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Review of the book about Chernobyl by Kate Brown. One star only, posted on
Wade Allison's Review of
“Manual for Survival” by Kate Brown
No Way to Survive
The 400 pages of this book record the conflicting experiences and opinions of many who were close
to the accident at Chernobyl and its social and political aftermath. However it leaves the reader with
no clue as to how the medical and psychological effect of a release of radioactivity and its radiation
should best be handled to shield the affected population. Evidently, when mishandled as at
Chernobyl, they cause intense suffering, panic and distrust throughout society. Psychological
confidence is essential to physical health and the two can become genuinely confused, as in a curse
delivered by witchcraft. Evidence from Chernobyl cannot resolve them. The effects of radiation are
properly understood from evidence for subjects who are unaware. Data from hidden accidents,
natural background exposures and animal experiments combined with an understanding of modern
biology show that Ms Brown is mistaken. Radiation at low and moderate dose rates is harmless,
although many have not understood the evidence and are in the dark, like Ms Brown.
The language used in the book is one of contrasting moods, straying from objectively historical to
anger loaded journalese, unworthy of a manual. It may be that as a historian the author is
bewildered by science and medicine. However by relying exclusively on the views and experiences
of those who were frightened by Chernobyl she spreads fear. A manual supported by informed
education and discussion is the way to face accidents. In March 2011 the Japanese people knew
what they should do when the tsunami arrived: 20,000 died but society recovered. When the
Fukushima accident occurred, they knew nothing and there was panic although nobody died of
radiation. They lacked the guidance they were given for the tsunami. At Chernobyl many sought a
manual to help them as the author says in a number of places. But this book is not that manual.
Following it would have only added to the confusion. It would be better not to read it.
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