Author: Andrew Blackwell
It’s not important whether it’s fine and sunny or wet and stormy in Chernobyl except to a few die-hard (they probably will) residents and the mutated wildlife that have made their home in the irradiated exclusion zone. What is important is to read Andrew Blackwell’s new book, Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures In The World’s Most Polluted Places.
A New York journalist and filmmaker, Andrew Blackwell is a 2011 Fellow in Nonfiction Literature from the New York Foundation for the Arts. Visit Sunny Chernobyl is his first book and he presents the unpalatable truth about the world’s disaster areas in a travelogue format. The text includes research, personal encounters/impressions, descriptive pieces and probable outcomes if nothing is done to prevent or repair the damage being done to planet Earth.
Blackwell, our-man-on-the-spot in radioactive Chernobyl, moves on to oil sands mining in Alberta, visits Refineryville in Port Arthur Texas, navigates Pacific Ocean garbage, checks out deforestation in the Amazon, sees toxic electronic waste being recycled in China and dodges sewage in India’s Yamuna River. He does his best to give us a truthful, sometimes shocking account of what’s happening in areas of the world that only occasionally come to the attention of the global media; the existence of these environmental time-bombs mostly hushed up by the vested interests of governments and corporations. Andrew Blackwell’s best is very good indeed; engaging and well-written, his book isn’t devoted to doom and gloom, experiences and meetings with people who live and work in the places visited are recorded in an often wryly funny way as he explains the history behind the polluted areas – a sort of: why-is-it-so and what-we-can-do-to-fix-it exposé.
Before reading this book, I had assumed the US sourced most of its oil from the OPEC Arab nations. Silly me – the biggest single provider of foreign oil to the US is the oil sand mines in Alberta, Canada. Extracting oil from sand is energy intensive; processing the oil is costly and a huge atmospheric pollutant, the by-product of which is vast quantities of poisonous waste water stored in ever growing numbers of tailing ponds. Environmentalist groups are trying to stop the Canadian government from allowing further expansion of the Alberta oil sand mines. Canada, the home of Greenpeace and nice responsible citizens, we can only hope these groups succeed before Alberta disappears under a layer of black sludge.
Of all the polluted environments described in this book, Andrew Blackwell’s visit to the Amazon was the one which hit me the hardest. In the midst of a personal problem which would have put me in counselling 24/7, he travelled with a friend to find out what was really happening to the Amazon's dwindling rainforest. Linked up with a crazy, windsurfing, Brazilian tour guide, he gets the facts on what’s going down (a lot of trees) and why. It’s not loggers that are causing the destruction of the forest; roads are the root cause of the rapidly expanding clearance of forest areas. There are now two roads into the Amazon rainforest (one traverses the entire length of the forest). Roads mean trucks, and trucks mean transport and development – areas of the forest are being razed to provide land for soy farmers. A soy processing terminal has been built and farmers are scrambling to farm land that before being cleared, ensured world communities had clean air to breathe and rain water to fill our rivers and reservoirs. It’s not all bad news; the government of Brazil has started a program to allow indigenous tribes back into their forest homes to manage logging operations – the idea being that if they are making money from the forest they will also want to preserve it. Let’s hope it works.
While much is written and spoken about saving something for future generations, little is done. We are all hooked on motor vehicles, air conditioning, central heating, air travel and all the other energy consuming/polluting accoutrements of modern living. Andrew Blackwell doesn’t suggest we give up the technological advancements of the twentieth and twenty first centuries but we do have to get the balance right. Getting the balance right; moving forward not backward to create a world community where human beings co-exist with other species on an environmentally healthy planet Earth is what Visit Sunny Chernobyl is all about.
The future belongs to all of us; you, me, our families and friends. To make sure it’s a good one, read, think and talk about Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures In The World’s Most Polluted Places.Follow Here To Purchase Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures in the World's Most Polluted Places