Sep 14, 2012
|Elisha Stam: Ravenous Reader, Freelance Writer from Hamilton, OntarioElisha wrote a previous book review here, and has another in the works for a post very soon.
How to start with this one? Hmm…
Andrew Blackmore traveled to the world’s most polluted places and write about them in a tourist-y fashion. He embarks on a journey to what he considers the most polluted and exploited places on the planet: Chernobyl, Fort McMurray and the Oil Sands, the refineries of Port Arthur, Pacific Garbage Patch, deforestation in the Amazon, the e-waste piles in China, and Kanpur, India.
The book accounts Blackmore’s travels with insight and depth. Each chapter is filled with history of how the most polluted spots came to be the most polluted spots. Blackmore’s views are uniquein the genre of environmental journalism.
His conclusions are not the ones I would think after witnessing these places of ugliness. While flying over Syncrude’s oil sands mine, he is wowed by it’s size and the giant interruption it is on the earth. Blackmore concludes that the oils sands are awful, but are small in the grand scheme of Canada, our planet and human existence.
I was intrigued by Blackmore’s premise that we cannot destroy the earth completely. We are stripping it entirely of it’s goodness and leaving our garbage lying all around (or rather floating in the middle of the Pacific). But life is finding a way to continue in those places, and to even thrive. I was not entirely convinced, but I was glad for his insights just the same.
Blackmore’s writing was enjoyable and full of wry humour. It was bursting with characters. My favourite was the Russian Dennis, who worked at a cushy job in the government, but applied to work as a guide in Chernobyl because he was bored. As Blackmore says, this man thought boredom was worse than high doses of radiation.
The most impressive part of Blackmore’s book is that it gives justice to the complexities of these issues in our culture, while keeping them accessible to his reader. Showing a beauty to these places that exists despite the way we are ruining them. Really, he is showing how beautiful we are as humans, and our innovation to use the earth for ourselves. His book also made the situations surrounding these places of pollution, more accessible to the average person. He made them real, rather than just a large existential example of our horribleness.