The Texas-born actor Ethan Hawke, who has been nominated for a total of four Academy Awards, made headlines in Canada today after lending his support to a Mi’kmaq community in Nova Scotia that wants a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Why Ethan Hawke? It turns out the 44-year old actor wasn’t the third or fourth choice on a long list that began with Robert Downey Jr. and ended with Mickey Rooney.
Hawke is a local, or at least has strong claims to such status. He bought a nine-acre private island with then wife Uma Thurman in 2002, and has been a regular in the area, or at least as much of a regular as someone who has acted in movies such as “Before Sunset”, “Lord of War” and Fast Food Nation” since then could be. In the Canadian Maritimes, anyone who cannot claim a birthright is forever regarded as a “CFA”, or a “come from away”. But thirteen years is enough time to make friends, especially if you frequent the local Tim Hortons enough.
“I’m sure some people are wondering what I’m doing here,” said the “Boyhood” star yesterday. “I’m largely here as your neighbour and your friend and a friend to this area.”
There is a way in which Ethan Hawke is the perfect person to attract attention to this particular cause. His hangdog humility is decided contrast to the churlish and indelicate recent efforts of Miley Cyrus to educate the public about British Columbia’s wolf cull or even Paul McCartney, who wasn’t quite aware which province he was in when he debated then Newfoundland premiere Danny Williams live on the Larry King show in 2008 about the seal hunt.
Drilling for oil in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is a decidedly bad idea. The area has shown mixed promise as a drill site and, more importantly than anyone not from the area can imagine, depends upon tourism for its economy.
Hawke is shining a light on an issue that has fewer shades of grey than seal hunts or wolf culls. Drilling for oil in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is a decidedly bad idea. The area has shown mixed promise as a drill site and, more importantly than anyone not from the area can imagine, depends upon tourism for its economy. Oh, and there’s that backdrop of the price of oil’s staggeringly rapid fall, something that has been argued in these pages isn’t about to abate.
A 2014 study from environment group St. Lawrence Coalition entitled “Oil in the Gulf of St. Lawrence: Facts, myths and future outlook” notes that ten exploration wells and more than 60,000 kilometres of seismic surveys have been conducted and drilled in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the results have been inconclusive. The study points out that the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which is seven times smaller than the Gulf of Mexico, would take several years to recover from an oil spill because the spill would remain confined by geography and winter ice cover. Ice covered more than 90% of the Gulf of St.Lawrence in 2014.
As recently as one year ago then Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced federal support for drilling in the Gulf of St, Lawrence, which it estimated could contain 39-trillion cubic feet of gas and 1.5 billion barrels of oil. With a Liberal majority elected, those plans may already be in serious jeopardy.
In Antigonish yesterday Hawke downplayed his role in the decision-making process.
“I know the real difference will be made in other rooms,” he said. “It’s just an opportunity to talk about it . . I was invited to be a part of this so I take it seriously.”
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