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Review: Visit Sunny Chernobyl by Andrew Blackwell

Title: Visit Sunny Chernobyl
Author: Andrew Blackwell
Year Published: 2012

Genre: Adult non-fiction
Pages: 320
Rating: 4 out of 5

Challenges: Non-Fiction/Non-Memoir; Olympics 2014 (Canada)
Geography Connection (my Google Reading map): Ukraine; India

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book for my iPad

Summary (from Amazon): For most of us, traveling means visiting the most beautiful places on Earth—Paris, the Taj Mahal, the Grand Canyon. It’s rare to book a plane ticket to visit the lifeless moonscape of Canada’s oil sand strip mines, or to seek out the Chinese city of Linfen, legendary as the most polluted in the world. But in Visit Sunny Chernobyl, Andrew Blackwell embraces a different kind of travel, taking a jaunt through the most gruesomely polluted places on Earth.

From the hidden bars and convenience stores of a radioactive wilderness to the sacred but reeking waters of India, Visit Sunny Chernobyl fuses immersive first-person reporting with satire and analysis, making the case that it’s time to start appreciating our planet as it is—not as we wish it would be. Irreverent and reflective, the book is a love letter to our biosphere’s most tainted, most degraded ecosystems, and a measured consideration of what they mean for us.

Equal parts travelogue, expose, environmental memoir, and faux guidebook, Blackwell careens through a rogue’s gallery of environmental disaster areas in search of the worst the world has to offer—and approaches a deeper understanding of what’s really happening to our planet in the process.

Review: Who thinks of traveling the world to visit the places that are the most environmentally polluted?! And, who wants to read that book? Apparently, I want to read it and it was interesting. It is not only an account of his travels to these off the beaten track locations, but a history of how they became polluted, how the locals deal with it and how the rest of the world is affected. One of the big draws is that Andrew Blackwell has a great sarcastic sense of humor that accompanies him on these trips, making for fun reading.

  • Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Melt Down in the Ukraine. I found this chapter the most interesting in the book, perhaps because I was living in Vienna, Austria at the time (April 1986). We traveled to Eastern Europe and were geiger-countered at the borders to make sure we hadn't been exposed to radiation, we couldn't eat salads, walk in the meadows, etc. Pretty intense.
  • China--a town that recycles computer parts. He visited two areas in China
  • Canada--he went to a town that is doing sandy oil drilling. He also went to Texas in the same chapter to see the other end of the process
  • US--He set out to sea from San Francisco to find the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
  • India--He travels near the Yamuna River, which runs parallel to the Ganges looking at the pollution due to lack of sewage treatment and dams (and yes, there is a very funny passage about human feces)
  • Amazon--He travels the Amazon looking into the impact of Soy farming

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