Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Chernobyl Syndrome

Remember the film The China Syndrome? It was a pretty good flick with an impressive list of stars including Jane Fonda, Michael Douglas, and Jack Lemmon. Fonda is the investigative reporter who realizes that safety cover-ups at a California nuclear reactor could lead to a core melt-down. The same year, 1979, an incident at the Three Mile Island reactor in Pennsylvania came perilously close to the premise of the movie thriller.

Then came Chernobyl, the disaster in the Ukraine which occurred thirty years ago today. This 1986 fire and explosion was and is the worst nuclear power plant accident in history in terms of cost and casualties. There were more than thirty people who died immediately but the estimates are that between 30,000 and 60,000 will die eventually from radiation poisoning and cancers. The reactor has been entombed at huge cost, and a large area is no longer habitable, displacing thousands more.

Chernobyl is the cautionary tale of nuclear energy and every once in a long while we have other sobering reminders. The most recent is the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011 the only other Class 7 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale.

Are you now afraid, very afraid? The positive story on this anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster is that the exclusion zone has become a haven for an abundance of wildlife. Europe is not known for its biodiversity or complex ecosystems. Yet the Chernobyl area has become a refuge for all kinds of animals.

Along with the wild horses seen above there are moose, deer, beaver, and owls to more exotic species like brown bear, lynx, and wolves. Yes, some creatures are born demonstrating weird mutations. But without people hunting them or ruining their habitat wildlife is thriving despite high radiation levels.

At times I wonder what will happen to the Earth if we humans don't get our ____ together. If we disappeared, would the planet restore itself? We Christians like to cherry pick scripture to say that God likes us best, and that we can mess around however we choose. If you think that way, remember the Genesis stories of the Garden and the ark. They are the cautionary tales of our Judeo-Christian tradition and both instruct us to "wisen up."

Do you think we are capable of wisening up as a species? Can Christians be part of the solution, instead of part of the problem?

Read this National Geographic story for more http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/04/060418-chernobyl-wildlife-thirty-year-anniversary-science/

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