The Goldman Environmental Prize is perhaps the most important—and generous—environmental tribute of its kind with an annual financial award that goes to grassroots environmental heroes from each of the world’s six inhabited continents. In The Grid we meet one of the winners, Ursula Sladek of Germany, for whom the idea of 100-percent reliance on renewable energy by 2050 is not a hope or a dream, but simply a matter of time. Having led a successful 10-year effort to take over her regional power grid through a citizen’s collective, Sladek is accustomed to taking her time. Today, following deregulation of Germany’s electricity market, Sladek’s collective serves some 250,00 users throughout the country—paying those who feed the grid with excess power and rewarding those who save on energy consumption.
Finnish for “hiding place” is onkalo; it is also the name for the first-ever permanent burial ground for spent nuclear waste, now being built in Finland to house that country’s radioactive waste. The film takes us inside Onkalo, a deep and vast man-made cave excavated more than four kilometers into the earth. When it is finished in the twenty-second century, it will be covered and sealed for eternity. Filmmaker Michael Madsen has made a poetic and haunting film about this eerie place, and in it he asks many probing questions, including most agonizing of all: How do we protect the people of the far future from Onkalo and what it holds?—a question made all the more on point after the recent disaster at the Fukushima plant in Japan.