Neil Young Has Seen the Tar Sands and the Damage Done. Harper adds: a Little Part of it in Everyone

Neil Young kicks off an "Honour the Treaties" tour at Massey Hall in Toronto

Sunday, Neil Young kicked off an “Honour the Treaties” tour in support of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations [ACFN], an Alberta community about 200 km. downstream from the tar sands development in Alberta. He, Dinana Krall and others are raising money for ACFN's legal challenges of the Jackpine Mine Expansion project, a proposed Pierre River Mine and a provincial land use plan they say runs rampant over their treaty rights and traditional land uses. Neil's efforts to walk the talk are to be applauded.

Of course, he's being condemned with the same ardor by Tar Sands development supporters, such is the nature of this issue. No minds will be changed by either side's arguments no matter how well, or how loudly, they are presented. And, of course, The Mud Report agrees with Neil's point of view and sees him as having a 'Heart of Gold'

In a news conference before the benefit concert Neil, seated beside (ACFN) Chief Allan Adam, said, ""Canada is trading integrity for money. I see a government completely out of control. Money is No. 1. Integrity isn't even on the map. Anything that you're hearing from the government on the tar sands is just marketing. It's not truth." The 68-year-old Young went on to blast Harper and his government by saying that "its single-minded thirst for petro dollars, its lack of integrity, its hypocrisy, its ignorance of science and its shameful treatment of this country’s First Nations." Neil and Andrew Weaver of BC's Green Party both pointed out that promises had been made to Canada's First Nations and, like so many times in the past, those promises were now being abandoned because they are inconvenient for extractive capitalism. That lack of consultation and abandonment of treaty rights is the basis for the court battles that will take years if not decades and, in the end, also change no minds.

From the development side, Harper's office responded to Neil Young's tour using the well worn argument that, "...the rocker and political activist should mind his own carbon footprint before opposing projects." Other critics of the tour loudly condemned Neil's comparison of the Ft. McMurray devastation to that of Hiroshima after the bomb.

In addressing these two points, i'll start with the Hiroshima comment Young made in the wake of touring the Ft. McMurray area last year. In it Neil's comparison was totally focused on the scope of the destruction caused the world's largest industrial development not how many innocents were viciously murdered, not how much property was obliterated and certainly not their moral equivalency despite the development's supporters, and their mass-media shills, desire to obscure that truth.

The footprint argument is the most common response from supporters of the tar sands development, and extractive capitalism in general, because it's true. Carbon footprint is just a different set of words that cover the energy embedded in all forms of consumer demand. Certainly Neil, his troupe and his audiences will consume a lotta carbon traveling around protesting the industry and its methods of supplying those demands. This argument applied generally resonates with pro-development folks - conservatives who despise conservation - and is loudly denied by anti-development folks who's middle class standard of living, investments, pensions and bourgeois dreams depend on the endless growth paradigm of extractive capitalism.

Canada is fast becoming a villain on the world stage where once it was a hero. Only by accepting the facts on the ground that, as Neils' lyrics in 'Needle and the Damage Done' say,. "Every junkie's like a setting sun, a little part of it in everyone" will we ever conquer our addiction to fossil fuels.