Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures in the World's Most Polluted Places [NOOK Book]


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...
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Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures in the World's Most Polluted Places

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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 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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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Driving though the irradiated wastes around Chernobyl or traversing the deforested frontiers of the Amazon jungle rarely tops even the most seasoned travelers’ must-see list, but this entertaining, appealing, and thoughtful travelogue covers some of the world’s most befouled spots with lively, agile wit. Journalist and filmmaker Blackwell doesn’t just present a list of environmental woes but undertakes provocative meditations on how to care about the planet while recognizing that plenty of people need to make a living, sometimes to the environment’s detriment. Contemporary environmentalism is rife with contradictions, and as he ponders the impact of western Canada’s oil sands, he notes: “Whether we’re talking about recycling, or voting, or consumer choices... these are all attempts to square the circle, to mitigate—or more often, to atone for—our individual role in the disquietingly unsustainable system that keeps us alive.” As his project to visit the wretched places of the Earth takes its toll on his personal relationship and well-being, he gives considerable thought to why he’s doing it, realizing that he “love the ruined places for all the ways they aren’t ruined.” While he doesn’t offer solutions or answers, the book does offer 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. Agent: Michelle Tessler, Tessler Literary Agency. (June)
From the Publisher
"A darkly comic romp."—Elizabeth Kolbert, staff writer, The New Yorker

"An environmentalist book that avoids the usual hyperventilation, upending stubborn myths with prosaic facts . . . Blackwell is a smart and often funny writer."—Wall Street Journal

"Witty and disturbing . . . Call this the anti-guide book."—New York Post “Required Reading”

Library Journal
In Visit Sunny Chernobyl (Rodale. ISBN 9781605294452. $25.99), Andrew Blackwell willingly, even happily, visits some of the world’s most polluted places: the oil sands of Northern Alberta, the Yamuna River of India, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Is the author some kind of environmental rubbernecker? Armchair travelers who appreciate landscapes (even ruined ones) painted in precise and sharp language as well as readers who enjoy witty exposés filled with wry and sweet humor will enjoy finding out.

(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Reviews
Humor and dry wit lighten a travelogue of the most polluted and ravaged places in the world. Through seven nasty sites, journalist and filmmaker Blackwell teases out complex environmental issues and the history and cultures that surround them. The author conceived of the book because "to chase after the beautiful and pristine was to abandon most of the world." Ultimately, he writes, "instead of finding degraded ecosystems that I could treat as though they were beautiful, I was just finding beauty." The author engagingly chronicles his many adventures: canoeing near Chernobyl, museum-hopping by the oil sands of Northern Alberta, and piloting a ship through the Sabine-Neches Waterway in Port Arthur, Texas, "the pungent centerpiece of America's petrochemical tiara." Along the way, we meet colorful characters and learn what fuels these toxic places. Blackwell then sails off for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, formed by a vortex of currents that gathers buoyant plastic into a huge floating mess. Moving on to the Amazon, where issues are far from black and white, the author delves into the issue of why rainforest destruction is so complicated, particularly when the forest is inhabited. The author also visited Linfen, China, the heart of the country's coal-producing region and reputedly the most polluted place on the planet. The final chapter covers a pilgrimage of sorts along the sacred Yamuna River in India, or at least the former channel of the river--the water has been diverted and its bed is filled with sewage and waste. In each chapter, Blackwell finds he loves the polluted places for all the ways they aren't ruined. With great verve, and without sounding preachy, he exposes the essence and interconnectedness of these environmental problems.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781609614560
  • Publisher: Rodale
  • Publication date: 5/22/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 182,216
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

ANDREW BLACKWELL is a journalist and filmmaker living in New York City. He is a 2011 fellow in nonfiction literature from the New York Foundation for the Arts. Visit Sunny Chernobyl is his first book.
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Table of Contents

Author's Note vii

Prologue xi

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

5 Soymageddon

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

Acknowledgments 301

Index 305

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Reading Group Guide


Conversation Starters

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?

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2014

    Dont waste your money

    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 awards

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  • Posted February 1, 2013

    An OK Eco-Tourism Book

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2013

    Visit Sunny Chernobyl!

    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.

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  • Posted January 20, 2013

    I liked the choice of polluted sites he visited. A background in

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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