Greta Thunberg travelled to Fort McMurray Friday, following her speech at a large rally in Edmonton.
The climate activist arrived in northern Alberta Friday night for a private meeting with Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam.
“We talked about what was going on in our region,” said Adam. “Where we come from, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, everything you [Fort McMurray] do affects us.”
Adam said residents of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation are feeling the effects of climate change, and he wants more action.
“When Greta comes around, as a chief… I am obligated to meet her. To understand what she’s all about,” he said.
He said that the community uses the money it gets from the energy industry to fund projects like community-based monitoring, in an attempt to see what effects climate change is having in the region.
“It took someone from Europe, a young little woman who had the courage to stand up to Canada and the United States, to say to them your emission of greenhouse [gas]… has a global catastrophe to all humanity.”
Thunberg was in Edmonton Friday, where she spoke to thousands at a rally outside the legislature. There will be no such rally in Fort McMurray where her presence is divisive.
Robbie Picard, founder of the activist group Oilsands Strong, said he’s feeling very conflicted about the teen’s visit.
“I’m torn on Greta’s visit,” he said. “She’s a 16-year-old girl who we should be kind to and she’s trying to make the world a bit better.”
But he also said Thunberg is just the latest in a slew of celebrities to weigh in on the oilsands.
Among those who have done tours of Fort McMurray’s oilsands are Neil Young, Leonardo DiCaprio, Martha Stewart, Desmond Tutu, James Cameron, and, most recently, Jane Fonda–who Picard confronted in a Fort McMurray parking lot in 2017.
“Not one bit of her [Thunberg’s] trip has not involved fossil fuels from the Tesla she’s driving, to the food she’s eating, and the plastic forks she’s using.”
“I think it’s very important that she realizes quickly that one, the oilsands provide economic reconciliation and that pipelines are the new traplines.”
Picard said he thinks “the war on fossil fuels needs to change to a positive outlook on how we can always continuously improve the world we’re in and make it better.”
He said many First Nations in the region have hundreds of millions of dollars invested in the industry. “This is a very complex issue and a very important issue for our Indigenous people in this region.”
For Patricia Menon, a Grade 10 student in Fort McMurray, Greta’s visit to the province is exciting.
Menon is a member of EnviroMentor, a program that pairs high school students with fourth graders, in an effort to teach kids about the environment.
“Many people don’t like that she’s coming here because of the oilsands, they feel like she’s trying to shut it down… but I’m glad she’s here because she’s also educating us on climate change,” said Menon.
She added that it’s not about shutting the oilsands down, but rather it’s about stopping the global temperature from rising and making the industry more eco-friendly.
Thunberg did not respond to multiple media requests from CBC.