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Wormwood Forest: A Natural History of Chernobyl Hardcover – International Edition, August 29, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Mycio takes us on a timely tour of the eerie, surprisingly vigorous area around the Chernobyl nuclear disaster that's too radioactive for safe human habitation, yet where, 20 years after the explosion, flora and fauna are "thriving." Among abandoned towns, thousands of cormorants nest, and Przewalskis, a breed of wild horse, live seemingly unharmed on irradiated grass. A few people remain: workers decommissioning the plant, bureaucrats and scientists struggling with chronic underfunding, and samosels, elderly squatters so homesick that Ukraine finally let them stay. Mycio, former Kiev correspondent for the L.A. Times, is a good guide, clearly conveying the niceties of radionuclides; the elaborate, jerry-built structures containing the worst of the radiation; and the impossibility of cleaning the place up. She finds occasional humor and plenty of astonishment, as when a herd of red deer cross her path: "My recorder preserved my inarticulate reaction: 'Super. Wow. My God, they're beautiful!' " Mycio gives plenty of fuel for the discussion of nuclear power as an alternative to fossil fuel. Not all readers will share her cautious optimism, yet her verdict, that Chernobyl is not simply a disaster but a terrible paradox, is convincing. B&w photos, map.
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"...a completely unexpected piece of natural history. ...Mycio displays only the best and most consistent journalistic instincts..." -- Providence Journal, September 25, 2005
"...tourists, (are) participating in what may be the strangest vacation... the packaged tour of the Chernobyl exclusion zone..." -- C.J. Chivers, New York Times, June, 2005
"A fascinating look at an isolated area that few will ever visit " -- Library Journal, September 15, 2005
"Mary Mycio takes the reader on a fascinating personal journey through a contaminated landscape that paradoxically thrives with wildlife." -- David Holley, Moscow correspondent, Los Angeles Times
"The new Chernobyl wilderness -- radioactive, yet greenly blooming -- has one of the strangest stories in the modern world." -- Bruce Sterling, author of Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next Fifty Years
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In addition to a wealth of facts and figures, the book is loaded with personal anecdotes and as a result, Ms. Mycio's constant sense of amazement and underlying anxiety over radiation exposure adds a very human element to what could easily have become a dry academic treatise. Her account of the explosive recovery of the natural environment inside the Chernobyl exclusion zone covers all the most important scientific developments and research on the recovery interspersed with very human tales of the people who work there full time and those who have returned to live in the midst of radiation that is certain to shorten their natural lifespans.
Nature, it turns out, thrives in radioactive zones where long-term exposure is fatal to humans.