Spike Jonze the driving force behind VBS.TV

Eco-friendly site shows impact of oil sands in Toxic Alberta

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

VBS.TV home page

Environmental awareness has a new media dimension in VBS.TV, which is an online broadcast network that claims to be “saving your eyes from the blinding pain of television.”

The free and original content that streams on VBS.TV now includes a series on the oil sands of Alberta that heightens environmental awareness without inducing the numbness of cable news.

Spike Jonze, director of Adaptation and Being John Malkovich, is the creative force behind the website and approaches complex and sensitive issues with a wry sense of humour.

The website declares: “People have used words like eclectic, smart, funny, shocking and revolutionary to describe VBS, but we kind of just snapped our fingers in their faces and went, ‘Whatever. Tell us something we don’t know.’”

The broadcasts range from the ideological stance of Hezbollah to the music scene in Jamaica and are brought to life by sharp wit.

Eddy Moretti, VBS producer form New York, was sent to Fort McMurray, Alberta to make a 15-segment series on the effects of oil sands on the environment. The series, Toxic Alberta, not surprisingly, reflects the website’s attitude toward the oil sands.

Unlike some news television channels, VBS doesn’t hide its bias, instead it states “travelling through the haze of Fort McMurray did nothing but fortify our stance on fossil fuel. It’s dirty, expensive, and " most importantly " nonrenewable.”

Part one of Toxic Alberta shows the refineries from the side of the highway at night, glowing with red light and billowing with smoke, conjuring images of the apocalypse.

Images throughout Toxic Alberta depict mountains of clearcut logs or lagoons of polluted water and convey the toll of extraction through the destruction of trees and the mining of earth.

Lindsay Telfer of Sierra Club Canada describes the process as “the dirtiest [way] to produce oil in the world.”

VBS digs deep and explores the effects on inhabitants in the surrounding area. Moretti’s ability to initiate conversations with strangers brings a story of global consequence to the personal level. Workers in the industry defend the need to support family, while explaining no real estate market is developing to create affordable homes.

Natives downstream of Fort McMurray argue pollution of the Athabasca River destroys traditional methods of trapping and fishing.

“We’ve been here for 10,000 years and look for the Indian footprint " you won’t see it,” Pat Marcel, an elder of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, says.

Moretti concludes that unprecedented development in the oil industry led to circumstances spiraling out of control.

VBS delivers varied angles of environmental awareness in small, but informative doses that seek to initiate change through awareness.

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