The Gift

This is a documentary I shot last year about dear friends of mine. Please feel free to share with anyone you think would benefit from this amazing perspective on life. Very inspiring.
The Gift is a life affirming documentary about a woman who survived stage 4 cancer 12 years ago, only to discover last fall that not only has the cancer returned, but that her fifteen year old daughter has stage 4 brain cancer. Instead of becoming victims to their experience, they choose to live every day fully, in a Carpe Diem lifestyle, with gratitude, connection to their community and deep congruence. It is a story of the ultimate challenge of two women working to break the pattern of five generations of cancer in their family.

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Mountain Photography

Here are a few more new images taken over the New Year break in Canmore, Alberta.untitled-166-Edit untitled-168-Edit untitled-169-Edit untitled-171-Edit untitled-212-Edit untitled-226-Edit untitled-227-Edit-Edit

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Neil Young is Right

Unintended Consequences Documentary Project:

This is great blog about the Neil Young debate on oil sands.

Originally posted on Susan on the Soapbox:

“Take a second to really look at what you hear.” NeilYoung, singer/songwriter

Neil Young knows how to rile up a crowd.  In a 15 minute press conference* to kick off his Honour the Treaties Tour with Diana Krall he said some things that sent Big Oil and a number of Canadians into orbit.  Some of these guys are well past Pluto and show no signs of coming back!

Unlike other eco-celebrities like James Cameron, Robert Redford and Darryl Hannah, Mr Young’s comments can’t be dismissed with a disdainful wave of the hand…because he’s right.

Let’s review.

What Neil Young really said

Leaving aside his comparison of the oil sands with Hiroshima (which isn’t that far off) Mr Young’s point is this:  Canada traded its integrity for money in the headlong rush to develop the oil sands.

The Canadian government broke its promise (enshrined in section 35…

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New Photographs and Restarting the Blog

November 6, 2013

By: Matt Palmer

I have been absent for many months, as you may have noticed. This is due to a number of things, a combination of spending time working on some other projects, including the new Christopher Nolan movie “Interstellar”, and continuing to develop the proposal and financing plan for “Unintended Consequences”.

The good news is that we have secured some development financing from the Alberta Media Development Fund, as well as working out final details for some other development financing. We expect things to be in place soon, and that will allow us to restart the blog in the new year. All exciting and positive news.

In the meantime, I was out in the rocky mountains yesterday and captured some beautiful moments I’d like to share. The pictures are from Bow Lake. Stay tuned for more news soon…




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Monbiot, Consumption, and Our Values

April 22, 2013

By Matt Palmer

This article by George Monbiot “Let’s stop hiding behind recycling and be honest about consumption” illustrates one of the big challenges facing global society: consumption and the off shoring of emissions.

Monbiot argues that countries claims of reducing carbon emissions are misleading because they fail to account for emissions caused by consumption of imported goods  from places like China and India.

When nations negotiate global cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, they are held responsible only for the gases produced within their own borders. Partly as a result of this convention, these tend to be the only ones that countries count. When these “territorial emissions” fall, they congratulate themselves on reducing their carbon footprints. But as markets of all kinds have been globalised, and as manufacturing migrates from rich nations to poorer ones, territorial accounting bears ever less relationship to our real impacts.

It’s important that we continue to streamline and improve the efficiency of our energy systems, and reducing harmful environmental impacts. But we must not forget that our consumption of goods comes with environmental impacts, many of which have been sent off shore where the goods are produced, and in many cases dumped when we are done with them, particularly electronics.

What are the things that are most important to us? If we are honest with ourselves, what are the things that bring us the greatest sense of happiness, fulfillment, and inner well-being? What level of consumption can fulfill our needs? What do we value most in our lives, and how does our First World consumptive lifestyle support or not support it?

Just saying consumption is bad is not helpful, nor will it motivate people to change their habits. Perhaps a different conversation is necessary then to allow all of us to contemplate a different way of consuming, making different choices. These are conversations to be had globally yes, but perhaps by starting within our own families, our local communities, the conversations themselves can be the seed of change, by creating a greater understanding of our our needs and desires, and connecting us more with those around us. The emotional voids then decrease.

The additional benefit to these conversations is the inspiration they serve to community leaders, corporate leaders, and public policy makers to make changes at all levels.

Monbiot makes a generalization I do take umbrage with:

And this is where even the most progressive governments’ climate policies collide with everything else they represent. As Mustapha Mond points out in Brave New World, “industrial civilisation is only possible when there’s no self-denial. Self-indulgence up to the very limits imposed by hygiene and economics. Otherwise the wheels stop turning”.

The wheels of the current economic system – which depends on perpetual growth for its survival – certainly. The impossibility of sustaining this system of endless, pointless consumption without the continued erosion of the living planet and the future prospects of humankind, is the conversation we will not have.

The culture of self-indulgent consumption has not been good for the environment, nor for our own self-interest, our inner well-being. Filling an emotional void with stuff does not work.

However, this is not an argument against consumption, after all life must consume to survive. Humans have needs for shelter, warmth, clothing, food and on, but how far can we sustainably stretch “and on”? What choices can we make to ensure that as many people as possible can thrive? And, these choices will impact the global ecosystem, and the global economy. Thriving is important for our collective well-being. What values are most important to you that will help you to thrive?

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Love and Light to Boston

April 15, 2013

By Matt Palmer

I ran tonight in memory of all those in Boston, and for all those affected by the bombings at the marathon. I ran on the treadmill, watching the news, crying at points as the horrific images filled the screen. Can we ever make sense of events like these, whether politically driven or not? Having run the Boston Marathon, this news hit me hard.

As I ran tonight, beside me on the wall my framed souvenir poster from Boston, and my  Boston medal framed with a picture of me running, I thought back to moments in my race. Standing at the start line in Hopkinton, nearly crying, the screams and cheers of the half a million plus spectators all along the course, scream tunnel at Wellesley College, seeing my family at Heartbreak Hill, and finally the left turn on to Boylston Street where the finish line loomed ahead, and the noise of the crowd was so loud, my aching body went into sensory overload. My most prominent memory of the Boston marathon is about the camaraderie of the people, the other runners, the spectators, the celebratory spirit. So many people in Boston, accomplishing a life long dream. With all that has happened, I need to remind myself of the good things about the Boston Marathon.



Heartbreak Hill

The marathon is a celebration of the human spirit. Human resiliency gets pushed to the limit, and when you hit the wall, it is sheer will and determination that pulls you forward. It is an event that forces you to push past the fears and doubts in your mind, to ignore the desire to stop, give up, to end the pain. The marathon is an individual accomplishment that demonstrates in the most concrete fashion that anything is possible.

The horror of the bombings cannot be put into words. The images express it all. To know that people lost their lives, their limbs, their loved ones, and that their confidence and belief in the good of humanity has been deeply damaged, fills me with intense sadness.  But, we can all take a moment to reflect on how we will respond.

Anger. Fear. Confusion. Sadness. These are valid and natural emotions. Taking time to sit with these feelings, to sit with the darkness is hard, but it is perhaps the first step forward.

We need to heal. We need to help those who were directly in harms way heal. We need to celebrate those who ran towards the explosions to help. As terrible as this event is, and as we grieve for those who died, we should move forward with strength, with confidence, with love in our hearts, especially for those who may not be feeling loved, who are vulnerable. A quick scan of the news on any day shows how deeply wounded so many in society are, how disconnected we have become from ourselves, and others. Tomorrow is an opportunity to change this. In small ways. Reach out to those you love. Send a message to people in Boston. Have coffee with a friend and talk about how this event changed you.

Marathoning is not about running away, but running to your inner self. It helped me connect with my inner spirit, and discover strength.

I am thankful that I had the opportunity to run the Boston Marathon, and thankful I was not there today. But this event does not weaken my desire to go run again in Boston, and celebrate in a wonderful city with amazing people.

Love and light to all in Boston. Here is a link to my post about running the marathon.

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Don’t Let the Energy Blowback Get You Down

February 26, 2013

By Matt Palmer

Woody Allen once said, “Time is natures way of keeping everything from happening at once.” Wouldn’t it be amazing if we knew everything at the same time, that the answers to our biggest problems presented themselves in ways that made them seem, well, obvious. Are we in this situation now with regards to the grand energy challenges before us? The world still needs oil so for many building oil sands operations seems obvious, while for others the obvious thing is building a lot more wind farms.

For the past many years, the dominant narrative about energy said that fossil fuels are dirty and alternative energy sources like wind, solar, hydro, are clean and perhaps benign. (this used to be a standard line) But life is never so simple. Energy sources like oil absolutely have negative impacts (social, environmental, political, economic), but to only focus on the negative fails to credit the tremendous good that has resulted from our ability to harness energy and by-products (i.e. like petrochemicals) that are the building blocks for our modern global society. Quickly take a moment and plan out what you could do this weekend that would in absolutely no way have anything to do with oil or fossil fuels. (Did you end up naked in a forest foraging for berries?)

Conversely, to see alternative energy sources like wind and solar as solutions without negative environmental impacts (or social, political, economic) belies that the natural world exists in a state of yin and yang: for every action introduced into a system there is a reaction.

The following article, “Wind Farms Will Create More Carbon Dioxide” reveals research calling into question a major component of Scotland’s strategy to convert a large portion of their electrical grid to wind energy by building wind farms on non-degraded peatlands. The research suggests that the infrastructure required to build on these peatlands, like roads, along with the permanent siting of the turbines destroys the peatlands ability to absorb CO2.

“The world’s peatlands have four times the amount of carbon than all the world’s rainforests. But they are a Cinderella habitat, completely invisible to decision- makers.”

One typical large peat site just approved in southern Scotland, the Kilgallioch wind farm, includes 43 miles of roads and tracks. Peat only retains its carbon if it is moist, but the roads and tracks block the passage of the water.

The research was commissioned by the Scottish government, a big wind supporter, so the results came as a surprise.

Even the initial version of the calculator found that the carbon cost of a badly sited peat wind farm — on a sloping site, resulting in more drainage of the peat, and without restoration afterwards — was so high that it would take 23 years before it provided any CO2 benefit. The typical life of a wind farm is only 25 years.

The researchers initially believed that well-managed and well-sited peatland wind farms could still cut greenhouse gas emissions, over time, compared to electricity generation overall.

But now they say that the shrinking use of fossil fuels in overall electricity generation has changed the equation, making the comparison less favourable to all peatland wind farms.

When I posted this link on Facebook, a friend reposted and someone on their feed  commented that the report was BS and likely has influenced by fossil fuel addicts. It should not come as a surprise that the industrialization of energy, harnessing even clean sources like wind and solar, is going to create some negative environmental impacts. We cannot afford to ignore realities of energy production, distribution, and consumption, no matter what the source, or to ensure that tough questions are being asked, and that foresight is employed in the planning of new energy systems. In this case, the research suggests it is bad policy to build wind farms on peatlands.

The energy challenge before us is ripe with potential potholes ready to surprise us, and throw us off course. After all, it’s not like 150 years ago when oil was discovered that anyone considered the future impacts of harnessing the power within oil. How can we make better choices, smarter plans that will ensure more of the world’s 7 billion people have access to affordable, reliable energy?

No matter what choices we make, we will have to deal with the costs. This is true whether we choose oil sands, shale gas, coal, wind, solar, nuclear, geothermal, or biomass. Over the coming decades, all of these energy choices will have a place in the mix, and hopefully, new technologies will make the harnessing of each source cleaner, more sustainable, more efficient, and be able to mitigate some of the unintended consequences.

So we cannot let the blowback against different energy sources, like building wind farms on peatlands, lessen our resolve to make the technologies better, or find better locations for these industrial projects. What can we learn from our mistakes and inspire continuous improvement?

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