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Chernobyl (2017)

Like most who visit Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone, I was drawn to the idea of a post-human ruin. What does a utopian city look like 30 years after the people it was built to accommodate disappear? I’m not a dispassionate observer. My wife and I live in California on a quiet cul de sac overlooking a nature preserve—1,300 acres of idyllic protected space hosting hundreds of wildlife species. It’s forever barred from urban development due to radioactive waste dumped by Santa Susana Field Laboratory in the 1950s. I am mindful of our twin threats: wildfire and the dormant yet ever radioactive particles that could ignite and dissipate from their uneasy containment. In touring ruins anywhere, I accept the possibility that someday someone like me may be similarly creeping around our house, crunching through the debris of deterioration and things not worth carrying, taking pictures of our magnificent ruin. If that comes to pass in 5, 10, or 50 years, I ask only that they pause to consider what once was: to feel the soul of a place, to imagine the lives it hosted, and to appreciate how truly and quickly anything we ever take for granted can slip away.

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