“Not in my backyard” – it’s an attitude environmentalists frequently encounter when proposed renewable energy installations move closer to becoming real ones. The Cape Wind project, for instance, has encountered stiff resistance from wealthy part-time residents of Cape Cod who, while supporting renewable energy in general, don’t want their view spoiled. That’s a fairly easy example of the NIMBY attitude to dismiss, as are those involving resistance to most wind projects.

But what if a coal or nuclear plant was planned for nearby? Would you want to be “downstream” from either of those? Would the label NIMBY seem fair for those who protested such development? If you think so, you may want to check out ATOMIC STATES OF AMERICA, which premieres on January 23rd at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Filmmakers Don Argott and Sheena Joyce focus on Shirley, New York, the home of an aging nuclear power plant, and the subject of their source, Kelly McMasters’ Welcome to Shirley: A Memoir from an Atomic Town. What they find is a pretty dire trade-off: widespread health issues among residents likely caused by the town’s main economic driver. Two to three years ago, this might have struck some as a fairly typical exposé;  given the push for a nuclear renaissance in Washington, as well as the Fukishima disaster in Japan, this may be one of the most important films debuting at Sundance this year.

It’s not all doom and gloom on the energy front, though: you may also want to check out the three-minute short “The Landfill,” which shows how another New York town is harvesting energy from trash.

If you get a chance to check either of these films out in Park City, come back by and let us know what you think.


Image credit: Still from ATOMIC STATES OF AMERICA