Dear Science Guy

Dear Bill Nye, Science Guy,

I debated for a very long time about whether to write about the comments you made recently. You see, you were in discussion with the prime minister of my country and you referred to my community. And your comments didn’t make me angry; they simply made me feel weary, but despite my weariness I felt I had to comment.

What you said is that Fort McMurray is the most amazing place in the most troubling way.

I would have expected that someone who calls themselves the “science guy” would’ve been more careful with the semantics of this phrase. Because you see Fort McMurray is more than that to which you refer, because I suspect you are referring to the oil sands, our major industry.

But that’s not what you said. What you said is Fort McMurray – the place I call home, the place where I raised my child, and the place that appears on my mailing address.

Mr. Nye, Fort McMurray is more than oil sands. It is the home of tens of thousands of people, and it is the hometown of people like my daughter, who is currently studying to become a mechanical engineer (the same degree I believe you hold, incidentally).

When you say that Fort McMurray is the most amazing place in the most troubling way what you have done is condemned an entire community, not an industry. While the oil sands are our major industry, they are not all that we are.

I have become so weary of trying to explain this. To those from outside perhaps it seems that Fort McMurray is synonymous with the oil sands. But the truth is we are so much more and anyone who spends any period of time here should know that.

Perhaps you would argue that the semantics don’t matter; I would argue that they do. You’ve taken a dialogue that should’ve been about fossil fuels, energy and our future and changed it into one about my community.

And in doing so you’ve made the same mistake others have made before, like when Neil Young visited and compared Fort McMurray to Hiroshima.

And just as I did then I’m going to share some photos of my Fort McMurray; not of the oilsands but of my home.

It might interest you to know that my daughter, who grew up here, has no interest in working in the oil and gas industry. She understands that our future likely rests on finding alternatives to fossil fuels. But she also knows and acknowledges their current importance in our world.

So here Mr. Nye are some photos of my Fort McMurray. I’ve chosen to hashtag them #troublingFortMcMurray in the most tongue-in-cheek way, because I know that my Fort McMurray is anything but troubling. It is the place I have chosen to call home for the last 18 years, the place where I have found larger hearts and brighter spirits than anywhere else I have ever known, and the place where we give more than we take. You were right when you called it amazing; you were wrong when you called it troubling.

I would encourage you to come back someday Mr. Nye. My daughter, who grew up watching your television show, would undoubtedly be delighted to take you on a tour of her Fort McMurray, a place where the boreal forest grows, the rivers flow and the northern lights dance.

I hope in future you will consider your words more carefully. Whatever you think of the oil sands, perhaps you could keep in mind that Fort McMurray is the name of a community not the name of an industry; and a community that has endured a considerable degree of ass-kicking in recent years. And perhaps you could ensure your comments reflect this in the future.

Thanks for visiting Mr. Nye. I’m truly sorry that you didn’t get to see Fort McMurray, the community, but only saw the oil sands, the industry. I hope someday you’ll consider recognizing the difference.

Sincerely, Theresa

My #troublingFortMcMurray

8 thoughts on “Dear Science Guy

  1. He’s right, you’re looking at McMurray with Rose coloured glasses, time to take a real look around, not the town I was born and raised in anymore. Why? Most people couldn’t care less about the city, just their pay cheques, too much garbage laying around, lots of crime for the population and us old timers know the truth about the pollution and cancer rates etc as a direct cause of the plants. Take a look at the land that has had fracking on it….something out of a moon scape….


    • Thanks for your comment, Jan. I can assure you my glasses are anything but rose-coloured; I’m quite pragmatic about both the opportunity and the challenges in my community. And yes, communities do change; the one I was raised in has too.

      When I look around I see people who are very committed to our community in every sense; and the actual crime rates don’t support your assertion of “lots of crime for the population”. Perhaps you see Fort McMurray as Nye seems to have done – an industry, not a community – but I view it through a different lens.


  2. I like your photos. They’re evocative of place immersed in nature… not at all suggestive of oil sands or very large scale industrial mining and processing. Your association with Fort McMurray is much more than oil sands too. In looking at your website, I can see you’re connected with Fort McMurray at a very personal level. However, to the vast majority of people, Fort McMurray is synonymous with oil sands. You might benefit from a short walk in the shoes of someone who lives far away from Fort Mac and try to think of how they might think. If you didn’t live there and weren’t as personally invested in it, I suspect you’d be hard pressed to know Fort Mac for much more than oil sands either. Getting weary and taking umbrage because others think about Fort Mac for what it’s known for, does seem like you’re guilty of intentionally misunderstanding them and calling them out on it. It doesn’t really seem fair to me.


    • Thanks for the comment – but I haven’t always lived in Fort McMurray, and before I lived here I didn’t consider it synonymous with oil sands anymore than I think of Sudbury as synonymous with mining. Does mining occur in Sudbury as an industry? Yes. But is Sudbury more than mining? Of course – it’s a place people call home, which is my very point.

      To suggest I try to place myself in the shoes of another suggests I’ve never seen beyond my community; and that’s quite untrue. This isn’t about intentionally misunderstanding- it’s about developing an understanding that Fort McMurray, the community, and the oil sands, the industry, are not one and the same. Perhaps you would benefit from taking a short walk in the shoes of someone who resides here and knows this fundamental difference. While it may not seem fair to you, it’s clearly fair to me; if I, as an invested resident, can help others understand this critical difference then I’m quite comfortable with it and the “fairness” of my act.


  3. Well said! I left my beautiful niche in the Kootenays to be beside my husband while he worked in the oil sands industry! I absolutely loved it up there! People were friendly, kind and I’ve made lifelong memories and friendships. I substitute taught almost everyday in all grades. What great people and exciting students. I loved the sunrises, sunsets and the dancing northern lights. We supported the amazing galas and groups. Is there crime , drugs, garbage,etc?? — it’s in my town too AND yours!! It’s everywhere!! And as all the celebrities that speak – don’t be hypocrites. Walk around, don’t board that jet, turn off the fuel to your homes and vehicles!! And dipose of all the items in your lives and that are petroleum based!


  4. So many people in this country…. do not look beyond their our backyard. Modern society is so self centered… they know nothing of Canada. There is so much to learn, understand and enjoy with the people here. Learn about other parts of this country. Do not be so short sighted.


  5. Maybe those people you talk about being in their shoes should try and walking in the shoes of a fort mcmurray resident. Instead those people buy the beautiful people of Hollywood and politics to shoot their mouth off about something they know very little about. Yet they are the first to fly, sail, drive in their fuel guzzling transportation vehicles. Personally they make sick.


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