Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu attended a conference in Fort McMurray, Alberta, for a firsthand look at local oil development, which he has criticized.
Tutu, 82, wrote an Op-Ed in The Guardian in which he declared himself appalled by the Keystone XL pipeline proposal to transport bitumen from the oil sands of Alberta to the United States. The South African archbishop wrote of a religious responsibility to protect the earth from climate change.
"It is a responsibility that begins with God commanding the first human inhabitants of the Garden of Eden 'to till it and keep it.' To keep it, not to abuse it, not to destroy it," Tutu wrote.
He will take an aerial tour of the oil sands, and deliver the keynote address Saturday at the "As Long As the Rivers Flow: Coming Back to the Treaty Relationship In Our Time" conference. The forum, sponsored in part by Canadian First Nations tribes, is meant to renew treaty arrangements in an era of extensive mineral extraction developments in western Canada.
"He (Tutu) is a more prominent person than the Hollywood celebrities that have come here," noted local resident Brigitte Mbanga.