The tar sands of Alberta, Canada just had a visit from two Hollywood powerhouses — and government and industry officials are none too pleased.
Last Thursday, Leonardo DiCaprio and Academy Award-winning Director Darren Aronofsky ("Black Swan," "Noah") joined Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune for a tour of Alberta's tar sands, the world's largest deposit of heavy crude oil.
“Leo is in town for a few days working on an environmental documentary,” a source close to DiCaprio told the Edmonton Journal. “He wanted to hear about and see — first-hand — the oil sands and their impact on the planet.”
The 39-year-old actor's appearance in Alberta comes only a few days after the release of "Carbon," a short film he narrated that urges the world to adopt a carbon tax to curb fossil fuel emissions. That he's teaming up with the Sierra Club and Aronofsky, another committed environmentalist, makes clear that there may be a much larger project in the works here. The tar sands industry, which in past years has weathered critical visits from famous names like director James Cameron and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, reacted strongly to the news.
“Like Canadians, we [the industry] are growing tired of the fad of celebrity environmentalists coming into the region for a few hours or a few days, and offering their ideas and solutions to developing this resource,” Lee Funke, a spokesman for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, told The Globe and Mail.
Alberta Energy Minister Diana McQueen further defended the industry, saying that the world needs all forms of energy, including responsibly developed fossil fuels.
"Aside from the economic opportunities the oil sands create for Albertans and Canadians, the taxes and royalties generated from the oil-sands development provide funding for the infrastructure and programs that contribute to Canada’s high standard of living,” she added in an email to the Globe.
Over the weekend, both Brune and Aronofsky tweeted reports of their tour, making clear that their visit was to shed light on the destructive realities of the tar sands and less its economic benefits.
tailing pond more like a lake scarecrow. used to keep birds from landing. add some propane cannons and all is "safe" pic.twitter.com/Na3gzMFeLg— darren aronofsky (@DarrenAronofsky) August 25, 2014
As part of their trip, the trio flew into the remote community of Fort Chipewyan, taking in the sights of Athabasca Lake and having lunch with 30 members of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. According to local resident Cookie Simpson, DiCaprio was in awe of the region's beauty and showed genuine care for the environmental plights facing the residents.
“Cameron came here and we never heard nothing back from him. He said he would help us out and we never heard anything," she said of the director's 2010 visit. "But Leonardo is here now and he seems much more caring, so much more interested. He’s doing his documentary anyways on the environment. I’m sure when his movie comes out, I’m sure he’s going to be on our side."
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