While it is so very nice of actor Jane Fonda to lend her celebrity concern to the rape of the environment for tar sands in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canadians should certainly say ‘Thank you.’ It all helps, but celebrity endorsements and support can come across as self-serving and really do not carry much credibility. Celebrities can carry negative images as well as positive. And if they attract the wrong audiences, how is that helpful?
An example of this was in the 1970s when the New York advertising agency for the American Multiple Sclerosis Society showed some members of the Canadian executive a new flight of commercials that they thought we would like to use on Canadian television. The commercials were of Hollywood stars such as Frank Sinatra urging people to help in the fight against MS. They were excellent quality and professionally produced and there would be little effort involved in getting Canadian stations to use them as public service announcements.
All we had to do was put our Canadian society’s name on them and use them. The agency people were quite surprised when we said ‘No thanks.’
At the time the Canadian MS Society was coming out of its shell and determined to become a multi-million dollar health agency. You do not do that with celebrity endorsements. We had to let Canadians know we were dealing with a crippling disease that creates huge costs for our health care system. We had to make Canada the leader in neurological research and coordinate it with research around the world. And it is working.
The MS Society is the third best known health agency in Canada today. It is one of the best run agencies. It is not surprising when you hear that the people working on Heart and Cancer helped us get there. Smart agencies are cooperative agencies.
But protecting our environment in Canada is an even tougher challenge. We do not need celebrities. Nor do we need the growing breed of celebrity environmentalists. You are dealing with highly organized greed when you deal with tar sands exploitation. You are dealing with large businesses. You are dealing with people who can outspend you in the news media, in social media, in political IOUs and in impressing the politicians. You not only have to stand in front of the pipeline bulldozer; you have to mean it.
And you have to remember that bitumen is the bitch you are fighting. The truth might not set you free but you can get people wondering why nobody wants to convert large amounts of bitumen to ersatz crude oil on the Prairies?
We promised at the Paris environmental summit that Canada would do its part. Sending bitumen to other parts of the world to process is not doing our part. Our world cannot sustain it.
Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry
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