Film Review: Uranium Drive-In

The 22nd annual St. Louis International Film Festival, which ran from November 14-24, offered the typical variety of independent films.  I appreciated the chance to review a few of the movies featuring environmental issues.

Uranium Drive-InUranium Drive-In highlighted a bleak situation in Colorado, illustrating an ongoing debate about nuclear power and the environment vs. jobs and economic survival.  Director/producer Suzan Beraza with Reel Thing Films offered a nice balance carefully showing both sides of the argument, which left me feeling empathy for all.

Desperate people do desperate things.  Residents of Naturita (pronounced Natter-eeta), an old and economically depressed mining town, are largely eager about the prospects of a new uranium mine to bring back jobs and economic prosperity they once new.  While aware of the dangers and risks of mining, they are desperate enough to risk their health and safety on mining uranium.  They did it before, and when business was booming, no one thought about the health and safety of the workers or the environment.  As one mining proponent put it, “Nobody’s ever died from water quality, I don’t think.”

The opposition comes primarily from wealthier residents of nearby Telluride, who live downstream from Naturita. Residents there, organized under the Sheep Mountain Alliance, are concerned more about the effect on the environment than the health of the miners, though they argue both points as they sue to stop the mine.

There is a clear sense from a number of Naturitans that their neighbors are not concerned about them. “We need food, but they don’t care about us.”  Their mayor is the community’s champion, eager to bring whatever business she can to Naturita and neighboring town Nucla.  Yet she is unable to attract other businesses to offer employment there.

The movie left me feeling largely empty and yet strangely hopeful.  A win-win could be found if everyone truly embraced their oneness and interdependence.  It will be interesting to see how this real-life drama plays out.

This was published in the Going Green section of the January 2014 issue of Spirit Seeker magazine.

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