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Tar Trek

Tar Trek


In the summer of 2011, Liam Maclure and his buddy Daniel traveled across the Rocky Mountains, from their west coast Canadian homes, to find out for themselves what the Athabasca Oil Sands extraction operations in Alberta are really all about.

From the start, they acknowledge Canada’s huge challenge on this issue. The oil sands (previously known as the “tar sands”) are an environmental mess, and the principal reason Canada’s Conservative government withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol. On the other hand, Alberta’s mining and oil and gas extraction sectors directly employ 7.2% of the province’s total labour force. The resource sector is one of the pillars that keeps Canada’s economy upright.

The youths visit Fort McMurray (aka “Fort McDirty”), at the heart of the oil sands industry. There, they interview locals regarding the societal, environmental, political, economic and health impacts of the industry. (They tried to talk directly to Suncor Energy, but weren’t allowed to film there.)

In the end, the duo commit to being the generation who will push for alternative energy.

The 10-minute film itself (embedded after the break) was made as a class project, and as amateur documentary is kind of a mess. The young men are authentic and earnest, but their writing, cinematography, editing and even presentation skills have a long way to go. However, the effort did not go unnoticed. First picked up by TckTckTck – The Global Campaign for Climate Action, the film has just recently earned Liam Maclure a Toyota Earth Day Scholarship for his activism.

According to the site, The Toyota Earth Day Scholarship Program grants 20 awards of $5000 each annually, to be applied directly towards tuition, books, room and board (where applicable) or other educational expenses for post-secondary full-time studies in Canada. Not bad.

You may find it ironic that a car company gave a student thousands of dollars for making a documentary that casts the oil industry in a bad light. But I don’t. Coroporate social responsibility makes strange bedfellows. (Full disclosure: I’m currently working with a a not-for-profit client, in partnership with Toyota, for a road safety campaign — which I will share as soon as it’s public.)

Liam’s official quote says of the experience, “The Toyota Earth Day Scholarship is a celebration of the work I have put in but also of those who have supported me. It has provided me with great inspiration to continue pursuing environmental leadership in my post-secondary school career.”

Let’s hope he does.

Earth Day Canada
Earth Day Canada (Facebook)

I am Creative Director at Acart Communications, a Canadian Social Issues Marketing agency. Read more