A lot of what has been said about Jane Fonda lately holds the tone that she had no right to visit the oil sands — that she is stupid and has no idea what she is talking about. I don’t think this is true. If people start believing that the oil sands should be an area secluded from the media, void of all outside and public documentation, we won’t be treating the oil sands like a Canadian industry.
Fonda had as much of a right to go and see the oil sands as anyone else. If she wished to fly up North in January, that is her choice – albeit a terrible one. Why on earth would you choose to leave California for this?
I do, however, agree with the Premier of Alberta. Fonda chose a time to visit the oil sands, and Fort McMurray, that shows the industry at one of its lowest points. It’s the middle of winter, just a few months after Canada’s largest natural disaster — what a great time to prove what the industry is like.
This brings me to my main point. Fonda is not stupid, and she appears to be knowledgeable on certain aspects of the petroleum industry, but she suffers from a severe case of confirmation bias. She came to northern Alberta expecting, if not wanting, to see an environmental nightmare, and that is what she received.
Fonda didn’t come to the oil sands to prove herself wrong, as a real researcher would do. She went to prove her assumptions right. Of course, there are plenty of problems associated with the oil industry — everyone knows this — but Fonda went to see what was wrong, and ignored everything that had any potential to sway her view.
Confirmation bias ruins real searches for knowledge; it stops people from actually seeing the truth, and instead allows them to find only partial truths that align with their particular points of view. It’s thinking like this that allows people to still believe that vaccines cause autism, or that climate change is a hoax devised by the Chinese.
Fonda has a real heart for the Indigenous people of Alberta affected by the oil industry and the pipeline. For that, I appreciate her attempt to use her voice for good, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that she did not do enough research. I recently went to a presentation by Crystal Lameman, so I have heard how the oil sands are affecting the Indigenous way of life, and I believe a better balance should be found.
In no way do I think the oil industry is perfect or good for the environment, nor do I believe the Facebook posts that say things like, “90 per cent of Indigenous people think the pipeline is a great idea.” That’s just ridiculous.
I do, however, believe Fonda made a poor decision in sharing her views the way she did. By not informing herself of other perspectives, and not becoming more knowledgeable on the situation in Fort McMurray, she exposed herself to ridicule, and in turn failed in her efforts.
Fonda attempted to scold Albertans for their way of life, and for the environmental damage done by the oil sands, yet she didn’t happen to offer new solutions. Her combination of mildly hypocritical opinions (on the CBC Fonda chided a collective “us” for not listening to Indigenous peoples on how to live properly, and for listening to what the uber-rich have to say, while Fonda is a multimillionaire who took a private helicopter to view the oil sands), paired with misinformation, didn’t put much validity to her attempt at vilifying Alberta’s biggest industry.
Fonda is not some evil person who hates Albertans; she is, however, someone who was misinformed and filled with confirmation biases, and in turn wasn’t particularly successful in inspiring change.
All I hope is that the next person who takes to the media to help the environment doesn’t let personal beliefs get in the way of fact, because this doesn’t help anyone, or accomplish anything.
Cover photo by Ingrid Ritcher / CC BY.