Tuesday, 10 September 2013

When Neil Young & Daryl Hannah Came to Town

A couple weeks ago I wanted to let my family and friends know what was going on in my life and I tweeted that I was going to be filming with Neil Young and Daryl Hannah in Fort McMurray. I was not prepared for the reaction. My phone was immediately blowing up with media requests to find out what was going on. Reaction from people commenting on social media in the community ranged from concern to rage over how Fort McMcMurray would be portrayed by these people who have a clear environmental agenda.

I refrained from commenting in the media ahead of time because I wasn't sure how much publicity they wanted and I didn't want to ruin my chances of working with these people. I agreed to an interview with Wallis Snowden at Mix 103.7 after filming was over and she presented a fair and brief synopsis of our interview to the listeners. I'd like to offer my readers a more detailed account of what transpired.

Background


I was contacted a few weeks ago by Neil's production company Shakey Pictures and asked if I would be available to shoot some arial footage from a helicopter for Neil's documentary. I've done this kind of work in the past and was recommended by the helicopter company. The details of the project were not all that clear, the only thing I knew for sure was that the documentary was about Neil's 1959 Lincoln Continental convertible that he had a team of specialists convert into a cellulosic ethanol burning hybrid dubbed The Lincvolt.

The production company explained that this was a documentary a few years in the making and production had stalled after the films producer, a long-time friend of Neil's named Larry Johnson, passed away suddenly in 2010. The documentary centers around The Lincvolt from its inception and development to Neil's travels with it across North America promoting the idea that we can be more conscious consumers of energy while still being bad-ass (my words). Filming was originally supposed to take place on Thursday August 28th but Neil stopped and visited his friend Daryl Hannah on the way here and she wanted to join him so they pushed the shoot back a couple days.

I was obviously concerned that this production was going to present an unfair portrait of my community so I wanted to make sure that I was able to provide them with options that presented a more balanced view of the community and the industry. To that end I had well know community cheerleader Theresa Wells and environmentally conscious oil sands development advocate Ken Chapman on standby to be available for interviews if I was able to convince the production team to hear their stories. I also arranged with Joey Hundert the CEO of Sustainival, the worlds first green carnival,  to accommodate Neil and the production crew should I be able to convince them to film at this carnival powered by used cooking oil. In the end there, while they were polite and curious about this picture of Fort McMurray, it wasn't on the production agenda.

Impressions


Meeting the production crew at the Chateau Nova I found them all to be friendly and professional people. Ken Chapman happened by and Neil chatted with us around his and Daryl's cars for quite some time. Neil seemed genuinely surprised and impressed with some of the green initiatives happening in the community. He seemed to know little about the oil sands industry, he'd never heard of SAGD for example. His understanding seemed to be that bitumen is mined by digging giant open pits, using tonnes of water, and creating giant tailings ponds. He was unaware of the advances that have been made.

The first song I ever practiced, perfected and played live at Paddy McSwiggins with my garage band was Rockin' In The Free World so I may be a tad bias here but I really liked Neil. Neil introduced me to his 34 year old son who his wheel chair bound with severe Cerebral Palsy and told me about how he had been given a life expectancy of 16 years. Neil explained how lucky he felt to have been blessed with the resources needed to keep him alive this long and I admired his resolve to keep his son by his side determined to give him the opportunity to experience life to the fullest.

Daryl was a very nice lady, ever since the movie Splash I've thought so. I got the sense that she wasn't all that interested in the hearing a counter narrative or anything that might create cognitive dissonance in her judgement on the oil sands. She asked me about how scary it was shooting film out of a helicopter and asked if I was an adrenaline junkie. While the rest of us were chatting about the community and the oil sands industry she was more interested in picking sweet grass and posting her stickers around. She gave me an encouraging hug after filming and told me I did a great job, which was nice but nobody had actually seen my footage yet. That moment pretty much encapsulated my sense of her, a lady with a huge heart who makes judgement's with little information.

The thing I admire most about Neil and Daryl is the fact that they are trying really hard to make a difference in this world. Daryl has been arrested for standing up for what she believes in. She is diligent about practicing what she preaches and lives off the grid generating her own energy from wind and solar and growing her own food. Not many environmentally active starlets have her integrity in this regard.

What Was Filmed



The production company chartered the chopper for a couple hours and asked me to get a list of shots. Mostly I shot the two cars driving around the highway by Syncrude and Suncor. They were essentially interested in shots of Mordor (my words) juxtaposed behind these beautiful cars. They also wanted shots of tailings ponds and industrial plants. We lucked out with a dramatic sky that had a dark rain cloud roll in over top of Syncrude while the nearby boreal forest was bathed in sunlight and blue sky, David Suzuki himself couldn't have asked Gaia for a better shot. The pilot and I also took the liberty of shooting some beautiful river valley, wetland and boreal forest shots while we had free time.

I was told that the previous day was spent with a First Nations Chief getting his story and they were planning on spending the next day with a First Nations Chief as well. The only other thing on their agenda was an interview with Dr. O'Connor in Edmonton to presumably talk about the ill health of First Nations people because of the industry upstream.

What we didn't shoot was as informative about the narrative as what we did shoot. We did not film any reclaimed land. We didn't film any new extraction operations using greener technology. We didn't film any industry experts. We didn't film Neil's diesel burning bus that his crew rode in. We didn't film the environmentally conscious community active in Fort McMurray. That stuff wasn't on the agenda.

Final Thoughts


All living things consume energy and pollute. Nature is as cruel as it is beautiful. Bacteria and viruses pollute this Earth and for the majority of our history have mercilessly put us in an early grave. Burning wood has improved our lives dramatically by allowing us to ingest more energy at less cost by cooking food and it keeps us warm. Our ability to find and harness energy has caused human life to flourish. Each energy source we innovate is not without it's detriments. Nearly 2 million people die prematurely each year in developing countries from inhaling cooking smoke, what they wouldn't give for the comparatively clean energy of coal generated electricity.

People in developing countries generally care very little about the environmental standards we care about, they are too busy trying to survive to worry about their carbon footprint or how many blooms their community gets. The good news is that the richer a country gets the more environmentally conscious it tends to get and the cleaner and more efficient its energy tends to become. This investment in clean technology requires wealth, and wealth requires energy abundance.

Neil Young himself proves this point in a number of ways. He is able to fight off the polluting secretions invading his sons lungs that would otherwise kill him if not for a fortuitous chain of events starting with the industrial revolution and all the wealth that it brought to the world that allowed a man enough free time to pursue a thing called rock stardom and afford round the clock care for his boy extending his life. His wealth also allowed him to pay a team of engineers and specialists to retrofit a classic car into a technological green marvel. His wealth allows him to pay for the energy expenditure to get cellulosic ethanol shipped from the one plant in the US that makes it to wherever his Lincvolt is. His wealth allows him to traverse the world with his entourage spreading the gospel of green. His wealth affords a helicopter to fly around and film him and that is okay. I promise you I do not mean this facetiously; getting to the cutting edge of cleaner technology creates a lot of pollution...always has. That's why I don't consider it hypocritical of Neil to preach clean energy while creating a bunch of pollution and why I'd like him to grant the rest of us the same consideration. We are conscientious adults with the same goals he has.

Hiroshima Seems Nice
One has to wonder about claims of genocide and holocaust that are thrown about so cavalierly by those with a mission to bring down the oil sands, I wonder what survivors of actual genocide must think. Neil recently stated that Fort McMurray looks like Hiroshima (I wonder if he meant Nuked Hiroshima or beautiful reclaimed Hiroshima today) and that Natives are sick and dying because of the oil sands activities. These are serious claims that paint a pretty bleak picture and seem to lack any evidence. One would simply have to look at life expectancy rates before and after the oil sands started developing in this region. Are we to believe that the First Nations people in this region have increased mortality and morbidity rates because of the oil sands development, that over a billion dollars worth of First Nation business per year has caused declining health? Seems to me that is backwards. We could also compare life expectancy in First Nation communities around the oil sands region to those of First Nations people in other less Hiroshima looking parts of Canada.

The other bit of Neil's message I take some umbrage with is his anti-Keystone XL stance. It seems a tad hypocritical to use the guns of government to cut people off from energy they want and force them to use OPEC conflict oil. Nobody is cutting Neil off from all the energy he's using and forcing him to burn bitumen, why would he do that to people who can't afford other sources of energy or who don't want to use bloody OPEC oil? In the same vein I don't want government pointing guns at land owners to force Keystone through their land. I just wish people would learn how to peacefully negotiate without constantly appealing to government to pull out guns on their behalf.

So Neil if you're reading this Keep on Rockin In The Free World! I dig your message of clean energy and I can't wait for affordable cleaner energy, one day if we extract enough oil and generate enough wealth like you we will be able to create a cleaner world and even be able to extend the lives of our sons and daughters and move on to a better energy source. If you would've looked a bit closer at the people in this community developing this resource you'd have found people of kindred spirit, we are concerned about the environment and about the health of those that live around the oil sands...this is where our children live. We want to leave this world a better place like you do and we have the energy to do just that. I challenge you to find a community of oil producers anywhere else in this world that more closely aligns with your values of stewardship and respect for this Earth and it's people. Not only do we not stone people to death, we don't even use plastic grocery bags.

46 comments:

  1. Nice to see a balanced responce Tim.

    Frustrating to have people with means come and comment while their place in life has mostly come from the success of this resource. The funds from people succeeding from jobs created by the demands of producing this resource allowed people to pay for these peoples success. Now they use it to tell us that was bad. Maybe a trip back to welfare or other poverty is needed for a better balnce.

    When people like this choose to pick on this type of pollution rather than the major pollution generating problems on earth the agenda is clear. They have chosen it simply because of its press they can generate and not the real issue. To me, these people are still press hungry and they simply choose to do it in a way that places them in another light.

    I wish they would look at the regulations like CANADA has and force other countries to follow suit or better that commitment to improve the methods used. As you have stated, many of the life saving abilities we have today is because of plastics and other items made today because of advancements made. From medical to every day products we see examples of good. Will we see some bad... yes, we have to as more stuff is made and we the puplic are made more aware of stuff today compared to yesterday.

    Well, this is my view.

    Mike D.

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    1. Thanks Mike. I'm a fan of marketing our oil as ethical even though Ezra Levant may have poisoned that term a bit with some of his hyperbole. Rather than seeking more government regulation I'm a fan of energy producers being disciplined by a marketplace of people who want to buy the most ethical energy sources. We definitely seem to be winning on the ethics front but you wouldn't know it based on the rhetoric of Young.

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  2. Talk about a wasteland. The methane spewing into the air from hydraulic fracturing is phenominal. The American government that he is so proud to sing of has endorsed this method of extracting oil and gas as the only way towards energy independence and has moved to shut down protest at every level of society. I do call Mr Diamond a hypocrite. It's easy to stand up and condemn the use of oil after you've made your millions from superfluous consumption. I don't hear any apologies for his use. We as North Americans use much more oil per capita than the rest of the world and we should be more conscious of recycling. On that I point I agree. Is Mr Diamond willing to give up everything in his life that come from the production of oil. Probably not. Talk is cheap Niel. Give up all those things you and your son don't need. Then you can talk.

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    1. Neil does not sing proudly of the American government, just the opposite actually. Why do all you people want to put Neil down just because he wants to live in California with his friends and fellow musicians?

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    2. It's Neil Young not Diamond...but whatever

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  3. Well said Tim. Your observations and impressions reflect my own from my conversations with Neil Young and some of his key people. I was disappointed in the over-the-top references in what is being attributed to Mr. Young about the oil sands. I wish they had taken the time to visit Sustainival and see the real community of Wood Buffalo. He did not see the people of the region who have come to the region from all over the planet for Fort McMurray. He did not see them enjoying family time on midway rides run on recycled cooking oil. Wood Buffalo residents aspire to be the most livable and sustainable northern community on the planet. It would have done Neil Young's heart good to see the progress being made to that goal.

    He told me we would be "shoulder to shoulder" with First Nations people in the region. That is admirable and he is not alone in that. There are lots of people who are trying to ensure aboriginal people benefit more from the development of the oil sands. We also have to be sure to learn from the wisdom of aboriginal people and apply that as we move to a more reclamation and restoration of the oil sands sites.

    There is lots of complexity and competing values inherent in the oil sands. It is unrealistic to expect people to grasp that in one visit. It is disappointing to me that we still see that the typical response from too many sources is to over-simplify the situation and get caught up in "he said versus she said" dialectics that is just a feigned debate.

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    1. Thank-you Ken. I really appreciated having you there providing information. You could see that Neil was impressed and curious about a lot of these initiatives and I could see his defence's also come up, "But what about the Tailings ponds!" I've held a few cherished ideologies in my time that were crushed by reason and evidence and it takes time and an open mind. I think Neil has been presented with a seed of doubt about his narrative and I sense that he has enough character to eventually be convinced by the facts...he fired up Skynyrd years ago with comments about Alabama and changed his mind and made amends down the road. That is something to admire.

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  4. Well said!
    I was in Janvier when Neil and Daryl visited. I was slightly put off by their presence there. We were in the middle of a cultural gathering with the aim to pass on Dene traditions to the community.
    Not one of them seemed to ask any relivent questions and only seemed to be concerned about obtaining shots for their vision of the documentary. I can assure you that there weren't any sick or dying "Indians" (Neil's words not mine)or animals present.
    A family member who was also at the gathering recently contacted Daryl to try and shed some light on the relationship that exists between the oil sands and the community. Her point of view was completely blasted and ignored by the actress! (again not too surprising considering what we witnessed by her that weekend)

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience. I can imagine the communtiy must feel a tad taken advantage of. Instead of seeing the humans that were alive and flourishing in front of him, he chose to see victims in need of his protection. He is a good man with a good heart but without philosophy, the ability to see truth-to see what is, we can't create a better world.

      I would love to get your contact info. My goal is to eventually tell the story of our community here in the middle of the forest and want to get a broad perspective. My email is tim.moen@me.com

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  5. Very well said. I love this perspective. So often we hear the negative impacts of the oil sands without the counter argument. I have recently learned about the measures many oil and gas companies are taking to preserve the natural environment. Their efforts are not always publicized. It is nice to see someone speak in defense of what feeds my family.
    Unless someone comes to me who doesn't travel, doesn't drive in a car or ride in a boat; they are just as guilty as those of us who make our living by supporting the efforts to produce the fuel we are all consuming.

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  6. Please send this to Darryl and Neil.
    They like art films.
    http://vimeo.com/43116909

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  7. This morning I drove past our white tailings sand on the way to Syncrude, as I have for the past 37 years and thought about what Neil Young had to say. Neil used to be one of my favorites, I have so many teenage memories which are revived whenever I hear his music. Neil always seemed to speak such down to earth truth. So this morning I felt betrayed.
    Rex Murphy broadcast CBC Cross Country Checkup from Mac Island a few months ago, Mark Little from Suncor eloquently said that we are the largest environment cleanup project in the world. We take thick black tarsand, which has for thousands of years been the cliffs on the banks of the Athabasca River, and turn it into white sand.
    As I drove past the white sand which used to be black I thought, we do an amazing job.
    The world needs our energy for now. I hope, someday we have viable alternatives, and good people will tell truths and that my teenage memories will continue to be conjured by Neil’s music.

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    1. I felt let down as well. You have reason to be proud sir. I don't work directly in the oil sands industry but I tip my hat to you guys for the thankless work you do bringing energy to the world.

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  8. I have lived here since 1976 and I’ve seen all the change prosperity can bring a small town. I’ve watched us go from boom to bust and back to boom at least twice since I’ve arrived. I have to admit it hurts when people make negative comments about my home, but I have a thick skin. People have been coming here for decades making disparaging comments about us and our town and happily cashing their pay checks. As luck would have it, I too met Neil Young on this trip and I spoke with him for about 1 hour. I’m a little surprised by his comments today, but then again it was just a short unscripted series of comments caught on film as part of a larger speech, based on my experience with him I’m willing to accept that he may have been caught up in the moment. My discussions with Neil were simple and unbiased and he was both understanding and interested in talking to a regular working stiff from Fort McMurray. It was truly a pleasure to talk electric cars, technology and the environment with him. Before we lash out too much at those that criticize our region we really should do some sole searching. Have you flown over our region lately? Have you seen the mines and timber damage from the air? Many areas do look like large bombs went off. I don’t agree with the harshness of his comments but I also don’t agree that what we do here hurts nothing and does no damage. White sand beaches on lakes birds can’t use, strange we’d think that was good….
    Dwight Cain

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    1. Thanks Dwight it sounds like your experience closely matched mine. The most important value to me is truth. Finding truth starts with me and my ability to criticize my own beliefs and understand what evidence could be presented to make me change my mind about a cherished belief. I wonder what evidence Neil would require to change his belief that OPEC oil is better than Oil Sands oil?

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    2. Be careful on quests for truth you may find yourself very disappointed with your discoveries. The differences between conventional oil production and oil sands refining are monumental. The tar sands were considered less than practical for decades, in fact even eastern Canada wouldn't buy it. The environmental impact and the cost of extraction are not even remotely close to the same. Making things worse the high sulfur content of our oil makes it less desirable for refining. As long as oil maintains its current high market value tar sands are a viable product, if the market was tumble a bit watch things change. The oil companies would be singing the praises of clean OPEC oil and cancelling expansion work here. Like I said I've seen it first hand twice and it wasn't pretty. Lets just hope it never happens again.

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  9. The guy came to promote a high powered electric car that he invested millions in developing personally (imagine what the oil companies/car companies could do if they wanted to?) - and the most inventive insult that most McMurrayites can come up with involves belittling him for participating in the oil-based economy in North America. He has tried to change it, what have you done? If you're born in this town - or even this country - you're baptized in oil. It takes a lot of contemplation and effort to dislodge yourself from this rhetorical and actual industrialized dystopia. Most people haven't even taken the first step. I'm also confused as to all of the hype over sustainival. A couple of rides were running like 30% mixtures of canola oil based on the labels I read. Woody Harrelson drove across the US powered 100% by hemp like 15 years ago - who cares about this drop in the pan in the shadow of smoke and brimstone? This new self-righteous breed of Fort McMurrayite is unsuited for reality, and kind of tarnishes my respect for the region. I think we can all agree that some trade-offs are necessary for a globalized economy, and I thought people here were willing to take the risk, work their butts off, and profit from that gambit. There is PLENTY of PR to go around from these oil companies, virtually everything you have ever heard has been reviewed by a dozen pair of eyes before it gets to you. Go read Manufacturing Discontent and re-assess your bearings. We have one of the worlds largest industrial wastelands in our backyard. How many of you have volunteered lately? Invested in alternative energy? The best service you can do for the region is to ask questions and worry (cancer rates, depleting the athabasca basin, wildlife - take your pick) ,or you can just go on doing the PR for them while they dine out on caviar in Houston and Calgary.

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    1. I would recommend reading Manufacturing Consent by Chomsky. Everything we are taught to believe is a matrix of lies manufactured by the corporate media on behalf of the ruling class. This includes the propaganda put out by the oil-industrial complex AND the environmental lobby. Everybody comes to this region with an agenda and assumptions. I'm not interested in any agenda other than the truth, to that end I have written critically about the oil-industrial complex in the past.

      To sum up what I hear you saying:
      Sustainival = Lame but Lincvolt = great
      Self-righteous Fort McMurrayite bad but Self-righteous rockstar good

      To answer some of your questions: This town is the more philanthropic per capita than anywhere else in Canada according to the United Way. There is a huge volunteer and non-profit sector here that attracts thousands of volunteers including me. Our municipality has a zero waste initiative voted in by citizens. Our municipality is working with local entrepreneurs to build greenhouses powered by CO2 and methane from the landfill with hopes that this technology can be used to grow massive amounts of food using CO2 from Oil Sands. Industry is leading the way in developing cleaner ways to produce energy.

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    2. Sustainival is lame - what possible impact could it have? Even if it ran more than 1 ride off of more than 30% vegetable oil - are we all going to start up our own sustainable carnival rides instead of operating them on diesel? Even if Disney ran on the nightmares of dene and cree children, it wouldn't make a major impact. The Lincvolt project has some potential to impact consumer habits if it is successful. Kudos to the "idea" behind sustainival but it really is pointless, and as I said, it is a drop in the shadow of fire and brimstone. This is what we call "greenwashing" and it is prominent. Most of the initiatives are sad PR moves -- hey look over here, we have begun a recycling initiative 20 years after it was appropriate to do so, and plastic bags are banned! What a triumph. We probably leech enough Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons to dissolve all of the plastic bags in the world tomorrow.

      You're wearing rose coloured glasses. "More philanthropic per capita" is not a particularly informative "statistic". I can only assume that you are utilizing "philanthropic" to describe purely monetary donations received by the United Way, which are of course higher in regions with higher median incomes. This holds true in virtually every constituency, and we have basically the highest median income per family in the country (Median family income: $169,790). Tax incentives guarantee a certain degree of 'philanthropy', especially at the highest brackets. Furthermore, they are bolstered heavily by corporate donations - which have evidently served their purpose. They can afford to spend some pocket change at a local golf tournament in return for your acquiescence. Still, I admit that things have improved in this regard as we have seen significant and noticeable initiatives in the community in the past decade - something that scarcely or never occurred in the past. However, if you spend time living in other regions in this country, you'll notice that many communities have all of these programs and facilities (relative to community size), and they didn't need multi-billion dollar industrial pay-offs to accomplish it. Still, we have pipe dreams and promises... I am grateful for Mac Island but I don't hold out hope for Fort McMurray becoming a mecca of greenhouse agriculture. Who is going to buy food from here? Even if there was no truth to the old "poisons in the air and water!" story, it is part of the public consciousness and our tarnished name cannot be repaired.

      Do you really think Neil Young is doing this to beat up on the little guy and bolster his image? Its Neil Young. Like he gives a crap. He is the philanthropist in this situation, he is the humanist. Sure he might be a little bit more bleeding heart than scientist, but as far as he can tell he is calling it like it is - there are thousands of square kilometers lined up for destruction - so be it. Lets not delude ourselves about what is going on up here. What is with all the cognitive dissonance? If you're here, you better understand, accept, and embrace what is happening. If you do your part to make the community itself a better place while you're here, thank you. If not... don't worry, it won't exist in another 75 years anyhow.

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    3. Hmm, I don't see where we disagree. Neil's a great guy and so are people in Fort McMurray, we all just need a little philosophy to make sure our good intentions don't cause harm. I'm assuming you're not suggesting that oil producers across the globe cease and desist immediately cause that would clearly be harmful...hundreds of millions would die in short order. And like you I can't wait for the day cheap green energy drops the demand for oil to zero and the oilsands industry goes the way of the horse buggy industry as the tech paradigm shifts.

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  10. I don't recall Neil Young (not Neil Diamond) saying that the town is a horrible place, I really don't think he was talking about you guys....AT ALL, not in any way actually . It's slightly egotistical to direct what he said towards yourself and the city. He was discussing the Tar Sands and the companies that have a pretty horrible track record around the world. Same companies actually that had a lot to do with the unethical Oil that we talk about so much. He was talking about the big huge mess out there that you are "cleaning up" . The best way to describe it is a really really slow oil spill.
    With lots and lots of deadly smoke to boot. To take his words and apply them to the actual city ....sorry...municipality of wood buffalo seems kind of odd to me and really doesn't make sense. I think What Neil said was bang on and I am pretty sure the native community agrees but you would have to go talk to them to find that out and that would actually mean talking to one of them. Now lets get serious here. Get over being insulted, even though you weren't, and think about it for a second. We don't drink the water, we don't eat the fish for hundreds of miles around here and saying that you wont listen to activists cause they drive or use a cell phone makes no sense whatsoever. All other forms of energy are locked away in the vaults of the patent office, you all know this? this is nothing new? This isn't a conspiracy theory. Its history, check it out. I would be driving my electric car all over the place.....if they weren't taken off the production line years ago. The fight for power (pun intended) has been around for a while now kids. So hey just keep talking about stuff that wasn't said and didn't happen. It will keep you busy till the next time somebody applies some "cognitive dissonance" to your world. my personnel view is that not using plastic bags, and sustainivil is not enough, nowhere near enough. I have met so many amazing people up here, Tim your one of them (just realized that was you) and I made a promise to defend the people of this city as I travel and tour in the future as I already have this summer playing at festivals but the reactions I have seen in the past few days have really made me rethink this. Do you really really think that what is going on is O.K. really?
    some of you know me. I dare you to look me in the eyes and say that its O.K.
    then go for a swim in the river.

    Neil Young spoke the truth and you all know it and he never attacked any of you or the city, but you all rip him apart ...well why? ....that's a question you need to ask yourself, maybe you are feeling a little guilty .

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    1. It's obvious you have not read his comments. If you had you'd understand why what you say here makes no sense.

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    2. Thanks Danny. I agree with a lot of what you say. I don't think Neil intentionally put down Fort McMurray, but he did say, "Fort McMurray is a wasteland" so his words didn't match his intentions. It would be interesting to see the world we live in if we eliminated intellectual property like patents which essentially tell people who own property what they can and can't do with that property under threat of force, Stephan Kinsella outlines a compelling case against all forms of intellectual property. I think you're right that we would already have cleaner technology. I also wonder what kind of world we'd live in without socialized roads forcing everyone to subsidize people who consume gas and diesel, I suspect we'd have a lot more enviro-friendly rail. Those are topics for another article and I don't expect anybody to be easily convinced.

      The point I make, that I think is valid, is that Neil criticizes in others the very thing he is doing...oil consumption and pollution. The lesson his example gives us is that pollution is indeed ok, especially if it leads to the wealth required to advance cleaner tech and human and environmental flourishing.

      Given that clean tech isn't abundant yet, what are the best choices for consumers and the world? When someone fills up tomorrow in Texas should it be with OPEC oil or Canadian oil? Those are the choices realistically available to consumers...not ethanol or million dollar hybrid cars. I would argue that its not even possible to get to cleaner energy without consuming dirtier energy first...its always been this way. We can't go from wood cooking fires to dilithium crystals in one leap even though we all wish we could. All we can do is keep the oil-industrial lobby and the environmental lobby honest in the meantime.

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  11. Huh, interesting. I've been here since '97. Like the vast majority, I'm not originally from here. My wife is born and raised from here and we're both native. We've seen a lot of people come and go in this area. To be exact, we live next to stony mountain which is near anzac. We were the last family in our community (Gregoire lake res.) that sustained ourselves and were dependent upon the land. (there are still individuals of whom are mostly the elderly that are still dependent upon the land) I've walked through the surrounding area countless times and know the area well. I've seen a lot of negative change. Nobody ever mentions the ever increasing garbage and countless vehicles being dumped in the bush by the people living in town or the Muskeg being ripped up by quads and hunters, or the poaching, or everything being fenced off, or all the bush being cleared. We can sustain ourselves from the bush anymore. We're forced to work for the oil industry that is responsible for ruining our way of life. Not many see what's going on deep in the bush and the municipality or government does little or nothing about it. I see so many people come, make lots of money, make a huge mess, don't care, then leave. I go to town and see a lot of new homes and new trucks everywhere. This is home. I can't leave. I have to live with all this negative change. So does my family

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    1. Thanks for your comments Brian. We definitely have messed up a lot of things haven't we? A big part of the problem as I see it is call "The Problem of the Commons." You do not see private property disrespected the way we see public lands disrespected. When everybody and nobody owns the land it becomes exploited and ruined. I would prefer to see the land around McMurray respected, treated and enforced as private property. A good chunk of it belongs to First Nations people and should be treated as such so that people that exploit and litter and damage can be held to account like they would with anybody else's private property. This is a big part of why I write, to explore the root of social problems and I notice that when we ask the government to point guns and solve a problem two or three more pop up as a result of their solution.

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  12. I lived in Ft McMurray for 7 years from 2001 to 2008 and am the biggest cheerleader that ever left. I get sick of the way it's protrayed all the time. It's the land of opportunity and I would guess has the highest per capita native income in Canada.

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  13. Very good points and a refreshing perspective on the oil industry and misinformation surrounding it. I don't think the major problems concerning the environment, health and climate change are related directly to fossil fuel extraction but more certainly to the corporate strangle hold on the potential for change that technology and innovation can enable right now. For example, most large urban centres in the world do not need to have a single car on their streets if proper planning, infrastructure and public facility had been implemented some forty or so years ago, when these notions arose. Instead we have cities in Canada which are still building huge transport systems with enormous wealth going toward the exclusive use of trucks and cars to transport people and goods in and around large urban centres. The TransCanada project outside Vancouver is a regressive waste of money with absolutely no provision for clean transport. It is the vested interests of a very few people with corporate power which keep us in the dark age of soot and toxification of life.

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    1. I think your analysis rings true and you raise some important issues. Not only is intellectual property a crime against humans, but corporate personhood and limited liability tend to incentivize public risk for private profit.

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    2. I think your analysis rings true and you raise some important issues. Not only is intellectual property a crime against humans, but corporate personhood and limited liability tend to incentivize public risk for private profit.

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  14. Thank you, Tim, for shedding some light behind the comments of Neil Young (and Daryl Hannah) that are making headlines this week. I found your article very well written and informative. I am a long time resident, who came from another part of Canada, and I have always been very proud to call Fort McMurray home; especially since I have walked/hiked/biked over land that was at one time mined and is now beautiful trails. Fort McMurray and the industry around it has worked towards green solutions for years. Thanks for sharing your birds-eye-view perspective of this media shoot!

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  15. I don't know much about all the specifics of this or that, but I do know that a colleague of mine traveled to Fort McMurray recently (March) and I asked him what it was like pretty etc.....and all he could say was it smelled like oil and was muddy. Now I don't know if that's just one man's opinion or impression, but that's what he said.
    I mean I don't have to stick my head up a cows ass to see if the beef is prime, so if it smells like a duck, it's probably true....
    Maybe Neil should have said it looks like Baghdad instead of Hiroshima.

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    1. Yeah if you travel to the plants its muddy and smelly. Fort McMurray is not the plants and is not muddy or smelly and thats not really a matter of opinion any more than gravity is a matter of opinion. Tar oozes out of the river banks in these parts and has long before any industry came to town so you've always been able to find mud and stench or beautiful boreal forest, lakes and rivers if you want.

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  16. The smell of oil is everywhere? I don't know, could it be all the new highways being asphalted (enter sarcasm)? Have you ever lived in a Pulp mill community, or near Aluminum manufacturing? I had cancer and have moved here since, with all the confidence that I am safer here than I was elsewhere. I live on acreage with the Clearwater River running behind me. I eat the fish and other wildlife, and I drink my water straight from the tap. The Athabasca River (in this region) has been contaminated with oil for centuries, long before the oil industry came to be. In fact it would be nice to extract all of that naturally oozing oil out of the surface of its banks to help keep the river clear. As for abandoned vehicles in the bushes, myself and my neighbours often take a weekend to survey the bushes and forest around us, then return another weekend with a larger group (including some of our Cree friends)to remove them. No one pays us, I don't think the city is even aware of what we do, but we do it because we care. Abandoned vehicles are not a bigger problem than anywhere else with a population like ours, and it is often the youth that purposely use, then abandon "wrecks" in the midst of nowhere. If you see it, report it. Our experience is that Peace Officers will follow through and patrol. I am a believer and promoter of Canada's Oil Industry and I wish that instead of ridiculous accusations and misinformation that protesters and opposers would learn about the improvements in our technology and if they want to put their physical energy and time into something, use it to push for the continuing development of technology, processes and systems that are environmentally conscious. Let's get real people The oil used for powering vehicles is a smaller percentage than what is needed for oil by-products. After all, none of us here could be stating our opinions with out oil, for we would not have the plastic available to fabricate our computers and keyboards that enable us to exchange views using a medium that also uses oil and oil by-products.

    A "short" list of what we use oil for:

    http://www.eldr.com/article/politics/products-made-oil

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  17. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwWUOmk7wO0

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  18. Brilliant write-up Tim, and from someone that was there. First-hand information, can't beat that. What interests me is what they chose not to include (the reclaimed land, etc..). It's a shame they wouldn't want to show the pros and cons. Although I suppose the documentary on his stance against the oil sands, wouldn't have the same impact....

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  19. shit article. to please all the I need another sno mobile crowd.

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  20. Great stuff Tim, I too work in the Oilsands and we are VERY regulated and responsible, we try and succeed in emissions reduction, tailings management, equal opportunity, land reclamation, etc. so it was very very disappointing to hear Neil put us down and mock our great efforts.

    He really should do his homework and shame on him for acting this way! Canada is a great leader and deserves recognition for our efforts, especially in comparison to other Countries.

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  21. This article is every bit as biased toward the oil-sands development as Neil's is against.

    Nowhere in his diatribe does the author address Global Warming or air and water-quality issues - which are some of the major problem with oil-sands development. His head-in-the-sand ignorance of these topics is indicative of the overall scope of the article.

    If just 10% of the money that has gone into oil-sands projects in Alberta had instead been channeled into clean energy infrastructure, Alberta would be awash in excess electrical energy.

    This easily-exported, highly profitable commodity comes with the bonus of full-time maintenance jobs for perpetuity, not just boom/bust cycles as with the oil industry sector.

    He further chooses to ignore the side-effects of finding thousands of eager young lads suddenly awash in money and the social damages that are a direct side-effect of same.

    Young men + loads of cash + booze = social chaos every time. Witness the Edmonton police force revealing that in 2012 alone they charged over 2000 (!) individuals with DUI and 800 more with near DUI 24-Hr suspensions. And that is just the people that were caught - likely a fraction of the actual DUI's on the road. If there was a social chaos index, I suspect it would be telling to review.

    Yes Mr.Moes, Neil's POV was extremely tainted - but so is yours in equal measure.

    Andrew Drouin

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  22. Thank you Andrew, I had the same thoughts.

    Besides that. Neil is right, what is being done is disgusting and incredibly unnecessary. You can't be pro oil and pro earth, it just doesn't work. The facts are in, it's destroying our globe it's hurting our people and greed and power are the reasons behind it. You can talk about "re-claimed" land all you want.. but the land should never have been ruined in the first place. People are dying and wildlife are poisoned... Try and justify it all you want, it will never be okay. Neil is doing right by his country and by mankind.

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    1. Neil lives in LA which emits more greenhouse gases and toxins than all the oilsands. It kills more people causes more cancer etc etc. So we are all in this together. Us and Neil. Lets work together fella, don't demonize us. It's hurting his cause which we all agree with.

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  23. Your perspective is your own and valuable to this ongoing debate in our province. That aside, I have a serious problem with the way you treated your client. Maybe I misread something but in my business when someone hires a professional to do a contract for them, the contractor doesn't turn around and talk down about their client afterward. I do marketing and web consulting and, to me, this would be akin to taking on a contract to promote a brand and develop a marketing campaign, and then telling everyone via social media that their products aren't very good and I don't like what they stand for. Unless they are doing something illegal or immoral, it isn't the place of a contractor to speak out against a client. Clients expect and deserve discretion on the part of those who do work for them. If a contractor doesn't like what a client stands for, then they shouldn't do work for them in the first place.

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    1. I agreed to help shoot a film promoting clean technology. That I can get behind and that is what I agreed to shoot. I have no interest in being a shill for hyperbolic rhetoric that harms the advancement of that cause. When Neil broke our agreement and started bashing oilsands industry and the community and saying untrue things they violated my agreement. I was discrete before they came and while they were here and afterwards until he broke his agreement with me. Contractors deserve as much respect and consideration as clients in agreements. I have to work in this town and can't be expected to be a smear artist against oilsands. I am a big boy and am happy to suffer the repercussions of not being paid by Neil and getting a reputation for outing dishonest clients. As much That being said I certainly felt torn in writing this.

      I am currently filming with some other Environmental Activists and I told them upfront as part of our agreement that if I felt they were engaged in smearing as opposed to constructive dialogue they would be reading about themselves on my blog in the HuffPost. They thought that was fair and hired me.

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  24. I liked your article and comments Tim.

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  26. I'll have to check out Ft McMurray some time. I've never been there myself, but the people I've met from that area have always been so nice. I've also heard, as you've pointed out, that it is quite beautiful there. http://www.century21north.com

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