While the stories of wildlife abundance in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone can be heartening, the notion that this by itself tells us anything about the risks of living with radiation are silly. One of the most terrifying things about being immersed in a radioactive environment is that the presence of radiation is imperceptible. We cannot smell, taste, see or feel radiation. We may be receiving enough radiation to kill us and we would not sense danger. Narratives like the above about the presence of animals in the Exclusion Zone showing that life can thrive there are incoherent. Are we to believe that these animals are capable of sensing radiation while we humans cannot? That they are there because they can tell that it is not dangerous to their long-term health? Numerous studies (for example here) have found that there are dangers, and genetic abnormalities in many species of birds and animals that live in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. The presence of animals in a radioactive ecosystem is no proof that these same animals are not in danger. Rather, they are proof that once humans withdraw habitation, many other species will fill that gap. This is true in Fukushima, Chernobyl and many other radiologically contaminated places. Jim Smith, one of the authors of the study photographing the wildlife in the Exclusion Zone told reporters as the study was being popularized that this “does not mean that radiation is good for wildlife.” However, Smith then added, “It’s just that the effects of human habitation, including hunting, farming, and forestry, are a lot worse,” That may be another overstatement.
Global Hibakusha 16th April 2019 read more »