Three decades ago the land was poisoned and humanity fled.
In the early hours of 26th April 1986, a combination of safety faults and human error lead to an explosion and series of fires at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in what is now Ukraine. The resulting 10-day leak of radioactive materials into the environment was, and still is, the most serious accident in the history of the nuclear industry.
Following the catastrophic leak the Soviet Union quickly set up an exclusion zone; a 30km radius around the site in which it was declared no life could exist. 116,000 souls were evacuated immediately. Another 220,000 more followed in subsequent years. Humanity resettled and did not return.
And today — thirty years later — the animals are goddamn lovin’ it!
According to new reports, the exclusion zone around Chernobyl has become a de facto nature reserve, as a few decades’ respite from humankind has lead to soaring populations of red deer, roe deer, elk, wild boar, and other species. The European lynx has returned to the area. Wolf numbers have increased sevenfold. And an animal not seen in the area for almost a century — the European brown bear — has also been spotted.
According to the researchers, ‘The absence of human activity in the exclusion zone has benefited the wildlife of the region more than any possible damage it may have suffered as a result of coming into contact with radioactive elements.’
Or, to put it another way: the worst accident in the entire history of the industry that is the cousin to the most devastating weapon ever unleashed has proven to be less harmful to the planet than humans just going about their business. A few hairless apes farming, chopping down trees, and posting shit on Instagram? “Hmm, no thanks,” nature scoffs, “I’ll take irradiation with caesium-137 instead.”
Amidst the blasted and abandoned ruins of human ingenuity, hubris, and stupidity, nature has stepped in to reclaim its space, and where we sowed death it has reintroduced life.
If ever there was a real world case study to lend credence to the words of Bill Hicks — ‘I’m tired of this back-slappin’ “isn’t humanity neat” bullshit. We’re a virus with shoes’ — then this is it.
Nature is the parents in the Simpsons; humanity is the kids leaving for Kamp Krusty.