A video that should have brought awe and amazement while promoting the West Coast’s outdoor playground has instead brought outrage due to a seemingly disastrous lapse in judgement.
‘Who is JOB’ is a video series sponsored by energy drink company Red Bull starring professional Hawaiian surfer Jamie O’Brien. The series shows O’Brien and his friends touring the globe surfing and enjoying various outdoor adventures.
The latest, roughly nine-minute, video in the series was shot on the West Coast and posted to Red Bull’s website and Facebook page on Aug. 20. It was also posted to Red Bull’s YouTube channel on Aug. 26.
The video features a scene where stunts are performed over a log sticking out of Kennedy Lake. The log is set on fire and online commenters quickly accused the troupe of pouring gasoline to set the blaze.
Ministry of Environment spokesperson David Karn told the Westerly the B.C. Conservation Officer Service is looking into the situation.
“The complaint was submitted via the RAPP [Report All Poachers and Polluters] line, and will be considered by the CO as to whether it warrants investigation,” Karn said.
While the video does not show any flame accelerants, Tofino local Josh Temple told the Westerly News he is “100 per cent” positive that petroleum products were used.
“I’ve spoken with several of the people that were actually there,” he said. “No ifs ands or buts; it was gasoline.”
Temple, who has lived in Tofino for over 20 years, reached out to the Westerly to voice his frustration over the video, which he said he first watched on Saturday.
He said he recognized the area in the shot as the spot where the upper Kennedy River flows into Kennedy Lake and said he was devastated to see, what he believes was, gasoline-use in a sensitive watershed.
“The fact that this sort of action was condoned and promoted by these guys and spread to millions of people around the world is wrong in itself and it’s completely illegal to be dumping gasoline and petroleum products willingly into an anadromous fish producing watershed,” he said.
“We, as a community, have spent innumerable amounts of money, time and effort to try to bring this watershed back to historical levels and to have a major company and celebrity come in and do actions such as these in our area is completely unacceptable and, not only that, but then to promote it to millions of people around the world is about as sad as it gets from our eyes.”
He added Jamie O’Brien and Red Bull have large online followings that need to know better.
“Their demographic is young people around the world and, if this is the type of thing that they’re promoting to these young people, then what kind of message are we sending to that demographic other than, ‘It’s ok to come out here and trash our local resources in the name of getting an exciting video clip,’” Temple said.
He immediately reported the video to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada as well as B.C.’s Ministry of Environment.
“I want to see a full investigation,” he said. “I want to see a public apology from Red Bull and Jamie O’Brien and I want to see them come to the table with some sort of restitution and a way to make this right.”
Temple said ignorance would not be an acceptable excuse from either the company or O’Brien.
“You can’t tell me that they didn’t know what they were doing was wrong,” he said.
“You can’t tell me that somebody is going to say straight faced that they thought taking petroleum products, dumping them into a pristine wilderness environment and lighting them on fire was a good idea and that it would be okay for the environment. You can’t tell me that. So, obviously, they’re not thinking about it or, worst-case scenario, they were thinking about it and just didn’t care.”
He added locals must speak out when they see these types of actions.
“We’re the people that are charged with taking care of this area. The area doesn’t protect itself from us, we have to protect the area from ourselves,” he said.
“We have to stand up when we see someone doing this and say, ‘This is not acceptable. This is wrong…We’re not going to condone something like this and we’re not going to allow companies like Red Bull and celebrities like Jamie O’Brien to come into this area and offer up this type of promotion to the rest of the world.’”
The Westerly was unable to reach Red Bull or Jamie O’Brien for comment by 4 p.m. Monday but will follow this story as it develops.