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Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures…

Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures in the World's Most… (2012)

by Andrew Blackwell

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Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures in the World's Most Polluted Places by Andrew Blackwell is one of the most unlikely travelogues I've ever read. Blackwell visits, as a tourist, seven of the most polluted places on the Earth. He notes, "Tell folks that you’re making a grand tour of polluted places, and they tend to get excited. A surprising number of people say they want to come along, and, although this turns out to be mostly talk, it’s gratifying to know the market is there. (Page 73)"
"The reason I find myself beating the same thematic horse on every continent isn’t that the polluted places of the world aren’t polluted. It’s that I love them. I love the ruined places for all the ways they aren’t ruined. Does somebody live there? Does somebody work there? Does somebody miss it when they leave? Those places are still just places.... I love the ruined places. And sure, I love the pure ones, too. But I hate the idea that there’s any difference. And I wish more people thought gross was beautiful. Because if it isn’t, then I’m not sure why we should care about a world with so much grossness in it." Page 226 Indeed.

This account of his excursions is not written specifically as a guide to traveling to these polluted places, but rather it is Blackwell ruminating and sharing his thoughts as he gives you the highlights of his adventures. While this sounds grim, Blackwell is actually quite entertaining rather than a grim harbinger of all of humanities mistakes. As he travels he also points out the dualism in our thoughts and actions. "This artificial division between natural and unnatural pervades our understanding of the world. Industrialists may hope to dominate nature, and environmentalists to protect it—but both camps depend on the same dualism, on a conception of nature as something to which humanity has no fundamental link, and in which we have no inherent place. And it’s a harmful dualism, even if it takes the form of veneration. It keeps us from embracing a robust, engaged environmentalism that is based on something more than gauzy, prelapsarian yearnings. (Page 172)"

"We’re just so entranced by the concept of nature-as-purity that we won’t face facts. Our environment is not on the brink of something. It is over the brink—over several brinks—and has been for some time. It was more than twenty years ago that Bill McKibben pointed out the simple fact that there is no longer any nook or cranny of the globe untouched by human effects. It’s time to stop pretending otherwise, to stop pretending that we haven’t already entered the Anthropocene, a new geological age marked by massive species loss (already achieved) and climate change (in progress).... The task now, perhaps, is not to preserve the fantasy of a separate and pure nature, but to see how thoroughly we are part of the new nature that still lives. Only then can we preserve it, and us. (Page 173)"

Author's note
One. Visit Sunny Chernobyl: Day Trips Through a Radioactive Wonderland
Two. The Great Black North: Oil Sands Mining in Northern Alberta
Three. Refineryville: Port Arthur, Texas, and the Invention of Oil
Four. The Eighth Continent: Sailing the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Five. Soymagedon: Deforestation in the Amazon
Six. In Search of Sad Coal Man: E-Waste, coal, and other Treasures of China
Seven. The Gods of Sewage: Downstream on India's Most Polluted River
Full review at:
http://shetreadssoftly.blogspot.com/2013/11/visit-sunny-chernobyl.html ( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
This book was a fascinating and engrossing read. It changed the way I think about the world. I highly recommend it. ( )
  HollyC36 | Jul 21, 2014 |
Exactly how much unexamined privilege does it take to write a book such as this? A white guy from the US goes and voyeuristically tours some of the world's most polluted places, sort of brushing over the fact that for some (generally economically disadvantaged and exploited) people, pollution and its inevitable hazards is their lived reality.

I also could have lived without the liberal sprinkling of ablist language. Absolutely offensive and added nothing to his story. ( )
  lemontwist | Jun 1, 2014 |
Most stories and books dealing with the environment are written by loony lefty's who would seem to be happy if we Immediately banned everything and walked everywhere all in the name of the planet. The author of this book is funny, intelligent, and thought provoking. The environmental movement would sound far more intelligent and rational if more of them were like this author. The stories are all funny and yet they will make you realize that some things can be done to help the environment without pretending we can go back to living like during the Stone Age. This was a very enjoyable book! ( )
  zmagic69 | Aug 19, 2013 |
A fascinating, witty travelogue that is equal parts fun and disturbing. ( )
  Sullywriter | Apr 3, 2013 |
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A tour of the world's most environmentally compromised regions provides satirical analysis of "destinations" ranging from hidden bars and convenience stores to radioactive wildernesses and the waters of India.

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