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  • Three years ago, I was standing about a hundred yards

  • from Chernobyl nuclear reactor number four.

  • My Geiger counter dosimeter, which measures radiation,

  • was going berserk,

  • and the closer I got, the more frenetic it became,

  • and frantic. My God.

  • I was there covering the 25th anniversary

  • of the world's worst nuclear accident,

  • as you can see by the look on my face,

  • reluctantly so, but with good reason,

  • because the nuclear fire that burned for 11 days

  • back in 1986 released 400 times as much radiation

  • as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima,

  • and the sarcophagus, which is the covering

  • over reactor number four,

  • which was hastily built 27 years ago,

  • now sits cracked and rusted

  • and leaking radiation.

  • So I was filming.

  • I just wanted to get the job done

  • and get out of there fast.

  • But then, I looked into the distance,

  • and I saw some smoke coming from a farmhouse,

  • and I'm thinking, who could be living here?

  • I mean, after all, Chernobyl's soil, water and air,

  • are among the most highly contaminated on Earth,

  • and the reactor sits at the the center of

  • a tightly regulated exclusion zone, or dead zone,

  • and it's a nuclear police state, complete with border guards.

  • You have to have dosimeter at all times, clicking away,

  • you have to have a government minder,

  • and there's draconian radiation rules

  • and constant contamination monitoring.

  • The point being, no human being

  • should be living anywhere near the dead zone.

  • But they are.

  • It turns out an unlikely community

  • of some 200 people are living inside the zone.

  • They're called self-settlers.

  • And almost all of them are women,

  • the men having shorter lifespans

  • in part due to overuse of alcohol, cigarettes,

  • if not radiation.

  • Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated

  • at the time of the accident,

  • but not everybody accepted that fate.

  • The women in the zone, now in their 70s and 80s,

  • are the last survivors of a group who defied authorities

  • and, it would seem, common sense,

  • and returned to their ancestral homes inside the zone.

  • They did so illegally.

  • As one woman put it to a soldier

  • who was trying to evacuate her for a second time,

  • "Shoot me and dig the grave.

  • Otherwise, I'm going home."

  • Now why would they return to such deadly soil?

  • I mean, were they unaware of the risks

  • or crazy enough to ignore them, or both?

  • The thing is, they see their lives

  • and the risks they run decidedly differently.

  • Now around Chernobyl, there are scattered ghost villages,

  • eerily silent, strangely charming, bucolic,

  • totally contaminated.

  • Many were bulldozed under at the time of the accident,

  • but a few are left like this,

  • kind of silent vestiges to the tragedy.

  • Others have a few residents in them,

  • one or two "babushkas," or "babas,"

  • which are the Russian and Ukrainian words for grandmother.

  • Another village might have six or seven residents.

  • So this is the strange demographic of the zone --

  • isolated alone together.

  • And when I made my way to that piping chimney

  • I'd seen in the distance,

  • I saw Hanna Zavorotnya, and I met her.

  • She's the self-declared mayor of Kapavati village,

  • population eight.

  • (Laughter)

  • And she said to me, when I asked her the obvious,

  • "Radiation doesn't scare me. Starvation does."

  • And you have to remember, these women have

  • survived the worst atrocities of the 20th century.

  • Stalin's enforced famines of the 1930s, the Holodomor,

  • killed millions of Ukrainians,

  • and they faced the Nazis in the '40s,

  • who came through slashing, burning, raping,

  • and in fact many of these women

  • were shipped to Germany as forced labor.

  • So when a couple decades into Soviet rule,

  • Chernobyl happened,

  • they were unwilling to flee in the face of an enemy

  • that was invisible.

  • So they returned to their villages

  • and are told they're going to get sick and die soon,

  • but five happy years, their logic goes,

  • is better than 10 stuck in a high rise

  • on the outskirts of Kiev,

  • separated from the graves of their mothers

  • and fathers and babies,

  • the whisper of stork wings on a spring afternoon.

  • For them, environmental contamination

  • may not be the worst sort of devastation.

  • It turns out this holds true

  • for other species as well.

  • Wild boar, lynx, moose, they've all returned

  • to the region in force,

  • the very real, very negative effects of radiation

  • being trumped by the upside of a mass exodus

  • of humans.

  • The dead zone, it turns out, is full of life.

  • And there is a kind of heroic resilience,

  • a kind of plain-spoken pragmatism to those

  • who start their day at 5 a.m.

  • pulling water from a well

  • and end it at midnight

  • poised to beat a bucket with a stick

  • and scare off wild boar that might mess with their potatoes,

  • their only company a bit of homemade moonshine vodka.

  • And there's a patina of simple defiance among them.

  • "They told us our legs would hurt, and they do. So what?"

  • I mean, what about their health?

  • The benefits of hardy, physical living,

  • but an environment made toxic

  • by a complicated, little-understood enemy, radiation.

  • It's incredibly difficult to parse.

  • Health studies from the region

  • are conflicting and fraught.

  • The World Health Organization

  • puts the number of Chernobyl-related deaths

  • at 4,000, eventually.

  • Greenpeace and other organizations

  • put that number in the tens of thousands.

  • Now everybody agrees that thyroid cancers

  • are sky high, and that Chernobyl evacuees

  • suffer the trauma of relocated peoples everywhere:

  • higher levels of anxiety, depression, alcoholism,

  • unemployment and, importantly,

  • disrupted social networks.

  • Now, like many of you,

  • I have moved maybe 20, 25 times in my life.

  • Home is a transient concept.

  • I have a deeper connection to my laptop

  • than any bit of soil.

  • So it's hard for us to understand, but home

  • is the entire cosmos of the rural babushka,

  • and connection to the land is palpable.

  • And perhaps because these Ukrainian women

  • were schooled under the Soviets

  • and versed in the Russian poets,

  • aphorisms about these ideas

  • slip from their mouths all the time.

  • "If you leave, you die."

  • "Those who left are worse off now.

  • They are dying of sadness."

  • "Motherland is motherland. I will never leave."

  • What sounds like faith, soft faith,

  • may actually be fact,

  • because the surprising truth --

  • I mean, there are no studies, but the truth seems to be

  • that these women who returned to their homes

  • and have lived on some of the most radioactive land

  • on Earth for the last 27 years,

  • have actually outlived their counterparts

  • who accepted relocation,

  • by some estimates up to 10 years.

  • How could this be?

  • Here's a theory: Could it be

  • that those ties to ancestral soil,

  • the soft variables reflected in their aphorisms,

  • actually affect longevity?

  • The power of motherland

  • so fundamental to that part of the world

  • seems palliative.

  • Home and community are forces

  • that rival even radiation.

  • Now radiation or not,

  • these women are at the end of their lives.

  • In the next decade, the zone's human residents will be gone,

  • and it will revert to a wild, radioactive place,

  • full only of animals and occasionally

  • daring, flummoxed scientists.

  • But the spirit and existence of the babushkas,

  • whose numbers have been halved

  • in the three years I've known them,

  • will leave us with powerful new templates

  • to think about and grapple with,

  • about the relative nature of risk,

  • about transformative connections to home,

  • and about the magnificent tonic

  • of personal agency and self-determination.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

Three years ago, I was standing about a hundred yards

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B2 H-INT US TED radiation chernobyl zone reactor soil

【TED】Holly Morris: Why stay in Chernobyl? Because it's home. (Holly Morris: Why stay in Chernobyl? Because it's home.)

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    Zenn posted on 2017/02/22
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