Thanks Neil Young for Your Honour the Treaties Tour and Your Heart of Gold

Last night Neil Young wrapped up his 'Honour the Treaties Tour' before a sold out audience at Calgary's Jack Singer Concert Hall. Before the concert Neil announced that, "The goal of raising $75,000 for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation’s legal defence fund was surpassed a few days ago" The ACFN announced last week it had filed a legal challenge to Ottawa’s recent approval of Royal Dutch Shell’s planned Jackpine oil sands mine.

Along the way this past week Neil was steadfast, if not always totally accurate on the details. As usual the pro-development folks used the tired old tactic of parsing Neil's words, not his underlying philosophy and certainly not his 'Heart of Gold' intentions. Young answered those critic's, including PM Harper, by conceding at Thursday's news conference that he's just a guitar player. "After all", as Young "As far as me not knowing what I'm talking about, everybody knows that. That couldn't be more obvious. I'm a musician," said Young, apparently attempting to downplay criticism spawned by statements he made earlier in the week in Toronto.

Neil Young may not be an expert on anything, but he certainly knows what he believes. "My whole job here is to raise enough attention so you people would come hear what's going on," he said, flanked by environmental scientists and First Nations activists. "My job is to bring light to the situation through my celebrity."

In an excellent opinion piece at The Tyee titled 'Neil Young to Harper: Fear Our Emotion!' author Ian Gill wrote "Plainly put, our governments don't fear environmentalists, even icons like David Suzuki. But governments fear emotion, which they can't regulate, and who but our artists are capable of stirring our emotions, giving them expression, and releasing the trapped energy in our national psyche?"

Gill went on to say, "But for the most part, he let his celebrity do the talking, just like the artists who rallied in the '80s to help save the Stein Valley, the Carmanah Valley and Gwaii Haanas in British Columbia, or the writers and photographers who elevated the Great Bear Rainforest and the Sacred Headwaters in the imagination of a public who for the most part will never go there, but somehow understand that in the fate of those places lies the fate of us all."

Gill and The Tyee did Canada's conversation on the Enbridge pipeline a great service by not allowing the right-wing parsing tactic to occlude the real issues as they usually manage to do at least in the corporate media. For instance when Neil said at one stop. "The proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline is a bad idea, as the fuel would all go to China, which is probably the dirtiest place on the planet."  Alberta business school professor Andrew Leach - recipient of an Enbridge-sponsored professorship who receives $15 000 annually from the energy company, challenged Young's statements on the amount of Canadian oil being shipped to China, saying that almost 100% of of the crud is consumed in North America."

This is an important issue for all of us. We must listen very carefully to the lawyer trained caveats and parsing used by politicians and academics is service of their desire not to actually communicate but to cover-up the real facts. The tarsands supporters were far more successful in changing the focus of everyone when Neil chose to use the highly pejorative description of the huge tarsands operation as "looking like Hiroshima". It's true that using hyperbolic and pejorative words do generate headlines, but they also close the doors we must open for the crucial communication between the encampments to take place, it never opens those doors no matter which side uses them.

Another example of how Neil's statements didn't always add up to logical was when Young replied to Harpo's criticism by saying that "..when he visited the oilsands, he drove there using an electric vehicle and biomass generator. And I'm a rock star." In this case Neil's scientific naivete could be taken as proof he wasn't coached. The truth is, there are no green solutions - other than conservation - only green illusions, including his car which would have a huge fossil fuel footprint embedded in its manufacture.

My thanks go out to Neil Young for doing this. He raised thousands of dollars, but more importantly he raised the consciousness of Canadians about these important issues. Unfortunately, as usual, the corporate media seldom even mentioned the treaties themselves or the legal reasons being used to challenge the Northern Gateway pipeline in the courts because, as usual, they were able to focus on the parsed words false controversies and not the heart of the issue.

Live from 1971. Neil digs around in his pockets trying to find the right harp and then plays a new song- 'Heart of Gold'