Dateline: 18 January 2015
Here in the early months of 2015, doom-and-gloom prognostications proliferate. Some of the scenarios are way out there. Like, for example, there are people who think that the 100 nuclear power plants in the United States are succeptible to a Fukushima-style disaster. Well, that’s pretty crazy. We all know that nuclear power plants are all perfectly safe. Right?
Yes, I’m being sarcastic.
The fact is, there are a multitude of bad things that could happen, and sometimes bad things actually do happen to people. Take, for instance, the Chernobyl nuclear accident in Ukraine back in 1986. If you lived around that place, your world was turned upside down very quickly and unexpectedly by an event that you were totally at a loss to protect yourself from.
Radiation and fallout from the Chernobyl accident was so significant that the Russian government created an “exclusion zone.” Here is an excerpt from the Chernobyl Wikipedia entry:
An area originally extending 30 kilometres (19 mi) in all directions from the plant is officially called the "zone of alienation." It is largely uninhabited, except for about 300 residents who have refused to leave. The area has largely reverted to forest, and has been overrun by wildlife because of a lack of competition with humans for space and resources. Even today, radiation levels are so high that the workers responsible for rebuilding the sarcophagus over the reactor are only allowed to work five hours a day for one month before taking 15 days of rest. Ukrainian officials estimate the area will not be safe for human life again for another 20,000 years.
Other accounts say that 160,000 people were evacuated from the 1,062,400 acres of land surrounding Chernobyl. Many of these people were rural farmers and peasants, living in small, rustic communities.
Where did all the people go? My understanding is that they were herded into hastily-constructed apartment complexes and given government stipends.
But did you notice in the Wikipedia quote that 300 residents refuse to leave an area that “will not be safe for human life again for another 20,000 years?”
What’s up with that? Those 300 people must be crazy, right? They must be living in total misery, right?
Well, it turns out that those 300 people are not living in total misery, and I don’t think they’re crazy at all. Fact is, I think they’re more sane than their friends and neighbors who are crammed into the “safe” apartment complexes.
The 300 people who refuse to leave actually did leave, at first. But they missed their homes and the land that sustained them. So they left their apartments and dug under the fence around the exclusion zone to get back to their homesteads.
You can read all about these ‘self settlers' in This Article. It is well worth reading.
If you want more insights into this story, watch This TED Talk from one of the people making the documentary. The thoroughly-modernized woman giving the talk does not share the experience of being rooted to a home and place, but she recognizes that it is something special, and vitally important. She sees that the settlers are better off than the apartment dwellers.
I think we can learn a lot from the example of these old people who are defying authority to live their lives bravely and joyfully in a radioactive no-man’s land.
This Link takes you to the Facebook page for the movie. You can watch a movie trailer there.