Life After Chernobyl: A Surprising Ecosystem Flourishes In No-Man's Land

Sep 29, 2005

When the Chernobyl nuclear reactor melted down in 1986, dozens of people died, more became ill with acute radiation sickness, and 135,000 people were evacuated. The blast spread more than 200 times the radioactivity than the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.

The prognosis for Chernobyl and its environs—succinctly dubbed the Zone of Alienation—was grim.

If fears of the Apocalypse and a lifeless, barren radioactive future have been constant companions of the nuclear age, almost twenty years later Chernobyl shows us a very different view of the future.

In Wormwood Forest: A Natural History of Chernobyl (October 2005, Joseph Henry Press), journalist Mary Mycio vividly describes an extraordinary—and at times unearthly—new ecosystem that is flourishing in this no-man's land, with radiation too intense for people to live there safely.

Ten years after the Chernobyl disaster, journalist Mary Mycio made her first trip to the Chernobyl region. Equipped with dosimeter [describe what this is used for] and protective gear, Mycio set out to explore the world's only radioactive wilderness environment and the defiant local residents who remained behind to survive and make their lives in the Zone."

She discovered a wilderness teeming with large animals, more than before the nuclear disaster and many of them members of rare and endangered species. Like the forests, fields, and swamps of this unexpectedly inviting habitat, both the people and animals are radioactive. Cesium-137 is packed in their muscles and strontium-90 in their bones. But, quite astonishingly, they are also thriving.

Chernobyl's flourishing new ecosystem is "one of the first examples of how, in the absence of human intervention, nature in the zone could recover its balance," writes Mycio—even in the face of radioactive "ghost towns and villages [that] stand in tragic testimony to the devastating effects of technology gone awry.

A vivid blend of reportage, popular science, and illuminating encounters that explode the myths of Chernobyl with facts that are at once beautiful and horrible, Wormwood Forest brings a remarkable land—and its people and animals—to life to tell a unique story of science, surprise, and suspense.

Mary Mycio is a pioneering American reporter who first visited the city of Kiev in 1989 to do a semi-clandestine interview about the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl. She later became the Kiev correspondent for the Los Angeles Times and a contributor to a variety of newspapers around the world. With her background in journalism, a B.A. in biology, and a law degree from New York University, she was uniquely positioned to write the story of Chernobyl. She has accumulated reams of material about the disaster's environmental and health effects and filled numerous notebooks with details of her many journeys into the Zone of Alienation. She currently lives in Kiev where she is also director of the IREX ProMedia Legal Defense and Education Program for Ukrainian journalists.

Copyright 2005 by Space Daily, Distributed United Press International

Explore further: Life on Mars? Implications of a newly discovered mineral-rich structure

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New type of solar concentrator desn't block the view

2 hours ago

(Phys.org) —A team of researchers at Michigan State University has developed a new type of solar concentrator that when placed over a window creates solar energy while allowing people to actually see through ...

Cities, states face off on municipal broadband

2 hours ago

Wilson, N.C., determined nearly a decade ago that high-speed Internet access would be essential to the community's social and economic health in the 21st century, just as electricity, water and sewers were in the previous ...

Recommended for you

Australian amateur Terry Lovejoy discovers new comet

3 hours ago

It's confirmed! Australian amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy just discovered his fifth comet, C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy). He found it August 17th using a Celestron C8 fitted with a CCD camera at his roll-off roof ...

A spectacular landscape of star formation

5 hours ago

This image, captured by the Wide Field Imager at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile, shows two dramatic star formation regions in the Milky Way. The first, on the left, is dominated by the star cluster NGC ...

Students see world from station crew's point of view

Aug 19, 2014

NASA is helping students examine their home planet from space without ever leaving the ground, giving them a global perspective by going beyond a map attached to a sphere on a pedestal. The Sally Ride Earth ...

User comments : 0