By Matt Palmer
2012! Happy New Year to all. This is going to be an amazing year.
For me it marks the start of a new chapter in an almost three-year long journey to create a documentary project about the future of global energy. It is certainly the biggest project I have ever embarked on, and the most important. This is a project that is driven by passion. It is a story that must be told, and one that has the potential to fundamentally change how we as a society feel about, talk about and use energy.
So why am I embarking on this mission? It began for me in 2004 when I was researching a two-hour documentary that I co-produced and directed on the Alberta oil sands called “Pay Dirt”. I knew nothing about oil sands, and not much about energy. As I read many interesting books, and then had the chance to go to Fort McMurray and see the oil sands for myself, my understanding grew. The complexity of the oil sands debate, and how it relates to the bigger issue of global energy and the future became something that stayed in my mind, even as I moved on to making other films.
Then in 2009, I had an epiphany. After a few years of wondering how I would expand the story I had told in “Pay Dirt” it occurred to me that while there is lots of talk about the negatives around oil sands development, there was not a lot of discussion about the unintended consequences, positive and negative, of all energy systems. As I began researching this idea, I grasped the importance of looking at energy from a system’s perspective – in other words, looking at the costs of energy through the full lifespan.
There is no such thing as an energy system that is free and benign, despite the rhetoric of some individuals and organizations. Harnessing any energy source for human consumption comes with costs, with trade offs. Once we understand this, and how our own consumption patterns impact our world, we will be able to make better decisions for now and the future. This is not just an energy supply issue, but perhaps as the world heads towards 9 billion people, it is a demand issue.
The mission of the “Unintended Consequences Documentary Project” is to increase our collective energy literacy. Currently, energy illiteracy is driving the debate, and even more dangerously, energy illiteracy is impacting policy decisions that will have enormous impact on the future of humanity. By increasing our understanding of how energy systems work, and what makes a good energy system, we can separate ourselves from inflammatory emotions, and propoganda, and move towards rational and pragmatic solutions. No matter what solutions we determine are in our best interests, there will be positive and negative unintended consequences.
“Unintended Consequences Documentary Project” is a call to action. This is not a passive experience. We want you, the audience, to be involved, and we’re going to provide some cool ways to do that all the way through the production process, and after. This project is about building a global community of caring and committed individuals who are willing to leave their preconceived ideas and ideologies at the door, and consider embracing constant critical thinking. This is about fostering open system thinking, and inspiring an environment where listening takes precedence over reacting or self-righteousness. This project is about chosing curiosity over despair and fear, and acknowledging the limits of our understanding. As storytellers we will always invite critical judgment and new ideas. We encourage thinking, not mere belief.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post, and we look forward to your participation as the project grows. Feel free to leave comments, and share this with your friends through your own networks and social media.