Editorial: Caring about lakes isn’t extreme

Red Bull is not sorry for polluting your lake because environmental stewardship doesn't sell energy drinks.

September 22 marked the first day of fall and forced us all into a post-summer world.

The sun has earned some time off after shining on us for four solid months and dark stormy skies are clocking in for the next season’s shift.

Our summer’s sun set the same way it rose, with everyone fuming over a video.

Back in May, before anyone had a chance to whine about the incoming tourist season, two visitors filmed themselves hand-feeding rice-cakes to a bear near Kennedy Lake and local outrage ensued.

B.C.’s Conservation Officer Service acted quickly, calling out for the public’s assistance in identifying the men who have since both been fined $350 and, apparently, expressed remorse for what they did.

It was a nice, albeit short-lived, dream to think the collectively negative reaction to the video and the money its stars were forced to cough up would convince the ignorant to educate themselves on how to act in our local surroundings but of course that didn’t happen.

In the wake of May’s feeding scandal, this newspaper called for more signage to be installed telling visitors not to feed wild animals. Apparently, we live in a world where signage is needed to tell visitors not to pour petroleum into a delicate watershed.

Kennedy Lake sits within a Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Park and it was heartbreaking to hear Tla-o-qui-aht Chief Councillor Elmer Frank doubt Red Bull would apologize. It was also entirely too easy to agree with him.

Red Bull does not care.

The company took down the video, that showed its celebrity surfer Jamie O’Brien and his crew lighting a log on fire in the middle of Kennedy Lake, and apologized to B.C. Parks for filming without a permit.

That apology may seem confusing, given the permit was the least of anyone’s concerns, but it makes sense if you noticed how many media outlets wrote variations of the sentence “the company has since apologized.”

It was a brilliant public relations move. Red Bull managed to stay away from admitting any environmental wrongdoing while still coming off as aware and apologetic of their celebrity’s actions.

Red Bull is not sorry.

Here’s a promotional blurb that remains on the company’s website as of Sept. 29 promoting the next episode in O’Brien’s web series:

“If you saw last week’s episode of ‘Who Is JOB 6.0,’ you know that Jamie O’Brien and his merry band of Canuckleheads have left their Hawaiian home base for some frigid frivolity in Canada that included —among other inanities — lake boarding with a burning-log jump…”

There has been no legitimate apology and the company cares so little about the West Coast’s anger that the scene which caused that anger is being used as promotional fodder. The blurb goes on to assure viewers, “The hijinx continue, but with a decidedly darker twist.”

How exciting.

Don’t waste your anger on Jamie O’Brien. He gets paid to push boundaries and act foolish for the sake of seeming extreme. Environmental consciousness is not what sells energy drinks to suckers who think swallowing a high amount of sugar in a short period of time will lead to exciting experiences and hilarious hijinx. Enjoying nature responsibly isn’t going to get O’Brien the link clicks and followers he needs to stay relevant.

He had local chaperones too and that kills any credibility local outrage might have. Never say those locals should have known better; there’s too much benefit in that doubt. They absolutely did know better but were seduced by celebrity status and unleashed a horrifyingly false perception of West Coasters into the world.

We are extreme on this Coast. We are extremely in love with our paradise and we get extremely ticked off when we see it abused. But, that’s not the sort of extreme Red Bull cares about.