In this clip, James Cameron, director of "Avatar," speaks to MSNBC via Skype about his thoughts on his trip to get a first-hand glimpse of the controversial Athabasca oil sands in Alberta, Canada.
Cameron says that because the 142,000-square-kilometer deposit is the second largest in the world next to Saudi Arabia, it has triggered a gold rush of oil companies stampeding to reap the benefits, and that kind of expediency is extremely dangerous.
"The concerns are obvious," Cameron says, attesting that scientific evidence has found carcinogenic toxins from the enormous tailing ponds of the surface mining operations leaking into the water supply, and are most likely airborne as well.
While Cameron admits the massive deposit is an opportunity for North America to become independent of foreign oil, he thinks that "it's time to put the brakes on it" until the full impacts have been diligently assessed and safety concerns meticulously studied.
Cameron says only 2% of the tar sands in Alberta have been developed at this point, so unless the haste for retrieving the oil is slowed down and the process thoroughly examined, "the capacity for an ecological disaster here on an unprecedented scale is possible."
Critics consider surface mining of tar sands not only detrimental to the environment and indigenous populations in the area, but one of the most energy and water-intensive methods of extracting oil. The process was recently approved in Utah, where it is set to become the first oil sands project in the U.S.