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Friends of Onkalo

Over at Friends of the Pleistocene, they have an interview with Michael Madsen, director of Into Eternity. That film is a feature documentary on the world's first permanent nuclear waste repository, Onkalo.

“At the core of Into Eternity,” write Elizabeth Ellsworth and Jamie Kruse, “is an attempt to imagine communicating to humans hundreds of thousands of years into the future (the film is structured as an address to the future). We talked with Michael about why he chose this mode of address and how he hoped audiences of today would respond to it. We also discussed how the circumstances that necessitate the building of facilities such as Onkalo demarcate a fundamentally new chapter in human history.”

Friends of the Pleistocene: Over the course of working on this project, did you sense your own ability to project your imagination into long spans of time increase?

Michael Madsen: Well, I have to say that there is an element of the scientific disease.

While in the tunnel, I was of course looking at notes written on the walls. There are these different tracings measuring cracks and how much water is dripping in. I remember looking at it and thinking if this place is ever opened, which I think it will be, these notes will be the cave paintings of our times. But what will it mean to the persons looking at it? This was strange to think about.

Even if the cave is never marked in any sense, it will be a sign itself. The very construction will be a sign. Deep into time, even the canisters will be gone, but there will still be the scars in the bedrock. The bedrock will still have this hollow, spiral, triangular entry. There will be these symmetrical deposits of high-level or radioactive material. So, any intelligent entity in the future will be able to discern that there is symmetry in this area. Symmetry, I think, does not appear in nature as a natural phenomenon except perhaps in crystals, which are different. So any creature in the future will understand that this has been made. In this sense it will always be a sign.

To see if it's showing in a city near you, check out the schedule here.


While at Friends of the Pleistocene, also check out the first report from their recently initiated long-term project to create a typology of debris basins. Not many can arouse us more than landslide mitigation structures.

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