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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 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.


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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 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.

30 review for Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures in the World's Most Polluted Places

  1. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    This author has a weird bee in his bonnet about finding the beautiful, the friendly, the cosy and the endearing in the least attractive of places. In his introduction he describes a visit to Kanpur which says it all. Kanpur was recently awarded the title of “India’s Most Polluted City” by its national government. What followed was an intensive, three-day tour of dysfunctional sewage-treatment plants, illegal industrial dumps, poisonous tanneries, and feces-strewn beaches. The crowning moment was This author has a weird bee in his bonnet about finding the beautiful, the friendly, the cosy and the endearing in the least attractive of places. In his introduction he describes a visit to Kanpur which says it all. Kanpur was recently awarded the title of “India’s Most Polluted City” by its national government. What followed was an intensive, three-day tour of dysfunctional sewage-treatment plants, illegal industrial dumps, poisonous tanneries, and feces-strewn beaches. The crowning moment was our visit to a traditional Hindu bathing festival in which scores of pilgrims dunked themselves in a rank stretch of the sacred – but horribly contaminated – river Ganges, collecting bottles of holy, chromium-laced water for use back home. All this, and not another tourist in sight. Inexplicably, Kanpur became the highlight of my entire time in India. Kanpur. I couldn’t account for it. Did I have a thing for industrial waste? Was I just some kind of environmental rubbernecker? That wasn’t it. In Kanpur, I had found something. Something I hadn’t encountered anywhere else. I couldn’t shake it: the sense of having stumbled into a wholly unexpected place. Of having seen something there, among the effluent pipes and the open latrines. A trace of the future, and of the present. And of something else – something inscrutably, mystifyingly beautiful. What is it about this man? Time and time again we see him drawn to places notorious for their pollution. Sometimes he was underwhelmed – Chernobyl turns out to be a paradise for wildlife, and it is now safe enough for him to visit the actual nuclear site. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch turns out to be virtually invisible to the human eye, and not at all the solid carpet of floating trash that he had hoped for. The Amazon rainforest, whilst suffering some deforestation for beef cattle grazing, soy bean crops and tropical hardwood logging – is surprisingly well regulated. Landowners in Brazil are legally bound to leave 80% of their land as native forest – even giant soy farms have to keep to this ratio. Green initiatives there have made a big difference. In other places though the pollution is still full on.... Canada is apparently second only to Saudi Arabia in its proven petroleum reserves, but nearly all of these are in the form of oil sand – “a thick grimy sludge, buried underground....It takes the world’s largest shovels, digging vast canyons out of what was once Alberta’s primeval forest; and the world’s largest trucks, delivering huge quantities of the sticky, black sand into massive separators that need insane amounts of heat and water to boil the sand until the oil floats out of it.... This is not a pretty process. Then there is Guiyi in China, whose whole economy is based upon tearing apart old electronics and reselling the components and raw materials. It’s a dirty business. Computers are full of all kinds of things that are bad for you – things other than the Internet – and when you tear them apart, or melt them down, or saw them into pieces, a portion of those toxic substances is released. In a place like Guiyu, with what I’ll call relaxed workplace standards, you end up with workshops full of lead dust and other heavy metals and clouds of who the hell knows what floating through the streets. The water is laced with PCBs and PBDEs and other hazardous acronyms. The air, the water, the dust – in Guiyu it comes with promises of cancer, nerve damage, and poisoned childhood development.” All in all there were some chapters in the book I found fascinating – like the ones about the Amazon rainforest, and electronics recycling in China. But there were others I found boring. His writing about his uneventful voyage to explore the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or his lengthy description of going walkabout along the Yamuna River in India, were less than inspiring. He’s a warm and funny man though. A bit like Bill Bryson. He also enjoys talking to people and he does it well. The book moved forward on the stories and insights of the people he interviewed - and that was good. I also loved the quirky and cryptic references to his girlfriend and then not-girlfriend back home. These references were so out of context re the book, but so in character re the author. I do hope he meets someone nice soon. He needs someone to take him on a good holiday.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I felt a little conflicted about this book. Taking the book at face value, I really enjoyed it. Blackwell has a surprising way with words and his story telling is at times laugh out loud funny and endearing. Overall, he's not the investigative journalist many people assume he would be with writing a book about "the most polluted places on earth." I would have liked a deeper investigation into many of the places he visits, but that's not the point of his book. He put himself out there for an adve I felt a little conflicted about this book. Taking the book at face value, I really enjoyed it. Blackwell has a surprising way with words and his story telling is at times laugh out loud funny and endearing. Overall, he's not the investigative journalist many people assume he would be with writing a book about "the most polluted places on earth." I would have liked a deeper investigation into many of the places he visits, but that's not the point of his book. He put himself out there for an adventure, and we're along for a ride.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Edmund

    If while picking up this book you're concerned this may be environmental or greenie propaganda hidden in a humorous title, worry no more. Blackwell, despite a keen sense of the environment is a genuine pollution voyeur, a main with a love of ruin. There is a good balance found within this book. While Blackwell's shared experiences of pollutourism are imparted with a unique visceral glee, he also successfully imbibes us with the history and science of each 'attraction.' Along the way Blackwell als If while picking up this book you're concerned this may be environmental or greenie propaganda hidden in a humorous title, worry no more. Blackwell, despite a keen sense of the environment is a genuine pollution voyeur, a main with a love of ruin. There is a good balance found within this book. While Blackwell's shared experiences of pollutourism are imparted with a unique visceral glee, he also successfully imbibes us with the history and science of each 'attraction.' Along the way Blackwell also explores the nature of humankind, relationships and religion, all without over-burdening the book, and sticking to his light-hearted comical prose. Sunny Chernobyl shares more with Bill Bryson travel-logues than the famous 'Eat Prey Love' although Blackwell's relationship is a running meme throughout this book. This book should appeal to many, whether looking for deep philosophy, hilarious auto-biography, or just something a bit different.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    A tale that finds the author visiting Chernobyl and six other of the most polluted places on Earth. It's fascinating people find this an adventurous form of travel. I found Chernobyl, Alberta Canada and Texas the most interesting and well written of the 7 excursions. A tale that finds the author visiting Chernobyl and six other of the most polluted places on Earth. It's fascinating people find this an adventurous form of travel. I found Chernobyl, Alberta Canada and Texas the most interesting and well written of the 7 excursions.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    Like any good travel book, Andrew gives us a feel for the places he visits and muses about what it all means. Except he's not visiting Victoria Falls or St. Petersburg. He's visiting Chernobyl, the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch, Port Arthur Texas, and other grungy places. His narrative is fun and sometimes insightful. He really doesn't think much of the oil industry, and that started to wear a little thin. And you probably don't want to read the chapter on Indian river pollution while eating (as Like any good travel book, Andrew gives us a feel for the places he visits and muses about what it all means. Except he's not visiting Victoria Falls or St. Petersburg. He's visiting Chernobyl, the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch, Port Arthur Texas, and other grungy places. His narrative is fun and sometimes insightful. He really doesn't think much of the oil industry, and that started to wear a little thin. And you probably don't want to read the chapter on Indian river pollution while eating (as I did) unless you can tolerate descriptions of fecal matter during your meal. That chapter aside, Blackwell's book was entertaining and informative at any time of the day or night. There is a subplot involving his personal non-traveling life which I will not reveal the details of. No spoilers here! A couple of observations in the Amazonian rainforest chapter particularly caught my eye. First (starting at page 171), Blackwell talked about the creation of the world's first first national park (Yellowstone in 1872). It was at that time that our ideal was formed of nature as being fundamentally incompatible with the presence of humanity. The Native Americans, who had lived in and around Yellowstone for probably thousands of years, were kicked out in order to preserve the area in its "natural" state. And so began the judgmental aspect of environmentalism that continues in spades to this day. The second thing I particularly want to remember is this little quote from a Greenpeace person, speaking of their negotiations with Cargill (p. 199): "If you ask the impossible, you never get a to solution." The broader quote is this: "...for Sena [another activist], the only solution for the problems would be to put Cargill out, to send all the soy farmers back to the south. That is not reasonable. We always knew that at some point we would have to sit at the table with Cargill to get an agreement. If you ask the impossible, you never get to a solution." Wise words, especially after the just-concluded US presidential campaign. I guess the trick is to properly figure out just what the impossible is, and then go from there.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    "Who knew petroleum could be so adorable?" I needed a light read in between other reads, and this fit the bill. The author travels to the world's most polluted places and pretends as if he could ever think about being a tourist there. He isn't there as an activist. And it's a little weak, but it does tie a few interesting places together. It's the writing that drove me crazy. He writes like he would talk in a casual setting, not leaving out the "you knows" and "hey maybes" - I'm torn as to what I "Who knew petroleum could be so adorable?" I needed a light read in between other reads, and this fit the bill. The author travels to the world's most polluted places and pretends as if he could ever think about being a tourist there. He isn't there as an activist. And it's a little weak, but it does tie a few interesting places together. It's the writing that drove me crazy. He writes like he would talk in a casual setting, not leaving out the "you knows" and "hey maybes" - I'm torn as to what I think because it was very easy to read, but surely that wasn't necessary. It made it feel unpolished and the opposite of expert. The really scaled down explanation of nuclear power was almost insulting. For instance, here is an example of when it was really annoying: "The Steel boom would gather up a bucketful of sand - and we're talking about a bucketful the size of... the size of... hell, I don't know. What's bigger than an Escalade but smaller than a bungalow? Big, okay?" Not exactly a voice that compels belief and trust. But then here is an example of the writing when it made me chuckle: "There was something wonderful about the fearsome improbability of the reclaimer's existence. It was the bastard offspring of the Eiffel Tower and the Queensboro bridge, abandoned by its parents, raised by feral tanks." And I'm not going to lie. Pollution is horrifying, not entertaining. So I'm not sure this worked for me on that level either. The author's insistence that he wanted to see "the rind of beauty that must exist in every uncared-for corner of the world" kind of falls flat when he starts talking about the rainbows in a river of shit. From the perspective of reading around the world, which is something I've been doing since last year, it was interesting to highlight the places damaged by pollution since I've read a lot of damage by war.

  7. 4 out of 5

    cardulelia carduelis

    Let’s start off with a quote, trust me you’ll enjoy this: To understand the Chernobyl accident, it helps to know something about how electricity gets generated and, specifically, about nuclear power -- though not so much that your eyes glaze over. In general, power plants generate electricity by spinning turbines. Picture a big hamster wheel and you get the idea. Each turbine is connected to a generator, in which a conductor turns through a field of a strong magnet, thus creating electricity by m Let’s start off with a quote, trust me you’ll enjoy this: To understand the Chernobyl accident, it helps to know something about how electricity gets generated and, specifically, about nuclear power -- though not so much that your eyes glaze over. In general, power plants generate electricity by spinning turbines. Picture a big hamster wheel and you get the idea. Each turbine is connected to a generator, in which a conductor turns through a field of a strong magnet, thus creating electricity by magic. BY MAGIC. Now we know! Are you entertained? Is this wisecracking tomfoolery, this pandering to sensationalism and the dumbing down of the everyman appealing? Because most of what this book does is just that. I am totally astounded that this was published at all. At its best it is the budding middle-school journalist for the school paper making wisecracks about cultures outside of the US (who else reads books in English anyway?), at its worst it is grossly misinformed and ignorant. Blackwell appears to have decided on the concept for this book after trying to get rid of a few EasyJet miles on a eurotrip. He shows absolutely zero understanding of culture or custom: everything is ‘cute’ and ‘quaint’. Don’t get me started on the ‘slavic’ accents. Basically it reeks of the ignorant, all-american red-blooded hipster striking up ironic and yet wholly basic conversations with bemused locals. So what of the actual content of the book? You won’t learn anything here, wikipedia is more thorough on both of the disaster zones I managed to get through. You’ll learn that Blackwell enjoys beer and wants to be liked by people (shocker!) and that his tour guides enjoy the FA Euro cup. You’ll learn that Blackwell has a lot of trouble with scientific units and picks his ‘radiation meter’, shudder, based on the fact it looks a bit like an iPod. There are no references if you want to learn more, there is nothing here that would pass for journalism. So after resisting the urge to drop the book (which began when I read the opening quote) I finished Chapter 2 and called it a day. If you enjoy sensationalism, infantilizing non-americans, and general ignorance go ahead and pick it up! DNF’d at pg. 74

  8. 4 out of 5

    Moira McPartlin

    A great blend of entertainment and enlightenment. I read this book for research and ended but loving it. Blackwell visits seven of the most polluted places in the world. He starts off at Chernobyl and finishes at a sewer polluted river in Delhi. And although the subject and the facts were often truly horrific, the relaxed writing style made it very funny. The stories are made memorable and stayed with me because of the writing style. Some myths are debunked but most of the messages are clear; hu A great blend of entertainment and enlightenment. I read this book for research and ended but loving it. Blackwell visits seven of the most polluted places in the world. He starts off at Chernobyl and finishes at a sewer polluted river in Delhi. And although the subject and the facts were often truly horrific, the relaxed writing style made it very funny. The stories are made memorable and stayed with me because of the writing style. Some myths are debunked but most of the messages are clear; humans are killing our planet. Chernobyl was human error and many other have come about through corporate and political greed. And yet throughout the author found beauty in all these places. The fact that Chernobyl has reverted back to a natural state now that most humans have left is amazing. I think the most frightening chapter for me is the Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating mass of plastic in the middle of the ocean twice the size of Texas. The amount of plastic we produce and toss is staggering and by getting into the food supply it will eventually kill us, wiping out lots of species along the way.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mason

    The title article was excepted in the New Yorker a few months ago. It was a pleasantly written essay and I looked forward to seeing more from Andrew Blackwell. Unfortunately, the rest of the book is not as durable. As a travel journalist, Blackwell does a better job of describing people than environments. Though the people are interesting, I want to know more about the conditions of their worlds. More fundamentally, this narrative is woven with a thread of the authors own life, which distracts f The title article was excepted in the New Yorker a few months ago. It was a pleasantly written essay and I looked forward to seeing more from Andrew Blackwell. Unfortunately, the rest of the book is not as durable. As a travel journalist, Blackwell does a better job of describing people than environments. Though the people are interesting, I want to know more about the conditions of their worlds. More fundamentally, this narrative is woven with a thread of the authors own life, which distracts from the journey. Presumably, he is trying to draw a parallel of world pollution with the psychological pollution of a tainted love, but he utterly fails. I think the editor would have been well served to excise the tales of a broken heart and focus on this very broken world.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    This is an immensely informative book on different types of pollution world wide. It’s also a great travelogue as the author unearths information and explores the personalities who live in these areas. One of the strengths of the book is the variety of sites under scrutiny. The author is not out to lay blame on evil-doers; but he literally exposes what life is like in these areas. The diversity of habitats gives us a view of how the people live – except in one area, but a little about this later. This is an immensely informative book on different types of pollution world wide. It’s also a great travelogue as the author unearths information and explores the personalities who live in these areas. One of the strengths of the book is the variety of sites under scrutiny. The author is not out to lay blame on evil-doers; but he literally exposes what life is like in these areas. The diversity of habitats gives us a view of how the people live – except in one area, but a little about this later. We visit Chernobyl where there are actually tour guides who can take us to view the radioactive areas (with meters). The guides seem almost nonchalant about where they are – do they plan on having children in the future one wonders? Through-out the book we are given an inner view of the people who daily live with their pollution. From the outside it all seems so awful; but for those on the inside it has become a way of life and they make a living from it – like the people of Linfen, China who work in the coal mines – or who make their living from those who work in them. What about the little children in the Chinese village dismantling old computer parts to extract the gold, metals... But doing this exposes them to inhaling contaminants as well. Or for that matter the people who live in Port Arthur, Texas – they do want better treatment to clean up the toxicity from their various levels of government, but they don’t all want to move out. Even the people up in Fort McMurray – certainly one of the bleakest and colder places to live – do not view their home as “God-Awful”. Perhaps, in a sense, it’s the way rural folks view city people – as living in congestion, smog, noise, crime – all this negativity and more; yet those in the city do not experience this as a “hell on earth”. In the Amazon we are given different views of pollution – or the nuances of the destruction of the rain forest. Who is causing the most problems – is it the loggers, the farmers (and even this is broken down into different types of farming), or is it the cattlemen, or the road-builders? In India the government is oblivious and raw sewage (namely feces) continues flowing into its sacred rivers. The author takes us on a pilgrimage protest, but sadly we sense that little will be accomplished. We are also taken on a Pacific Ocean voyage to see the detritus of modern society that floats about in a tremendous whirlpool – size unknown – and “nobody” really lives here. Fishing nets are scooped up. And what is even more frightening is what cannot be seen below the surface. The plastic bags and styrofoam cups are all being whittled down into microscopic particles and absorbed toxically into the oceans’ life processes. I do take issue with the authors’ views on preserving forever nature sites – he seemed to have a negative view. We need to keep areas unaffected by men’s imprint. The author feels that we have already transgressed on many preserves – but these infringements can be controlled by government legislation. As Theodore Roosevelt said of the Grand Canyon “You cannot improve on it”. The author states correctly that we have created all this pollution to sustain our lifestyles, enabling us to live in great comfort and wander the globe. It all becomes a Catch-22.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Carmen

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is a good book. The author decides to visit the most polluted places on earth. Not because he is an environmentalist or a scientist, but for vacation. He finds highly polluted places beautiful and fascinating. First, he goes to Chernobyl. This is surprisingly similar to the movie THE CHERNOBYL DIARIES (except there are no killer mutants). He hires a man to show him around, tours an abandoned kindergarten, and admires all the plants and animals that have reclaimed the place. He carries a rad This is a good book. The author decides to visit the most polluted places on earth. Not because he is an environmentalist or a scientist, but for vacation. He finds highly polluted places beautiful and fascinating. First, he goes to Chernobyl. This is surprisingly similar to the movie THE CHERNOBYL DIARIES (except there are no killer mutants). He hires a man to show him around, tours an abandoned kindergarten, and admires all the plants and animals that have reclaimed the place. He carries a radiation detector, but is wholly unconcerned about going in to highly radioactive areas. Next he travels to Alberta, Canada to explore the oil sand mines. He lives with a couple who work for the mines. He takes a tour, etc. Then he goes to Texas where there is a huge refinery and lots of drilling. He interviews oil riggers and explores. He learns about oil spills and works with some wildlife rescuers. The cancer rate there is very high. Chapter Four is spent on a boat, which he relishes because he read too many nautical stories when he was a child. They are off the coast of California to find the “Eastern Garbage Patch”, a huge patch of garbage twice the size of Texas. Nothing much happens in this chapter. Chapter Five he spends in the Amazon, watching deforestation, slashing and burning, and soy farming. He talks to farmers, loggers, people who own land. He meets a lot of interesting people. In Chapter Six Blackwell goes to China to visit one of the most polluted cities in the world. In this place computer waste is broken apart and melted down. It's very toxic. There are also lots of coal mines, which he spends a lot of time in. Finally, he travels to India and explores the Yamuna River, which is basically composed of human sewage. He even puts his hands in it and pours it on his head (the natives bathe in it). Throughout the book he has a good sense of humor. He makes a lot of friends and meets some interesting people. Also, in each chapter, he mentions just a tiny bit about his romantic relationship with The Doctor, who is first his girlfriend, then his fiance. She leaves him in Chapter 4 or 5, and you really feel sad about it. It's obvious he loves her a lot (even from the very little we get about his relationship). This miniscule side plot provides a very human touch to the book. Even though I was a little hesitant about picking this one up, I'm glad I did.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tuck

    a really good idea here, visit very polluted places on earth "as a tourist" but do your research so you can write intelligently about cause and affect and local cultures but also write in the ironical hipsterism style to try and be "funny" while having an overall tone of "wide-eyed american innocence" so that.....what?...you can claim you are just a wide eyed innocent when it comes to actually analyzing the places you visit? cause that's what the author does, he cops out, a bunch. he visits: Cher a really good idea here, visit very polluted places on earth "as a tourist" but do your research so you can write intelligently about cause and affect and local cultures but also write in the ironical hipsterism style to try and be "funny" while having an overall tone of "wide-eyed american innocence" so that.....what?...you can claim you are just a wide eyed innocent when it comes to actually analyzing the places you visit? cause that's what the author does, he cops out, a bunch. he visits: Chernobly, alberta Tar sands, Port Arthur tx oil refineries (where they want to send the oil sands, ugh), Pacific garbage patch, Amazon soybean fields, China and coal, and ewaste, Yamuna river which flows through delhi and to describe as a cess pit is being very kind. so, if you are interested in this type of reporting and pollution and global areas, you would do much better with bisse and Ferguson on aral sea Chasing the Sea: Lost Among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia The Devil and the Disappearing Sea: A True Story About the Aral Sea Catastrophe ; weidensaul on south american forests (and india too) The Ghost with Trembling Wings: Science, Wishful Thinking and the Search for Lost Species ; hohn on the pacific garbage gyre Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them in fact hohn is a perfect example andrew blackwell on how to do this book properly. this book had great a glowing reviews in the library journals, for some reason. sheesh.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kris

    Visit Sunny Chernobyl and Other Adventures in the World’s Most Polluted Places by Andrew Blackwell had an instant appeal for me. I love travel books, I did my Peace Corps service in tiny Moldova (a close neighbor to the Ukraine which took a giant hit of the Chernobyl radiation due to the winds that day) so I appreciate off-beat places, and like many people I desperately want to find out more about pollution around the globe, how it affects my family and how it can be reduced. Sunny Chernobyl met Visit Sunny Chernobyl and Other Adventures in the World’s Most Polluted Places by Andrew Blackwell had an instant appeal for me. I love travel books, I did my Peace Corps service in tiny Moldova (a close neighbor to the Ukraine which took a giant hit of the Chernobyl radiation due to the winds that day) so I appreciate off-beat places, and like many people I desperately want to find out more about pollution around the globe, how it affects my family and how it can be reduced. Sunny Chernobyl met my requests on the first two issues but surprised me on the third. The author Andrew Blackwell’s premise is that if we just visit the beautiful places around the globe we miss 90% of it. His journeys to the oil sands of Canada, the soy farms of the Amazon and the coal mines of China were fascinating and I definitely learned a lot about different types of pollution around the world but the book is a much more of a explorer’s look at these sites rather than an indictment of big business and industry. Sometimes I was frustrated that he didn’t present more dirt on the companies but more often I appreciated his wry humor as he dove about as far off the tourist trail as possible.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    I was 3/4 of the way through this book when I heard the author being interviewed on satellite radio. I have more appreciation for the book after hearing the interview. Isn't that interesting when that happens? One of my problems was that I wanted MORE information about these places. But, as the author points out, there is just so much we don't know about the lasting effects of things like Chernobyl. Scientists can't even agree on how many people died when Chernobyl blew up-the estimates are wild I was 3/4 of the way through this book when I heard the author being interviewed on satellite radio. I have more appreciation for the book after hearing the interview. Isn't that interesting when that happens? One of my problems was that I wanted MORE information about these places. But, as the author points out, there is just so much we don't know about the lasting effects of things like Chernobyl. Scientists can't even agree on how many people died when Chernobyl blew up-the estimates are wildly divergent. The author is just a regular guy who visits these places and describes what he sees and the people he meets. You will have to look elsewhere for the cold, hard, scientific facts. But still worth a perusal.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jeimy

    An eye-opening book. Disguised as a travelogue, the book is really a window to the places humans are polluting the most. My favorite sections were the ones about Chernobyl and the one about the Pacific garbage patch which clarified a lot of questions I had about this larger-than-life accumulation of trash.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mika

    I recommend this book to everyone who are planning to visit some of the world's most polluted sites and why not also for people who are not planning to visit this kind of sites because they are polluted. Whichever group you belong to, this book makes you, like Mr Phil Collins himself puts it, to "think twice". Even though, none of the environmental problems were particularly new for me, and my suspicion is that they are not very new for many people, the very best thing in this book was the social I recommend this book to everyone who are planning to visit some of the world's most polluted sites and why not also for people who are not planning to visit this kind of sites because they are polluted. Whichever group you belong to, this book makes you, like Mr Phil Collins himself puts it, to "think twice". Even though, none of the environmental problems were particularly new for me, and my suspicion is that they are not very new for many people, the very best thing in this book was the social perspective that the author was able to keep up through out the book. I have a read a bunch of books on environmental problems during my lifetime and one thing that always gets my appreciation is when an author has personally visited the sites and have had somekind of contribution to the local life. Visiting real "ground zeros" is a heavy job, provided that a visitor keeps his or her eyes wide open. I am not very impressed by the idea of picking up the world's most polluted places, just because they are polluted, and visiting them just for the fact. However, I think this became justified during the book, I liked the way Mr Blackwell described "the awakening" to the social dimensions of environmental problems. We tend to forget that the most polluted places are nearly always inhabited, or have been inhabited. In other words, they have homes for some people. Finding something living from that kind of places can be surprising, but after a while you notice that this is just a facade (albeit polluted facade) for peoples' lives. There are people just like you, living, breathing, loving and eating, and as everything is connected, sometimes we look into a mirror when visiting these places. There are people who are paying the toll for your right to run and fight during the Black Fridays. In the end, I think the most important lesson from this book is that we should always pay respect to each other and think about the consequences of our actions. I gave three stars as I liked the book. The fourth star would have been an easy one for the book, if there would have been more factual and comparative information in the book. There is some, but it is a bit hidden in the text. The reason for my ciritique is that getting an idea how much a nanogram or milligram of some substance is, can be a difficult task to understand. For readers like me, it would have been nice to have more references and tables. I suggest this, even though I am fully acknowledging what one published once told me that every table and nerdy number decreases the sales. If the aim is to make people think and educate them, I think this is needed. To conclude, I also want to say my thanks for Mr Blackwell for the nice trip I spent during reading the book. I am conviced that the book can provide a lot of new information for its readers. To me, personally, the biggest finding was Mr Edward Burtunsky's photos and projects in which he has been involved. I guess I will spend some time with them next.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Linda Lipko

    Well written and entertaining, the author takes the reader with him to some of the largest wastelands in the world. The first chapter is the focus on Chernobyl. Finding a guide to take him to the center of the disaster, the reader cannot help but be upset by the lack of common sense of the engineers who were to blame for this largest radioactive disaster. Using a sense of humor, what could be pedantic is rendered as fact in a serious, but not over dramatic style.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jaci

    Of course, the title grabbed me but this is a fascinating glimpse at ecotourism by someone with an interesting sense of humor. Andrew Blackwell visits Chernobyl (Ukraine), Northern Alberta (Canada), Port Arthur (Texas), the Pacific, the Amazon, China, and India to see for himself what human beings can do and what that means for the future. p.5: "Of, fission. People make it sound so complicated, but any chump can get the basics." p.7: "If journalism can teach us anything, it's that local people are Of course, the title grabbed me but this is a fascinating glimpse at ecotourism by someone with an interesting sense of humor. Andrew Blackwell visits Chernobyl (Ukraine), Northern Alberta (Canada), Port Arthur (Texas), the Pacific, the Amazon, China, and India to see for himself what human beings can do and what that means for the future. p.5: "Of, fission. People make it sound so complicated, but any chump can get the basics." p.7: "If journalism can teach us anything, it's that local people are a powerful tool to save us from our own fecklessness and incompetence. We call them fixers." p.19: "It seemed there were no more than a handful of Chernobylinterinform guides..It only added to the sense that I had found a traveler's dream: an entire region that--although badly contaminated--was beautiful, interesting, and as yet unmolested by hordes of other visitors." p.31: "...we will continue down the generations, building--shell by shell--a nest of giant radioactive Russian dolls." p.56: "The wheel itself was more than forty feet tall...It was the bastard offspring of the Eiffel Tower and the Queensboro Bridge, abandoned by its parents, raised by feral tanks." p.172: "As a result, some of the places we consider most pristine, most wild, are in some ways deeply artificial. A popular park like Yellowstone is probably more controlled, more managed, than the Exclusion Zone of Chernobyl." p.226: "We also hold up these poster children--Linfen, Port Arthur, Chernobyl--to tell ourselves that the problems are over there. And we'd like to keep it that way." p.270: "And because a holy river has such purifying power, it is actually the perfect recipient for all your most impure waste--sewage, corpses, and so forth--which by mere contact with the water will be cleansed. So there is no paradox in the state of India's rivers after all." p.295: "...because we were the asteroid. The world had already ended, with a whimper, and also it didn't end. Now we inhabit the ended, unending world that came afterward."

  19. 5 out of 5

    Stacia

    I finished Visit Sunny Chernobyl today. (And I made my computer guru kid read the section on China where they break-down/recycle electronic components.) It's a thought-provoking book. Blackwell visits & describes the places & people there, but leaves you to draw many of your own conclusions. I typically enjoy travel memoirs, and this book is no exception. It brought me to corners of the globe where I've never been (and most likely will never go); I like & respect that Blackwell visits the places I finished Visit Sunny Chernobyl today. (And I made my computer guru kid read the section on China where they break-down/recycle electronic components.) It's a thought-provoking book. Blackwell visits & describes the places & people there, but leaves you to draw many of your own conclusions. I typically enjoy travel memoirs, and this book is no exception. It brought me to corners of the globe where I've never been (and most likely will never go); I like & respect that Blackwell visits the places that most people never will. I also like that fact that in spite of environmental devastation, he can see beauty amid the troubles, real people amid the faceless workers/people who work/live in these environments. His overall, final view seems to be along the lines of: the Earth is definitely extremely messed up & has been already; many environmentalists envision Nirvana being Earth w/ few to no humans; Blackwell argues that we humans are of & on the Earth too, we've figured in the damage, & we need to figure in the future of protecting the environment while living & working in it too. Ironically, while finishing his travels for the book, the Japanese tsunami happened (w/ the resulting nuclear issues), making many of his observations very timely & underscoring the impact we humans are having on our environment, both for today, as well as the short- and long-term futures. FYI, even w/ the environmental bent of his topic, this book is very much a travelogue of places & people visited. I think it would be a great read for high schoolers & university-level students. This book can spawn lots of great discussion, debate, & research, imo. My vote is for "definitely recommended".

  20. 5 out of 5

    Eric B. Kennedy

    Visit Sunny Chernobyl is a rather anecdotal travelogue from Andrew Blackwell, chronicling his journey to a variety of different 'most polluted places.' The trips take him from the oil sands of Northern Alberta to the polluted rivers of India, encountering not just the soiled landscapes but the people who live within them. Yet, it's also quite a personal narrative, leaning heavily on his idiosyncratic interactions with locals and his evolving personal love life, rather than any sort of systematic Visit Sunny Chernobyl is a rather anecdotal travelogue from Andrew Blackwell, chronicling his journey to a variety of different 'most polluted places.' The trips take him from the oil sands of Northern Alberta to the polluted rivers of India, encountering not just the soiled landscapes but the people who live within them. Yet, it's also quite a personal narrative, leaning heavily on his idiosyncratic interactions with locals and his evolving personal love life, rather than any sort of systematic investigation into the places. Indeed, many times through the book the things he does (e.g., what he sees, what pilgrimages he goes on) are attributed more to luck and coincidence than any sort of pre-planned agenda or well-researched mission. None of this is a bad thing, of course... it just results in a book that reads a little more 'Eat, Pray, Love' than thoughtful inquiry into pollution and polluted places. This shortcoming really emerges in the fits and starts of attempts to draw out some sort of environmental philosophy from his experiences. The premise of the book is so rich, and some of the locations he chooses are so intriguing... but we get maybe 6 pages, combined, of reflection on what it means to be polluted; what nature actually is; on our weird tendencies to make clean vs. dirty a binary. There's just so much rich material to get into here, and it seems like an afterthought for Blackwell. It's not really until his second-last voyage (electronics recycling in China) that we get any sort of musings about what any of it means (reflections on 'Sad Coal Man,' a mythical embodiment of polluted landscapes). I left the book craving for much more of this. The book is also a little odd in Blackwell's seemingly random over or under estimation of the pollutedness of places, based largely on how effective a short activity was at finding destruction. The oil sands are roundly condemned (largely thanks to a bad hike), while the Great Pacific Garbage Patch becomes some sort of reflection on the mixed motives of the activists trying to fight it because he didn't really see that much garbage while out on the sailboat. This is a slightly hyperbolic rendition of his analysis, perhaps, but not by much. It's the risk of highly anecdotal, unplanned visits (indeed, Blackwell goes to great pains to emphasize just how un-planned his Brazil journey was): his experience of these polluted places is based almost entirely on random, one-off experiences, leaving him with very divergent views of how polluted they are without grappling with any real debate about what it means for something to be 'polluted' or how you would even begin to compare different forms of pollution. All that said - and my apologies for a moderately negative review thus far - once I put aside my preconceptions of what I was hoping for from the book (some sort of reflection on what pollution means, or on how we should understand these highly polluted places) and read it as an 'eat pray love' style personal journey through his relationship, I was able to enjoy the book for what it was. Blackwell created a really interesting set of trips and, while I wish they contained more reflection on the supposed theme of the book, they're a reasonably interesting travelogue that's off the beaten trail.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Cassie Sands

    Part travel, part science, part autobiography-I loved this book! This was one of the most enjoyable, informative, and unique books I have read in awhile. The author embarks upon a quest to visit the most polluted places in the world. And...he does. Along the way he lives and learns and seems to form a shifting understanding of how we discuss human beings' place in nature. Blackwell has an infectious curiosity and a self deprecating sense of humor that I found quite charming and compelling. I lea Part travel, part science, part autobiography-I loved this book! This was one of the most enjoyable, informative, and unique books I have read in awhile. The author embarks upon a quest to visit the most polluted places in the world. And...he does. Along the way he lives and learns and seems to form a shifting understanding of how we discuss human beings' place in nature. Blackwell has an infectious curiosity and a self deprecating sense of humor that I found quite charming and compelling. I learned some technical details about the different sites and also thoroughly enjoyed his interactions with people who live in or near some incredibly polluted places.

  22. 4 out of 5

    teleri

    This book started off really interesting, but near the ending it lacked. It was still a good read, but I was more capable of putting it down without wondering what was going to happen next. However, I did enjoy the authors way of writing, and all the running jokes he included, like how he referred to things as the size of Texas and the people screaming AUGHHHH! I really wish I could say more about it, but nothing really comes to mind. It wasn't enjoyable, more okay. I stopped reading it completel This book started off really interesting, but near the ending it lacked. It was still a good read, but I was more capable of putting it down without wondering what was going to happen next. However, I did enjoy the authors way of writing, and all the running jokes he included, like how he referred to things as the size of Texas and the people screaming AUGHHHH! I really wish I could say more about it, but nothing really comes to mind. It wasn't enjoyable, more okay. I stopped reading it completely for a few days and that didn't bother me. I was expecting more from this book, and considering it's got Chernobyl in the title, I imagined more than a chapter on the place. Shame.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kelley Goewey

    I only read the section on Chernobyl, but it was excellent.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Vu

    “Visit Sunny Chernobyl” by Andrew Blackwell tells the story of himself, a tourist who wants to travel the most polluted place on Earth. The book is set in Kanpur, India, where it was named the worst and most polluted city in India by its own government. Not wanting to go to a beautiful place, like Paris, Italy, Spain, or Hawaii, Blackwell wants to experience a journey to the most polluted places, where he did not know he had found how others had lived and had a mysterious feeling he never had be “Visit Sunny Chernobyl” by Andrew Blackwell tells the story of himself, a tourist who wants to travel the most polluted place on Earth. The book is set in Kanpur, India, where it was named the worst and most polluted city in India by its own government. Not wanting to go to a beautiful place, like Paris, Italy, Spain, or Hawaii, Blackwell wants to experience a journey to the most polluted places, where he did not know he had found how others had lived and had a mysterious feeling he never had before. Blackwell tries his best to get a good experience in Kanpur, a strategy that tells people to appreciate our environment. The book essentially examines how others don’t have what we have, which will draw the reader into cherishing what they already have and not take things for granted. The most memorable part to me was when Andrew meets Max, a round smiling man in his early thirties, on the train. Max wanted to know what his plan was, but Blackwell decided to just say he was heading towards Chernobyl. Max had stories to tell about Chernobyl. When Max was about 11 years old, living in Kiev, words of disaster had gone out. People were trying to get their children out of the city. Even though the tickets were hard to find, his parents managed to get him into a train bound southeast for the Crimea. The train was fairly empty because the government had manufactured the ticket shortage to keep people from leaving Kiev. He then said, “When we arrived, the train was surrounded by soldiers. They tested everyone and their things for radiation before allowing them to move on.” This was the moment when Blackwell had found a friend, who he can trust and follow his original plan with. Ultimately, the story of the adventures in the World’s Most Polluted Places is a story of Blackwell treating others well by visiting polluted areas, making new friends while being transported to new area, and seeing how others live in a dirty and polluted area, Chernobyl. It all adds up to a tale of happiness, a way that Blackwell treats others, leaving tears in their eyes of how grateful they felt of Blackwell visiting. “Visit Sunny Chernobyl” tells that story very well, reminding us that even though we can visit beautiful places, we can also take the time to visit polluted cities and learn about their environment. I learned that it’s better to not complain about what we already have and just cherish it, especially the small things. It makes me sad to see the state of earth and what we have done to make it become like this. “Visit Sunny Chernobyl” can teach many life lessons about the polluted cities. We all should make the earth be a better place to live and decrease the amount of pollution we already have. It was interesting seeing him talk about Chernobyl, the Alberta Oil Sands, and Port Arthur. After reading this book, it just made me a better person and helped me think about how people live in other areas without the benefit that we have here in the United States. To be honest, I felt like this book changed my life and pushed me to become a better person. Blackwell inspired me to be like him and be a tourist when I have the chance. At first, I really didn't want to read this book, but my teacher forced me to read it because I didn't have a book in hand. Now that I think about it, I really don’t regret taking my time off to read about his journey and should thank him for forcing me to read it. To conclude, I would defiantly recommend this book because it took me through a journey, where I would never picture myself going to one. This book convinced me to visit polluted areas in China, India, or even Chernobyl. Even though those areas are polluted, they still have nice landscape and beautiful views. It wasn't the feeling that convinced me, but his writing. It really just comes to an end of if you want to read about Blackwell’s journey or about polluted areas. Maybe it is a love or hate situation. It’s a well written book that needs to influence others the same way it influenced me.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rowan

    Not terribly deep as journalism goes, but an entertaining read with some worthwhile considerations about what constitutes nature in the Anthropocene. 3.5 stars.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Hogan

    Highly entertaining travelogue as Blackwell visits places that are polluted (or otherwise environmentally damaged) in a variety of ways. It made me want to visit some of these places myself (...but not Linfen, China).

  27. 5 out of 5

    Shivanee Ramlochan

    Excerpted from the full review: "If Andrew Blackwell’s book were a boy you used to date, he’d be the cardigan-clad loner who’d nick your dad’s best weed and keep you up all night with hot, intellectual discourse. He’s not necessarily the one you want for homecoming, but God, how you’d like to travel the world in his post-anarchic company. And travel the world you will, in Visit Sunny Chernobyl. Oh, the places you’ll go! ♦ Northern Alberta, to check out some oil sands mining; ♦ Port Arthur, Texas, wh Excerpted from the full review: "If Andrew Blackwell’s book were a boy you used to date, he’d be the cardigan-clad loner who’d nick your dad’s best weed and keep you up all night with hot, intellectual discourse. He’s not necessarily the one you want for homecoming, but God, how you’d like to travel the world in his post-anarchic company. And travel the world you will, in Visit Sunny Chernobyl. Oh, the places you’ll go! ♦ Northern Alberta, to check out some oil sands mining; ♦ Port Arthur, Texas, where the oil craze had its inception; ♦ Sailing towards, and around, the North Pacific Ocean’s trash vortex; ♦ The Amazon, where they do bad things to trees; ♦ Guiyu and Linfen in Southern China, where computers go to die; ♦ Trailing the course of the Yamuna, India’s largest tributary of the Ganges – ♦ and, of course, Chernobyl. Why? Before Blackwell’s official pollution-tourism peregrinations kicked off, he took a three-day tour of Kanpur, in India. While poking through its toxins, he felt that ineffable je ne sais quoiness, a sense of inverted beauty pyramids, and of how commodification is altering the earth. This sparked, if you will, a wildfire of curiosity. Blackwell wanted to take a different sort of trip — think, less Sandals resorts, more salmonella. Amp up the scum, peer into the fetid abyss, see what we’ve done and how much fun we’ve had doing it: the concept alone is a brilliant inversion of leisure ethics, but I suppose my biggest qualm, pre-reading, was how well this smashing concept could bear out. It bears out, chiefly because Blackwell is good company on the page. Just self-deprecating enough, perceptive, and disposed to listen to the stories of others, his eco-disaster yarns spin the reader into the journey, instead of leaving her on the sidelines. You’re there, in the thick of it, breathing in the filth, wading through the plastic, listening for telltale radioactive beeps that keep time with your heart. You are implicit in the wreckage (and, ironically, you are, which you know already.)" You can continue reading my full review of Visit Sunny Chernobyl at Novel Niche.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Brooks

    Environmental tourism’s next great idea – visiting the most polluted places on the planet. Everyone’s love’s a top ten list – how about the 10 most polluted places? The author tours us through the exclusion zone of Chernobyl – which is rapidly becoming Europe’s largest wilderness zone without people, the tar sands region of Alberta which is an engineer’s wild fantasy of big machines, and there are even people who love Port Arthur Texas. He takes a voyage with a miss-guided group of environmental Environmental tourism’s next great idea – visiting the most polluted places on the planet. Everyone’s love’s a top ten list – how about the 10 most polluted places? The author tours us through the exclusion zone of Chernobyl – which is rapidly becoming Europe’s largest wilderness zone without people, the tar sands region of Alberta which is an engineer’s wild fantasy of big machines, and there are even people who love Port Arthur Texas. He takes a voyage with a miss-guided group of environmentalists attempting to clean the great pacific garbage patch. He finds confusion on who is really destroying the Amazon – is it the loggers, the soybean growers, or the ranchers. It is more complicated than just save the rainforest. He visits the computer recycling Mecca of China and finally the polluted rivers of India. “I love the ruined places for all the ways they aren’t ruined. Does somebody live there? …Does somebody miss it when they leave?...We’d like to keep a tidy bubble for ourselves, and draw a line around some trees, and declare no farther. That here, at least, inside this boundary, nature survives. As long as there is Yellowstone, we’ll have a little something for what ails us. What a joke”. This book really challenged my thoughts on conservation. I hate to hike behind my house that is overgrown with Honeysuckle and vines, but love big trees 15 minute drive away. What makes nature beautiful? It is enough to be outside – the author proves you can find beauty in any stretch of landscape – even a shit-filled river in India has birds flying and trees growing on the banks. The sunrise is beautiful over the open pits in the tar sands. Most of our forests that I love to hike are second growth – farm land that was exhausted and turned to parks and state forests during the depression.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    "Visit Sunny Chernobyl," or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Polluted Planet I'm a fan of both adventure travel writing and ecological nonfiction, and Visit Sunny Chernobyl is a solid, highly entertaining instance of both. Blackwell doesn't necessarily claim to be writing either, though -- he's just a tourist who wants to vacation in the world's most polluted places, and has written the missing travel guide for pollution tourism. It's a brilliant conceit. But what makes the book succe "Visit Sunny Chernobyl," or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Polluted Planet I'm a fan of both adventure travel writing and ecological nonfiction, and Visit Sunny Chernobyl is a solid, highly entertaining instance of both. Blackwell doesn't necessarily claim to be writing either, though -- he's just a tourist who wants to vacation in the world's most polluted places, and has written the missing travel guide for pollution tourism. It's a brilliant conceit. But what makes the book successful is that, while partially tongue-in-cheek, Blackwell is serious. He found something captivating in one of the world's most polluted cities in India, which contradicted his preconceptions of nature-is-good and pollution-is-gross. That's not to say that he's pro-polution. He's absolutely not. It's that these places are usually presented as news, or obscured by political agenda, or simply invisible to the rest of the world, and the real world is always richer than any one view. It's not human vs. nature: everything is far more mixed up than that. Blackwell gets the story from the people he meets. The world's most polluted places are usually someone's home -- pollution is, after all, the result of human activity. And as with the best non-fiction writing, the result is compassionate and humanizing, erasing the easy idea of "other." It turns out that this is the fundamental key in solving any problem. Blackwell is humorous without being glib, satirical without being dishonest, personal without being self-indulgent, and insightful without being ponderous. He weaves separate trips into one complete narrative, each building on the previous chapter. The book contains an important (and urgent) ecological message, but does so without being preachy. It's too much fun to read.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Brad

    It sounds like a silly idea at first: visiting seven of the most polluted places on the planet and treating them as vacation spots. But from the moment he hits the ground in Chernobyl and as we follow him to Canada, Texas, the Pacific Garbage Patch, Brazil, China, and India, Blackwell is an engaging story teller, combining anecdotes with facts, philosophy, interesting observations about environmentalism and the environment, and his own personal journey. It's also fascinating to take a guided tour It sounds like a silly idea at first: visiting seven of the most polluted places on the planet and treating them as vacation spots. But from the moment he hits the ground in Chernobyl and as we follow him to Canada, Texas, the Pacific Garbage Patch, Brazil, China, and India, Blackwell is an engaging story teller, combining anecdotes with facts, philosophy, interesting observations about environmentalism and the environment, and his own personal journey. It's also fascinating to take a guided tour of some of the places you're least likely to ever visit, including the patch of water in the Pacific where enormous amounts of trash accumulate and few boats ever travel and the radiation zone around Chernobyl. At times Visit Sunny Chernobyl feels like 7 essays that would have made great magazine articles strung together into an aimless book. But there are two strong themes holds the stories together: - Humans aren't just destroying the environment. We're part of it, and we have to live with the consequences. - Even the most polluted places in the world have their charms... people who love them, still live in them, and make the best of what they're given. Visit Sunny Chernobyl is surprisingly upbeat for a book about environmental disaster tourism. Instead of focusing on the devastation, Blackwell focuses on showing the world as it is, not as it should be or even could be. That's not to say we shouldn't try to avoid life-threatening environmental catastrophes and reduce pollution. But that all sort of goes without saying... so it isn't said much in this book, which makes it an unusual alternative to most books about the environment I've read.

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