on trial for being dirty and destructive while ignoring current environmental disasters wreaking havoc on countless ecosystems is misleading at best.
A mammoth underwater well spewing raw oil into the Gulf of Mexico akin to that of BP’s 2010 much-hyped and devastating Horizon Deepwater leak that saw roughly 5 million barrels of oil contaminate the waters and shorelines of Gulf states, threatens to put BP’s record-breaking blight to shame. Nobody is talking about Taylor Energy’s sunken platform #23051 leaking up to a reported 700 barrels of oil per day, and it has been leaking since Hurricane Ivan ripped through the Gulf in 2004. Damage estimates already run into the billions of dollars with no end in sight. Nobody is accepting responsibility. No celebrities here wagging their admonishing finger and demanding someone clean up their act.
Even “green” energy solutions come with dark clouds. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 300,000 birds are killed annually in those huge rotating blades of wind turbines. Again, no celebs speaking out with the disgust levied against Fort McMurray’s oil sands.
Fracking. Nuclear reactors. Coal-fired electric generating plants. There are plenty more examples in North America that pose environmental complications, the point being that picking on the low hanging fruit of Fort McMurray’s oil sands only serves to ingratiate celebrities to a well-meaning, albeit, ill-informed public and spread misinformation, all the while these same celebrities engage in behaviors that are wasteful beyond that of the average Joe and Jane.
Leo to his friends, Mr. DiCaprio finally garnered the support he needed and was awarded his first Oscar in 2016 for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his part in The Revenant, a film shot partly in Alberta. DiCaprio used the platform of his acceptance speech to state (in part), “Climate change is real, it is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating. We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters, but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous people of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people out there who would be most affected by this. For our children’s children, and for those people out there whose voices have been drowned out by the politics of greed.”
DiCaprio is a fine actor and leading man in Hollywood. He personally visited Fort McMurray to “research” the oil sands for a documentary. Somewhere along the way of his ongoing critical commentary of the oil and gas industry in general, and the oil sands in particular, he forgot to inform his adoring fans of his wasteful energy practices.
Owning multi-million dollar homes, using private jets and the world’s fifth largest yacht, Topaz, (owned by a Middle Eastern oil tycoon) and measuring a whopping 453 feet in length, destroys DiCaprio’s moral authority to be preaching restraint while his carbon footprint sprawls.
Topaz photo source moneyinc.com
It would be difficult to name a more recognizable Canadian singer and songwriter than Ontario’s own Neil Young. With over 50 years of award-winning recording under his belt, his music is iconic and often reflects the moods of the era.
Flying over Fort McMurray in 2013, Young later reportedly commented (in part), “The fact is, Fort McMurray looks like Hiroshima. Fort McMurray is a wasteland.” There can be no confusion over where Young’s line in the proverbial sand is.
Neil Young owns multiple homes, including a 1500 acre ranch in California, flies in private jets, and takes upwards of five tour busses and several semis when he tours.
Here is a link to a view of Neil Young's massive home from VirtualGlobtrotting.com
Integrity is what seems to drive Young these days, unless you count his ranch built on indigenous lands (the tribe seemingly slaughtered long ago, as was the norm), or the straggling carbon footprint from his touring operations, or the 23 million dollar home in Hawaii that he recently sold. It takes utilities to run those houses. Where does the energy for them come from, Neil?
Other notable celebrities spouting their negative opinions about Fort McMurray have included Jane Fonda, James Cameron, and Jann Arden.
It is doubtful anyone would want to stifle intelligent conversations from occurring on what is perhaps the most important topic in the history of mankind. The way each of us has contributed to the waste on this planet is cause for concern and we all must be part of the solution. But the answer does not include those with celebrity platforms spreading what amounts to as gossip while attempting to enhance their public relations credibility or making themselves seem otherwise relevant.
Celebrities are entitled to their opinions. However, when they speak publicly about any issue, it generates media coverage, and we all know media just loves negativity. If the same celebrities noted above were to expound the virtues of discovering and processing fossil fuels, nary a peep would be reported, and the masses would think their fuel, and products derived from petroleum products, somehow just came into being, much in the same way those who believe their food comes from the supermarket but don’t want any animal slaughtered.
Let us communicate and debate significant issues with respect, armed with rational data, and commit to solving complicated topics together. Mudslinging by celebrities at hard working men and women just out earning their daily bread, at a community not reduced to sucking at the dry nipples of government handouts, or at an industry at the forefront of delivering world-class scientific innovation and the energy you demand, is as ugly and greedy as the Fort McMurray they claim exists.