While taking my son back to college a few weeks ago, I took some time to visit Montaña de Oro State Park. It’s a rugged strip of relatively unspoiled California coastline about 10 miles west of San Luis Obispo.
The day I went, the fog cast a gloom on the otherwise beautiful scenery. The land was formerly used for grazing sheep, and hasn’t changed much in the past hundred years. Except for the warning signs, that is.
Apparently Montaña de Oro is just over the hill from the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant. I’m no Luddite, but seeing signs instructing me on “what to do in case of nuclear meltdown” were a bit unnerving. In case of a real emergency, would it really matter? It was one of those moments where I thought that perhaps ignorance was bliss.
I used to commute with a nuclear engineer who was a big advocate for the technology. Back before the first George Bush war against Iraq in the early 1990’s, my nuclear friend was recommending high-altitude nuclear warfare. His contention was that the resulting EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) would disable all electronic and communication devices, but there would be no radiation fallout. Apparently he wasn’t just smoking crack; others agree.
Still, I don’t want to experiment with Mother Earth, nor her inhabitants, regardless of their political or religious persuasion. The consequences, as with Chernobyl some twenty years ago, could be dire.
Which brings me to an interesting point. What is happening at Chernobyl now, twenty years and hundreds of thousands of deaths later? What if you could hop on a fast motorcycle and zip through the ghostly, deserted countryside surrounding the radioactive sarcophagus, taking photos to document your solitary journey? Would you?
This girl did. An extreme ride, and not one that I’m in a hurry to take. But most haunting are the pictures — the deserted roads, buildings and artifacts left hurriedly behind — grim reminders of our responsibility to our planet, to each other, and our future.