01/22/2014 05:18 EST | Updated 03/24/2014 05:59 EDT

Why You Should Listen to What Artists Say About the Oilsands

Life as we know it could be in the balance so why must we resort to listening to musicians? I've done an environmental music tour myself. From 2010-2011, I toured 60+ cities in Canada and the US (through public modes of transportation and a hybrid car) on my Green Keys Tour. I wanted to bring like-minded people together to learn more about what environmental initiatives were happening in their communities. As a wonderful by-product, many scientists and environmental workers told me that my music gave them inspiration to continue, with renewed energy, their often-demoralizing work.

I think an artist's job is to bring about new ideas and to inspire. But why should we as a society need artists or celebrities to be the voice of change? There are other people in our society who expertly work day in and day out on this. Maybe you've heard about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They represent an overwhelming majority of scientist around the world (basically all scientists who haven't been paid by big industry). As all scientists deal in probability rather than fact, they believe there is a 90-99 per cent probability that climate change is being caused by human actions, like the ones happening right now in the oilsands. To me, that's a pretty conclusive opinion.

There are doctors like Dr. John O'Connor from Alberta who believe that our activities in the oilsands are raising cancer rates. You might not find many doctors like him though as he was disciplined for speaking out about what's happening.

It is harder these days to find scientists and scientific data in Canada as our government has been silencing them too. To be fair, they silence artists as well. Just ask Franke James, environmental artist and activist how her artistic voice has been silenced over and over again by our federal government. Come to think about it, on my Green Keys Tour, I almost had a playing engagement at the Canadian embassy in Washington D.C. but suddenly their enthusiasm for the event waned and that concert didn't happen.

But, even with all the silencing and with that really loud but small group of nay-sayers that get a lot of media attention, the information is out there if you need to see that 'mountain of evidence' that Neil Young is trying to help us understand. But, do we really even need to see it? Isn't it logical that if we pollute and deplete the earth that it will have harmful effects on all living beings that inhabit it? Isn't it logical that we should treat people with respect? Call me an irrational artist but this seems logical to me.

Maybe we do need the voices of artists after all. Artists do have a history of seeing things before they become the norm in our society. Or, perhaps they are brave enough not to hide from distressing truths. Look at Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi from 1970. That song feels so peppy and fun in tone but its message was ahead of its time on the dangers of urban sprawl, clear-cutting and pesticides. You can even look to the 1979 hit Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles for showing us our future.

So, thank-you Neil Young for sticking your neck out and taking the criticism because too many others have been silenced. Your actions are admirable and your art, as always, is inspiring.


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