Twenty five years ago today, reactor 4 at the Chernobyl power plant exploded. It is still the worst nuclear accident in history. It also laid bare that the Soviet system had no regard for any sort of preparation, nor regard for human safety. They were more interested in keeping the veil of strength and achievement. The openness that was forced upon them in the aftermath eventually was used to illuminate the rest of the system.
Chernobyl has largely faded into the background, but the disaster is still there. About ten years ago there was work to mend the sarcophagus that had been hastily constructed. At that time, I was in college and I worked for a scientist who was developing robotics to go into the plant and map the remains. He felt that it was a moral imperative of technology to clean up, repair, and prevent the disasters that were caused by science and technology. Too many of us forge ahead in our fields with disregard or obliviousness to what it does or could leave behind in it’s wake. The Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents should serve as a reminder of the human toll that our hubris can be forced to pay. In the end, between nature and humanity, nature still has more power than we do.
I went to see David Sedaris tonight. He read from his latest book and some new essays that he’d been working on. I’d only read one book that he had written, Me Talk Pretty One Day. I had been given it by my now wife not long after I had met her. It was the first gift that she had gotten me. I was taking a French class and she wanted me to read the stories of him learning French in Paris.
I loved his wry humor and scathing insight. It was always good for a laugh even when it at inopportune times. I hadn’t gotten around to any of the other memoirs, but heard many of the other excerpts on This American Life. Many years later, when we bought our house together we had put together our books and separated out the dupes to sell. I saw that we had two copies of Me Talk Pretty One Day, but I put it back on the shelf next to the other one. I just couldn’t bring myself to sell it.
I have to say that I’m a little disappointed in the news that a shuttle is not going to Houston. Especially since it’s been the home of mission control since before the shuttle even started flying. New York and Los Angeles, while the two largest metro areas in the US, don’t have the same association with the space program.