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There's Still Time For Jane Fonda To Change Her Views On Alberta Oil

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Fonda has shown that she can learn in the past...

One thing stands out when reading about Jane Fonda, who visited the Fort McMurray region this week. She seems, sometimes at least, to learn from her mistakes.

Let's face it; in the world of superficial Hollywood activism populated by the likes of Leo DiCaprio and Daryl Hannah, self-awareness seems to shut down as soon as the director yells "cut." Off-camera, activist movie stars tend not to express much interest in new information. For Leo and Daryl, you get the sense they know everything there is to know. No additional knowledge is needed, and no retractions will be made.

Then along comes Jane Fonda, a little battle-weary, and slightly more mature.

It would be an understatement to say Fonda has led a controversial life marked by its share of political missteps. But here's the interesting thing: she's not above taking on new perspectives -- and even apologizing.

For example, she's apologized for her clumsy, youthful 1972 photo op in North Vietnam that earned her the name "Hanoi Jane." ("It was a huge, huge mistake," the 79-year-old recently said.)

No, she doesn't regret her vocal opposition to America's presence in Vietnam. But she deserves some credit for attempting to make amends for a North Vietnamese media stunt gone way wrong.

jane fonda
Jane Fonda speaks during a press conference along with indigenous leaders in Edmonton, Alta., on Wednesday, January 11, 2017. (Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

In the same vein, in a Lena Dunham blog post Fonda recently explained at length that she regrets taking so long to come around to the feminist agenda. "When I turned 60 and entered my third and final act," wrote Fonda, "I decided that, no matter how scary it was, I needed to heal the wounds patriarchy had dealt me. I didn't want to come to the end of my life without doing all I could to become a whole, full-voiced woman."

To the extent that I get to have an opinion on this -- after all, I'm a guy and therefore a little reticent to pass judgment in this area -- I think her adoption of feminism, even so late in life, is admirable. There's no doubt she now plays a valuable role in raising awareness about the need for equal rights for women and girls worldwide.

For her to admit her failure in supporting women's issues for so many years shows integrity.

But if she believes, as she has said, that "feminism isn't just about women, but about letting all people lead fuller lives," then Fonda's life journey toward feminism seems to me far from complete. She should acknowledge the need for society to obtain energy from countries that, at a minimum, uphold the legal and social rights of women and girls.

And Canada does that proudly.

Fact is, there's at least six countries that produce oil with higher emissions than Canada.

The World Economic Forum 2015 Global Gender Gap Report ranked Saudi Arabia 134th out of 145 countries for gender parity. All Saudi women, regardless of age, are required to have a male guardian, and Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that prohibits women from driving.

Meanwhile, Canada ranked 29th, above every other significant supplier nation. Canada also ranked second in the world for social progress in 2016, far ahead of the countries that will happily take Canada's market share if we don't produce our resources. While Fonda's visit to Fort McMurray might be her attempt to underline what she sees as our social or environmental transgressions, Albertans understand well that we lead the world on matters of energy sustainability.

That's because Albertans know that since 1990, Canadian oil sands producers have reduced per barrel GHG emissions by an average of 30 per cent -- and some have achieved reductions as high as half.

Albertans also understand the oil sands contribute only 0.15 per cent of global GHG emissions, and just 1.6 per cent of all of Canada's emissions. And we're aware that 13 oil fields in California have higher upstream GHGs than our oil sands do. Fact is, there's at least six countries that produce oil with higher emissions than Canada.

jane fonda
Jane Fonda tours Fort McMurray oilsands by air. (Photo: GREENPEACE CANADA)

It's possible that during her recent visit, Fonda will have learned that the world's top oil reserve countries -- the oppressive Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Iran and United Arab Emirates -- are less deserving than Canada to win future energy supply contracts. It may even be the case that Fonda will have learned that, over the past 14 years, aboriginal companies earned more than $10 billion in revenue through working relationships with the oil sands industry. Additionally, more than 25 per cent of all First Nations in Canada currently produce oil and gas now or want to in the future. A strong majority of all First Nations are open to pipeline and resource development.

My point is simply that Fonda -- more than the typical self-centred Hollywood activists like Hannah and DiCaprio -- has had some time to understand the world. I'm thinking she might even recognize that no single technology will provide the energy required to power society -- but that a combination of existing technologies may be needed while technology continues to make advances.

I hope that, when looking at renewables, climate justice, social responsibility and ethical trade, Fonda will see that a reasonable way forward is to pay attention to all of the above -- together.

And if it's the patriarchy she is truly most concerned with lately, as she says she is, then I hope she determines there's no patriarchy more in need of wholesale change than many other top oil producers around the world where Jane isn't making a visit.

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Cody Battershill is a Calgary realtor and founder / spokesperson for CanadaAction.ca, a volunteer organization that supports Canadian energy development and the environmental, social and economic benefits that come with it.

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