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.