Andrew Blackwell tours devastated sites to chronicle the human element of those living and working amid environmental ruin.
Visit Sunny Chernobyl: Eco-disaster tourism
A chance visit to Kanpur at the behest of his travelling companion, an environmentalist who wanted to visit India's most polluted city, turned Andrew Blackwell into a member of that tiniest of demographics: the eco-disaster tourist.
Years later, the quest that began on the banks of the Ganges has resulted in this book about touring the world's eco-disaster sites.
Besides the titular Ukrainian nuclear disaster site (where it was indeed sunny and unexpectedly bucolic), Blackwell visited the Canadian oil sands, a Texas refinery town, the accumulated waste plastic caught in the great Pacific rubbish patch, deforested stretches of the Amazon, workers in China's electronic waste and coal industries and finally a return to India's pollution.
Despite the author's self-description as a "sensitive, eco-friendly liberal" - he lives in New York City, after all - this is anything but a Silent Spring-style polemic. Instead he opts for a conversational travelogue style that focuses as much on the human element of those who eke a living amid environmental disasters as it does on the sites themselves, and combines potted histories of the issues involved without becoming involved in invective.