Having worked on projects in the past with renowned environmentalist Bill McKibben, MacLean considers himself a “quasi-activist.” He saw some images by other photographers working in the tar sands like Garth Lenz and Louis Helbig, which piqued his interest in capturing images of the Keystone XL’s source in Canada’s north.
“I thought the issue was really important,” MacLean told Inhabitat. “I’ve seen photographs and it’s an amazing landscape in the scheme of things. And what it represents for climate change is important.”
In the proposal for his project, “The Big Picture: Keystone XL From Above,” MacLean refers to the project as “‘the fuse of the Alberta carbon bomb,’” that “will tap the world’s largest oil reserve buried under the vast boreal forest of Alberta. The deposit contains approximately 200 billion barrels of accessible oil worth more than 10 trillion USD.” He adds that the pipeline would carry nearly a million barrels of oil a day to American refineries in the Midwest and Gulf Coast – or the equivalent of about three supertankers each week.
While the scale and scope of the Alberta tar sands is more broadly known in Canada, MacLean feels there is little public awareness of what’s actually happening at the source of the proposed Keystone XL project.
“I don’t think anyone really associates (the tar sands) with what’s coming through the pipeline,” MacLean says. “I didn’t really understand bitumen and its nature – or some of the problems that could happen if it should spill. There are much more severe consequences for cleanup (than other kinds of oil).”