Neil Young travelled to the oilsands region in September 2013 as part of a documentary being made on his hybrid 1959 Lincoln Continental. "The fact is, Fort McMurray looks like Hiroshima," Young later said. "Fort McMurray is a wasteland. The Indians up there and the native peoples are dying. The fuel's all over. There's fumes everywhere. You can smell it when you get to town." His comments struck a sour note with some in the region. A local radio station boycotted his music. A filmmaker contracted to work on the picture later came forward to say that Young's trip seemed to be focused on juxtaposing his vehicle against the oil industry and ignored any of the environmental progress being made in the region. Young held four concerts in January in Canada to benefit the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation’s fight against oilsands development in its territory.
While filming a movie in Vancouver in 2011, Robert Redford penned an op-ed in the Globe and Mail newspaper against the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which would connect Alberta's oilsands to the West Coast. In September of this year, the "All the President's Men" star released a short video urging U.S. President Barack Obama to reject the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would carry Alberta bitumen to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. "Developing the Canadian tarsands is destroying our great northern forests at a terrifying rate. It's killing our planet and there's no energy security in that," Redford says in the video. Alberta Premier Alison Redford fired back, questioning the credibility of celebrities "using energy flying on planes" and then criticizing the industry.
Daryl Hannah has been one of the most active celebrity oilsands critics. The "Splash" star joined singer Neil Young on his tour of the Fort McMurray region in September. In the summer of 2011, she was one of 1,200 people to get arrested outside the White House during a Keystone XL pipeline protest. Author Bill McKibben and actress Margot Kidder were also arrested. In October 2012, Hannah was arrested while attempting to block heavy equipment working on the pipeline in Winnsboro, Tex. Her manager, Paul Bassis, told local media: "When people engage in civil disobedience, it's a last resort."
In 2011, Mark Ruffalo appeared in a YouTube video calling for civil disobedience in Washington to protest the Keystone XL pipeline. "It's a terrible idea for a lot of reasons," Ruffalo says in the video. "Fossil fuels are over." Ruffalo, who was nominated for an Oscar for his role in the 2010 film "The Kids Are All Right," has also opposed fracking — a controversial process for extracting natural gas — in upper New York state where he has a home.
In 2011, "Seinfield's" Elaine put together a YouTube video in which she called on the U.S. president to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. She refers to it as a "mega-stupid" project. "As we speak, some very greedy guys are trying to make some very big bucks building a very, very dangerous pipeline that would carry an especially dirty form of oil called tarsands oil from Canada right through the heart of the United States all the way to the Gulf of Mexico," the actress says in the spot. "On the way, it would put air, water, climate and millions of our fellow citizens at risk.”
After calling the oilsands a "black eye" from afar, the "Avatar" director and "Titanic" Oscar winner travelled to the Fort McMurray region to meet with industry officials and aboriginal groups in September 2010. He came away calling the oilsands a "great gift to Canada." However, the Canadian-born Cameron warned that the gift could become a "curse" if development is not managed properly in the eyes of the world.
After getting arrested at the White House protesting the Keystone XL pipeline, Robert Kennedy Jr. pledged in June to travel to Fort McMurray to see first-hand the "benefits tarsands might bring to Canada." The president of the Waterkeepers Alliance didn't expect to be persuaded, however. "It's hard for me to imagine that I would see a benefit that would make me change my mind on the tarsands," he said before the trip. The visit was cancelled when Alberta was hit by devastating floods.
The "Footloose" star lent his voice to the narration of a 2011 video that focused on the so-called spirit bear and the route of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to B.C.'s West Coast. The rare spirit bear is a black bear with white fur that holds a prominent place in the legends of B.C. First Nations. In the video, Bacon calls Gateway a "grave new threat" to the "spirit bear coast."