April 14, 2004
The Dead City
A motorcycle ride through the ghost town of Chernobyl:
A story about a town that one can ride through with no stoplights, no police and no danger of hitting any living thing.
Watching all these movies about the end of the world, I sometimes forget that it basically happened, in a shimmering cloud over Russia in 1986. Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes, many more died in radioactive fire, and a whole generation wear the meltdown in their bodies.
This website helped me remember. It starts off slow, but once the author gets going, the visuals are creepier than anything Danny Boyle could dream up — a real, recognizable city, suddenly emptied of all life.
If anything can reduce American reliance on fossil fuels in the near term, it’s a turn to nuclear energy, but that’s politically untenable, because the mere mention of the word “Chernobyl” conjures up images of babies not even a politician could love.
My uninformed impression of the history of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island is that public and political enthusiasm for nuclear technology sent us off into ReactorLand before we knew what we were doing, and then everything exploded. But one thing we learned is that there is major risk to the stuff, and due to the complexity of the technology, we can only mitigate that risk, not eliminate it.
It would be good, though, I think, if we could both confront that risk and consider its advantages with equal boldness.
(Last reminder: Don’t forget to look at the creepy photos.)