In The Lord of the Rings, it's the hobbits - quiet, unassuming, unambitious people who love all things green and want nothing from the outside world but to be left in peace to cultivate their gardens and enjoy each others' company over a basket of mushrooms and a pint or five at the local pub - who carry the One Ring into the heart of the dark, stony, volcanic, lifeless kingdom of Mordor and bring about the downfall of Sauron, the essence of evil.
The Lord of the Rings movies feature the environmental theme very prominently, as cast member Dominic Monaghan points out in the special features of The Two Towers. The evildoers have no regard for the land. Saruman, the corrupted wizard, wantonly rips down forests to fuel his pseudo-industrial works and feed his lust for power. He's defeated by the Ents - an army of walking trees, roused to action by the malicious destruction of greenery.
A picture comparing Mordor to the Alberta tar sands has been circulating the Facebook-o-sphere. Rumors that the tar sands were being considered for location filming as Mordor for the upcoming movies of The Hobbit have turned out to be part of a hoax put on by Toronto activists. But in 2008 the UN water advisor did indeed likened the tar sands to Mordor.
Canadians are like hobbits: peaceful, outdoorsy, modest, never starting wars, not wanting anything from the world but to be left in peace to enjoy each others' company over a box of Tim-bits and a can of beer or five while the game's on.
Canadians have elected and now reelected a conservative prime minister who hails from the province of the tar sands, and is determined to maximize their development. He's trying to sell the oil to China and plans to run a pipeline through BC forests and coast, now that Obama has kiboshed the Keystone pipeline. He told the press his meetings with Chinese officals were "very successful." His mild smile and dead shark eyes reveal as much humanity as Sauron's helmet.
Oh come on. It's just oil. What's the worst that could happen?
How about this: oblivion.
NASA's chief scientist James Hanson said that if the tar sands continue to be developed at the rate they are, it's game over for the planet. That's a direct quote: game over. He was willing to be arrested, protesting the Keystone pipeline in front of the Whitehouse.
So in the fictional world, hobbits save Middle Earth from the tyranny of Mordor. In the real world, hobbits have created Mordor, and are actively fuelling its expansion and planetary impact.
And even if an intrepid band of adventurers from various nations sets off on a quest to throw some symbolically powerful object - one of Gretzky's Stanley Cup rings, perhaps - into a roiling pit of bubbling oil in the heart of Northern Alberta, it may be too late already.
And so ends this age, thanks to the most unlikely people imaginable. For the time shall soon come when Canadians will shape the fortunes of all…