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Om forfatteren

Adam Higginbotham writes for The New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, Wired, GQ, and Smithsonian. He lives in New York City.

Værker af Adam Higginbotham

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Love in Defiance of Pain: Ukrainian Stories (2022) — Introduktion — 13 eksemplarer

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England, United Kingdom



On my iPhone I am watching video clips of protesters in front of the Michigan legislature demonstrate against the lockdown of businesses ordered by the Governor of Michigan to stem the growth of COVID-19 among residents of the state. Some of the demonstrators are visibly carrying automatic weapons.

As of April 15, 2020, the virus has been directly responsible for the death of more than 25,000 Americans. In a month. The 9/11 attacks initially caused the deaths of 2,700 Americans, and more than 250,000 deaths as a result of attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq in the aftermath.

According to the Soviet Government, the explosion of Reactor 4 at Chernobyl on April 26, 1986, only resulted in 31 deaths. One man was crushed in the explosion, and the remainder died from radiation poisoning. 115,000 people were evacuated from their homes never to return. 2.5 million more people were living on contaminated land, and the exact number of people who suffered from cancers resulting from the catastrophe may never be known because it was something the government never wanted to be known. Right up until the Soviet Union ceased to exist.

On the night of the explosion, plant officials barely believed their own eyes. Regional Communist flunkies delayed the evacuation of citizens of a town explicitly built to service the four nuclear reactors built so as not to spread panic, and Mikhail Gorbachev's government denied to the international community exactly what had happened for weeks after clouds of radioactive fallout passed over Belarus, Poland, Denmark, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, and Germany.

Reading this fine history of the Chernobyl disaster by Adam Higginbotham brings me full circle from a work I read many years before, The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes. Rhodes great work set me off on a journey of reading whatever history I could find about the rise of technology in the west, to understand for myself what changes have taken place. Its impact on society and their impact on the planet.

Today we are battling an invisible enemy with pretty non-technological tools. Standing apart from one another. Setting aside our tools of work and play, if only for a few weeks or months at most.

The parallels between Chernobyl and COVID-19 are interesting. The people who worked to clean up the radioactive mess were climbing an uphill battle. Everything they touched, their hair, the food they ate, the grass, the trees, their pets, their cattle, the dust in the air, everything was contaminated. In Kiev children were taught not to touch the children of evacuees. In the hospitals mens’ skin was literally peeling off before their eyes. It was gross and if you saw it it was really unsettling.

The Chernobyl disaster resulted from a combination of very human failings: major flaws in the design of the reactors (of which there are over 100 in operation) were never addressed, the materials and workmanship in building the reactor were suspect, managers were pressed by incentives to get things up and running quickly, that nobody planned proper protection for workers to remediate in the event of a meltdown, that operators of the plant were ill informed of what could go wrong and why even though the reactor's designers knew full well which problems hadn't been resolved, untrained and incompetent technicians, and a culture of secrecy prevented everyone involved from learning from previous nuclear accidents in the Soviet Union.

In the end there were scapegoats aplenty.
… (mere)
MylesKesten | 73 andre anmeldelser | Jan 23, 2024 |
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. A riveting work of investigative journalism and scholarship. Filled with utterly fantastic details. A terribly human story, of monumental importance.
fmclellan | 73 andre anmeldelser | Jan 23, 2024 |
Truly impressive account of the disaster in 1986. He covers the minute details and gargantuan blunders that led to the meltdown. Then we get a painstaking account of the slapdash efforts at saving the reactor and covering it all up. The amount of research is truly impressive. Written in 2019, so it doesn't include the latest damage from the war in the Ukraine.
cmbohn | 73 andre anmeldelser | Jan 8, 2024 |
A study of this single event, yields fruit of the un-irradiated sort. It is a story of the bankruptcy of the Soviet system and why idealistic and dogmatic political experiments such as the U.S.S.R become sycophantic and fragile. This event is a postmortem, not only of the actual explosion at Chernobyl, but of political system, of autocracy, of secretive states who regard ideological purity as more important than truth. The negative light it shines on the Soviet system is, simultaneously a revelation and a warning that autocracies are NOT more efficient in managing resources than systems that depend on free speech, the free exchange of information, the difficult work of whistle blowers, etc.

The story is also a fascinating introduction to radioactive substances and what happens when they are unconfined. The scope of the disaster is wide in terms of distances (from Wales to Scandinavia, etc. with an exclusion zone of 1400+ kilometers) and years (sheep in Northern Wales reach levels finally in 2012 where they are not destroyed, and wild bore hunted in the Cech Republic often still too radioactive to eat.0

Finally regarding autocracy vs democracy, the times we live in do not really allow for such a simple dichotomy in terms of more information being better. There is a sweetspot and even for democracies once social media came into play, there can be too much information of low or no quality that leads to the same kind of problems and inefficiencies that an autocracy has. Con artists and spreaders of misinformation can now ply their trade to tens of thousands of unwillting victims in an instant, and without a truly informed citizenry, there is little hope that much of the partakers of such information will swallow it hook, line, and sinker.
… (mere)
tsgood | 73 andre anmeldelser | Dec 1, 2023 |



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