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"With a touch of wry wit and a reporter's keen eye, Andrew Blackwell plays tourist in the centers of environmental destruction and finds sardonic entertainment alongside tragedy. His meticulous observations will make you laugh and weep, and you will get an important education along the way." –David K. Shipler, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of Rights at Risk: The Limits of Liberty in Modern America
"I'm a contrarian traveler. I don't obey any airport signs. I love the off season. And, when someone says to avoid a certain place, and almost every time the U.S. State Department issues a travel warning, that destination immediately becomes attractive to me. Visit Sunny Chernobyl is my new favorite guidebook to some places I admit to have visited. As a journalist, as well as a traveler, I consider this is an essential read. It is a very funny — and very disturbing look at some parts of our world that need to be acknowledged before we take our next trip anywhere else." — Peter Greenberg, Travel Editor for CBS News
"Humor and dry wit lighten a travelogue of the most polluted and ravaged places in the world...With great verve, and without sounding preachy, he exposes the essence and interconnectedness of these environmental problems." — Starred Kirkus Review
"In 'Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures in the World's Most Polluted Places,' Blackwell avoids the trendy tropes of "ecotourism" in favor of the infinitely more interesting world of eco-disaster tourism...[Visit Sunny Chernobyl] is a nuanced understanding of environmental degradation and its affects on those living in contaminated areas...[Blackwell] offers a diligently evenhanded perspective...Blackwell is a smart and often funny writer, who has produced a complex portrait in a genre that typically avoids complexity in favor of outrage." — The Wall Street Journal
"In this lively tour of smog-shrouded cities, clear-cut forests, and the radioactive zone around a failed Soviet reactor, a witty journalist ponders the appeal of ruins and a consumer society’s conflicted approach to environmental woes." — The Times-Picayune
"Entertaining, appealing, and thoughtful travelogue covers some of the world's most befouled spots with lively, agile wit... The book...offers an astute critique of how visions of blighted spots create an either/or vision of how to care for the environment and live in the world." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Devastatingly hip and brutally relevant." — Booklist, Starred Review"Visit Sunny Chernobyl is hard to categorize—part travelogue, part memoir, part environmental exposé—but it is not hard to praise. It's wonderfully engaging, extremely readable and, yes, remarkably informative...An engagingly honest reflection on travel to some of the world's worst environments by a guide with considerable knowledge to share."— Roni K. Devlin, owner of Literary Life Bookstore & More
"Ghastliness permeates Visit Sunny Chernobyl...[Blackwell] presents vivid descriptions of these wretched places, along with both their polluters and the crusaders who are trying—usually without success—to clean them up" — The New York Times
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Author's Note vii
1 Visit Sunnay Chernobyl
Day Trips Through a Radioactive Wonderland 1
2 The Great Black North
Oil Sands Mining in Northern Alberta 41
3 Refinery Ville
Port Arthur, Texas, and the invention of Oil 73
4 The Eighth Continent
Sailing the Great Pacific Garbage Patch 117
Deforestation in the Amazon 157
6 In Search of Sad Coal Man
E-Waste, Coal, and Other Treasures of China 205
7 The Gods of Sewage
Downstream on India's Most Polluted River 247
1. Before reading Visit Sunny Chernobyl, what did you know about polluted places around the world? Have you ever known anyone who purposely visited a less-than-desirable locale as an adventure or vacation?
2. Blackwell describes touring the ghost city of Pripyat near the Chernobyl reactor. How did his tour change your perception of this notorious nuclear “ground zero”?
3. The sites in the book that directly relate to oil consumption and production—the refineries of Port Arthur, Texas and the oil sands in Canada—give a glimpse at the sheer scope of the energy industry and what it must do to meet global demand. Considering that almost everyone in the developed world drives a car, how do you feel about your own role in how these sites are treated?
4. Thinking about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, do you know where your trash goes after it's picked up?
5. As the author says, India considers its rivers to be holy, and yet we see in the book that the Yamuna and Ganges rivers are among the most polluted in the world. How do you reconcile that? Is there a link to a more global attitude in the way the entire world considers the planet sacred, yet continues to destroy it?
6. Soy farming—providing food and jobs to a large number of people—is the primary reason we see the deforested Amazonian landscapes in the book. It's also the reason for the condition of many other destinations in Visit Sunny Chernobyl. Should planet come before people?
7. In general, when people book a vacation, they want to travel somewhere beautiful. The author discovered a genuine beauty in the horrible places he visited. Do you think this is a case of “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” or have you ever found beauty in ruined places or things?
8. One of the themes of Visit Sunny Chernobyl is learning to appreciate the planet the way it is, not the way we think it should be. Do you agree or disagree? Do you think the author is optimistic or pessimistic about the planet's future?
9. Has Visit Sunny Chernobyl changed your outlook on the current state of our planet, or how we view it from the safety of clean homes and perks like flushing toilets?
Posted May 23, 2014
Well written but poorly researched and reasoned. This book takes a shrill, preachy and torpid tone after the first chapter and had little to do with Chernobyl. I can see why it hasn't won any awardsWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 1, 2013
Disappointed as book was more of an "extreme tourism" book. The author appears to not have a science background. Spent way too much time discussing opinions of one or two persons, of unknown knowledge bases about the polluted areas visited. The book was interesting to a point, introduced me to some new pollution hot spots. One chapter describes a seemingly useless ocean voyage in the Pacific to find floating plastic trash rafts. Appeared to be a recreational and party voyage for non-scientists who didn't record any useable cohesive data about ocean trash. Did sound a warning, beware of environmental groups who do not uses funds wisely. The author's sense of humor made the book bearable. This is not a serious science book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 21, 2013
Fascinating account of the author's travels to seven of the most polluted and environmentally impoverished places on earth: the exclusion zone in Chernobyl, oil sands country in Canada, refineryville in south Texas, the island of plastic floating in the pacific gyre, the soy farms of the Amazon, coal country in China, and the most polluted river of India. Full of interesting insights, the book offers the author's fairly objective observations and a number of surprising abd challenging discoveries. I'm already making long-range plans to visit Chernobyl myself as a result of reading this book. Recommended.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 20, 2013
I liked the choice of polluted sites he visited. A background in biology would have helped, or and environmental science. I can't tell where he got some of his information. Also egocentric.
The mission out to the Pacific garbage gyre seemed a waste of fuel and time. I couldn't understand what the purpose was? No data seemed to have be collected. Those in charge sounded clueless. Worries me about some environmental groups intentions-to party?
The Amazon chapter featured sweet talking businessperson who destroyed rainforest trees for use as flooring in the United States and made lots of money. Author overlooked those who try so hard, sometimes giving their lives, to stop illegal logging and deforestation .One good point the author made was that beauty could be sometimes found even in the worst of situations and/or environments if one looked, and he did call attention to global pollution.
Posted June 6, 2013
No text was provided for this review.