Leo, Justin and The Winter of our Discontent

Meanwhile west of Calgary… I’ve been enjoying driving the mountain passes and highways in my new car  in an unseasonably welcome warm and dry December  (yes, there will be more to come another day on Hiro and my love of the Scion FR-S).  

Clear skies, fast dry roads and summer tires well into November. Highway #66 west of the city (pic above) only just closed past Elbow Falls, #541 out of Longview is clear to the Kananaskis Park Gate and #546 west of Turner Valley is, well, better suited for the winter Michelin Xi3.  Premium gas is under $1.09 (that’s Regular at $0.84 a liter or better for most people) and the price of oil dropped further south this morning than Albertans and most of the worlds’ western economies are comfortable with (under $37 for the first time since the recession in 2008). Heavy snowfall has been in the forecast from here to Vancouver Island for weeks – there is talk of 90 inches in the Pacific North West – but so far only mild winter temps and dust this side of the Rockies.

This is not completely out of the ordinary however, as Leonardo Dicaprio is learning in a barrage of local media hits after describing his “climate” – aka Chinook – experiences here in Alberta to Variety Magazine after shooting for a film here last winter.  In the end, he didn’t find the eight feet of snow he was promised, not that we have ever had eight feet of snow, and the production moved to the land of El Nino and South American winter bliss in Argentina, but … what he did find a year later is a long list of local, mostly conservative comments on the article from ever vocal Albertans telling him to get his story straight correcting him with all the usual sources of information they (sometimes “we”) throw at those bleeding heart eastern liberal tree huggers, from Wikipedia, to the neighbor’s thick cat hair, to the feeling in my bones, to my favorite, a clip from a 1900 Calgary Herald paper citing the local weather and the blessing of the warm Chinook winds three months into a long cold winter (excuse my creative license – but the point is taken).  

Have I got your attention now? 
Well, like all Calgarians, I couldn’t resist adding my two cents to the pile. After all, who in Alberta doesn’t want to put a celebrity with an climate agenda and an opinion on Tar Sands (they’re called oil sands Leo) in their place?  

From one playboy millionaire to the next (re: the newly elected PM, and ever boyish, Justin Trudeau) offending our western sensibilities and more often than not our pride, it’s not the message Justin, er Leo, it’s the delivery.  

Here are my comments to Variety Magazine:

I’ve lived in Western Canada my whole life, in Calgary now and for much of that time, and yes Chinook winds let us ride our bikes on Chistmas day in the 70’s and two years ago we saw two feet of snow in a day…but I have also been around long enough to see the Columbia glaciers that I used to meet at the highway receed to the point you need a bus ride to get to them and local developers and politicians argue for 30 years we need yet another ski resort in the remote Jumbo Creek west of Invermere, BC, in a pristine backcountry you can get to with a little effort anyhow as spot lighted this winter by our friends at Patagonia.

Yes, like many, Leo witnessed and commented on our freakish weather at the foot of the Rockies, when perhaps he could have commented on a struggling oil and gas based economy with twice as many people out of work than when he visited only a year ago, the ridiculous local opposition to the city creating bike lanes in the core (imagine…yes, my wife and I both ride our bikes @20km to work in the warmer moths to stay fit) and how a city of @half a million in the 80’s more than doubled in size and population in less than two decades to well over a million with nearly uncontainable development and urban sprawl with traffic that can rival the largest cities and cab and parking rates that rival New York City and LA.

It is ignorant to make claims about a community you don’t understand but a disservice to your cause not take the time – or have one of your assistants or publicists take the time – to discuss real local issues and impacts of climate and development. 

 It is just as ignorant for Calgarians to sit in our SUV’s with our Latte’s and pretend we have no impact and Leo’s luxurious lifestyle is one we don’t aspire to in what is still one of the richest cities in the Americas. 

Yes, do your homework Leo, but Calgarians can do more to open their eyes to the simple changes we can manifest to make our world more sustainable and ensure our children do the same. 

It has been awhile since I’ve been writing friends, and I would love to hear your comments below. 



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