Light-hearted activism: The Tar Sands Dragon Opera.

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It can be difficult to convey important messages if the public does not want to hear them. Often, serious information is pushed aside because the message is too “heavy” to accept. In the case of environmental degradation, especially with the tar sands, motivation to take action can be overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the problem. With distortion by the media, political leanings, and industry monopolies, the average citizen may perceive their efforts as useless. Through protests and activism, resistance can flicker; however, there are other tactics that can encourage everyday citizens to join the call.

An effective approach to generating awareness of the tar sands is through art. I recently attended a puppet show by Birdbone Theatre that focused on the impact of the tar sands and the Line 9 debate. The two performers, Alison and Aleksandra, used puppets to expose the reality of Line 9 while maintaining a sense of levity. Instead of bombarding the audience with overwhelming facts about Line 9 or a heroic vision of activism, Ali and Aleks allowed for collaboration and laughter. With audience participation, the conversation was not one-sided. Rather, it relied on communication and a response from those in attendance. By freeing the conversation from boundaries, the puppet show allowed for a nuanced approach to the debate. The topic of Line 9 had become much more than a black and white debate - it took many unexpected detours that were prompted by imagination.

At the Line 9 puppet show, the audience was prompted to scream in horror when startling facts were brought up. With the entire audience screaming in horror, albeit in a comical way, there was a sense of fellowship. Everyone at the show had the same opinion of Line 9 and considered the facts horrifying. Instead of being paralyzed by the stark information, the audience could break the tension as a group and overcome any feeling of helplessness.

The overarching purpose of the “Tar Sands Dragon Opera” is to re-evaluate Line 9 on a local scale. Ali and Aleks are touring communities across Line 9 from Sarnia, Ontario to Sherbrooke, Quebec to highlight the connectedness of the situation. The pipeline undoubtedly connects all the cities it runs through; however, what should connect these cities is a willingness to resist it. It is incredible to imagine how many communities and ecosystems could be affected by the pipeline. It is even more incredible to think of the impact these communities could have if they worked together to fight Line 9.


The Tar Sands Dragon Opera might even be coming to your town! Have some fun, enjoy some good company, and join the conversation! You can keep up to-date on tour information via Twitter @pipelinedragon. If you want to learn more about the show and the performers you can check them out here