Neil Young Oilsands: Hiroshima Comments Ignore The Full Picture, Says Alta. Filmmaker

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Neil Young only saw what he wanted to see when he visited Alberta's oilsands on his way to Washington D.C., where the rock star compared Fort McMurray to Hiroshima, says Alberta filmmaker.
Neil Young only saw what he wanted to see when he visited Alberta's oilsands on his way to Washington D.C., where the rock star compared Fort McMurray to Hiroshima, says Alberta filmmaker.

Neil Young only saw what he wanted to see when he visited Alberta's oilsands on his way to Washington D.C., where the rock star compared Fort McMurray to Hiroshima, says Tim Moen.

Moen, a Fort McMurray filmmaker and environmentally-minded Albertan, wrote a long and pointed blog response after Young, speaking at a National Farmers Union event, called Alberta's oilsands region a wasteland that's killing aboriginal people in search of a source of energy that we don't need.

"The fact is, Fort McMurray looks like Hiroshima," said Young, standing in front of a crowd.

"Fort McMurray is a wasteland. The Indians up there and the native peoples are dying. The fuels all over – the fumes everywhere – you can smell it when you get to town. The closest place to Fort McMurray that is doing the tarsands work is 25 to 30 miles out of town and you can taste it when you get to Fort McMurray. People are sick. People are dying of cancer because of this. All the First Nations people up there are threatened by this."

But Moen, who was hired on by Young and his production company to film helicopter-borne oilsands footage for a documentary being helmed by the Canadian-born rock star, says Young seemed to be interested in only one side of the oilsands equation.

"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," says Moen, who was also accompanied by Hollywood star and environmental icon Daryl Hannah

"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."

What was filmed were shots juxtaposing Young's 1959 Lincoln Continental convertible, which has been converted into an ethanol-powered hybrid and is reportedly the central theme of the documentary, driving by Syncrude and Suncor operations.

There were also shots of tailings ponds and industrial plants, adds Moen.

Concerned that Young's documentary would skew the reality behind Fort McMurray, Moen says he arranged community and environmental leaders to be available for interviews by the documentary filmmakers. But they were also not interested in that, says Moen.

Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers vice-president Greg Stringham, told the Calgary Herald that opinions regarding the oilsands from all fronts are important and should be shared.

"We don't want to try and temper that," said Stringham.

"We just want to try and expose them to the entire picture: Here's what a project looks like; here's what the reclamation is; here's the people. We drive through the city, we can get him to talk to people on the First Nations side as well as the community side."

Young and Hannah are only the latest in a long line of U.S. celebrities who have visited the Alberta oilsands and returned home to deliver a negative message.

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James Cameron, arguably one of the biggest names to oppose the northern Alberta industry, has cautioned against what he calls "gold rush" mentality behind the fast pace of development in the oilsands.

Young's comments sparked a massive response from readers, responses that ranged from guttural support , to calling the rocker a hypocrite.

Although Moen is disappointed by Young's words in Washington, he mentioned several times his admiration for the man as a musician, as well as for what he's trying to achieve.

"Getting to the cutting edge of cleaner technology creates a lot of pollution...always has," he writes.

"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," writes Moen.

"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 oilsands...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"

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