Unlike Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, I’ve seen James Cameron’s blockbuster movie Avatar.
If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend it. It’s science fantasy set 125 years in the future on a planet far, far away. Earthlings, hot for a metal called “unobtanium,” colonize and then push around giant, blue indigenous people in order to obtain as much unobtanium as possible.
They make a mess of beautiful Pandora, much the way the oilsands are making a mess of northern Alberta. Struck by the parallels, George Poitras, an aboriginal leader from Alberta, invited Cameron to see the oilsands for himself. Not to be outdone, Stelmach extended his own invitation, hoping to co-opt the inevitable photo op featuring the Hollywood director rescuing ducks from tailing ponds.
Cameron, who grew up in Ontario before going Hollywood, is probably wondering what he got himself into. It’s his own fault: He threw unobtanium on the fire by calling the oilsands a “black eye” on Canada’s reputation, saying it’s the “wrong solution” for our energy requirements. Well, the reason the oilsands exist at all is that they are the only solution, as all the alternative energy sources don’t even come close to meeting our needs — and they come with their own problems.
If you don’t think those are serious, you’re not familiar with the giant stink in B.C., my home province, over hydroelectric power, generally viewed as clean energy when compared to petroleum.
Avatar is a cautionary tale about what happens when greed rules. I won’t spoil the ending; there are still plenty of people who want to see it — released to video on Earth Day, it’s the fastest selling home video of all time, 6.7 million copies in four days.
Not bad for a retelling of the old Cowboys vs. Indians dusters we cut our teeth on, although this time, the Indians are the good guys.
But look, it’s a fantasy. Here on Gaia, Cameron needs plenty of unobtanium to power his 8,272-square-foot mansion, dirt bikes, Ducati, Ford GT, Corvettes, submersibles, etc. At one point, he owned a helicopter. He flew a private jet to protest the construction of a dam in Brazil. I’m not saying he’s a hypocrite — but he lives in Malibu, for goodness sake — and is at the very least conflicted.
So, Ed Stelmach should rent Cameron’s movie. He might look at the environment as something other than a necessary evil. And Cameron should visit Stelmach’s oilsands and find out what makes his ginormous carbon footprint possible.
And then the two of them should get real.
Paul Sullivan is a Vancouver-based journalist and owner of Sullivan Media Consulting;