Dear Leonardo DiCaprio,
I have loved you for 17 years. I vividly remember the first time I saw Titanic in the theatre and my world changed. My loyalty has not shifted in the years to follow. Titanic is and always will be my favourite movie. I will be drinking wine and cheering for you on Oscar night. This is the year! #OscarforLeo
However, in the past 17 years one thing has changed. I recently got my MSc from the University of Alberta. While my work didn’t specifically focus on the oil & gas industry I am surrounded by this every day. One of the main focuses of my lab is the effect of oil & gas development on the birds and amphibians in Northern Alberta.
Leo, you have done a number of amazing things for conservation and the planet. Just this week you donated another $15 million to environmental research. This makes me love you even more. But I cannot say I agree with your recent statement about fossil fuels:
“Our planet cannot be saved unless we leave fossil fuels in the ground where they belong. Twenty years ago, we described this problem as an addiction. Today, we possess the means to end this reliance.”
While I think that there is validity in what you are saying, at this point it’s rather unrealistic.
For someone so active on the topic of climate change, your ignorance to some of the science behind it really disappoints me. I’ve lived in Alberta my entire life, so I know that a chinook is a common occurrence for the people of Calgary. Because you’ve been in Alberta numerous times before, I would have thought you would be more educated on the topic. This is a perfect example of my biggest climate change frustration: ‘climate change isn’t really because it’s cold where I am today’. Ugh. Just ugh. A few years ago we made the switch from “global warming” to “global climate change”. Warming is no longer in the title. Yes, global temperatures are warming (2015 was the warmest year on record), but one specific event is not evidence of climate change. Then again, someone with a lot of money who can get people to listen just by hearing their name doesn’t necessarily need all the facts. People will pay attention no matter what you say. This is just an example of the “fad of celebrity environmentalists“. These celebrities are coming to an area, drawing attention to an issue, making big statements and then leaving without knowing the facts or actual research behind that issue.
This was again seen last fall when Miley Cyrus took a trip to British Columbia and took a stand against wolf culling. Completely unknown to Miley was the reason for the culling of these wolves. If she had done some research on the topic she would have learned that this is an attempt to save the endangered mountain caribou who are currently living at very low numbers in the area. I know this is a controversial topic, and I am aware of all of the factors surrounding it – the research behind it is being done in my department at the University of Alberta.
So Leo, I will always be a fan. You will always be my number 1, but please do your research. Please talk to the scientists. These companies you’re attacking regarding the oil sands are funding some amazing and really important research. A lot more is known about the status of the environment and the animals that live there than you’ll ever know. We Albertans are aware that there are a number of negative consequences to Fort McMurray and the oil sands but we also know this is how it has to be right now. I love the environment, I love animals, my most recent degree is largely conservation focused and I definitely think we need to protect the planet, however, I’m also realistic. Living in Alberta (even with a biology background) opens your eyes to the bigger picture. In the years to come I look forward to the switch from fossil fuels to more renewable energy sources, but it’s not going to be something that just happens overnight.
Leo, thank you for being passionate about this topic. Thank you for showing interest in global problems. Thank you for using your speeches to draw attention to important issues. Thank you for a lot of the work you have done worldwide, but please leave Alberta alone. Everyone here knows what’s going on far more than you do.
I’ll never let go,
– Justine Alyssa