VISIT SUNNY CHERNOBYL
And Other Adventures in the World's Most Polluted Places
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 set sail for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. But in Visit Sunny Chernobyl,
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 set sail for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. But in Visit Sunny Chernobyl, Andrew Blackwell embraces a different kind of travel, taking a jaunt through the most gruesomely polluted places on Earth.
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-is—not as we wish it to be. 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.
“A darkly comic romp.”—Elizabeth Kolbert, 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”
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?
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”?
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?
Thinking about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, do you know where your trash goes after it’s picked up?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
Would you ever visit any of the locations in Visit Sunny Chernobyl? Which ones and why?