What happens when the world’s most devastated sites are left to recover on their own, free of human interference? In her meticulously researched Islands of Abandonment: Nature Rebounding in the Post-Human Landscape, Scottish investigative journalist Cal Flyn gives us an answer both apocalyptic and optimistic.
A writer of remarkable physical and emotional courage, Flyn takes us to the city of Pripyat in Ukraine, largely abandoned after the 1986 meltdown of the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl. Although visitors are barred from entering the decaying buildings, she defies the order and finds everywhere a new forest of birch, maple and poplar rising amidst the ruins. This resurgence is astounding, given that Chernobyl is the most radioactively contaminated site in history. In the worst affected areas in the aftermath of the meltdown, every mammal perished within a few days. However, by 2010 wildlife had rebounded, including deer, elk, lynx, boar, beaver, and even the brown bear, not seem in the region for a century.