The Chernobyl nuclear disaster scares the beans out of me. I picture boiling skin and hair falling out in clumps and little red babies crying. Scary stuff. As repugnant as those thoughts may be, I still find mass catastrophes somehow interesting in a macabre type of way. Reading Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures in the World's Most Polluted Places by travel writer Andrew Blackwell managed to give me the willies while entertaining the heck out of me.
Stupidity abounds in this book and Blackwell knows it. He lets us in on the joke while analyzing the causes and effects that pollution of different kinds has on the world we live in. Blackwell visits seven places on Earth that have been ravaged by pollution and describes how the pollution happened, its effect on the environment and possible outcomes, if any. All while keeping his sense of humor. We visit the oil sands in Alberta, the coal fields of China and the chemically polluted rivers of Port Charles, Texas amongst others.
I found two particular chapters to be the most interesting, or sad, depending on how you spin it. One was about Chernobyl and the other about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an immense area of the North Pacific where a bunch of currents converge, bringing with them loads of plastic bottles and chemicals that swirl around in a huge area of pollution.
My favorite, or the most horrifying to me, was the first chapter of the book about visiting the catastrophic Chernobyl site in the Ukraine. Believe it or not, they give guided tours! Entire cities still stand vacant, kindergarten classrooms still have colorful drawings on the floor and people still fish in the streams! Unbelievable. Blackwell writes about the firemen who responded to the nuclear disaster knowing the radiation was going to kill them. He writes of the huge shell they put up over the entire reactor that is now crumbling and leaky, allowing radiation to seep out. Scary. Not light reading. But Blackwell writes in a way that is fun and enlightening; only his topics are horrific.
I don't recommend a career as a tour guide at the Chernobyl site!
Dan @ Central