The Dissemination of Information, Neil Young and the Alberta Oil Sands

by on February 28, 2014 - 6:55pm

The Dissemination of Information, Neil Young and the Alberta Oil Sand

by Lauren Robinson

     Neil Young’s ‘Honour the Treaties’ tour has raised controversy within the political, public and media sphere. Young has demonstrated the power that fame can have in raising awareness about environmental issues. The media and the internet have indeed played a significant role in sparking conversation and providing a platform to share opinions. It is evident that people are standing on either ends of the argument, or in some cases in the middle. What action could be taken once conversation and awareness had been ignited? In other words, the tour has demonstrated an array of opinions concerning the oil sands, yet how does the tour contribute to our understanding of the Alberta oil sands, what is discussed once awareness has been raised?

      As mentioned the tour has indeed raised knowledge of current events and as Young stated it has “succeeded in getting Canadians talking.” This could definitely be considered a positive aspect, for the issue of the Alberta tar sands is still not known by many people. Yet, there are a number of people who know Neil Young for he is a musical artist. A tour is a great way to spread ideas, especially in the current technology setting of the 21st century. The internet has allowed for the sharing of ideas and information to countless people, across vast areas and with great haste. This allows for the effortless sharing of information which can be used as a tool to raise awareness of current issues to people who may otherwise be oblivious to. Young has demonstrated a technique that has been used by many before, just consider the sixties! Music is a powerful tool as shown by peace movements during the Vietnam War. Music has the power to share and discuss issues and perhaps even the potential to spark a revolution. When such ideas are applied to the internet sphere there is far, far greater potential to highlight and discuss these issues.

      The tour has been mentioned frequently within the media, articles, videos and in social media sites. It is evident that the amount of attention the tour has raised is impressive. On the other hand, I believe that we must really consider the information and opinions being shared and expanded upon by people. Young stated that the tour was actually not intended to be an anti-tar-sands crusade.’ Yet, some talks of the topic and other issues related to the environment led to people discussing the tour in relation the tar sands. The tour therefore was considered, by some, as an almost hardcore opposition towards the tar sands that was essentially an “anti-economic success anti-well-paying jobs movement."  However, the tar sands are not the sole concern of the ‘Honour the Treaties’ tour. Young made another statement whereby he compared the appearance of the tar sands to Hiroshima. (Hiroshima is located in Japan and was devastated and left in ruins by an atomic bomb attack during the Second World War.) It was evident that the people’s reaction to his comment was taken harshly. Many people living in Alberta took pictures of their surroundings (often beautiful) and tagged the image “my Hiroshima.” It is indeed presented as a sarcastic retaliation of Young’s comment. I believe that there is almost a fixation on the words spoken by Young and people relate to the tar sands to Young’s tour. This could potentially divert us from the real issue at hand. Furthermore, one must keep in mind that the internet is a mostly unmonitored ground where words can be altered and changed. Thus, we must try to provide ourselves an objective when reading about what people have said, especially from unreliable sources.

      Young’s tour is an advantage in terms of raising awareness to the public. This could offer discussion, prevention   and an understanding of the politics, economics, and science of the tar sands. However, after the tour raised awareness on the issue it appeared as though people mostly diverted their attentions to Young and what it was he had said. Thus, Young’s contribution has unveiled an issue that indeed needs to be considered. Yet instead of merely siding and basing our thoughts upon single statements or misinformation of statements, we must focus on the issue at hand. This could provide us with an objective understanding of the issue which could potentially lead to great change. 



Alberta, The Huffington Post. What We Learned From Neil Young's Honour The Treaties Tour And Anti-Oilsands Fight. 2014.

Cryderman, Kelly. Not On An 'Anti-Tar-Sands Crusade', Neil Young Says. 2014.

Krugel, Lauren. Jan 2015.

News, CBC. Neil Young Concert Tour Surpasses Anti-Oil Sands Fund. 2014.

Press, The Canadian. Neil Young Reiterates Criticism Of Harper Government, Oilsands With New Statement. 2014.


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